A colleague of mine recently returned from a visit to her city — and mine — Washington, DC. She was in the car driving back from the airport as I waxed poetic about how much I miss the city and wish I could move back there. Much to my surprise she did not follow me down memory lane; on the contrary, she lamented the loss of what she called the dirty side of DC. Well, she didn’t mean it literally, what she meant was the old ways and places were gone. The dirt alleys behind U Street; our old hang outs were either boarded up or unrecognizable. The haunts we used to love were now truly haunted. I took a deep breath and had to admit that yes on my last visit I did recall seeing a few ‘surprises.’ U Street was also a shock for me; the only thing there that seems to hang on is Ben’s; the hot dog chili is the same and the atmosphere is still following suit, but the crowd in there was certainly a bit fairer than I remember it; not many black folk hanging around. Actually there was little room to do any hanging at all.
Don’t get me wrong I am a firm believer that progress has its place. But some things should not change. And DC is not the only chocolate city transforming into a lighter shade; on NPR I heard a story about Oakland, California and of course, Atlanta’s ordeal was emotionally depicted in Nathan McCall’s last masterpiece.
But as times change so must the surroundings that made it timeless to us while we lived it. An old classmate told me recently that the house I grew up in was leveled. My heart was leveled at the news….Bob Dylan immortalized it well: the times they are a-changin.’