#hashtagforeverything – RGADC

There was a time when the hashtag was still merely a pound sign.  Now though, hashtags permeate the minds of the millennial generation. Not only do they appear on phone screens, but they also worm their way into conversation. I’d say I think of them because I’m a social media intern, but that’s not really true. There’s just a #hashtagforeverything.

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Here are some highlighted hashtags from the trip so far:

#ShouldaGoneWithGaston

  • This is my personal favorite, and the hashtag I use by far the most frequently. My friend and I were on the way back from Evita on the metro when a handsome man walked up to us and asked for the bathroom. Of course, there was no bathroom, so he stayed and talked to us while we waited fifteen minutes for the next train. His name was Gaston, he was Chilean, and he spent a lot of time trying to persuade us to go dancing with him. But on a Thursday night after a show with work on Friday? I was exhausted and just wanted to sleep. I don’t know what was wrong with me. I’m supposed to make the most of this time in my life; I’m supposed to go out dancing with a hot Chilean man on a Thursday night if I have the chance. But I didn’t because I wanted to sleep. I regretted it as soon as I got home. Still think I #shouldago    newithgaston.

#AOTUSlol

  • AOTUS = Archivist of the United States, a position appointed by the President. The current Archivist is David Ferriero, and he’s basically in charge of everything Archives. He also makes really good pancakes (with chocolate chips). He’s kind of like our governmental celebrity here. Every now and then he’ll walk past our desks or our education center and we’ll all exchange looks and make a big fuss over the AOTUS. “He waved at me!” etc. The actual hashtag though came from a misread text but it felt fitting. #aotuslol

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(That one time the AOTUS made us breakfast. It was such an important moment.)

#TheBradyBunch

  • Tier 1, as my friend group jokingly calls each other, has been hanging out since week one. It’s a little bit of an odd concoction of friends, and we willingly adopt anyone who comes our way, so our numbers fluctuate a lot. But it’s a comfortable friend group and feels so natural. Early on in our DC stay, we were eating at a hole-in-the-wall taqueria when a man, who we suspect may have been homeless, came up to us and told us “we looked like the f—ing Brady Bunch.” He proceeded to name us all after the characters and never asked our actual names. I was Carol Brady and my lovely friend Joachim was deemed my Mike. For about thirty minutes he just stayed and told us story after story, suggesting bars, and only ever calling us by our Brady Bunch names. I could barely understand him, but it was one of the most entertaining and strange encounters I have ever had. We never saw him again, but we all walked away afterward happily singing The Brady Bunch theme song. “That’s the way we became #thebradybunch!”

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(Some of the “Brady Bunch” [Tier 1] at Halloween. I’m trying not to smile, since it messed up my makeup, but that’s really hard when you’re having fun.)

#JournalLikeJefferson

  • Did you know Jefferson journaled daily about the weather conditions? Yeah, well we didn’t either, but our boss at the Archives is a wealth of information. He wrote the weather in his journal consistently and continuously. For fifty years. He recorded and studied meteorology  That’s commitment. Have a daily habit? Really, I need to write more every day. A set word count or the like. Maybe I’ll finally start the habit and #journallikejefferson.

#InternHell

  • There are a couple things we’ve been warned not to do as interns, primarily to never think any job is below us. However, if any of us mess up, we joke that we are going to #internhell. “Was that you who jammed the printer? #internhell.” “Don’t fall asleep on the job. #internhell.” You get the idea. Some interns in the program have really bad experiences, but our supervisors are very understanding and forgiving. So, thankfully, #internhell remains a joke alone.

#TexasTakeOver

We’re contagious. Apparently. A Texan in DC is hilarious to begin with. We are fascinated every time it rains. I’m praying to see at least one snow here. The changing leaves are mesmerizing, and apparently they aren’t even as beautiful here as they are other places. We also rub our “y’all”s off on the people around us. Honestly, I think I use it more now that I’m away from Texas than I did before. It’s as if I’m honoring my home by sticking to my “y’all”s. Now our friends have caught themselves on a y’all every now and then. We make a grand joke about “y’all” scaring strangers away. We just can’t help it. It’s almost like we get into their heads. It’s a full-out #texastakeover!

