32. Velvet Roped DC

old-navy-yogaI was looking raggedy and tattered.  Wearing funky and sweaty workout clothes I casually decided to make my way around to the Cororan Gallery of Art.  I recalled an advertisement I saw in the City Paper about an exhibit centered on Washington, DC subculture of the 1980s.  I checked the paper handy in my bag and saw that I was right on time.  The exhibit was ending and that day admission was free.  When I got there I was swallowed by crowds of folks who had the same idea way before I thought of it.  The people ranged from natives that lived in the Southeast quadrant of the city their entire lives to college kids in for a reintroduction to the Nation’s Capital.

I stood on a line that wrapped around the room.  I immediately became self-conscious.  Usually, when I visit museums I am virtually alone.  As I view exhibits the air is still and sound centers on my own footsteps striking hardwood floors.  If I had known better I would have went home to change out of the clothes I wore to dance class.  I felt like sooner or later a strong and gangly bouncer was going to draw a velvet rope in front of me and ask what I was doing there.

Today the museum was lively with discourse and compared notes.  Some recalled where they were during the 1968 riots left the city ravaged and smoldering.  Others spoke about how living in a nation gripped by crack cocaine framed their lives.  If you were lucky you might wander into a conversation that included the sights and sounds of a go-go party.

cbJust when I was almost full, and extremely happy I had come, I looked to my right and saw one of my favorite musicians. Christylez Bacon was just sitting there like he was having tea while talking to a mohawked guy and a girl with one of those bull rings through her nose.  I had to muffle my girly fanatical scream.  What can I say, I have eclectic musical tastes.  Bacon is like a cross between André 3000 and Mister Rogers.  I was not dressed to go over and embarrass myself by excitedly telling him how his music changed my life, blah, blah, blah.  I wonder if celebrities have some rehearsed line for fanatics like me.

Well anyway… I thought the exhibit was excellent plus a side of Bacon.  I do have a few reservations, however.  Washington, DC is way more than just the Nation’s Capital.  It is home to go-go music, and punk rock influences that span the country.  It was also the most dangerous city in the nation where the rates of homicide were sickening and disheartening.  Now, money is returning to the city at an astronomical rate.  One cannot look down the hill on Georgia Avenue without seeing at least 15 cranes erecting skyscrapers on either side.  One of the most notorious murders took place on 8th and H streets in the 1980s.  At that same intersection today yuppies walk their Chihuahuas. With all of this change, there are some questions that Washingtonians have not sufficiently answered.  First, where will all those that can’t afford iced lattes or Red Door Spa services go?  They are the lifeline that built the city and created the culture on display at museums like the Cororcan.  Secondly, are we going to learn from the mistakes and suffering of the 1980’s in cities like Washington, DC? Or will those with power and influence press out of the city on the first train if things take a turn for the worst or the money leaves?  In other words, as a person that has dedicated my career and livelihood to servicing Washingtonians I have a problem with those that took in the exhibit for entertainment purposes only.  Ok…I have jumped down from my soap box.  The exhibit is over.  I included a piece of it below in case you missed it.

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