Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Dupont Circle

It seems kind of kooky, but I have lots of fond memories of Dupont Circle.  My friend Niki and I, who were shopaholics even at the tender age of ten and eleven, loved to go to “Nicely Nicely,” a little shop with just the kinds of pretty trinkets and colorful shnick-shnack an eleven year old girl can embellish her fantasy with.  I would smuggle this wonderful world out of the store by purchasing the tiniest, and cheapest item I could find.  At home this small and insignificant purchase would swell and release its magic, transporting that entire store into my otherwise uninspiring room.  The magic never lasted very long, so we made frequent trips to Dupont Circle, or to Georgetown, which also had many such shops.

The middle school (6th thru 8th grade) I went to was on the other, better, side of NW DC, and to get there, I had to take the #42 bus down to Dupont Circle and transfer to the D2 bus. On the return tour, the bus stop for the #42 was right in front of Kramer Books and Afterwards.  Obviously a book store, but it was also a cafe, restaurant.  If I hadn’t already spent my piteous allowance at the penny candy store across from the school, I sometimes could afford to buy an ice cream at Kramers.  Mostly, though, we liked flipping through the picture books and magazines (especially in the Sex and Marriage section), the smell of coffee, the clatter of plates and glasses, the swish of the waiter’s apron as they passed by with delicious looking treats on their tray.  Sometimes we even caught a later bus, just so we could stay longer.  This was when I first knew what I wanted to be when I grew up: someone who can afford to go to breakfast at a cafe just like Kramers, drink coffee and talk all morning long!

I haven’ t a clue if it is still true, but back then Dupont Circle had the Metro stop with the longest escalator down to the underground subway, and it was at the top of this escalator that two historical moments in my life converged.  My first and only blind date ever, and the loss of my... gullibility (ok, partial loss, to the joy of my children, I’m still pretty gullible).  

The blind date wasn’t humiliating, but it was no winner either.  I had been to Europe twice at that point in my mid 20’s, mostly in England and Germany, but also doing my own version of the summer Euro-rail tour.  I never attempted to hit every major city between Stockholm and Rome, but instead visited friends in different countries and stayed with them for longer periods of time, getting the feel for life in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, France, etc.  The blind date was set up by my college roommate and was the brother of her best friend, who studied German and apparently also had a “thing” for all things German.  He (name long gone) had invited me to see a German movie, with subtitles, playing at the Goethe Institute on 19th, I think, just behind Kramers somewhere.  The movie was a bomb. Some advent-guard 60’s Psycho movie that seemed more like a recording of someone’s bad dream than any real artwork, but no harm done, he and it were quickly forgotten.

What I didn’t forget so quickly, was what happened while I was looking for this person I had never seen before at our meeting spot at the entrance of the Dupont Circle Metro station.  Since I wasn’t charging past like the other commuters, I was easy prey for the young pawn who was being payed to pass out flyers.  It was a glossy, designer flyer, eye catching and trust inducing with a picture of the sweetest old women you’ve ever seen.  On it were several points simply explaining why I should vote against the proposal to introduce deposit bottles in DC.  I wish I could remember all of the silly points on this otherwise very serious looking pamphlet, but I can only remember the tear wrenching claim that frail old ladies, like the one pictured, would have to carry those heavy deposit bottles back to the store, and we couldn’t be so heartless as to impose such a hardship on the elderly.  

And that was it! My moment of awakening:  the world is evil and full of liars, and even in broad day light at Dupont Circle, you had to be on your toes or someone was going to try and pull the wool over your eyes.  Growing up in Adams Morgan, I knew about being on my toes and what dangers were lurking in the neighborhood, but not until that day did I understand that even little old ladies and white people in nice suits would take me for bad, if I let them!  The really sad part is, that if I hadn’t spent over a year in Europe, witnessing first hand what a perfectly normal part of society the concept of deposit bottles are, I probably would have fallen for the glossy lies on that flier!

I haven’t thought about that day in a long time, and probably would have forgotten about the blind date altogether, if it hadn’t been for the recent debate and propaganda campaign against Nationalized Health care.  Until that day at Dupont Circle, I had assumed that “propaganda” was something the Russians did, a Russian word even, which we don’t need in our vocabulary, because Americans tell the truth!  But hearing of the recent parade of videos depicting Canadians dissatisfied with their health care, I can almost feel that glossy printed page in my hand, and I am on my guard.  Again, I think I would myself be easily duped (it all sounds so convincing and compassionate), if it wasn’t for my own experience these last 17 years of living overseas with “no worries” health care, and the testimony of the same from many, many others I know in countries with Health Care systems superior to that of the States.  It seems like a no-brainer to me, but I guess there are a lot of people who are still falling for the glossy fliers and biased advertising.  I can live without deposit bottles, after all, you do have to carry them back to the store, but I can’t live without health insurance, not in todays world of high medical costs.  What will it take to get people to stop being so gullible?!

Here are a few links to what I believe is real information about Canadian health care.  Please ignore the first paragraph of the first link, she wigs out on Republicans.  I know that is rot, but the following points she makes are good ones I thinks.  I had a third link on here, but there was really only one sentence about the survey of Canadians which found that 91% are happy with their health care.



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