Downtown DC is Deserted

Soho Cafe
Where is everyone?

The Axios article is correct. Downtown DC is deserted. I live at the edge of downtown, and spend a lot of time walking and biking through it.

Recently, I went to lunch at Soho Cafe at 13th and K St NW. Pre-covid, it was one of my favorite lunch spots – I have a thing for steamtray Chinese food.

Normally, it’s a buzz of activity, in which you elbow your way up to the buffet, fill a tray with food, wait in line to pay and then try to find a place to sit. Sometimes, I even had to share a table with someone else.

Yet, when I walked into Soho yesterday, one of the cafe workers was taking a nap in a chair. There were no customers, no line and I had my pick of tables.

Looking around the cafe, I thought to myself: this place won’t make it.

DC is Back?

DC is not back, despite the social media campaigns. It’s not DC’s fault, though. Spooked by Delta, the federal government is still working remotely. The thousands of feds which commuted back and forth to downtown offices have not returned.

The return of DC’s indoor mask mandate killed off meetings and conventions, too. Visitors are often surprised at the strictness of the mask mandate, which applies to everything, including hotels, nightclubs, restaurants and museums. Meeting planners have moved their events across the river to mask-free Virginia.

Some places reopened too soon. Swing’s Coffee, for example. It doesn’t open until 8 AM and even then it doesn’t seem to have enough business to support itself, with the nearby World Bank still working remotely. I meet a group of biking friends there on Fridays and we make up most of their business.

A block away is Peet’s Coffee. I love this spot, since it’s on a corner with lots of windows and a view of the Old Executive Office Building. In the morning, sometimes I see the Vice President’s motorcade go by. Pre-covid, there’d always be a line. Now, no line. It reopened months ago and I’ve never seen it busy.

There used to be multiple Peet’s locations downtown – 15th and M, 17th and L, 11th and E. Only the location near the White House remains.

I never thought I’d see Starbucks close locations but many of them closed as well. And the sandwich places downtown have mostly disappeared.

Hoteling is the Future

I work as a government contractor. Pre-covid, we did hoteling. No one had an office. Instead, when you went into headquarters, you picked out a place to sit like you would an airplane seat. I’d spend the day in a stuffy room at a long table with several dozen other people (hello super spreader event).

Luckily, I only had to go in 1-2 days a week. This arrangement had enabled the government to consolidate office space, saving millions in the process.

My agency was going to have an optional return to the office starting in October. Delta shelved those plans. Covid caused many agencies to rethink who even needed to be in the office. At the minimum, many agencies are going to hoteling models, where people work in the office for a couple days and at home for the rest of the time.

Other businesses have followed the government’s lead. Not everyone needs to be in the office all the time. And if they’re not there, why rent all that space?

But as a friend reminded me, the cars are back. The people who are coming downtown are driving, feeling safer in their own vehicles than Metro.

Van Ness Metro Station
High ceilings, high drama

Which is a shame, because Metro is beautiful. If everyone goes back to the office in force, not everyone is going to be able to drive without complete gridlock.

Ironically, DC has more traffic on the weekends. People may not feel comfortable going to the office but everyone knows you can’t get covid in a bar, right? Between the Ubers delivering people to U Street clubs and the Ubers delivering Chik-fil-A to lazy apartment dwellers, DC approaches traffic meltdown on Friday and Saturday night.

This is the End

So, how does this end?

Federal commuters will eventually return, but in much smaller numbers. Most people will work remotely at least part of the time. With fewer people working downtown, many businesses will not make it. Offices will be consolidated leaving an opportunity for the city to remake this space – into housing perhaps?

Not everyone can drive everywhere so we will need Metro to survive, as well as vibrant car alternatives like protected bike lanes and pedestrian-only streets (like the recent Open Streets Georgia Avenue).

And Uber needs to be destroyed, before this parasitic company swamps DC with cars delivering chicken sandwiches.

