Vallejo’s Story: A New Breath for Roshanda’s Hometown

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Photo Credit: Roshanda Cummings

This is one in a series featuring cities, neighborhoods and the people who love them. Would you like to participate? Click here for more information about contributing to Neighborhood Nomads.

January 23, 2013, Washington, DC: “The stigma hangs.”

That’s how Roshanda Cummings described her hometown of Vallejo, California when she first wrote me about contributing to Neighborhood Nomads. She described a city that struggles to project a positive image despite having a lot going for it, despite triumphantly exiting bankruptcy in 2011. She shared links to a project she’s been working on called thisisvallejo.com. It was beautiful — the landscape, her photos, her words, all of it.

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Photo Credit: Roshanda Cummings

When Roshanda and I talked a few days later, the story of the hometown that she grew up in and later returned to quite by accident took on a more meaningful shape. Roshanda never intended to go back, but since her return, she envisions greatness for Vallejo’s future.

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After Some Time Away

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“And then, some morning in the second week, the mind wakes, comes to life again. Not in a city sense—no—but beach-wise. It begins to drift, to play, to turn over in gentle careless rolls like those lazy waves on the beach. One never knows what chance treasures these easy unconscious rollers may toss up, on the smooth white sand of the conscious mind; what perfectly rounded stone, what rare shell from the ocean floor. Perhaps a channeled whelk, a moon shell, or even an argonaut.”

-Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea

September 1, 2013: September rather than January still feels like the beginning of the year. New Year’s Day can seem like an artificial marker right there in the middle of winter, but September, when school starts and hot August air is gone before we know it, now that is the time for a fresh start. Facing September’s promise, Labor Day weekend is an ending, every time, the last remaining sliver of a spectacular season. On Friday night, the fireworks show at Nationals Park was audible from the apartment, as if to remind us of this grand finale.

With routine waiting up ahead, I tried to spend much of August away. Not just away geographically, but away from to-do lists, away from a self-imposed pressure to feed my blog, away from the worries that wedge their way into a typical day. In Gift from the Sea, Anne Morrow Lindbergh writes that when we take time to get away, “the tired body takes over completely.” “Rollers on the beach, wind in the pines, the slow flapping of herons across sand dunes, drown out the hectic rhythms of city and suburb, time tables and schedules,” she writes. A few weeks later, she says, the mind awakes with a newfound clarity, a relaxed, recharged and beachy clarity that’s different from the focus we experience back in our daily routines.

I strive to be away like that, and hope you found some time this summer to get there, too. Do you agree that it takes more effort to get away than it used to? For as much as I travel, I’ve noticed I’m not always good at truly getting away. It seems more difficult these days with a smart phone. It takes some patience and practice.

Did you get away this summer? Do you feel well-rested and ready for September? Do you find it more challenging to get away than you used to? Is getting away imperative before autumn comes and it’s time to get back in the groove? 

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Miles from Monday: Oregon Coast Reunion

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July 29, 2013, Washington, DC: Luckily Washington served up its most impeccable day of the summer today, otherwise it would have been impossible to get back to work after a vacation on the Oregon coast. The beaches of Manzanita, Cannon Beach and the broader Pacific Northwest are among the more drop dead gorgeous I’ve seen and provided a sublime location for a family reunion. I tend to think I’m a chameleon who could live happily in a variety of cities and towns, but this place reminds me I still have a type. I’m a west coast girl at heart, choosing to love and make the most of my east coast city for as long as I stay away. But I’d take the ocean towns of northern California and now the Oregon coast — sweatshirts, windburn and all — over most other landscapes without a second thought.

The backdrop was the perfect one upon which to reconnect with my energetic, wise and uplifting family, as evidenced by this week’s favorite photos included below. I think this place brought out the best in us. I know we brought out the best in each other.

Which places bring out the best in your family? Share with your fellow Neighborhood Nomads in the comments section below.

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Miles from Monday is a weekly travel series focused on venturing out of the spaces we inhabit during our work week and retreating to landscapes that feel far from routine.