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(But really, look at those leaves. Everything turns brown so fast in Texas.)

Truth be told, I really am missing Texas right now. I will desperately miss DC when I leave, since I’ve really fallen in love with living in this city. But I’m missing my home – especially in the midst of NaNoWriMo when I want so badly to be writing with everyone there. Of course, I know once I get there, I’ll miss everyone here, like #thebradybunch. It’s sad to have one such wonderful, but busy, semester, and then see everyone disperse at the end of it. Now there’s only a month left, and I’m not sure how to feel about it. I don’t want my time here to end, but I also can’t wait to be home. This semester has been incredible, but there is only so much time left to it.

So I’ll leave you with one more hashtag that’s both sad and hopeful: #behomesoon.

History and Interests for All – RGADC

Why should I go to Washington? Freshman Renee thought. There’s nothing for me there.

At the time, I was a theatre education major who really just wanted to bring stories to life. In fact, I didn’t even want the educator part tacked on to my degree. Since then my motivations haven’t changed, only my methods. I still bring stories to life, only by writing them instead of performing them. Yet, when I thought of this internship opportunity Freshman year, I wouldn’t have seen myself here because I couldn’t imagine where I’d be placed.

What were they going to do? Set me to acting on a street corner to gain experience in my field?

But, oh, how wrong I was. There is something for everyone in DC. Especially for a few majors who rarely take advantage of it, but definitely should.

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(Beauty at the Kennedy Center, the gem of the city for a thespian.)

Theatre/Music/Arts Major:

I’ll start with this because I have experience here. My good friend here in DC was stationed at the Kennedy Center for her internship. Granted, she does the business side of work at the theater, which is to be expected, and is also very important to be familiar with. Still, she has had the opportunity to attend Evita for a discounted price, the upcoming opera La Boheme for free, and has met famous names and headliners in various art fields. Additionally, there are free musical, comedy, or dance performances every night at 6, in case you don’t get your fill of art solely on the events you get to see.

Not to mention, the arts are all over DC. Last weekend was art-all-night. Literally a night full of arts and beautiful things. Also, the other night my friends attended a party for upcoming playwrights hoping to get their works performed on stage. If I’d stuck with theater, these opportunities would have thrilled me, regardless of whether or not I was acting.

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(Don’t even get me started on the beautiful art galleries we have here. Cochran, pictured above, just closed for remodeling, but there are so many other wonderful things to see as well, like the Portrait Gallery pictured below.)

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Education Major:

I feel that this internship is a missed opportunity for many education majors. There are so many options that would be exciting experiences. One of the first internships I interviewed for was at 826DC, a non-profit that works with students to make writing fun and interesting. It would have been perfect for an education major. Or maybe having a job at the Department of Education, like my friend has, would be a good fit. Even my internship has aspects of education as much as we work with educating the public about NARA’s functionality and our holdings here. We even work a Constitution exploration lab with school groups that come in, which is way cooler than anything I got to do as a student on field trips.

Except maybe for that one trip we did to the Dr. Pepper factory where we invented, marketed, and bottled our own brand of soda. I still insist that Zip Zap would have been a big hit. And it’s still my favorite fictional soda.

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(Another Capitol picture? I see it every day. All roads lead to the Capitol.)

Political/History/Law/Criminal Justice Major:

Okay, but do I really need to explain this one? It’s Washington, D.C.

Sports Nerds:

The Nat’s recent loss was a tragedy for the city, and I don’t even call myself a baseball fan.

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(But it was fun to see a game with friends!)

Party Scene:

I won’t touch on this much. We’re all upstanding students here at TWC, for the most part (I’ve heard horror stories), but just know that there is one. If that appeals to people.

Foodies:

There’s a Potbelly’s on almost every corner. But that’s not necessarily what I mean. There are so many unique food places here. I wish I could try every restaurant in Chinatown, especially the Wok and Roll place that used to be the Surratt boarding house. We’ve got the big name places like the Cheesecake Factory, which I love. It’s not cheap, but their menu is incredible. The miso salmon is to die for. And dare I mention the one and only, Georgetown Cupcakes? Which I still haven’t had, but hear only the highest praise about.