I’m optimistic. Cities are unique places with an energy that cannot be duplicated. The pandemic has taught us that virtual is no substitute for the real thing.

No one wants to do another Zoom meeting but have lunch in a cafe, browse a bookstore, grab a latte with a friend – yes. People want that.

And those are things you do in a city.

One Day Out of Life

Downtown DC on Wheels at the Portrait Gallery

Celebrate…

Biking up 8th Street, I heard Madonna’s song, recognizing the 80s classic instantly: Holiday. Echoing off the buildings was her call to take a holiday and celebrate one day out of life.

In front of the Portrait Gallery, the street had been closed and a temporary outdoor rolling rink constructed. It was Downtown DC on Wheels. Skaters were enjoying a mild afternoon of rolling in the shadows of the marble columns of the museum. The scene was joyous as kids learned to skate and older folks relived their youth, while a DJ played extended dance remixes.

And I thought: who would want to destroy this beautiful city?

The day before, the Capitol rioters had returned, staging a rally to free their January 6 co-conspirators. This time, the Capitol Police were prepared and the rioters were heavily outnumbered. The rally was an embarrassing bust.

It was a beautiful weekend, too, featuring the kind of sunny and mild days that DC gets in September before summer comes to an end. Soon, the leaves will be gone from the trees, the sun will set before 5 PM and we’ll be in mid-winter dreariness.

Why waste your time enslaved to a conspiracy theory? Imagine spending a beautiful weekend in DC – not to see the monuments or visit the museums – but to wave signs and shout slogans from a failed political campaign.

I don’t feel sorry for the demonstrators. They made their choice.

I am with the people rolling around the rink to Madonna’s Holiday, who know that it is better to pursue joy than surrender your mind to conspiracy.

One day out of life…

 

Lafayette Square Op-Ed Published in Washington Post

White House behind many fences
Lafayette Square locked up behind a fence

Lafayette Square is open again, but it’s different now – that’s the title of my op-ed in the Washington Post.

I spent years walking through Lafayette Square on my way to work. This historic park was a constant in my life when all else changed. With the statue of Andrew Jackson in the middle of it, the square had a timeless quality.

I assumed Lafayette Square would be there forever. But after Trump had demonstrators violently cleared from the park, he put a fence around it.

Tyranny can take everything from you – even a park.

That’s the lesson of my op-ed.

I wrote about the park to share the local perspective. For the 700,000+ people who live in DC (like me), the parks and monuments are more than just tourist attractions. They are part of our lives.

Lafayette Square wasn’t history to me – it was a shortcut and a green respite from the busy city. I thought the park was sacred and inviolable. 2020 taught me that our institutions can be destroyed if not defended.

This isn’t the first op-ed I’ve had in the Post. See my articles for more.

Last Days of the Pandemic

Get your free COVID-19 vaccine here

In these last days of the pandemic, I have a certain wistfulness about what we will lose with the return of “normal” life.

“It’s the first time we’ve been out in a year,” a couple told me excitedly as we waited to get into happy hour at the Heurich House Garden.

I’ve been going to the garden since they opened in February. It’s a nice outdoor space within walking distance of my home. During the winter months, they served mulled wine (something I never thought I’d like) with enough alcohol content to keep me warm for a while. I’d meet friends there and we’d talk, until our extremities began to freeze.

The pandemic is coming to an end in Washington, DC. Vaccines are freely available and incentives (such as free beer) are now being offered to get them.

Hard to believe that just two months ago, I was talking with my friends in the garden about the difficulty of obtaining a vaccine. Now, we’ve all been vaccinated.

I am deeply thankful for this amazing development that was only possible due to big government and American ingenuity.