Miles from Monday: Someplace to Float

north beach, md, summer 2013July 15, 2013, Washington, DC: A sandy beach is all we’re after. Nothing fancy, just someplace to float outside the city on a slow, hot Saturday. Somewhere that doesn’t require an overnight trip or Friday night traffic on the Bay Bridge or driving 115 miles to the nearest stretch of Atlantic coast. We’re looking for someplace where the water is wider than our urban rivers and we can vacation for the day, but be home by dark.

Our search brings us to Maryland’s western shore of the Chesapeake Bay, to a pair of old summer resort towns just 31 miles from the front door.

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Staying Put for the 4th

Washington, DCJuly 4, 2013, Washington, DC: We’re back home in Washington now for a good stretch, just as many of our neighbors clear out of town for the July 4th holiday and the hot days of mid-summer. I always like being in town for these first few days of July to watch the strange ebb and flow of Washington. On Monday, the officer at the neighborhood police station shows me his pages of requests for visitor parking passes as residents leave and visitors arrive. On Tuesday, my bike route home in front of the Capitol shuts down in preparation for the televised Independence Day concert. Multiple groups of tourists ask me for directions to Union Station or the Metro. Each year, it’s as if we inhabit a movie set before the 4th arrives. We see the band practicing its march by the Capitol reflecting pool and hear the sound checks as we pedal home across a national stage and we wonder if a single local soul will be left in town by morning.

There are, of course, plenty of us who stick around. We smelled their grills last night and heard their backyard chatter as they welcomed friends into their homes from out-of-town. We’ll run into them this morning at the neighborhood parade and at our little fireworks display just far enough off the beaten path that those in town for the big shows won’t even notice.

It’s becoming tradition to stay home for the 4th of July.

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Two Nomadic Years

June 18, 2013, Washington, DC: Neighborhood Nomads turned two years old on Sunday! In true nomad fashion, we spent the big day on the move, returning home from a weekend road trip and thinking what a blurry and beautiful time this has been. Thank you for reading and conversing, and for celebrating the power of place here. It’s been such fun carving out this space to create. Two years in and this growing collection of observations about our homes and neighborhoods continues to become more interesting thanks to your contributions, and I’m confident year three in this virtual gathering place of ours will further entice us to travel our hometowns and appreciate the everyday.

A plan to travel my hometowns was how this whole thing started, after all. In the first year of the project, I returned to nearly all of them, recording my stories about traveling back home along the way. And yet my itinerary for the blog’s second year, at least geographically speaking, was far less ambitious. Here’s where I confess that in year two of Neighborhood Nomads I did not collect one stamp in my passport nor did I visit a single state to which I’d never been.

But I feel like I traveled constantly, and maybe that’s the point. We can slip into traveler mode daily, close to home and throughout the neighborhood. We can seek out new towns or parts of the city and observe their foreign rhythms. We can learn about new places all the time in speaking with people who love where they live. Nineteen thoughtful people have introduced me to the places they know best since last June and those interviews and walking tours with fellow neighborhood nomads remain my favorite part of the site. Please do read their stories and consider sharing your own. Tell us what it’s like to slow down and travel your hometown. Nomads everywhere would love to hear about it.

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The Art of Slow Travel

Santorini 2011

“Better far off to leave half the ruins and nine-tenths of the churches unseen and to see well the rest; to see them not once but again and again; to watch them, to learn them, to live with them, to love them, til they have become a part of life and life’s recollections.”

-Augustus Hare

June 12, 2013, Washington, DC: June is the time of year we start thinking of Greece. It’s the month when the heat rising off DC’s streets slows us down a notch and we start craving a more European lifestyle and white wine in the afternoon. We seek out cafes that remind us of Santorini – places like Zorba’s Café in Dupont Circle on four o’clock on a Saturday and Café Leopold stashed away in Cady’s Alley beneath a hectic Georgetown and the oh-so-Euro sidewalk café outside DC’s Willard Hotel. Though no longer students, we still instinctively let our guard down and move more slowly the moment school’s out. We become our summer selves, the version we’ve always liked best, ever since we were kids.

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