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(Because if I’m going to be here, I may as well eat in the place where Lincoln’s assassin and his cohorts met to take down the Union.)

Non-Profits and Causes:

There are places to serve everywhere. My roommates internship works with the homeless population of DC. This is where policy is made. Where better to make a policy change than here in DC, be it in education, animal welfare, or Title IX?

Sciency Stuff:

Because, let’s face it, there’s a Smithsonian for everything. And plenty of other places too.

Foreign Students:

Foreign affairs is a big market for internships. A lot of the foreign students I’ve met have loved spending time in the US, while also working in something applicable for them to take away.

And Every American:

I believe, even if none of the above appeal to you, that you could find something here to love, without even looking too hard. I also believe that every American should have the chance to visit D.C. as the heart of the country. A power resides in the city, an ongoing heartbeat that drives the country to action. This is history. This is present. This is the future of America. Seeing Arlington is powerful. Seeing the Capitol, Supreme Court, and Library of Congress is powerful. Seeing the Constitution is so powerful. I see it every day, and it never gets old.

I refuse to take my country for granted, regardless of if I agree with a person in Congress, or back a law that is passed. The United States of America is a wonderful, desirable place to live. There are flaws, but there will always be flaws. This is no utopia, and it shouldn’t be. We learned that from The Hunger Games, and other dystopian fiction novels. So admittedly, I have that Key song in my heart, beating with the city, and playing with the pride of being a part of this for a semester.

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(She is eternal – long before nation’s were drawn. When no flag flew, when no armies stood my land was born… Don’t mind that this is a song from Chess and is actually about Russia. It’s still beautiful.)

To Be Both Tourist and Guide – RGADC

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(She’s my mom; she’s my best friend; we’re silly.)

When I first arrived, my impression of D.C. was “white.” The Washington Monument. The Lincoln Memorial. The Capitol. And the most obvious: The White House. All white. All pure and symbolic.

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(As my Nana pointed out, Washington D.C. is powerful. It is impressive. It is timeless.)

As a sucker for symbolism, I shouldn’t be surprised that I love the city as much as I do. And I do love it. I get a thrill when I so much as look at the buildings out the window. And I knew this would be my adventure. I knew I would have the time of my life. I wasn’t even nervous or afraid.

I still didn’t expect living here to come so naturally.

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(Though I do still miss and am loyal to Texas.)

History was one of my strongest subjects in school, second only to English. I know the gist. I remember the gist. The things I’ve learned and retained since arriving in D.C. go deeper than the subjects taught in school. D.C. is built by the personality of history, not just the facts. That personality is visible everywhere: Watergate, the Smithsonians, the Eisenhower Executive Building, the Blair-Lee House, the Kennedy Center, etc.

In the first week I was here, my supervisors at the Archives and the professors at TWC all spouted off information as naturally as leaves change for fall. I never thought I’d be able to do that. Hearing them talk made me aspire to learn more. Maybe someday, I’d be a wealth of information to others, and I could summon it as needed for books, stories, and projects.

I just didn’t expect that to actually happen.

When Mom told me over the phone that she and Nana would join me in D.C. for the annual TWC gala, I was overjoyed. Mom is coming back with the rest of my immediate family for Thanksgiving, but this past weekend was Nana’s chance to see the city. We made the most of our girl’s getaway with every second.

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(We crammed a lot of sightseeing into three days.)

Except, even though we went to several places I’d never seen before (like the Vietnam memorial and Arlington cemetery), I didn’t feel like a tourist. The transition has been so smooth, so natural. I feel like a part of D.C. and I’ve only been here a month now. I feel like it’s my city, even though it isn’t. I think I take a piece of every place I’ve been as my own – Austin, Chiang Mai, and now D.C. – to keep in my heart.

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(Speaking of D.C. being powerful, the memorials here seal the deal.)

And I’ve done that in only a month. Walking around Lafayette Square, and even the National Mall, I felt more like Mom and Nana’s pocket tour guide than a tourist. I talked their ears off with random facts and tidbits on just about everything we passed. I also got tasked with all navigation, but that’s only halfway because I know my way around D.C. and halfway because I know how to work Google Maps effectively on a smartphone.

