Tuesday, September 27, 2011

But You Don't Hear Me, Though

Washington, Pt. 2 

Metro System 

Day 1 ($8.00):  I have difficulty determining my route.  I choose the line that takes me to a central hub.  I sit with my bike near the doors in a sparsely populated train.  A man sleeps, waking occasionally to glance at the station names.

I return on a crowded train where I stand in the area between the doors, moving every time the stations change sides.  Everyone stares.  I lean on a pole and push against my bike so I'm not knocked around at every stop.  Two Columbian girls sit near the doors, a balding yuppie wearing a baggy purple button-up and jeans for 'casual friday' begins to talk to them without any introduction.  He talks about the quality of his grilled cheese, adding that less than half of the sandwich is cheese.  The conversation seems strained, but the girls indulge him.  One motions to me and all three look.  I'm not sure if it's about the bike or the beard on my shirt, but the yuppie quickly changes the subject.  An older couple point and whisper to each other about a sticker on my bike reading: "DRINK BEER, RIDE BIKES, GO FUCK YOURSELF."  I have to pretend I didn't notice, lest I have to have human interaction.

Day 2 ($5.00):  It's Saturday and everyone is in their respective college sports wear.  Over the P.A. the conductor chastises a woman for touching the train with her kid.  An Asian father and daughter travel together.  The father looks like the typical traditional, conservative Asian dad.  The daughter looks like she'll grow up to be a knockout.  From the disinterest they take in the ride, I imagine them American, with him having immigrated and her being born Americanized.  She stares out the window, his head bobs as he dozes off.  I am taken by the beauty of the scene, imagining the complex relationship between the two as she gets older and American standards begin to press up against her father's traditional views.  I realize I haven't heard them speak and have no idea as to their actual nationality.  "MLK" is carved into the panel separating seats.

Coming back I've learned to be unobtrusive and wedge my bike in front of the emergency exit, away from any traffic.  It's a more reserved trip with people keeping to themselves.  A boy with a skateboard sits shrewdly, taking great pains not to look at anyone.  A gorgeous girl in sweat pants stands in the center of the car and I'm annoyed when she sits down.  I watch through to the car in front of mine, the framing between our windows makes for interesting movements.  I wait for the sporadic moments of perfection when all the poles in the car before mine line up into one.  I try to cheat and move myself to see it but am blocked by a pole in my own car.

Day 3 ($6.25):  Two young boys sit by the emergency exit, their chaperone and another boy sit in front of them.  I move to the aisle and stand next to them against my bike.  An old woman asks them to move over and sits beside them.  Obviously uncomfortable, the boys stop talking.  A young black guy steps in and the boy in front gives him a head nod.  The black guy laughs and the boy, embarrassed, rests his head on his father's shoulder.  As more and more people pile in, the black guy perfects his craft, gesturing with his hands and rapping to a music only he heard.  I see one of the boys has a birthmark on his calf that looks like a leach.  I wonder if it's permanent and wish it was a leach.

I see a girl on the train back that was on the train going.  I doubt she realizes or cares.

Day 4 ($5.00): Engraved into a panel someone wrote:

RIP Off!

Two teenagers throw their legs over the seats and talk loudly while everyone else is silent.

At the station coming back a guy in a button-up stares at me.  I make eye contact and he maintains his stare adding a flair of eyebrow lifts.  The exact meaning is lost on me.  Another guy across the car seems to stare at me too.  I attribute it to nerves and figure he's staring into space toward me.  Two guys have a conversation about sports populated by statistics and name drops without any significance beyond who knows more.


Throughout this trip I've ridden by battlefields and monuments of the Civil War; Arlington is as far north as I'll find them.  People are often intrigued by the Civil War and remark on how odd it was that it could happen in our country.  The threat of civil war isn't absurd, a threat of physical violence is pervasive throughout politics.  That's not to say it is unique to our society or that we live in a particularly volatile time, but a threat of violence is a fundamental feature of political systems.  

If there was no possibility of violence the system would not function as there would be nothing to enforce accountability or follow through.  Both parties in a two party system are held accountable by fear of retribution from the other.  Even in a one party system, power is consolidated by subjecting dissenters to acts of aggression by the ruling party.  If it were possible for a pacifist government to come into power it would paradoxically require it to use violence to gain or retain it.  A truly pacifist system would be quickly overthrown by a group willing to use force to take and maintain power.  Pacifism only works when those in power bend to it for fear of violence, or revolution, or foreign intervention.  I'd like to see that pussy Ghandi take my vicious body blows and still retain control of his idealist baby nation.

A Note About D.C. Drivers

I always thought the "drivers from [state] are so bad; they're the worst," was bullshit.  Everyone in every state is a bad driver, but good God, they raise the bar in D.C.  I can't say yet if it's D.C. specifically or urban areas in general, but I've never seen more cutting lanes and horn honking.  Every horn and siren is amplified between the skyscrapers and echo for blocks.  People here honk for seemingly no reason, including taxi drivers who think it appropriate to announce their presence every time they're behind me.  I saw a woman honk across an intersection at a car honking at another.  I don't know what to make of that.

I sure don't.

D.C. Kill Count 
Squirrel: 1

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