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Updated: Nov 22, 2022

At The Base

When making a sauce, a salad dressing, or a soup, the flavor of the base always comes through regardless of the extra ingredients added to the mixture. An acidic dressing always reveals a hint of vinegar or lemon juice on the tongue. You can elaborate on the name of marinara sauce, but it always tastes like tomatoes. A beef stew always reminds one more of beef than any other added vegetables.

A person who is born and reaches adulthood in a major city always keeps a different mindset than one who spends the formative years in a small rural environment. The difference is not a value judgment. It is simply the fact that we are all products of the places, people, and experiences that inform who we have become.

Most metropolitan areas develop a personality that is unique to the major socioeconomic drivers of the region. Well-known examples include New York and Los Angeles.

We can all name the city known for live theater versus the one known for motion pictures. Likewise, we can mostly name the one famous for automobile manufacturing or the one currently the country music recording hub.

The marble city on the Potomac River is known for its primary industry, one that many people deride as overgrown and oppressive. I am a product of the SWAMP.

The Swamp

Politicians love to throw out the refrain, Drain the Swamp, to create an impression that they are on a mission to rid the bureaucracy of all that is ineffective, or just plain wrong with the current operations.

Most often, the person using this invective refers to the hub of centralized federal power, Washington, D.C. Recently, I discovered that the story about Washington being built on an actual swamp, although convenient for the metaphor, is a myth.

The Smithsonian Institute provides the following background information.

“These ambitious “hydraulic engineers” rely on a phrase that is deeply mired in our political discourse. The metaphor gets its clout from the notion that Washington was built in an actual physical swamp, whose foul landscape has somehow nourished rotten politics. The assumption is just plain wrong: Washington was never a swamp.

Like many other early American cities, such as Philadelphia and Cincinnati, they built Washington on a firm and dry riverbank. The land sloped steadily upward away from the Potomac between Rock Creek and the Anacostia River, then called the Eastern Branch of the Potomac.”

A random act of fate had me entering the world “butt first” in Sibley Hospital, Washington, D.C., on Bastille Day 1942. Many years later, I told my daughter, who was also delivered breech, that I was reluctant to face the world or my initial commentary of the ironies to come.

Being born and bred inside the D.C. Beltway, I feel entitled to refer to myself as a Swamp Girl or Beltway Baby. The culture and ethos informed my initial eighteen years in this melting pot.

“Inside the Beltway” is an American idiom used to characterize matters that are, or seem to be, important primarily to officials of the U.S. federal government, to its contractors and lobbyists, and to the corporate media who cover them—as opposed to the interests and priorities of the general U.S. population.

To complicate my evolution, I left the Swamp to attend college and never returned, except for occasional visits. The rest of my life, to date, has been lived in the relatively conservative hills of East Tennessee, where I have been exposed to a vastly different worldview.

So, I am a hybrid of sorts. I keep all the open-minded skepticism of the Beltway, but have tempered my presentation of self with the ambiance of sweet tea and bless their hearts.

Perhaps being born inside the Beltway of Washington, D.C., predestines one to view the world through a bizarre lens. Something in the rarified air gives one a tendency to look at the everyday happenings with a mixture of disappointment, humor, and resignation.

I don’t know why I have these random and often crazy thoughts, but I know I cannot prevent them from popping into my head at the most inopportune moments.

The following essays are primarily a result of many disjointed musings and a few dreams.

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