It got even worse when we reached the National Archives portion of our trip. We spent around an hour in the museum portion of the building as I pointed out my favorite documents and exhibits. I rattled off facts about our holdings, the Constitution, and the location of the nearest bathroom. All were things that I didn’t even realize I knew so well until I was given a time to share them.

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(Also, I’d never been in the Constitution Avenue entrance to the Archives before, so that was new.)

Really, I worried that my trove of trivia tid-bits on D.C. would drive them crazy, but they insist that they enjoyed it. I hope so. It felt good to share what I’ve learned. A lot of these stories are so cool, but history textbooks never touch them. I’d have been fascinated to learn about Dolley Madison in high school. Especially since, apparently, we’re related to her? So Nana says. Which is pretty darn cool.

No matter where I go from here, the personality of history will stick with me. The names and places never mentioned in a classroom, but that meant so much to this country and to me here, won’t go forgotten. I never expected to feel so natural here, but I am so glad I do. Being a part of D.C. is truly a beautiful thing.

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(But no matter how much I love living here, I’ll still desperately miss these lovely ladies.)

Informational Interview 1/3: Kitty Burroughs

THE POSTERCHILDREN: ORIGINS
by Kitty Burroughs, aka quipquipquip
Kitty’s Website
Kitty’s Patreon
TPC on Gumroad
TPC on Storenvy

The Posterchildren: Origins, or TPC for short, is one of my personal favorites in my bookshelf collection. Written by Kitty Burroughs, the series features super-powered teens working their way through public hero boarding school. It’s available on Storenvy, Smashwords, and Gumroad for e-book purchase. Storenvy also has merch and hard copy books.

Kitty also releases Timely Tales, monthly short stories that delve further into the universe, including character history and minor chracters. These are available in e-book form, but we be collected into series of 6 in hard-copy form soon.

There is also a much anticipated sequel: Retcons.

Kitty works very hard to make sure minorities are included, featured, and natural in The Posterchildren. Our world is heavily sprinkled with variety, but media often struggles to represent that properly, if at all. Kitty is very humble and makes no assumption of authority, but she cares about demographics that are rarely included in literature and aims to give them a voice. From a personal bias, I think she is very successful, as Kitty’s work includes some of the best character development and world-building I have ever read. I follow her work regularly, getting the monthly updates straight to my email and helping sponsor her Patreon for the reasons above. Needless to say, I’m a fan.

Two weeks ago, my friend, Cassidy aka ambientmagic, and I had the thrilling opportunity to interview Kitty about her writing and her process. Thrilling. To the point where I may have squealed, danced, and screamed afterward. Since the transcript of this interview is very lengthy, I only included the answers to the questions I specifically asked Kitty, which were more from a creative writer standpoint. However, Cassidy posted the complete transcript on her media representation blog, Representation Matters. If any of her questions interest you, hop on over to her blog to read them. Or hop on over to her blog anyway to read more about the importance of representation in modern media.

The interview (or as I call it, “Best School Project Ever”) follows.


Okay, first question. What drove you to become a writer?
Writing, just in general, or as a vocation? (Both.) I started writing when I was in fourth grade, and I didn’t really see it as a serious thing, because this was before fanfiction had really evolved on the internet, and really before we had internet in our home. I was sixteen or seventeen before we had internet in our home, so I had no connection to fandom at that time, but I was still writing fanfiction for myself. In the fourth grade, Sailor Moon was my first fanfiction. I was just writing for myself, because I had these stories that would entertain me, and I have terrible short term memory, so it was a way of preserving the stories for me to go over later on. I started sharing my fanfiction when I got into my Harry Potter phase in sixth or seventh grade. That’s when I started reading fanfiction online and participating in fandom in that way. I got to the point where I never saw myself as doing anything but writing. I kept doing it, it made me happy, I get weird and irritable when I don’t write (laugh), so it was one of those things I always knew.
I didn’t see it as something I could make a career out of until I was sixteen and one of my short stories won an award for promising young writers. I got a small scholarship for it, and I got to attend a four-day writing conference for professional authors in Portland. That was the moment when I realized this was a serious thing that I could probably do for a career. If I could get into this business, it could possibly, maybe support me. That conference was definitely an opportunity. I got to talk with both editors and agents, I got to practice my pitch, and really see what that part of the industry looked like. My family wasn’t supportive, because it is so difficult to get into the industry, and how much luck and opportunity is involved. It wasn’t until a couple years ago that I was like, okay. Maybe I can do this.

