Freedom of speech.
The grey car in front of me. Maryland plates.
They read "4SHAHID".
For the martyrs, the suicide bombers, the terrorists.
If only it could only be on a licence plate...
This blog is a collection of true stories from everyday life. Stories that mark or color a day. They could take place anywhere, happening to anyone. Hundreds of stories just waiting to be told and remembered. (all stories ©)
The grey car in front of me. Maryland plates.
On my way to work in a cold morning. A couple is walking toward the "Grill Fish" place on Florida Ave at the corner with North Capitol Street. The woman is visibly pregnant. Probably 8 or 9 th month. She is smoking.
I'm in Dulles. I got a pass to the gate to accompany my mother who is flying back to France.
On a window of a dirty building near Mt Pleasant street. A small note taped to the glass.
Thanks for all the regulars who checked the blog while I was away from it.
On my way to work on route 193. There is work going on and the road has been reduced to one lane.
On my way from work yesterday. The woman in the school yard that was surrounded by young kids. Probably 10 of them, about 6 or 7 years old. They were jumping on her from all sides. She is bent forward trying to get one of the kid off her back. I can see her laughing from the pleasure of the game.
Guest in the garbage. An uninvited furry guest that I wanted to kill but could not. I just stayed there, watching in disgust as it jumped on the floor of the kitchen and hurried behind the dishwasher. In two seconds, it was gone.
It's gone. The sign that greeted me every day on my way to work.
At the pool tonight after a relatively short swimming session. I was getting dressed when the aquaerobics class came back in the locker room. About 10 women between 50 and 80 years old, talking of anything but Michelangelo.
This is it. I’m on my way to the airport, My week in Japan is over. I am looking forward to sleeping into my own bed “tonight” (after a 20 hours travel).
I decided to go for a swim. Nothing unusual except that I am in Japan and my knowledge of the language is rather limited. What I know is that somewhere near the “Sagamiono” stop station (one stop away from where I am staying) there is a public swimming pool. I got the information from a Japanese colleague who forwarded me a website address in Japanese. All I can understand on that website is the picture of a nice pool. I go down to ask the front desk. I am not staying in a hotel but in a “weekly appartment building”. They do not catter to tourists (which is a good thing as there are hardly any tourist here in Machida) but to Japanese travelers, renting studio appartment at a cheaper rate than an hotel. The front desk woman does not speak a word of English, nor French.
This was my first time. 6:35 AM in the morning. I was awake because of the jetlag, standing in this small hotel room in my PJs and it happened. The hotel moved. As if it were a paper construction. The potential strength of that earthquake was palpable. Like the touch of a giant who has decided not to hurt you but whose "caress" still sends you across the room.
Just don't go. It's a waste of time and waste of money.
The hotel I am staying in is a posh hotel right off Chinatown, at the top of a steep hill.
I am in San Francisco for a meeting. I arrive early to set everything up and discover that the room is occupied until 5 PM so I decide to go for a swim in the local pool. Not a long walk from here, just a lots of hills. This is San Francisco after all.
I've resumed swimming a couple of time per weeks. I used to swim a lot and then stopped. I realized recently that I missed it and with a bit of a nudge from a friend, has gone back to it. So it's about 7:30 AM and I am arriving at the pool near where I work. The morning is already beautiful and I am looking forward to the relaxation of the water. A family passes me by as I am walking toward the entrance. There is what I assume to be the mother and her two sons. All of them on bikes, all of them pedaling with enthusiasm. I can't help but feeling the joy of the scene. The health, the good habits instilled so young, the relaxed way to bring the kids to school. As I am reflecting on how lucky these youngsters are to have a mother who understand these things, I hear her scream. She is yelling at the youngster who didn't stop at the stop sign in front of the parking lot. She screams at him to "STOP RIGHT NOW" and he, as a 8 years old would do, is pushing her to the brink by not stopping "right now" but stop and then go some more, and then stop and go some more. She is hysterical now and gets to him quickly, swinging at him and knocking him out of his bike. I've seen enough. I turn to enter the pool
In Baltimore for a meeting, which has meant long drives and long hours for the past 4 days. Today, I am coming home relatively early and I'm happy to have "escaped". At the last light before the beginning of the highway I see a man coming to my car with a small cardboard that reads "Homeless. Please help". I honk , open my wallet and my window to give him money. The light has just turned green and the car behind is getting nervous honking to get me moving faster. I start and get on the highway, feeling good to have helped him even if only with a dollar.
Almost every day I would see it on my drive to work. A pale green motorcycle on the sidewalk at the intersection of Florida and W Street. It's a "vespa", an authentic Italian motorcycle, like the one in "Roman Holidays". I grew used to seeing it, day after day. Used to imagine the type of person that would have a pale green motorcycle and park it all the time at the same exact spot. Man or woman? Young or not so young? Used to look for it every time I'd cross the intersection.