In 2020, DC was so empty that I could run in the street. Now, the drivers are back and running in the street would be a death sentence. Literally – traffic deaths have risen dramatically, despite Mayor Bowser mouthing Vision Zero platitudes.

fancy outdoor tables at Le Diplomate

We learned how to eat outside in any weather. 14th St is lined with outdoor tables on the street, protected from traffic and sheltered from the weather. Some are quite elaborate, like the cozy little rooms at Le Diplomate.

Outdoor drinking in DC has become ubiquitous, even infamous. Logan Circle Park is known locally as Club Logan. On the weekends, the grass is packed with picnickers sipping to-go drinks from the bars on 14th St.

While the neighborhoods are rocking, not much is going on downtown. With the federal government teleworking, south of K Street is deserted. Most of the coffee shops and restaurants are closed. The city is trying to lure  people back with things like the outdoor office in Farragut Square.

This outdoor office idea is great

The General Services Administration, where I work, was already teleworking a majority of the time, pre-pandemic. No one had assigned desks; everyone had laptops. Hoteling, they called it. Nothing really changed for us when the pandemic hit.

GSA is not alone. Many organizations have discovered that they can work successfully online. Office space will be shed – what’s the point of leasing square footage downtown for people who aren’t there? Maybe you need a DC address or place for meetings but you don’t require a whole floor on K Street.

For many businesses, the question will be not when everyone goes back to the office but who actually needs to be there.

I thought that the last days of the pandemic would end with a bang. A celebration as people discarded their masks and resumed life.

Instead, everyone is cautiously exploring the world once again, like the couple I met in the garden. They will discover an America that has changed utterly.

After the Pandemic: What Matters Now?

yoga on a foggy morning in DC

A friend asked me if I’m writing anything.

During the pandemic, I wrote LIKES, a book of short stories about social media.

But now I’m writing nothing.

My books have always been very topical. I write about the times. LIKES is about about social media obsession, THE SWAMP concerns DC during the Obama years and MURDER ON U STREET is a story about gentrification.

Yet, I cannot write about the coronavirus or the other traumas of the past year, like the January 6th assault on the Capitol. My fiction reworks reality, reframing it and pouring it into the mold of dark comedy. But 2020 was too deadly and chaotic to turn into anything coherent.

With vaccines and seasonality, coronavirus in America is ebbing. DC is springing back to life, full of people once again, the empty streets of last year now just a memory.

During the pandemic, every choice you made had meaning. Even the simplest ones. I felt accomplished just biking to 350 Bakery for a scone. Riding a bike kept me healthy while spending my money locally kept people employed.

Now that era is over and the American consumption machine is roaring back to life. Storefronts are no longer dark and brunchgoers fill 14th Street again.

On Saturday, I was at the Lincoln Memorial. The steps were crowded with people, a yoga class was going on, joggers were going by. It was beautiful to see.

And yet, seeing normal life resume made me feel: too soon.

Two weeks after I got vaccinated, I went to a bar. Something I had been looking forward to for months. With antibodies in my veins, I could drink beer and eat wings again. I could sit at a table and talk to other humans.

Yet, it was not as satisfying as those early-morning bike trips to 350 Bakery. I’d take bikeshare, buy a scone and then walk home.

Life during the pandemic gave me purpose, imbuing even the simplest of actions with meaning.

Normal life is returning. In America, that means a frenzy of buying and selling. Our nation is gearing up to spend once again.

I’m not writing because I can’t answer the question: what matters now?

Behind the Photo: Rahul Dubey

Rahul Dubey. The Hero of Swann St. He opened his home to keep protesters safe from violent police

I have a photo of Rahul Dubey in the Swann Street Report from the ACLU, which covers the mass arrest of protesters in DC. Here’s the story behind it.

June 1, 2020, was a very dark day in Washington’s history. The night before, protests against the death of George Floyd had grown violent. Windows were smashed downtown and drug stores hit by gangs of pill thieves.

Trump decided he had to do something. That something was a PR stunt.

