catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 13, Num 9 :: 2014.05.02 — 2014.05.15


E pluribus unum

Patchworking, integrating, overlapping, busting demographic barriers, mixing it up…these are some of the ways I’d describe what I most love to do in D.C., my place.

I’m a big fan of “local.” I think it matters that we bloom where we’re planted. But I also experience my city as one in which I constantly shift around, make connections, enjoy variety. After all, it’s possible to move from D.C. to Virginia to Maryland within a 15-minute drive. And many people do move between the three within any given day.

I am often in the car — not in a commute through drudgery for I work from home, but out and about connecting with people in various parts of town, dreaming about and scouting out ways that people can interact in public places, and just enjoying the scenery and the adventure of never knowing whom I’ll meet. I’ve been known to pick up strangers and drive them to where they need to go. Some have exited the car as friends.

A group of us have been going to places in the city that need a bit of love and putting on “flash tables” — part flash mob, part banquet table — serving homemade pies to anybody who wants to sit and join us at beautifully set tables. We’ve been part of instant community where neighbors have met for the first time, where “parks” normally given to drug-dealing have been redeemed for a few hours. Spots we’ve visited have never, ever looked the same again after having spent time in them.  They have come to feel familiar whereas they were “other” before we went; they have come to feel like “ours” — not a proprietary “ours” or “mine” but a feeling of shared community, a sense of these public spaces in the city being available (and crying out) for magic to happen in them, for people to come and create something powerful, if only for a few hours.

D.C. is a place. It has an image. Everyone here has his or her version of what the city is and how it excites or enrages. I’m celebrating my own view that D.C. is many things, many neighborhoods, and it’s so much more than the sum of its parts. It’s inhabited by people who want to overlap, want to explore, expand, catalyze and see what could be. Those sorts come here “to make a difference.” And many do.

I adore brief exchanges on the subway, the sidewalk, at traffic lights — interactions that won’t likely happen again but that enhance us all the same, two people glancing off or colliding with each other and creating something magnanimous and new… or simply being touched by the other.

My life’s work is encouraging people to bust out of social silos and take risks on finding out that anybody you meet is worth the time to get to know and that some of your favorite neighbors may in fact be across town.

To have these encounters, we have to move around. D.C. is a city that fosters that.

It’s also, of course like every place, a city where the love you seek may be next door.

But it’s not only next door.

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