The family and I visited Washington, D.C., earlier this week to do the required introduction of the young ones to Our Nation’s Capital. I might post some pictures if I feel so compelled to share.
Overall, the city was much nicer than I remember it being during my last trip, when I was my son’s age and it was the 1970 and cities felt it was their duty to be as skanky as possible.
Regardless of the bad rap that D.C. gets from pretty much everyone, I found the people to be exceptionally friendly, and not just in the tourist-centric spots. The streets are quieter, the public transportation cleaner and people just seem generally more polite. It’s a reminder that even though lots of folks in my home state of South Carolina consider it “The North,” the heavy-duty influence of southern Maryland and Virginia made it very much a Southern city.
And speaking of that bad rap, this video from the excellent band OK Go (which seems to pride itself on stellar videos second only to superior music) reminded me of everything bad people say about D.C. – that it’s all a show for the rubes, that all the real work is done and decisions made by those we didn’t actually elect, and that for the most part it’s all an exercise in optical illusion and misdirection.
Regardless of whether you believe that’s true, it reminds me that much of what we do as writers is trickery and misdirection. The terms MacGuffin (coined by Alfred Hitchcock for an otherwise meaningless object that drives a story forward) and red herring (a story element that intentionally misleads the reader) are two great examples of this in plenty of films and works of fiction, and they serve a valid purpose. Remember that even in stories, not all the information we’re given leads to a concrete resolution (except maybe in an episode of Scooby-Doo).