Tag Archives: virginia

About today in Charlottesville…

When I was a “younger lad”… 14 or 15, maybe? The cops picked me up one night when they found me spray-painting anti-Nazi graffiti on the back of a building. I don’t remember much about the political climate of those days because I don’t even remember specifically when those days were, just that I was a younger, less risk-averse version of my current self – but I do remember that there weren’t any Nazis marching through the streets of Virginia at the time.

And now, there are.

As an adult who used to be a kid who used to tag anti-Nazi graffiti on the back of buildings (when I didn’t even have Nazis around to show it to) what’s the law abiding, responsibility-having version of myself supposed to do about the current state of affairs?

The most saddening and immediate thing that I feel obliged to do… since some of my newer friends didn’t know that teenager that I was, and maybe all they know about me is that I’m a white, 30-something male who lives in Virginia… is to state publicly: unlike those other white, 30-something males, who marched through Virginia today spewing Nazi hatred & violence – I think racism, xenophobia, white supremacy and Nazism are disgusting and have no lawful place in our society.

Now that I’ve gotten out in front of the ambiguity surrounding who these dipshits are, and hopefully distanced myself adequately, the next step, I think, is to acknowledge what’s going on – no easy feat. How is this happening? What world am I living in, where in 2017 Nazis are marching through the streets of Charlottesville? Where I feel the need to digitally wave an “I’m Not a Nazi” flag? I don’t know, I can’t explain. But it’s happening, and letting that sink in is the first step.

So with acknowledgment and denunciation accomplished… how can I help stop these ideas from spreading? My first instinct (resting dormant since I was that 14 or 15-year-old kid) is to grab a baseball bat, hop in the car, drive to Charlottesville, and swing until it lands on the face of the first pig-fucking racist I see… but over the years I’ve developed a passable capacity for restraint, along with a few critical thinking skills that lead me to believe turning that feeling into action isn’t an appropriate long-term solution.

I’m not sure what the collective response to today should be. But I know that part of it should be to speak out, to let everyone that I’m capable of communicating with know what I think:

Nazis are bad. The fact that I have to remind anyone of that, something definitively established half a century ago, is embarrassing and sad. That they are marching through local communities is also bad, embarrassing, and sad. The hateful and racist ideology promoted by these people does not represent real American values. They hide behind a warped sense of patriotism.

I guess, for now, fellow Virginians… be aware that this is, unfortunately, a thing that is happening, and it needs your attention.

Please be resolute in denouncing it at any and all opportunities to do so.

on Cities and the ‘Auto Slum’

Walking in Tysons Corner, Virginia after business hours can feel like the opening scene of the zombie thriller film 28 Days Later… Structures everywhere indicate human settlement, but the eerie quiet and absence of pedestrians suggest otherwise.

Construction of four Metro stations is intended to redirect the trend, but as they sit unused during final testing phases, their promise of pedestrian utopia is hard to visualize. They are giant monolithic structures tucked in the middle of massive motorways. When the ribbon is cut, locals will discover if they will operate as viable walker-friendly transit options.

Tysons Corner, Virginia

I’ve been fascinated by cities since I was a kid, when books by the children’s author Ed Emberley gave me lessons on how to ‘make a world.’ He illustrated step-by-step instructions for drawing people, buildings, cars, ski slopes, helicopters, police stations, and anything else one could find in a city. I filled my after-school time making imaginary worlds on paper, with my own twin towers, video rental stores, and ice skating rinks.

From there I graduated to endless hours of SimCity 2000, the computer simulation game that enables the player to become the mayor of their own urban wonderland. I can still vividly remember the streetscapes I programmed, just like I remember the maps of real places I have lived… the diagonal highway linking the medium-density residential over there, the square grid of streets along the coastline down here, the pollution-heavy factories off to the side.

My urban interests were refreshed when I began traveling as an adult. Visiting cities like Paris, Sydney, Shanghai and New York established reality-based examples for the rich metropolitan lifestyle I had previously only imagined. I checked my travel experiences against the city I had the most experience with, Washington D.C., and came to understand my hometown metro area was not the paradigm metropolis I had always believed.

The liveliness and spontaneity of cities capture my interest and keep me buzzing. I experience each new place I visit with an energized desire to get lost, wander around, and anonymously observe the rituals of civic life. Invisible Cities, the masterpiece novel by Italo Calvino, induced in me even more regard for the ‘incalculable’ character of urban spaces. I studied the street photography of Cartier-Bresson, Kertesz, and Brassai, and I read Jane Jacobs to further whet my appetite.

But, despite all my preoccupation, I’ve never been able to permanently settle in in a city, instead hoping that where I’m living will transform itself, rather than force me to relocate.

Tysons Corner is as close as I’ve come to living in a city, and although there are as many square feet of office buildings here as there are in downtown Atlanta, this small corner of the D.C. suburbs still remains…. suburban.

Which brings me to the following video:

The TED Talks video series has earned a lot of criticism  lately for being too fluffy, high-minded, and out of touch. Despite the valid points the detractors make, I often find speakers that capture my feelings on a subject, most recently James Kunstler’s tirade on suburbia. In a combination of eloquence and abrasiveness (abraseloquently?) he targets many of the features that make living in an ‘Auto Slum’ frustrating, although he seems much angrier than I would ever care to be in front of an audience.

I can relate to several of his ideas: Public spaces should be worth looking at. People should want to be in them. You should be able to identify your neighbors by more than the type of vehicle they’re driving. Isolated living can be both physically and socially unhealthy.

The planners of Tysons Corner are making an effort to urbanize, and I support it. Much of the suburban landscape around Washington D.C. started to form in the 1940’s and 50’s, now making it home to a third or fourth generation of families (if they stuck around.) It’s fair to assume that by the fourth iteration of something, without an original idea, formulas grow stale – Jaws 4, the fourth season of LOST, the fourth album by countless pop and rock musicians.

I’m excited about the future of Tysons, and any other suburb retrofitting itself, but I hope the realization of plans don’t take so many years that I will be gone before I can enjoy it.

on Tysons, in Black and White

Much of the world’s Internet management and governance takes place in a corridor extending west from Washington, D.C., through northern Virginia toward Washington Dulles International Airport. Much of the United States’ military planning and analysis takes place there as well. At the center of that corridor is Tysons Corner – an unincorporated suburban crossroads once dominated by dairy farms and gravel pits.

Paul E. Ceruzzi, Internet Alley: High Technology in Tysons Corner, 1945-2005