Protesters were violently cleared from Lafayette Park so that Trump could have a photo-op with a Bible. The Park Police and other agencies beat and tear-gassed people protesting police violence, just in time for the national news.

But that was just the start of the rampage. In addition to the police, armed troops were let loose upon the city. From my apartment a mile from the White House, I watched Black Hawk helicopters thunder at rooftop height. From the seventh floor, I was at eye-level with the pilots.

With a curfew in place, most of the protesters went home. Some carried on and were joined by others outraged by what had happened in Lafayette Park. I slipped out of my apartment and filmed as they marched up 14th St.

protesters on 14th St

The Metropolitan Police Department got ahead of them, blocked off streets and redirected the protesters until they were trapped on the 1400 block of Swann St NW.

I know the street well, having lived at 15th and Swann for years. My short story, Apartment 101, which won the Washington City Paper contest, was set there. Swann Street is a narrow, one-way street lined with gingko trees that turn gold in the fall.

On the night of June 1, I read alarming tweets from the block as kids were “kettled” by the MPD. The city had been sued for using this tactic and had to pay out millions in settlements. But now they were kettling people again.

As the young protesters were squeezed together, sprayed with pepper spray and arrested, a hero emerged: Rahul Dubuy, who opened his home to protesters, giving them shelter.

I still live in the neighborhood and was outraged that such violence could happen here. The next morning, I hopped on Capital Bikeshare to see for myself. On Swann Street, there was little sign of the chaos from the night before. Rahul was standing out front with a few of the teens that he had sheltered from the police.

I introduced myself and said what had happened was terrible. I then asked if I could get a picture, wanting to memorialize this hero. It’s an iPhone shot and shows how comfortable Rahul is with the people that he had just had met hours earlier. He not only opened his home to them, he kept them safe with the police pounding on his door.

That’s a remarkable act of courage, demonstrating a faith in humanity that was rare in 2020, which is why he is a hero.

 

Letter from Washington: The Bars Are Returning

drinks with friends at Heurich House
Are we happy because we’re drunk or frozen? Drinks at the Heurich House.

While I enjoy drinking outdoors at places like the Heurich House Museum, I am glad that the bars will soon reopen in DC.

With strict covid rules in place, many of DC’s bars closed for the winter. The fear was that they would be gone for good. Now they’re planning to return.

This bit of news cheered me for I am getting very, very tired of drinking outside. During this covid time, I’ve had old-fashioneds while being frozen solid on a street corner. Sipped bourbon on a snow day in the park. And met friends for beers on a cold afternoon at a golf course.

Did you know that there was a golf course in DC? Several of them in fact. Hains Point is near the Lincoln Memorial. It’s on a peninsula that people like to bike around. There’s also a pro shop where you can get a beer and sit outside. Despite extra layers, after two beers, I was freezing. On my way home, I pedaled as hard as I could just to generate some warmth.

Last night, I was better prepared. The Heurich House Museum, a historic Dupont Circle mansion, has a lovely outdoor garden where they do happy hour on Thursday nights with beer, mulled wine and other treats. Wearing a sweater and a jacket, I was too warm. An hour later, when the wind picked up, I was very glad to have overdressed.

With my friends, we talked the usual subjects: covid and politics.

Everyone wants the vaccine but it’s like getting concert tickets for the hottest band in the world. The DC web site failed again (thanks Microsoft). All the vaccine appointments were gone within ten minutes. Vaccines are coming but they are in short supply.

In politics, Trump is like a bad addiction. A friend confessed to watching Trump’s speech on Sunday because he had to get a dose of the crazy.

I will be forever thankful to Twitter for banning Trump from the platform. Out of the Presidency and without a social media platform, he can no longer troll us. My mood has improved 100%.

But the consequences of his disastrous time in office remain. Q cultists believed that yesterday, March 4th, would be when Trump would return to power and hang traitors like myself. Fortunately, this did not happen, though security was strengthened around the Capitol, which is already guarded by troops and surrounded by a three-mile-long fence topped with razor wire.

