As with many people, the length of my commute depends very much on the traffic between where I live and where I work. The bottleneck in the travel is 495, which is known as The Beltway. The Beltway is a huge loop that surrounds the entire of Washington DC.
There are two major (relative to everything else) highways that lead off from 495. I-95 goes up northeast (at about 2 o'clock on the Beltway) to Baltimore. I-270 goes northwest (around 11 o'clock).
Even on a small stretch of the Beltway between 95 and 270, can get backed up. It usually takes ten minutes to get from those two points. With traffic, it can go up to thirty minutes. Thirty minutes! Thirty minutes to travel ten miles! Every morning, it takes about 25 minutes to travel from my house to the juncture of 495 and 270.
It's a bit better coming back, because I usually come back after rush hour. Still, last night when I came back at around 10 PM, there were still plenty of people on the road. There wasn't the kind of stop-and-go Beltway traffic, but still, it was surprisingly crowded.
Forunately, in order to pass time, I can listen to the radio. If I had to listen to music the entire way, I'd go crazy. Most radio stations have a playlist of like five songs played in endless loop. That catchy song you heard? It's cool. It's got a good hook. But after the hundredth (literally) time of playing it, you want to pull someone's eye sockets out. You promise yourself never to listen to it again.
I listen to talk radio because at least it's different day to day. And on occasion, it can be very funny. Let's face it, though. I wouldn't listen to the radio if it weren't for this lengthy commute. Without the morning commute, shows like Tony Kornheiser and Howard Stern (I can't believe I put them in the same sentence) wouldn't exist.
This commute and my job insulate me from the world. I know that, on a good day, I can be at work in twenty minutes. On a bad day, it goes nearly an hour. Typically, it takes about forty minutes in the day, and thirty minutes at night.
Last night, I listened to someone talk about John Brown. Now, here's a name I've only vaguely heard of. Without the context of the show, it would not have meant anything to me. John Brown was an abolitionist during the middle of the nineteenth century. He despised slavery, and came to a unique, if controversial solution. Violence.
Brown and his followers would drag out white slave owners (he, too, was white) and kill them. This, in front of crying children and wives. He wanted to make a statement. He's been labelled a revolutionary and a terrorist. Both labels fit him accurately. People like Timothy McVeigh have drawn inspriration from his actions.
I mean, mainstream television and radio just doesn't cover Brown, at least, not this sympathetically. The author, whose name I didn't catch, said that this was justified violence, that the institution of slavery was so bad, and was getting worse, that someone had to do something significant. That man was Brown. It takes NPR radio to bring me to this world.
This morning, I heard about the competition between Huntington Beach and Santa Cruz to trademark the name "Surf City". California gave rise to beach songs from the sixties, including the Beach Boys and Jan n' Dean. But you know why these two cities are competing for the title "Surf City". Money. A surfer whose hung ten at both locations said that the people who are trying to get trademark don't even surf. It's about the bling and the more bling.
But, really, what made me realize I live in an insulated world is listening to Tony. Tony realizes there's more to life than sports. There's Hollywood. There's the runaway bride. And there's Hurricane Katrina.
Yeah, I've heard about the hurricane. I haven't seen the pictures of the devastation. I still haven't. Last night, I was at Midnight Madness. No, no, this wasn't the opening basketball practice by the Terps (which was, indeed, invented at Maryland, by Lefty Driesell, who decided to practice at the earliest moment possible, on the first day that the NCAA permits practice. At midnight.). It was IKEA midnight madness.
Very much like the midnight madness in basketball, IKEA's version was aimed at college students. And there were plenty. I wanted to have some IKEA Swedish coffee, which tastes very much like regular American coffee, but the line at 10:30 PM (the place usually closes around 9 PM), was insane. Insane! No coffee for me.
As Dave and I travelled the confines of the IKEA cave, we bumped into his brother and his posse. This posse was three other girls and another guy. I won't go classifying the attractiveness of the lot, because that would be unseemly. Not that unseemly ever bothered me. Dave seemed very much like a puppy dog following his brother, even though he is the older, and his brother is the younger. We discovered Dave can get into very tiny spaces in what has to be one of the most useless IKEA child toy ever.
This toy is basically an egg. You get in this tiny, tiny chair, and pull this curtain-like shade over you. It's meant for tiny kids to, well, hide. This is, I imagine, what Swedish kids do for fun, when it gets too cold to do anything else. Dave stands six feet tall, yet, he discovered that he too, can be a Swedish kid. After being trapped in by his brother and suffering from extreme claustrophobia, he got out. I think I know what to get Dave for his birthday.
As this was going on, Hurricane Katrina was pummeling Louisiana and Mississippi. People have made analogies to the tsunami (which killed at least ten times as many people) and the nuclear bomb at Hiroshima. I've long maintained that Americans simply don't care when it happens overseas.
I know. There was an outpouring of support for victims and survivors of the tsunami. But really, companies saw it as good business sense. Amazon put up a contribution link merely a day after the tsunami. Other companies followed suit. This gave much more play to the sympathy Americans can provide.
Even if the scale is so much different, when it happens here, it's that much more impact. New Orleans is 80% underwater. There's looting. It's Waterworld. Like Costner's movie, it's a disaster.
And yet, I can't conceive of this. Two years ago, there was some storms that knocked out power for three days. But the actual storm wasn't that bad. It was windy. There was rain. But my car was fine. Our house was fine. We weren't flooded.
Perhaps it's good that I can't conceive of this. It means most places, people live well, shielded from the devastation of nature. Even the attacks on the Pentagon seemed, well, far away. I hope that I don't ever have to experience that, first hand.
At this point, we all share hopes that things can get better. Because really, a few weeks from now, we'll forget this. Only those who rebuild will care. Football will start up again. Baseball will be in postseason. And all of us will be back in our safe world.
corrections - - Chick Corea (note the spelling) was a member of Miles Davis' band. - Graham Chapman, the only Graham in the group, is the only deceased mem...
1 month ago