Even though I only live 40 miles north, D.C. is a destination I too often overlook—its proximity making it somehow less exciting even while its streets remain unexplored. Still, about once a year, I catch a train south without a specific destination in mind. (When I do have a destination, it always involves Meridian Park outside my friend’s apartment. Go there! There is a drum circle on Sundays, FYI.)
When autonomously wandering, I always promise myself I’ll get further than the Mall, but more often than not I exit Union Station and find myself caught up in weekend pedestrian traffic. Tourists mixing with locals with slightly more equanimity than Times Square’s bustle, I fall in behind a family trying to get their bearings, a mother arguing via cell phone with her child while waiting to cross 17th Street, a man in a well-cut suit who I keep pace with for several more blocks than strictly necessary.
I often find myself hunting stories while on these walks, either overhearing one or making one up, filling in the details as teenagers sit sullenly on the Lincoln Memorial stairs or groups of old men stand stoic in obvious reflection. In many ways, my Instagram habit is now an extension of this same pleasure, a glimpse of private lives in public spaces, the story made richer and yet more obscure due to a filtered view.