I was amused to hear the complaints of the surprisingly mild QAnon Shaman and the Arkansas insurrectionist who thinks being locked up is unfair. Republicans love watching Cops but when the police come for them, what they gonna do? They cry.

It’s also funny that Senator Josh Hawley is awfully concerned about the FBI sweeping up cellphone metadata from the totally non-surprising January 6 attack on the Capitol. I watched as he kept asking the FBI head about phone records. It’s rare that a defendant gets to ask questions of an investigator.

Now we wait for the cherry blossoms. They’re predicted to reach peak bloom April 2-5. Around the Tidal Basin, you can see the first buds on the trees.

In the name of covid, the National Park Service may restrict access to them, like they did last year. No matter. There are plenty of cherry blossoms around Washington, DC, to see.

In the words of Pablo Neruda:

You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep Spring from coming.

The bars will reopen soon. The cherry blossoms are coming. Trump is gone. That’s enough for me.

The Insurrection Was Not a Surprise

Capitol security fence at 3rd St NW

The insurrection at the Capitol was not a surprise.

Everyone in DC knew that something bad was coming on January 6, 2021. If you lived in DC, you had seen Trump supporters escalate their violence over the previous months.

Escalating Threats

In November, Trump supporters brawled with counterprotestors in the streets of downtown DC and in front of the Supreme Court. The Proud Boys took over Harry’s, a dive bar downtown, and used it as a base of operations to drunkenly menace the city, cheered on by President Trump.

December saw the return of Trump supporters who again brawled with police and bystanders, in addition to vandalizing a church by burning a Black Lives Matter banner. Thousands of police officers were mobilized and a huge chunk of the city was shut down to contain the violence.

I had seen how violent the Proud Boys could be. On the day of the December rally, I ran into some of them downtown. I didn’t think they would be out at 8 AM but there they were, looking for people to fight. After yelling at some black kids on Black Lives Matter Plaza, one of them got up in my face. The Proud Boys advance in their organization by fighting “Antifa” even if it’s just a guy going out for coffee.

After the two previous rallies, Trump supporters felt emboldened, feeling that they could attack people without consequence.

How Should DC Respond?

Prior to the Stop the Steal rally, there was a debate in DC on whether progressive groups should organize a counterprotest or not. The city discouraged this and Mayor Muriel Browser urged residents to stay away from downtown to avoid confrontations.

I typically photograph large protests but I stayed away from this one. Photographer friends of mine, the fearless ones who document everything in DC, stayed home too. A friend of mine shared a video showing a Trump supporter following him and threatening to kick his ass.

The day before the insurrection, DC boarded up. Nearly everything downtown, from restaurants to office buildings, closed for the day. It was so obvious that an insurrection was coming that I even Instragrammed about it:

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Joe Flood (@joeflood)

I was alarmed by the numbers of Trump supporters I saw everywhere in DC, even in Logan Circle, where I live. They wore red MAGA hats but, more ominously, were also outfitted in military-style tactical gear, including helmets, vests, bear spray and poles wrapped in Trump flags that could be used as weapons. In their trucks, they drove around the city, Trump flags flying.

One Last Chance

January 6 was the last chance they had to “stop the steal.” Take control of Congress and they could prevent Joe Biden’s victory from being certified.

Online, there was lots of chatter about doing that:

I don’t have the Capitol Police’s $460 million budget. Yet, it was obvious to me and everyone else in DC that something terrible was going to happen on January 6.

So, it was quite extraordinary to hear the claims by former Capitol Police officials that the insurrection was an intelligence failure.

The Insurrection Was Not a Surprise

You didn’t need an FBI report to know that something incredibly violent was coming on January 6; all you had to do was look out the window! Every hotel in the city and nearby suburbs was filled with Trump supporters, people who had escalated their violence over the previous months. They had weapons with them and were motivated to “stop the steal.” January 6 was the last chance to keep their cult leader in office.

