October 18 – Alley @ New Hampshire Ave & 19th St. NW (ONP #291)

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It was 6:30 at night, twilight. I was walking Washington’s familiar downtown streets to the DC Improv (Feb 9th ONP ), feeling simultaneously blue and nervous. I hadn’t had a lot of creative energy to devote to finding a New Place today, as it all went toward prepping a monologue of Civil War puns for tonight’s pun contest at the Improv. (Because the world needs Civil War puns, people!)

About a block back, I had stopped into a little boutique hotel, thinking that would be a good enough New Place for today, but it had turned out to be a dud. The lobby’s decor was bare bones, and it was about the size of an parking lot. The hotel staff (two of them squeezed in there) were unfriendly and didn’t want me to take pictures. I snuck a few photos anyway, then slunk out, feeling like I had fulfilled the letter of my New Place assignment, but not the spirit.

Oh well, it would have to do, I thought. Just then, I saw a patch of color peeking out through the entrance to an alley.  A mural!  And. .  an alley!  Even more amazing…an alley in downtown DC that I had never walked through before. So yes, yes I did—I dove right into that alley!  Followed the color, admired the mural, the old brick buildings, the way the office lights created a soft glow through the tunnel.  When I emerged onto 19th street, one block closer to the Improv, I was considerably happier.

The best New Places are not planned, just delivered, as if dropped into your lap by the universe. You have to put yourself out there, wander around with your eyes open, but you can’t plan when or where these gifts will appear. At your best, you just recognize them when and where they do show up, and enjoy the hell out of the moment.