On the Beltway, completely trapped in traffic. The guy in the car next to mine started a conversation. A simple hello, transformed into a discussion with our two cars crawling in traffic.
On my way to Chinatown this morning, I pass a small kindergarten playground. There are a couple of swings in a large patch of grass but all the kids are ignoring them, looking at the sidewalk though the metal fence that encloses the garden. There is a giant hole in the sidewalk and a crew of two is repairing some water pipes. The kids are clearly fascinated by the spectacle and all of them are completely still, silent as far as I can tell. Ten kids, all about 3 or 4 years old, boys and girl, looking at the work these men are doing. It must look like a giant playground, complete with mud and white pipes. A playground for adults. Irresistible for kids at any age.
On a bike ride this weekend, I am planing on biking up to the lake at the end of Rock Creek Park. I've made my way to Meadowbrook Stable, readying myself for the upcoming 15 miles. It is quite hot and humid and there are only few people out. A small kid is standing on a picnic table, with a large sign advertising lemonade. She is very cute, smiling and looking at people passing by. Hard to resist indeed. I stop to buy a 25 cents glass of lemonade. Her mom presides over the transaction. I give her 30 cents, explaining that this includes the tip. The child is confused but the mother smiles and thanks me. She blames the weather for the lack of foot traffic. Clearly, not many people are out in the sun today. In any case, it looks that she will soon run out of supply. The business will probably close early.
On my way back from work. It is getting dark, a mixture of black and red that makes things and people almost invisible.
I saw him jogging in the street in the middle of the morning traffic. He was approaching the "ID-crisis" intersection where all the streets change their names: U Street becomes Florida Ave and Georgia Ave becomes 7th Street. An oddity with a poetic charm.
This was pure happiness. A worker his feet dangling in the air, about 50 meters above ground, taking a smoke pause from his work on a building.
There are mayoral elections coming up in DC and signs are popping up all over. It is becoming routine on my way to work to see people picketing with large green or red signs. "Fenty" or "Cropp". Standing in the street already hot and sticky even at 8 AM. I usually honk for support for all of them. I am not yet a citizen so I can't vote but still I honk. Just to let the people know that I saw their signs. Breaking the silence of indifference, giving them a little joy by letting them think that their standing in the heat has had an impact.
On my way back from work. For a chance I am driving down Rhode Island Ave. On the downhill right after the Carmelite place. I'm not sure how it happened. All I know is that I was stopped a the light and then colliding with the car in front of me. A white car with licence plates in Maryland. We both stopped and I see a woman getting out of her car. She looks really annoyed (and I can't blame her, I just collided with her!). I put my distress signals and walk to her, looking at her car. There is no track of the shock. It was quite a mild shock (I was stopped after all) so I am not surprised but still not quite sure of what she is going to do.
I could not see what it was until it was too late. I saw what seems a small brown bag being bounced around under the car. I realize now that it was trying to escape. The driver probably never saw it. A grey BMW with Maryland plates, convertible with the top down and the man enjoying the morning sun.
Today I went hiking again on the Billy Goat trail. I like it more and more for the convenience it affords: close to DC and safe enough to be done alone (although some incident may disprove this..). As I approach the trail I see a large dog and a toddler holding a leash and walking by its side. What make the scene remarkable is that the dog is larger than the child. This kid could easily ride that dog and she may be thinking of it as her steps are still uncertain and not completely stable. The dog is walking at the kid's pace, clearly knowing that any faster would be impossible for that child to follow. I can't decide who is the more admirable sight. The dog or the child.
I'm on a long walk exploring some of DC neighborhoods. It is a hot day and I've been walking for about 2 hours, making my way back home slowly. Sheridan Circle on Massachusetts Ave has a large statue at its center and it is flanked by 2 water fountains. A woman is standing by the fountain while her dog is literally taking a shower. His foot are in the water and he is going from one faucet to the other, clearly enjoying the reprieve from the heat. The woman is motionless. She seems to be willing to wait as long as her dog wants to stay and she is enduring the sun while her dog is relaxing at the pool. It is funny to see though, a dog so completely content without being jumpy and excited. In the 10 minutes it takes me to walk around the square, I see that the odd couple has left the first fountain and the dog is now having fun in the other one. Boundless enthusiasm of an animal.
On my way back from work. At the corner of Florida and U Street, almost right in front of the 9:30 pub and the new luxury condominiums that just got built there..
Billy Goat trail on a sunny Saturday morning. I'm with a friend, enjoying the small hike so close to the city. As we turn on the path, there is a couple, resting, in the middle of the trail. The woman is lying with her back straight on the ground, her legs popped up on a rock and her head resting on her backpack. It looks awkward but I've learned that people hiking here have all their quirky habits so I don't say anything. As we get closer and we are almost passing them, the man, holding a cell phone, calls after us: "Would you please see if the rescue team is coming?"