I didn’t know that they were going to attack the Capitol but I knew that they were going to do something incredibly violent.

I assumed that every police agency in this city (and there are many) would be 100% prepared for every possible eventuality.

Watching a violent mob push aside “bike rack” barriers and rush the Capitol, I was shocked at how unprepared the Capitol Police were.

The insurrection at the Capitol on January 6 was not a failure of intelligence. It was a failure of leadership.

Dispatch from the Green Zone

four years ago, I saw a limo burn here

I stood on the spot where four years earlier, I had watched a limousine burn.

At the time, I thought that was the craziest thing I would ever see in Washington, DC. It occurred on Inauguration Day 2017, after anarchists tossed a flare into an empty limo on K St. The police responded with flash-bangs and everyone ran. Hearing a flash-bang was also new to me.

limo in flames on K St

Then came the Muslim Ban and the Family Separation Policy, where immigrant children were taken from their parents and placed in cages.

But this was not the worst crime that the Trump administration could perform. They were just getting started.

I Was Wrong

I was wrong. If I had to sum up the 2016-2020 period in American politics, I would merely say, “I was wrong.”

After Trump was elected, I told friends that Republicans would get him under control and make him a normal President. This was the right thing to do. Instead, the GOP, a party of limited government and respect for individual rights, gleefully participated in the near destruction of American democracy.

Fine people on both sides after the Charlottesville atrocity. The unhinged speech before the Boy Scouts. The constant firings and the endless lying from the press room lectern.

I have friends who come from countries with experience in dictatorships. They said I was naive in my belief in the sanctity of our institutions and for holding onto my faith in American exceptionalism.

Resist/Persist

We protested. The Women’s March. The March for Science. The Tax March. Kava-nope. The continuous nightly protests outside the White House, back when you could get close enough to see it.

The low point for me was after the first impeachment. Failure on a very dark night at the Capitol felt like I was lost in a wood that I would never escape. I wondered how I could leave this country.

They Smashed Things Up

There’s a quote from The Great Gatsby that’s applied a lot to the Trump family:

They smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made

Tom and Daisy Buchanan at least had the decency to retreat back into their money after they smashed things up. Trump kept running over America, day after day, a new horror with every sunrise.

framed covfefe

The Trump Twitter Presidential Library was around the corner from where I saw the limo on fire. It was a couple years later, when we could still find comedy in our tragedy. Sponsored by Comedy Central, it was a room full of crazed Trump tweets in frames and embedded into art. There was even a Trump wig that you could put on and they’d take a photo of you tweeting from the toilet, like the Commander in Tweet himself.

We did not know the horror that awaited us.

2020: Year of Horrors

2020 is a year that none of us want to remember, needing a kind of willful forgetting, like a name in a horror movie that we dare not mention.

I had an ambivalence about living in Washington, DC, because it had gotten too crowded. The bars were packed, reservations were needed for even mediocre restaurants and the brunch crowd were a drunken hazard on Sunday afternoons.

Well.

By the end of March, that was not a problem. Covid struck and the offices downtown emptied out. They are still empty, almost a year later.

forsythia steps in Dumbarton Oaks Park

The gridlock-blocked streets became so empty that I could run in them without worrying about cars. I ran up Massachusetts Avenue and into Dumbarton Oaks Park, a woody sanctuary that had become my happy place. Just me and the occasional dog walker in a forested ravine in the middle of the city.

We all learned what exponential growth meant, as coronavirus exploded through the nation, sickening millions and putting millions more out of work.

The pain that I had seen imposed upon other populations (immigrants, Muslims) now was visited upon my friends and family members.

I saw scenes which were unbelievable just a few months earlier. Protesters rioted against Trump near the White House and looters struck liquor and drug stores throughout the city, even in my neighborhood.

