Poverty is "normal" and to be celebrated. Why doesn't Arnade live in Anacostia if he thinks it's so wonderful? When did the right turn against aspiration and ambition?

Expand full comment

A great article by Mr Arnade

I grew up in PG County MD int he 70s,80s and early 90s.and have always thought that DC has been misrepresented in the media.

I worked for a day labor company in PG County inthe late 1980s as a laborer.And i used to catch a ride to work from the van driver. He used to drive to 14th and H St NE at 4am.That was where Pearce Homeless Shelter was.

There were 200 guys living there. And at 4-6 am Mon-Friday, you would see dozens of men standing outside waiting for the day labor vans of 5 or 6 different day labor companies . They climbed into the crowded vans[2-35 guys in a van meant for 16 people] and were driven out to Montgomery county MD or the Northern Virginia suburbs. Where they did hard laboring jobs for roughly $25 a day after taxes[$3.50 an hour during the Winter,And $4 an hour during the busier Summer season ]

These guys were mostly homeless. Or living in cheap rooming houses on Benning Road[That whole area is now gentrified.and the homeless shelter is a hip night club] And most were addicted to Crack [This was in 1989] But most of them knew a lot about the world. The ones over 40 years of age had mostly grown up in rural North Carolina. And many had picked cotton as children inthe 1930s,40s,and 50s.They had come up to DC during the Great Migration.They were all Black men.I was the only white day laborer among them

These hundreds of guys did the hardest and dirtiest work on building sites throughout the DC suburbs.But they were never mentioned in the media. This may sound silly, but i sincerely think that there should be a statue of a homeless Black American day laborer built at the corner of 14th and H St NE. These guys were just as hard working as the men who built the railways inthe 19th Century. And i will always have fond memories of many of them. Someof them dropped outof school by 3rd or 5th grade, while in rural NC inthe 1940s.But i learned more from them about Life ,History and the World, than i ever learned from any of my teachers at school

Expand full comment

Ive always said that "Washington" and "DC" are two different cities.

"Washington" is where the political class lives.And "DC" is where the mostly working class blacks and latinos live

Ive also always said that Washington DC is a "Blue Collar City" in many ways. Its not "Blue Collar" in terms of having factories. And it has absolutly no "White Working Class" . But it has thousands of black and latino Americans who work on construction sites, and who stock shelves or run cash registers in grocery or other retail stores.Or who wash dishes or work on loading docks or who mop floors,ect,ect

Mr Arnade is completly correct.If or national leaders really wanted to know about the lives of blue collar Americans, they would only have to walk a mile or so from thier Government offices.

I grew up outside of DC in PG County MD/.And currently live in Baltimore.And some of the best ,and most intelligent, political discussions that ive ever heard have been in diners and McDonalds.Many of which have been in very poor parts of Baltimore or the DC area.

I would finaly say that i do think that blue collar " Back Row" Americans talk about politics a lot. But they talk about it differently than the "Front Row Americans". Ive worked as a construction laborer for over 30 years. And during that time i worked out of temp agencies/day labor companies for about 6 years. And ive heard thousands of intelligent conversations about politics.The key difference is that " Back Row" Americans dont talk in politically partisan ways. I rarely hear the words "Liberal","Conservative" ,"Democrat" or " Republican" mentioned when i hear construction laborers or other blue collar Americans talk about politics. Instead, they talk about actual issues such as Poverty,Crime, Drug Use.Drug Overdoses, Health Care , Jobs,Unemployment,Urban Blight, Abandoned Housing ,Costo fLiving, and lot of local issues that directly affect them

They discuss these issues as actual isssues. Instead of just using the issues to score points against either the Republican Party or the Democratic Party . I currently live in a neighborhood that has been heavily gentrified.And the only "Political issue" that my wealthy neighbors talk about is about how much they hate "trump Supporters". They almost never talk about the issues that my blue collar co-workers talk about

Expand full comment

Love your work, love you as a person, but who really cares about the cultural fabric of DNC support? It’s a reaction-to-reactionary party, and will just define itself as that for the foreseeable future. The US is skidding fast downhill towards fascism, the ups and downs of the two parties make no difference to the final destination. That part really isn’t interesting.

Expand full comment

Arnade is doing what WPA did in the '30s. Establishing a photographic record of the conditions in certain places. The WPA was marking the 'before' and 'after' so the government's efforts to genuinely IMPROVE conditions in Appalachia and Oklahoma could be demonstrated.

We're about to invade Romania and Ukraine, and the government and media will try to tell us how horrible those places were 'before'. We needed to destroy the countries to save them for democracy. Now that Arnade has recorded and commented the 'before' conditions, it will be a bit harder to claim that the bombed-out 'after' is an improvement.

Expand full comment

Thanks for chronicling your journey. I live East of the River and you beautifully describe the community here. I really enjoyed seeing your photos- do you remember where the Amanda Gorman mural is?

Expand full comment

Not sure if you are intentionally spreading misinformation or you just don't know DC crime situation that well. Most of the robberies happen at night, try walking in SE with a laptop bag after dark and then compare with Alexandria. Or leave a car parked overnight in SE vs. Alexandria.

Expand full comment

I think you should come out west this year. I love your book and your walking America series, but it seems kind of East-biased to me 😉.

I currently live in Cheyenne Wyoming after spending seven years in the Washington Tri-Cities. (The Tri-Cities has more tumbleweeds.)

Cheyenne has an old-west downtown with new sprawl and a very nice network of greenways that go through a lot of varied areas (I see a lot biking to work when I can, since I go north to south—I live right at the edge of the nicer residential but the southern greenway passes through a truck stop area and a trailer park with lots of kids).

The Tri-Cities are an atom boomtown with an agricultural twist, but the housing market has gone insane. Not particularly walkable but likely interesting.

I would also suggest Yakima, which is an increasingly-Hispanic agricultural town a bit west of the Tri-Cities.

If you do visit Eastern Washington, try the wine. Locals are proud of it.

There’s also Salt Lake City, Missoula, Boise etc before you hit the west coast towns.

Expand full comment

Chris, heard you on a podcast. Enjoyed it so much I got your book. Enjoyed it too. Now waiting for what you learned that we could use. In my book empathy is good- kind of "necessary but not sufficient." in the words of the philosopher.

What I'm wondering now is what you've learned in this walking that we could use going forward. First there's empathy, then there's action. What do you think comes next for us?

Expand full comment

just love your writing and walks...

Expand full comment

Wonderful photos!

Expand full comment

Such a fine article. You walk with open eyes. It is so different, and unusual and refreshing. Your photos are marvelous. What a great read. Thank you.

Expand full comment

You didn’t even mention that the fancy radish is vegan

Expand full comment
Jan 26, 2022·edited Jan 26, 2022Liked by Chris Arnade

DC area person - there's a reason the metro had a 45 min (!) delay. Back in October, one of the new trains WMATA has been upgrading their fleet to derailed. They pulled all of those trains out of service in response. This was 60% of the fleet. They have not managed to fully restore service since then - they are still performing safety reviews of the new model of train. As you can tell, this is Not Good for people who rely on public transit to get to work. Now trains run every 30 min (optimistically) on most lines during rush hour, and rather more than that outside of rush hour.

There is, perhaps, a statement to be made here about how American metro areas run their public transit systems. Suffice it to say that Tokyo, this is not.

Expand full comment

Nice piece, Chris.

A fresh outlook that we desperately need

Expand full comment

You didn't really stumble across a restaurant called The Fancy Radish...or did you?!

Expand full comment