LMDA Conference Washington DC
I’m crossing the continent today to attend the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas (LMDA) annual general meeting and conference in Washington DC. I’ve never been to “DC” and I’m looking forward to it. It’s one of the most storied cities in North America, if for no other reason than it’s the Capitol City of one of the most storied countries on earth. A great spot for a dramaturgy conference.
The UA flight was bumpy, but I arrived at Ronald Regan National Airport (or National as the citizens of the city prefer to call it) on time. I hadn’t been on the ground for more than 10 minutes when I overheard someone say, “hello Senator”. A middle-aged guy had just run into a senator from his home state and was proud to inform his elected representative from the upper chamber that he’d toured the senator’s office earlier in the day. The Senator was polite. Connections are everything.
DC has a subway known as the Metro that runs from National into the heart of the city. It’s a new system, built in the 80’s. All the stations look exactly the same. What struck me the most about the system was the station lighting, best described as dim. Underground twilight. Above ground the city itself is classic old-world North America - about as different from the Pacific Northwest as you can get without being in Mexico. Old architecture. Medium density. Lots of brick. Lots of signage screaming “NO” to one thing or another. Very few bikes and almost no bike-lanes. But a great town to walk in.
After unpacking I ventured into the streets to see what was immediately available. I was staying in the U Street area, a Victorian-era neighborhood that began life around 1862. As Washington became progressively more segregated in the early 1900’s, the U Street Corridor became a centre for black fashion and culture – the largest one in urban America. Duke Ellington grew up here. By the 1960’s it was officially “blighted” and when Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968 by James Earl Ray (or someone else) , the neighborhood was the centre of the Washington D.C. riots.
Walking up U Street at 11PM, looking for a kitchen that was still open, I ran into three folks doing exactly the same thing. After sharing our puzzlement at our lack of options and our determination to find something somewhere, we made our way to Adams Morgan (a neighborhood named after two formally segregated elementary schools, one black and one white).
After sitting down and ordering some food and drink (one of my compatriots couldn’t get a drink because the city’s establishments don’t recognize foreign driver’s licenses as valid ID – Canadian licenses are okay) we launched into a round of good conversation. I learned that the group was international - one from Israel, one from Berlin and one from India. They had become friends while doing a post-doc public health program at Harvard, which they’d just completed. The Berliner was heading home in the morning.
Mohan had been in school for 27 years and was a medical doctor (as was Orli). He should have gotten his drink, but as smart as he is, he couldn’t convince our server. Of course it wasn’t her fault. The law is blind. And I guess, deaf as well.