What inspired you to write The Posterchildren, specifically? (See Representation Matters blog.)

When you wrote TPC, did you consider going through a publisher, and what made you decide to self-publish? (See Representation Matters blog.)

Which is easier to publish, print or digital books? (See Representation Matters blog.)

You release new material regularly. How difficult is it to write to that deadline? And how do you hold yourself to that deadline?
It’s cute that you think I do. (laugh) I really try to keep things on a regular schedule, because if you don’t keep to some kind of deadline, you don’t do anything. You’ll keep pushing it further and further out, even if you’re not a procrastinator. It’s difficult for me to write to a deadline currently, because I just got a new job that takes up much more of my time than I expected. Since that has taken the reins, it’s not always easy to release content on schedule. The nice thing about TPC being a fairly small project is most readers realize that I am human, and it’s a one-person show here. I try to hold myself to it, but I also try not to beat myself up if bad things happen.

On that note, how do you balance writing with “the real world”? (See Representation Matters blog.)

Is there anything you would have done differently with your first book, Origins, that you can apply to the sequel, Retcons? (See Representation Matters blog.)

How do you research the religions, cultures, and sexualities that you put in your novels?
Well, I am white and a part of that majority, so I do my best to do as much research as possible. Most of my characters have had a very different background than mine, so their experiences are very different from mine. I try to read a lot of first person accounts, and search out voices from that minority, because it’s them I’m representing, and it’s their voice I want to prioritize. I talk to as many people as I can, and read as much material as possible.

Tell us why representation in your work is so important to you. (See Representation Matters blog.)

To switch topics, how did indiegogo and social media help you get your book out to the public?(See Representation Matters blog.)

What is your writing process like? Do you write chronologically, scene-by-scene…?
Well, I have ADD, and my writing process definitely reflects that. I have what I call my “slush pile” document, so whenever I think of something, I immediately write it down and dump it into that document. So everything, everything is in that document. When I want to find something in there, I Ctrl+F and hope I can remember some of the words I used that day. So my organization and writing process is just–a mess. (laugh) But it’s a semi-organized chaos that seems to work for me. I don’t write chronologically, but I do have bullet points and block out everything before I go into a story so I have an idea of the direction I’m headed and then let my ADD go in every direction, then piece it together at the end.

How many other people edit your works before they’re published? And how secretive are you about your plots before they’re released?
I only have one dedicated editor, who is my girlfriend, Arden, tumblr user mindgoggling who is awesome and has been with me on TPC from the beginning. She’s my sounding board, my editor, and also a resource because she’s Muslim, so that’s where I get a lot of details for Mal and his family. As far as secretiveness goes, I’m terrible. (laugh) It still hasn’t clicked for me that people want to hear about my original characters! I’m still a fanfiction writer at heart and I’m afraid I’m bothering people. I have a bad problem of telling people spoilers when I know they’re not going to tell the internet at large. There are some people I’ve spoiled by accident because I thought I’d already told them something. I use those people as a sound board to ask, does this sound dumb? Is it a good idea? Am I going too far over the line? Oops, I almost told a joke that was nothing but spoilers… Since this is my first interview, if you want to hear things, I’ll give you three free spoilers.
THE NEXT SEVERAL MINUTES OF THIS INTERVIEW HAVE BEEN REDACTED
Oh my God.
Oh my God.

