Almost 30 years ago, a reporter for The Washington Post began a conversation with someone who was equally far-flung from modern DC and the pioneer neighborhood where they lived. He described the neighborhood as one of “mom and pop stores.”
“Oh, what a concept!” I said, and wondered what it would take to force his older roommate into realizing the positive and prescient truth about the first-generation D.C. of the 1980s. He nodded, smiled, and waved goodbye as he rushed out the door on his way to work.
Life, alas, is not always as easy and desirable as the 1980s imagined it to be.
But can it even be a notion to be realized?
The places that my folks grew up in, traveling to the local station on the Metro on weekdays, facing the stultifying duty of lugging bags to the closest carts, lived a life of convenience with no problems that they could understand. Such a store was hard to imagine happening in a certain form in this bustling town, one that seemed extremely costly and set by grim routines.
Growing up, my dad always felt confused about why we settled into this particular part of the Washington metropolis. There were places he wanted to go, places he had parents that wanted to see him, people he knew who could go there with him. So he remained at home, not often traveling much beyond his area.
But after visiting me a few times around 10 or 11 years ago, he finally grasped why: I lived with my husband and children in neighborhood long since replaced by chain stores — big boxes that no longer looked like factories but reeked of processed, heavily branded, synthetic stuff. I never noticed the old factory smell, thinking that was just the way it was.