Friday, September 27, 2019

Got My Name Changed Back

One prominent road in Arlington, Virginia just lost its Confederate name; and no one is looking back. Transecting Crystal City, future home of Amazon’s HQ2, Jefferson Davis Highway reverted to its pre-1920’s name, Richmond Highway. Signed as US Route 1, the road still connects Washington DC to Richmond, Virginia; though parallel Interstate 95 is the preferred, and usually quicker, alternative.  Route 1 is the common, layman’s name; except for the hotels and major businesses whose stationery list the once-lengthy street address bearing the Confederate States of America president’s name.

These business owners and representatives were supportive of the change. Damnata Memoria (Banished history) aside, a succinct name like Richmond Highway works in the text-and-Siri age. “Jefferson Davis” is also a mouthful to business partners and visitors for whom English is a second language.

When, in contrast, a residential street changes names, private citizens bear the burden of informing state agencies, banks and acquaintances of their new yet geographically identical address. Such is the talk in Hollywood, Florida, where city leaders are discussing renaming two suburban streets. In recognition of this challenge, local Lee Highway and Beauregard Street; also named after prominent Confederates, will retain their nomenclature for the foreseeable future.   

Another, slightly more southern segment of US Route 1 changed names sometime earlier. It occurred as a recently-country road was being upgraded to a thoroughfare compatible for the burgeoning national security and defense industries surrounding Fort Belvoir and Quantico. Street names are dynamic in the exurbs, where old roads designed to serve agriculture (literally, Farm-to-Market roads in Texas) are repurposed for office parks and residential cul-de-sacs. Motorists most likely noticed shorter backups well before they noticed a sanitized road name.

* This is my second blog post about Crystal City. Several years ago, before Jeff Bezos put the close-in suburb on the map, I pondered new uses for the transit-accessible, yet fading, neighborhood.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Lasting Memory

Milestone of a new epoch

Our youngest soldiers and sailors weren’t even born on 9/11/2001, 18 years ago. But they learned about the unfathomable attacks from friends and family, experienced service members, and in the classroom.

While not well publicized, the threat of radicalism and non-state actors was recognized by the US government prior to 9/11/2001. There were attacks at US Embassies overseas, as well as damage inflicted upon USS Cole in 2000. Those attacks were “over there”.

The 9/11/2001 attacks brought the American public into a new national security mindset. The “Middle East” replaced the Soviet Bloc in the national conscious.

National unity and shared sacrifice
Banker and firefighter, secretary and executive, General and Private all faced mortality during the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon, and a field in Western Pennsylvania.
When air travel resumed, there were no fast-lanes at airport security, and first-class passengers gave up their metal cutlery for several years. Major, sweeping legislation such as the Patriot Act was passed with wide bipartisan support.

The experience and memories of a fateful day 18 years ago rests on geography and station of life. New Yorkers recall lost neighbors and family members, and the constant smoke cloud. Washingtonians changed their commuting routes in light of the national emergency. In other quarters there was righteous indignation. The US Coast Guard, then predominately a maritime safety organization, would be incorporated into the newly-created Department of Homeland Security with a new counterterrorism mandate.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Breaking Troupes

This is the insanity I saw during my very first visit to California:

Berkeley Radicals

I expected to meet the illiberal Left (Stalinists) at Berkeley’s BART Train platform. Instead, I proceeded without incident to take a selfie at UC Berkeley’s Free Speech gate, wearing F-16 jet shorts draped in the American flag. I realized that Milos Y. might actually be a provocateur.

Gender as fluid as the San Francisco Bay

Even UC Berkeley didn’t have “gender neutral” bathrooms. Around the area, there were Womens’ rooms, Mens’ rooms, and unremarkably unisex water closets. Exception is the deYoung museum, which has a “gender neutral” restroom, which is basically a co-ed facility like one would find in a European youth hostel.

Environmental Fascism

Foie  Gras and fur may be out in San Fran, but plastic bags can still be procured at ten cents’ tax. Highway tolls are few and far between, even the long Oakland Bay Bridge merely levied a $7 toll, single driver, during rush hour. Many streets in central SF are set up as one-way arterials for the purpose of moving vehicular traffic. In Washington, D.C., Mayor Bowser has “de-commuterized”
several streets, with traffic-calming measure, in booming mid-city neighborhoods.

Tech Bro Colonizers

They exist, they ride exclusive commuter buses, but they blend in with the urban fabric as well as other urban professionals. Hard to get a table at a ‘hip’ restaurant, though.

Mass transit is falling apart and everyone must ride Uber

BART’s 50-year old Transbay tubes are undergoing major renovation, practically ending subway service at 8pm. But the system, and the MUNI streetcars, earn their keep during the daytime hours, with frequent and fairly comprehensive service. With just 36 stations, the SF Bay Area’s  BART falls well short of counterpart Washington DC’s 90+ station Metrorail. Put on some walking shoes.

Oakland is a war zone

The city across the bay is working to find its groove. Street life leaves much to be desired, but increase in new residents will create a demand for shops and restaurants.

Palo Alto Snobs
The students at Stanford University’s suburban-style campus were quite friendly. Education still has meaning besides a means to a financially rewarding end.

Crippling taxation
As a visitor, yes San Francisco was expensive, but less so than a Western Europe’s destination city. New Yorkers tell me that their City is a great place to visit, but that living there is expensive. I conjure the same about San Francisco. Several restaurants and shops itemize a 5% levy to cover healthcare costs. I ate in more than I usually would on travel.