Friday, May 06, 2011

Mt. Pleasant Then and Now

Twenty years ago, I hadn't heard of the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood.  Sure, I grew up in DC, but I lived in an area that lacked a name (and now gets called AU park, which is sort of hilarious considering the neighborhood's tense relations with the students who keep parking in front of people's driveways).  I knew about Spring Valley, Dupont, Georgetown, Friendship Heights, Capitol Hill and some others but the first time I remember hearing about Mount Pleasant was twenty years ago when I turned on the evening news. 
Attending school in Bethesda, with a lot of students from the Montgomery County suburbs and during the height of DC's status as a murder capital I spent a lot of time explaining that one could live a happy safe life in the city.  That crossing over the border would not result in immediate death.  That while common sense was always a good idea, heading home or out to dinner or any of the things I did didn't put me in mortal danger. 
So, partly my reaction was a little bit of kneejerk, oh come on, no one will believe me now.  It was also surreal to see that while everything still looked totally normal outside of our front door, somewhere in our city, people were rioting and setting police cars on fire.  Watching it on TV, it seemed almost like a clip from a movie. 
Of course, now, I understand more about the shifting demographics of the area and the tenuous relationship the Hispanic community (and the community at large) had with the police at the time.  And while I still think rioting and burning police cars is not the best method to take a stand (particularly in this case where it turned out the anger was escalated by false information).  So, I listened with interest to the Metro Connection story about the riots. Wikipedia also has an entry on it.
Now, of course, I live in Mount Pleasant.  And I find a lot of people, people in the area even, still aren't quite sure where it is.  (Sometimes adding that we're north of Adams Morgan or west  of Columbia Heights helps.  Sometimes not.) And, I appreciate the charms and, in keeping with the theory of relative risk, I can't imagine anything like that happening now.  And we still have the coolest song.