I am on my way back from the Immigration office where I went to get my fingerprints taken. Soon, very soon, I'll be an American. The day is sunny and hot. I see a woman about 65 or 70 watering her plants in front of her house. She is wearing a very formal dress, grey with black laces. A dress that would not seem inappropriate at the opera house. She is holding the water hose with all the dignity that her dress confers. Upright and dignified in the molding heat that came onto Washington. The man working in shorts and T-shirt at the other end of the garden seems strangely out of place.
Columbia road next to "La casa del pueblo". About 6:30 PM. I'm walking coming back from a friend's house. An apartment building with a large garden iron door. A little girl is hanging on the door. She is going back and forth as her older sister (her mother?) pushes and pulls to open and close the door.
On my way to National airport to pick up a friend. It is about 8:30 PM and it's not completely dark yet. Just right before the exit to the airport, I catch a glimpse of a man fishing in what seems like a pond, on the other side of the road from the Potomac. He is in the water to his waist, a silhouette with a hat and a long pole. He looks lost, far away from civilization, within a stone's throw of the shore.
Friday, a beautiful day in DC and I am out for a short walk before going back to work. On Columbia Road I notice a van trying to park between a car and a motorcycle. From the angle of the car, I know that the driver is having troubles.
The Dada exhibit currently at the National Gallery. The last room has a large screen that shows a rotating wheel painted in back and white. The effect is mesmerizing, spirals going away from us and small circles disappearing.
The tiny hand of a child pokes through the window of the car, in front, on my left. I'm driving up 15th Street. The window on that station-wagon is opened just a bit at the top and I see the small fist coming out, shaking. A band-aid is still glued to the thumb. Motions of the other fingers. Go away! Go away! Finally the victory. The band-aid falls and the hand gets back in the car. I noticed that the small orange plastic band didn't fell on to the ground. I accelerate to have a better look at the car. As I get at the same level as the rear-window, I can see the band-aid stuck on the black plastic that marks the start of the window. Flapping in the wind. I wonder if the kid has seen it.
I finally found the waterfalls I had been looking for.
7PM. In front of the Union Station post office. This is the last day before taxes are due and people have all come down here, knowing it will still be opened.
A yellow jacket. A red bike. The kid is standing in front of an adult (his dad? his brother?) examining a small red bike. I can't hear them (I am in my car, driving to work. late) but the adult turns his head suddenly and I can see the kid recoiling with fear. All his body moved back as if expecting a punch that he is used to receive. The man looks at the boy and slowly turns back to the bike. The kid's body is still a bit tilted, still anticipating the punch, not yet back to his natural posture.
On my way to meet a friend. I am walking up the street. A car is parked about 20 meters in front. I notice a woman walking a dog to one of the houses. She is pulling a long leash as the dog reluctantly climbs the stairs to the front door. As I come nearer, I hear a cacophony of barking. The sound is coming from the car. I do a doubletake on the car: It is filled with dogs. Literally filled. About 10 dogs in a small Rav 4 car. There are dogs everywhere. Big dogs in the back, small dogs poking their heads between the seats. A dog putting its paw on the steering wheel. There are so many dogs that I am not sure how the woman can drive or even sit. I catch the look of another passerby, a neighbor who is walking toward me and also caught sight of the dogs. She has the amused air of someone who has just came back from the circus.
I am with a friend walking on Mount Pleasant Street, slowly making our way to Adams Morgan. It's dark already.
Coming back on Saturday from the Seymour's photo exhibit at the Corcoran Museum, in front of the White House, at the corner of Pennsylvania Ave and 17th Street.
Bus 42 on my way downtown. A woman gets in with a little girl in tow. I hear her say in Spanish "Do you want to sit down?"
Today in Fells Points, Baltimore. I'm there to meet a friend in town for a meeting. I just park in front of the water, right across the street of the Bonaparte pastry shop, one of the best French pastry shop in the area. A short walk to the meter to get a sticker for my car but the machine is not working with my credit card. I can't get a parking receipt to print and I don't want to try again for fear of getting charged every time I try.
Three small vignettes from tonight as I was walking down 16th Street.
I was buying the paper this morning. At a CVS on Connecticut Ave, near Politics and Prose.
I'm driving back to DC via another (and a bit longer) road. We've almost reached the highway and I'm getting a bit tired. A quick look into my rear-view mirror wakes me up completely. The 18-wheeler behind me has a huge confederate flag pinned down to the front. I've never seen this flag displayed so prominently. We're still in West Virginia, approaching the border with Maryland.