cafe mama

finding magic every day

portland: one million. northern virginia: two. . october 24 . 2006

front hall at the aol campus in dullesI muse from time to time about the possibility one of my beloved bosses at AOL might someday say, "Sarah, you're a rising star! But to get wonderful promotion xyz, you need to move to Northern Virginia." And when I muse, sometimes I consider the possibility, think about looking for a condo in Reston or a home in Sterling. Maybe we could live in Georgetown, I think, or Arlington. I consider the wonders of Great Falls, through which I spent many a lovely mountain bike ride in the crisp, lovely fall.

I've been in Northern Virginia for the past two days. And all I have to say about that musement? Piffle!

So far my score on on livability factors is something like, Portland one million, Northern Virginia, two. Northern Virginia just doesn't fit with my values. Let's put real estate values (astonishing), the complete and utter absence of lovely 1912 homes (would make me cry elephant tears), the preponderance of Hummers and Escalades (can't count the ones I've seen on all the fingers and toes of all my many children), the general lack of the Bins and all my amazing mama buddies, and the much-feared gridlock aside for the moment. And look at this tiny little portion of Dulles, Virginia, where I've spent the past 50-some hours.

I am staying at a lovely, brand-new Residence Inn. It has flat-screen HDTVs and wireless and the sweetest modern-comfy sofa, the kind with only one arm? and so so many pillows on the beds. The kitchenette is nicer than my kitchen, if you ignore the absence of the oven and the cheap cookware. It's only .74 miles from the front door of my office, so no need to spring for a rental car or taxi fare. I just tie my shoes and go.

Go where? Is the question. Go to take my life in my hands, is the answer. Oh. My. Lord. The craziest part is, here, on one side of an intersection: the world headquarters of a quite large corporation. Lots of wealthy hip folks, many of whom I've grown to adore. You'd think that, during the day, these people might occasionally have certain needs. Maybe they have run out of shampoo, or need a bag of candy to fill the bowl by their desk. On the other side of the intersection, a rare and glorious supermarket (Wegman's, which is one of the two points I've given Northern Virginia. I'm in love with Wegman's in a mad rush of endless-aisle lust.)

But. No sidewalk. These two complementary structures - multiplexes, really - are less than a half-mile apart. Yet you can only get from one to another by braving the edge of a street down which BMWs and Explorers and the occasional Element zoom at fearful speeds. Let me tell you, I've braved it, and I've had a tough time deciding if I should just throw in the towel and take the hotel shuttle (no! I won't!) and am stopped only by (a) my considerable stubbornness and (b) the existence of a crosswalk.

This crosswalk is also quite hilarious. Because it exists across a huge intersection through which hundreds of cars hurtle every minute. There is a "push button for walk" button that looks as if it's rarely, if ever, been pressed, but by me. And there is a little sidewalk on the receiving end of each corner. That goes nowhere. It just ends, a little half-moon of "thank you for crossing with the little walk sign! Now you're on your own, you crazy person. Hahahahah MWAHAHAHA!" This is what I imagine the designers of this concrete half-moon said when they finished painting the crosswalk stripes over the right-turn-only lane, throwing their heads back as they stood on the running board of their still-idling Ford F350.

Bike lanes. Haha. Hahahaha. That was pretty funny. Biking in Northern Virginia is recreation, to occur on the weekends, after having stuck your bike on the rack of your Navigator.

Yet each day as I walk down this frightening road to my perplexing crosswalk, I look at the gorgeous Virginian trees in the one remaining wild area to the west of the Wegman's. Truly, Virginia has a startling loveliness, an ancient light that shines through its golden-red-orange leaves and has me half-expecting to see a 17th-century farmer push aside a branch -- what's left of it, anyway. And never more so in the fall. That's why Northern Virginia gets its second point.

The rest of the points, though, go to Portland. I can't imagine moving here. Let's just hope and pray that my bosses will be so pleased with my amazing ability to produce great things, while telecommuting that they never even think of such an offer.

paying the bills

read my previous post .auction tickets for wonderful things . october 22 . 2006