back east: the more things change

There has been an incredible amount of development in Arlington this year. Older properties torn down, mixed-use and residential high-rises going up. Most had begun when we left last May, but the progress, after a year away — for me — is a little disconcerting. What was once a used car lot is now townhouses; the 7-11 has been replaced by a 15-story building; stores have moved, or closed completely.

And not just places, but — of course — people, too. Elizabeth and Ernesto are engaged; she made it into the Foreign Service and her first posting will be a year in Indonesia. Valerie and Georg are married; he's finished law school and is studying for the bar; and their dog Bentley apparently can fly (more on that later). Allison has quit drinking and smoking completely. Rob is engaged. Brian's moving out. Brad and Suzanne sold their condo, and bought a house. Rachel and Dion moved to a 2-bedroom on Key Blvd. And these are just the people I know about.

This trip has been a really odd mix of the familiar and the new. The details are different, but the patterns are the same. My first night here, Valerie was out in the courtyard throwing a tennis ball for Ruben to fetch (she was dogsitting Miz Mary's new, adorable puggle). We sat on the sidewalk and she filled me in on the latest news, Elizabeth and Ernesto came up and chatted for a bit. So familiar. The next morning, I got myself a coffee and a muffin and sat on the bench. Plenty of people came through, but I didn't recognize a one.

Today, after a bit of cleaning and fixing, I was heading back over to the condo to re-hang one of the blinds. Opening the door to 1713, almost ran right into our (former) downstairs neighbors Leif and Jen. She's due in January, they're looking for a house. They came up for a look at our place (empty now) and we were chatting and the next thing I knew it was 45 minutes later. Just like old times, but not quite.

After Mary got home today, she picked up Ruben and we walked up to Whole Foods. On the way, we met a couple with another small, mixed-breed dog (Zeus, the cockapoo), and in the course of dog-related small talk, discovered that they had just been at the bike store, where she had just been test-pedaling some road bikes. The next words out of Mary's mouth were "how tall are you?" One thing lead to another, and an hour later, this couple are in the courtyard here, trying out Mary's one-year-old-rode-three-times-is-looking-to-sell Trek 2100 road bike. Two hours later, we've had beers with them; Valerie and Georg take Bentley out for a walk, come back, leave again for dinner; Allison and her dog Bohdi stop by; Ruben and Zeus have completely exhausted themselves from running in giant circles; I've met a new resident (Arvin) and I find myself telling him "The Story of How Mobil Almost Tore Down All of Colonial Village to Build More High-Rises Just Like Rosslyn."

I'm back, I'm gone, I never left.

[Ruben waits not-so-patiently for Mary to finish shopping.]


paul said...


I really understand what you mean about things changing so rapidly. The first couple of times I went back to CV after leaving, it was that odd mixture of the familiar and the different. It's funny how your brain chooses to remember things, especially after a little bit of time away. The place in my head isn't there anymore. After a while, I think I like the place I remember better than what I would see if I were there. Tell me if that's true for you, too.

Paul (formerly of Arlington)

p.s. I hope you get a chance to see Timmay and Scarin' on this trip. She must be HUGE!

Sherry said...

Monica, sorry we missed you! We spent the last week in Whistler Canada, yeah yeah we're real jet setters now=:)

pagalin said...

Is the galaxy hut still there? Clarendon and courthouse certainly are not the crack house neighborhoods they used to be when I first moved there! ah! memories! On the plus side, you'll make a MINT on your condo! :)

monica said...

yeah, it's weird alright. I think the differences were so jarring to me because it'd been a year since I'd been back.

There's a bit in Colossus of New York (Colson Whitehead) where he talks about how a city (in his example, NYC) exists differently for everyone in it, based on how things were when they first arrived, and how, when places close, or move, (or buildings fall down), we carry how it was before with us. Of course he does a much better job of saying it than I do. :) And I can't find a link to it....

Did not get to see Timmy + Scarin', but did talk to Tim. And he said, yes, Erin is huge, and wasn't feeling well enough to be sociable, which I understand. She could pop any day now!

I'm so sorry I missed you! Got your message, and hope you had a great time in Canada, eh?

You, know, Mary and I walked right past there, but I couldn't tell you if the Hut was still open... I want to say yes...? As for making a mint on the condo... well... the market's softened a bit. Maybe we'll get a TicTac.

monica said...

No, wait, I found it. Here's exactly the excerpt from Colossus of New york I was thinking of.


Mouse Jockey said...

Thanks for the call..... ; ]

monica said...

it's all part of my plan to get you to come out to Santa Fe.

Or something... er, uhm....


paul said...


Thanks for the Whitehead link. Good stuff.


monica said...

Yeah, he's good. I particularly liked his novel The Intuitionist.

Mouse Jockey said...

I'm just giving you a hard time. Alienation and elitism hmmm.....clever, that might just work. We will have to pick a long weekend this fall for me to come out, if you are not already booked up/ : ]

monica said...

please, Mouse Jockey! come visit us!
Just think: you could eat at each and every restaurant we've mentioned in this here blog!