In response, Trump poured in military and police assets. A grab-bag of random dudes in motley uniforms appeared on street corners while helicopters circled at rooftop heights. There was a curfew and kids out protesting were kettled on Swann Street, just blocks from where I live.

The year was hardly over. Confederate statues were toppled and a giant fence was constructed around the White House. In the midst of a highly-contagious pandemic, Trump anointed himself the Republican nominee with a fireworks display over streets filled with protesters, including me.

I Love DC

Facebook “friends” said that my city was a lawless hellhole. I read that comment as I was sitting in Meridian Hill Park, as kids played around the statue of Joan of Arc and people picnicked in the grass.

All my ambivalence suddenly disappeared: I loved DC.

Joan of Arc and kids in Meridian Hill Park

Trump got covid and I watched as his helicopter took him to Walter Reed for experimental treatments unavailable to ordinary Americans. The Presidential campaign began, a slog of insufferable idiocy as Biden debated a Trump spewing both disease and lies.

We won. It was not easy, but we won.

But the failed Trump administration had one final horror to unleash upon my city: an angry mob. I saw them before they sacked the Capitol, for they were staying in hotels in my neighborhood. Everyone knew that they came to fight. I watched them stream toward the Mall, armed with bats, poles, mace, body armor and helmets.

A coup of dunces, live-streamed for the world to see, is an appropriate end to the Trump administration, an action that sums up all the cruelty, stupidity and sloppiness of the man and his movement.

The Garbage Barge

Tomorrow, he will be gone. Off to Florida.

There’s a scene at the end of a Simpsons episode where escaped prisoners are sent to:

a garbage barge where you will bareknuckle-box until one of you emerges as king of your floating hell.

Palm Beach, in other words, where Trump will be lord of the disgraced, surrounded by his low-intelligence children, incompetent henchmen like Rudy Giuliani and coup enthusiasts like the MyPillow Guy, all fighting over shrinking scraps of attention and money.

Now it’s up to us to put America back together, stronger and more secure for the future.

K Street is closed to traffic now, part of the expanded Green Zone necessary after the mob attack on the Capitol. I walked to the spot where I saw the limo burning four years ago and considered everything I had seen happen in Washington, DC.

What a long, strange trip it’s been. I’m glad it’s over.

The Calm After the Storm

Tributes to Officer Brian Sicknick at the Peace Monument

An eerie calm has descended upon Washington, DC.

A lot of my neighbors in my apartment building are gone – packages are piled up in front of their doors. Some left for good during the pandemic and others left for safety after the coup attempt.

The  building is noticeably quieter. In a big apartment building, you get used to a certain amount of noise – the ding of the elevator, the sounds of plumbing, people laughing over cigarettes in the alley or the distant thump of a neighbor playing bad techno as they prepare to go out.

I used to complain about it; now I almost miss these signs of life.

The streets are also darker. Last night, as I walked to the front door, I thought one of the streetlights must be out. It wasn’t. A lot of the apartments which face the street are empty, which means less light on the street.

Downtown DC is noticeably darker, with most of the hotels and restaurants still boarded-up.

Yesterday, I went to see the tribute to Officer Brian Sicknick, who was killed by pro-Trump rioters at the Capitol. He died in defense of liberty.

I did not take pictures of the security build-up around the Capitol and National Mall, not wanting to provide intelligence to MAGA terrorists; that’s something I think about now.

Away from the federal zone, life in DC goes on. I can still get scones at 350 Bakery, buy new books at Kramers and run around in the woods of Rock Creek Park.

The coup failed. Those that feared the Deep State are about to discover that it’s very real and will track down every last one of them.

I’m not leaving. It’s not just because Washington is now filled with thousands of police and federal troops.

But it’s because Washington is a beautiful city that belongs to everyone. We cannot let a mob take it away from us.

I’ll be home, like you, watching the Inauguration on TV. And then later I’ll go for a walk or bike ride around DC.