Okay. One thing I struggle with is placing clues at the right point. How do you decide when to release bits of secrets?
It’s funny because there’s so many hints you’ll see now that you know REDACTED, because to me, a good twist is one that people get two sentences before it’s revealed, and it all comes together for the reader on their own before it gets confirmed, rather than blindsiding them. As a reader myself, it almost feels rude when something is just dropped on you out of nowhere. It’s really fun and enjoyable when you’re going through something and there’s this underlying mystery and you can feel yourself build it up and explore it. It seems more interactive to me. That’s what I enjoy doing, is leaving those Easter eggs for readers. You have to take into account the pacing as well. Some arcs continue into the third book, and others are only for one chapter.

What strategies do you use to world-build and explore your characters?
There’s nothing worse than all your characters being the same, so I try to make them as different from each other as possible. My goal always, is to make the character’s voice obvious with dialogue tags, but without using obvious clues like catchphrases. Every character is a person; they have words they tend to use and overuse, they have a background that influences their word choices, and that is one of the most important parts of character building to me. As for the world-building, people assumed that since the series is so diversity heavy it would take place in an idealized version of the world without the prejudices we have here. I try to keep in mind, what is different about this world from the world as it is today? How would the existence of these groups of people influence history? That’s where I start to get my structure, and how to put the existence of posthumans into the world itself in a semi-realistic way.

Okay, this is the last question on our list. What advice do you have for people who want to start writing?
Do it. Write. To me, everyone has about a million terrible words in them. Your first couple of stories are not going to be any good. They’re going to be terrible and that’s just the way it is. It’s like any other craft, any other skill; you have to keep working at it. It’s something you acquire over time with practice, by putting in the hours, and it’s not waiting for the moment of pure brilliance and inspiration to strike. You have to work on it every day, and stick to it.

Snapshot Stories Pt. 2/?

I can’t say how many of these there will be. These three snapshots compose the second post in a series I can’t put a number to. The first can be read here. Thankfully, these didn’t manage to be as depressing as the first set, with #6 perhaps being the exception. These, more for me maybe than anyone else, have been a blessing. They give me a small writing project as I travel to and from work. They allow me to hone my craft in the little ways. They keep me immersed in writing, even when it’s not a big project. Plus, they’re a ton of fun.

In honor of the snapshots in the hall.

#4

The sign screamed, “DANGER” but he didn’t hear it.  Instead, he leaned casually against the edifice, pulling his tie tightly into a knot. The sheer walls of smoothly cut stone rose sharply around him, but they didn’t intimidate him. Even the dark hole marked with danger didn’t intimidate him. This was his territory. He was comfortable in it. If he’d wanted to, he could have dusted the stains of his pants and boots. If he’d wanted to, he could have had a suit to pair with his tie. But he didn’t want to. He was proud of the stains and his clothing. Every stone, every pipe, every rail had passed through his crafting palms, and that gave him power.

#5

She despised nothing so much as country roads. The car’s thin wheels carved its own rivers in the road, but the second the infernal machine crossed another set of tracks, the car jumped, and her teeth set to rattling. The only thing keeping her hat on her head was a ribbon that only ended up choking her. The driver argued that the view was beautiful, as if that could persuade her. Dust aggressively rained into her eyes. How could she see any view in conditions like this? Much less enjoy it. Besides, the views hid behind pitiful fences of basic wood and wire. She’d have to look past the eyesores just to appreciate the mountains. No, she despised the whole endeavor: the hot sun, the bumpy roads, and she resented the dust hiding in the creases of her favorite dress.

#6

Hell was smoky – the heavy kind of smoky that accompanied the acrid smell of burning wood. Hell was carpeted with thick, grimy dirt and prickly, broken branches. Hell had no sun. Hell had no sky. And hell heard only the cries of fallen men and echoing gunshots. He didn’t count the soldiers next to him as signs of life. Either they were dead men walking, or they’d long since given up on being anything else. The trees, destroyed and splintered, still reached for the unseen sky in a wicked parody of fingers. His own fingers twitched in reflex as he peered through the scope and waited for the illusion of a pause to end. In hell, there was no peace. And every time peace settled in his bones, he reminded himself that it was a lie. This was hell. This was war.

Just a reminder that these are not historical and include no basis for fact. They are only the musings of an overly-inspired writer trying to glimpse into a moment of time. Still, I hope you enjoy them.

