I recently spent five days in our nation’s capital, Washington DC for a conference, and had the interesting experience of staying in nearby Crystal City an “urban village” as it is called on Wikipedia that is located south of Washington DC in Arlington, Virginia.
I had spent some time there at a week-long conference years ago and that trip did not leave me with good impressions of the urban-suburban-feeling place. In fact, I hated it. Fast-forward ten years and I could not believe how much it has changed.
Restaurants, coffee shops and shopping malls have popped up everywhere (yet mostly chains) and it felt more like an actual city than just a strip of hotels. What really surprised me more than anything however was the contrast between art and carts. Every single piece of ugly concrete wall along the highway and underpasses was covered in beautiful, unique artwork. I could hardly believe it. Obviously the city has spent some serious time and money trying to beautify the area and it has worked to some extent.
For me, it was hard to ignore the abandoned shopping carts, one after another, just hanging out along the sidewalks, parking lots and streets. I thought it was such an ironic contrast between the beautiful, refreshing art and the ugly reality of poverty and demise.
I remember the comment I received when I saw my first abandoned shopping cart. I stopped, looked at it in dismay than reached for my camera. It was early morning and the sun was already beating strong. A woman ran by and noticed me taking a picture of an ugly, dirty cart. Her words to me were: “Welcome to DC!“.
I showed my husband these photos and he observantly pointed out that the carts were empty. So who knows who were the users of these shopping carts and why on earth they left them there on the sidewalks of Crystal City?