May 26, 2012, Washington, DC: The Friday night and Saturday morning of a holiday weekend is always a good time to enjoy the city. If you’re staying put, you watch the evening traffic head out, bound for the beach or a weekend with family. You watch the roads clear and things grow a bit quiet, then hear the volume crank up a notch as the neighbors head out for the night and reclaim their local spaces. It is on city nights at the start of a holiday weekend that you realize how small this place really is, nights like this when you feel like it’s entirely your own.
Waking up Saturday, you notice right away the city has a different feel. It’s especially true on Memorial Day weekend in Washington. The city is particularly empty and slow and humid and heavy. While the others are away, you are here to witness that near imperceptible shift when Washington ever so quietly flips the switch and turns the corner to summer.
What happens next is the sound of motorcycles. You can bet they’re on their way in now, meeting on the highways in Maryland and Virginia. The annual Rolling Thunder motorcycle rally descends on Washington each Memorial Day weekend, its presence suddenly apparent by midday. It’s revved up in full force around the time those of us who’ve decided to stick around fire up the grill, open up a good book and settle in to vacation here at home.
This is the morning summer begins. The coffee will be iced from now through September.
This is our hometown, beginning a new season when it thought no one was watching.