That Terrible Thoreau

In the first hour of morning, Henry David Thoreau writes in his transcendentalist masterpiece Walden, “some part of us awakes which slumbers all the rest of the day and night.”

I’m sleeping in my clothes on Emily’s living-room couch when I wake to find her two-year-old daughter, Ariel, clutching her stuffed tyrannosaurus and staring into my eyes.

“Go for walk?” she says.

The Widening Gulfs that Separate Us

It rains all night, and by morning the water splashes against the plank over which we cross the creek to the car. We wind our way over South Brank Mountain, then eastward along Lost River, past West Virginia farms and villages and general stores, just waking up. Past Hanging Rocks, we ascend into George Washington National Forest. On the nether side we pass into Virginia, where we pick up I-66 and whisk on to D.C.

“Such a short distance from country to city,” we always remark on trips to Washington. Then we wonder how much the superhighway, Corridor H, will violate that distance, corrupt the pristine Potomac Highlands landscape with too much traffic, too many trucks hauling off our trees, too many land speculators, developers, toxic waste dump entrepreneurs.

My interview is at the Embassy Suite Hotel on M and 22nd. Over Roosevelt Bridge, the rain subsides and morning sun shines through the mist on the Washington and Jefferson monuments. How brilliantly gleams the newly washed showroom side of our capital. Driving past stately white museums, monuments and government buildings, one momentarily forgets the grisly back rooms, the poor and homeless, the criminals, drug pushers, prostitutes, government arms dealers, selling to whomever can pay.

We arrive early at the Embassy, so we wait in the lounge and soak in the visual luxury: 10 stories, dome-topped, towering over an interior terraced court, with restaurants, shops, gardens, fountains, wishing pools, glass-bubble elevators that shuttle guests to their floors.

“How ironic,” I comment to my spouse. “I am interviewing at a hotel in which we can’t afford to spend the night.”