Everything in D.C. is Haunted – RGADC

Here’s a fun challenge: take a stroll around Lafayette Square as the sunlight wanes, and peer into every uncovered window. There is a ghost in every single one of them. Everywhere in D.C. is haunted: Lafayette Square, Georgetown, the White House. And why shouldn’t the White House be haunted? Imagine all of the tragedies, injustices, and scandals that have plagued politicians who have stepped foot in the White House. So of course those ghosts would lurk in the nooks and crannies of the Oval Office.

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(The Obama family and I are close, personal friends. You just can’t tell by this picture.)

I don’t plan get into an argument over the existence of the supernatural. That can be interpreted many ways and is not the point of this post.

So when I say ghost, I mean a different ghost than the sheets floating around on Halloween or the vengeful spirits in horror films. Ghosts, by definition, are shades of the dead. Again, I won’t argue whether these shades are real or not. But the dead always leave behind a legacy, an imprint, of their lives. Whether this imprint exists in their lineage, their contributions, their photographs or families, etc. something of theirs remains with the living.

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(Imagine seeing the faces hidden behind these panes.)

These are their ghosts.

These are their remnants.

These are their stories.

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(Seriously every place I walk by looks beautiful, including the Blair-Lee House.)

One of the best realizations I’ve had in D.C. is that I am standing in the middle of history. The argument could be made that everything has history, and it’s true. We just don’t know what it is. Washington’s history, though, is the history of textbooks that we’ve been made to study in classrooms for years. This is a place of famous history, remembered history, and infamous history.

For instance, I can see a play anywhere, any time. But there’s something incredible about having tickets to see one performed at Ford’s Theater. It’s powerful, and rather eerie to sit yards from where Lincoln was shot and killed. Then to see the home of Major Rathbone, who was stabbed in his attempts to apprehend Booth in the moments following the assassination, lost his mind, possibly because he was haunted by the assassination, and attacked his children. When his wife tried to protect them, he shot and fatally stabbed her before stabbing himself multiple times, almost recreating the moment Booth had escaped that day. His family didn’t escape the scars, even once he was sent to a mental asylum to live out the rest of his life. His daughter broke down in the following years, and she, too, was sent to a mental asylum.

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(The Octagon House may be one of the most haunted places in D.C. after surviving multiple tragedies and the devastations of war.)

Walking down the street and seeing the styles of architecture change is impressive in itself. Houses rich with history are preserved, kept carefully maintained so that their relevance is never lost. Like the Octagon House, owned by the Tayloes, where First Lady Dolley Madison found sanctuary when the British burned the White House during the War of 1812. She lit candles in the windows when she received news of the war’s end. However, the house has more dark history. Two of Tayloe’s daughters “tripped” and fell down the stairs to their deaths, only a few years apart. Perhaps this is coincidence, though I suspect murder. Supposedly, their apparitions haunt the second and third floor staircases and landings. The thuds of their falls can be heard during the nights, and one daughter still hums to herself as she forlornly wanders the house.

My academic course this semester is called Scandalous Washington, and our focus is to explore the history of political scandals, tragedies, and mysteries that have befallen the city since it was built. We’ve been able to tour several places thus far, but there are still so many stories to see. If it involved espionage, murder, suicide, slavery, scandals, or (best of all) hauntings, chances are we’ll discuss it and visit it this semester. The above stories are only some of the things we’ve studied in just two weeks of class.

But there’s so much more. Like the murder of Mary Pinchot Meyer that we discussed while walking down to Georgetown’s waterfront. She was killed in 1964 by two gunshots at point blank range. Which wouldn’t have been quite such a scandalous event, had she not been a popular socialite. Which still would have died down quickly, had she not been killed only a year after her lover, John F. Kennedy was shot in Dallas, Texas. Maybe she knew too much? Maybe it was a cover up? After all, her diary was never found.

Or The Exorcist stairs featured in the 1973 movie? We saw those, and the house where the story was set. They’re in Georgetown. I’ve never seen the movie, and, frankly, I don’t plan to, but the exorcism case of Roland Doe, on which the movie was based, was included in our class. Especially since the movie was filmed in part at the Catholic Georgetown University, (scandal!) which ordinarily would not acknowledge or condone the practice of exorcisms.

