Don't you just ... LOVE America?

A run in DC 9 years ago, an encounter I remember, and 7 other things worth your time.

I’d planned to take the weekend off, but there’s too much going on. Also, I’m slowly realizing the things that I want to say as this confounding week ends. Hopefully it will be of value.


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This is largely about Washington, DC. I lived there in two stints: from 1998 to 2001, and then 2004 to 2012. Overall, I have good memories.

At 684,000 people, it’s a medium sized city, a bit smaller than Nashville or Boston. Compare that to 8.4 million in New York or 2.3 million in Houston. But because it’s the seat of government, it punches far above its weight: universities, museums, restaurants, concerts, bars, sports, embassies.

People come and go constantly, from all over the world. Sure, many are obsessed with work, but it’s a beautiful place in its own way, and I have to say I was never bored.

Plus, as someone told me on my first weekend there in 1998: There’s always at least one February day in DC that’s warm enough to wear shorts. That turned out to be prophetic and true.

Of my thousands of “Bill when he lived in DC” stories, I’d like to share a surreal vignette. It was brief and beautiful, and it took place on Sunday July 17, 2011, a little before 5 a.m.

I know the date because I posted about it on Facebook afterward.

At the time, I was living alone in Southwest DC. Recently divorced (no kids, long story, maybe we’ll get into that some other time). I couldn’t sleep, so I got out of bed in the very early morning hours, grabbed some not-exactly-clean workout clothes from the hamper, and went for a run.

This will be relevant in a second: I was wearing a shirt leftover from my JAG Corps days that that had “10th Mountain Division” and “USA” in big letters on the front.

Anyway, I did 6.6 miles on a whim before sunrise that day (I recorded it on MapMyRun): no big deal for me then, but let’s just say a good 2021 goal would be to get back anywhere close to that point.

Running in DC is amazing. I left my apartment in SW, headed north to the Mall to the Washington Monument, then nearly a mile west to the Lincoln Memorial. I ran up and down the steps of the Lincoln like I always did, turned past the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, back to the Washington, through the Ellipse, around the White House, and back home.

Something happened in the middle, at the Washington Monument. It’s a really beautiful place if you haven’t been there: a 554 foot tall white tower, surrounded by flags, halfway between the Capitol and the Lincoln.

I’ll quote myself, nine and a half years ago:

Total insomnia so I went for a run at 4:45 a.m. (75F-perfect!) It's amazing who's out in DC at that time.

My favorite encounter was two girls apparently still wrapping up last night's party at the Washington Monument. One of them pointed to my USA t-shirt and the 56 US flags surrounding the monument and exclaimed with apparent sincerity, "Don't you just... LOVE America?!!"

I remember these young women, especially the “LOVE America” one. They were both very pretty, Black, way more stylishly dressed and hip than I have ever remotely been in my entire life.

This was my kind of “Bill getting his confidence back after divorce” stage, and I felt pretty cool that they were even talking to me.

I thought a lot about the encounter for hours and days later—I mean, I wasn’t in the habit of posting about every run to Facebook and mapping it out, but I did. Here I am, almost a decade later, still thinking about it.

It’s just this small, hopeful memory that I hope I can hold onto forever. I suppose it could have been anywhere, but it’s poignant for me that it was there in DC, so close to what happened in the city this week.

It’s the idea that you can bump into a stranger, middle of the night, strangest possible place—and you can choose to be positive, choose to focus on whatever small things you have in common, choose to make a connection.

For that matter, as hard as it might be sometimes, you can choose right then and there to profess your shared love for this messy, frustrating, beautiful country of ours—and hopefully commit to work hard, and make sure it stays worthy.


7 other things worth your time

  • Twitter suspended President Trump’s account permanently, “due to the risk of further incitement of violence.” This is an enormous step, and on a normal day it might be the biggest story imaginable about the presidency, but see below. Earlier in the day, Trump announced (via Tweet, before the suspension) that he won’t attend President-elect Biden’s inauguration. You have to go back to Andrew Johnson in 1869 to find another losing incumbent president who refused to attend his successor’s inauguration. (The Verge, Twitter blog, Yahoo News)

  • Trump also seems on the verge of being impeached a second time. The House seems very likely to take up an article of impeachment on Monday or Tuesday; however, that’s just the first step, as you might recall from a year ago, and Trump’s term ending Jan. 20, Majority Leader McConnell said the Senate wouldn’t consider a trial until the day before Biden’s inauguration at the earliest. (CNN)

  • Many Trump supporters, conservatives and others flocked from Twitter and Facebook to Parler, which bills itself as a “free speech app,” over the last couple of days. But both Apple and Google announced yesterday that the app is in danger of being removed from their platforms for failing to police calls for violence in the capital on its site. (CNBC)

  • Authorities have started moving in on some of the rioters who stormed the capital but escaped at the time, including “an incoming West Virginia lawmaker, an Arkansas man who told the media he posed for photos on a desk in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office and an Alabama man whose truck allegedly carried 11 molotov cocktails and a semiautomatic rifle to this week’s U.S. Capitol riots.” (The Washington Post, via Anchorage Daily News)

  • The U.S. reported 300,000 new Covid cases in a single day this week, and 4,000 deaths in a single day, both new records. (The Washington Post)

  • Finally, in 100% totally unrelated news, I wrote about Tom Brady and the somewhat counterintuitive thing he did in his game last week against the Atlanta Falcons—throwing short passes at the end, when the game was over for all practical purposes—and why there’s a lesson for anyone trying to motivate a team. Brady’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers play their first playoff game in 13 years today. (Inc.com)


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