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Read Her Work!

Emma Sarappo

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Hi, my name is Emma, and in July, I walked a mile and a half from my friend’s apartment on U Street to my house in Eckington at 11 p.m. It was drizzling, and my girlfriend nearly slipped on a grate above the Metro stop, slick with rain — I grabbed her arm and held her up. Despite the rain accumulating in my hair and my shoes, it was still July-warm, humid and steamy. Everything was yellow underneath bright incandescent street lights, which bounced and blurred off the raindrops on trees and bushes, making the sharp edges soft and inviting. The G8 bus wasn’t coming up Rhode Island Avenue for 20 more minutes. So, we walked.

 

Why? Well, a month earlier, on my third day in Washington, D.C., I showed up in the office of Washingtonian, a magazine dedicated to explaining how Washington works. I had to figure out how Washington works — so I started walking.

 

D.C. is a city big enough to contain all the agencies and apparatuses that control the “free world” (and to hold the baggage that comes with that phrase). But it’s also a city small enough to walk around — human-scale in a way that’s easily overlooked. I live in the Northeast corner; It would only take me an hour on foot to get to my workplace, with no major hills or natural barriers. And despite what you may have heard, there are DC summer days that don't drown you in humidity. In fact, it can be kind of nice to take a walk.

 

On foot, the city starts to feel more organic. Standing on the sidewalk, the infrastructure of driving — street signs, traffic lights, parking notices — starts to fade away in favor of what’s under foot. It’s made me a better journalist: taking things in at walking speed instead of 40 mph helps me notice a lot more. I meet people. I notice animals. I admire buildings. These all have stories.

 

It’s only been a few months — I’m not an expert on how Washington works just yet. But I have learned a few things: it’s the heart of the surveillance state, it doesn’t love plastic straws, and regional abortion policy is complicated, but liberal. Mostly, it's clear that all the flack D.C. gets for being a “company town” comes from people who treat it like one, cycling in and out between Congressional sessions and political events. I finish undergrad at Northwestern in December, and I hope to take my degree right back here, because there's so much more to walk.