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(Nowadays the stairs are used mostly for exercising, since they’re killer steep.)

Whether you believe you could actually glimpse the apparitions of Clara Rathbone, or the Tayloe girls, or even Dolley Madison, who apparently can be glimpsed in multiple locations all over D.C. since she didn’t party nearly enough while she was alive, their ghosts are still there. We remember their stories, no matter how horrible or tragic. We have allowed the ghosts of the past to stay in our thoughts and memories, because they were important in shaping our present. A ghost doesn’t have to be a tangible spirit. A ghost can be a memory; a ghost can be thought; a ghost can be an instant.

All of these can be found across Washington D.C. because the past is so rich here. And since history spawns ghosts, everything in D.C. is haunted. And since history is made every second, there will always be more for me to see.

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(The iconic clock tower of Healy Hall at Georgetown University, built circa 1879.)

Snapshot Stories Pt. 1/?

Many photographs line the hall in route to my office. Though they are all recognizably pictures that are housed in the Archives, they are not obviously attached to moments, stories, or people. It’s a long hallway too. Walking by them everyday inspires me, in a sense. Every photo in that hallway has a story we cannot hope to glimpse. It’s both beautiful and sad. I can’t speak for the people in these images. I can’t pinpoint their emotion or their history. But they still make me wonder.

I should clarify: the following paragraphs are not stories. They have no beginning or end. They are snapshots, like I see on the wall on the way to work. They are based solely on my initial impression of the photo. I leave many specifics to the imagination because I can only hope to imagine them as well.

I don’t expect much from these snapshots. I jotted them down on the metro, or while walking around, or whenever the next sentence hit me. But at the very least, I hope they make readers feel something, anything, in honor of the snapshots in the hall.

#1
Every soul in town had found their way to that street. Fabric scraped on fabric as the bodies undulated, struggling against each other to move forward. Someone hit her – hard – from her right. Instinctively, she elbowed back and pulled her hat more tightly to her head. People around her moved with a purpose, even if they weren’t going anywhere. She wondered if the crowd pressed around her was slowly pushing her back, away from the square that she, and everyone else, tried so desperately to reach. She wanted to push back against the pressure and come up closer to the front. But this sea couldn’t be cut through so easily, and the people that comprised it were determined to oppose her. Instead, she planted her feet and fought the sway and hoped to witness what she could.

#2
“Stay close to me,” she whispered fiercely.
They were hesitant, enough to stay by her, but she worried about their curiosity. There was not much for them at home. Frankly, she wouldn’t blame them for wandering off if they could find something better. Part of her still hoped for them. But what remained of her hope trickled away from her as slowly as the grimy water trickled into the drain. The part of her that wanted them to stay clung still to their grubby arms. But even that part was uncertain enough to let the course fabric lay loose in her grasp. Hair fell in matted tangles in front of her eyes as she stared blankly toward the end of the cobblestone street. She didn’t know where they would all end up. And a dying part of her still fought to care.

#3
This wasn’t a line, he thought; it was a stalemate. If he moved at all, it was only to shuffle a few inches forward before settling into waiting again. He didn’t dare set his suitcase down, for fear someone would make off with what precious belongings he had left without a thought to him. But his arm tired the longer he carried his things, and the thought of taking the risk was so tempting… Worse than the pain creeping like a worm up his arm was the desolation he had to look at while he stood. There was no where that had gone untouched by the damage, no safe place to rest his eyes. He pitied the souls of the children who couldn’t fathom the situation. He empathized with the families struggling to stay calm. But all the staring and waiting and shuffling and standing had distanced him from the rubble, and he wondered only where he’d end up, without worrying over the home he’d lost.

More of these turned out sad than I intended. Of course, in order for a photograph to be in the Archives, it must have permanent relevance of some sort. And I suppose many of the moments that have permanent relevance are the tragic ones.

Just a reminder that these are not historical and include no basis for fact. They are only the musings of an overly-inspired writer trying to glimpse into a moment of time. Still, I hope you enjoy them.