I often use the Dupont Circle metro station not so much as a part of my commute but for going out on weekends or after work. These images are actually in a bit of a reverse order from how they were taken, going from streetside to platform. Dupont Circle’s escalator is legendary for its length – it is a very steep, very long escalator, but NOT, all legends to the contrary, the longest in the Metro system. The longest is actually at one of the outer suburban stations, Glenmont. Bethesda is also very long and very steep, longer than Dupont. Once I timed it to prove to a friend that Bethesda is longer, and it takes some 30 seconds longer to ride the Bethesda escalator to the top than the Dupont Circle escalator.
The entrance to the Dupont Circle station on the Q Street side is the one that has the long, deep escalators. It also has a relatively unique architecture with a circular aperture. Inscribed in the marble around the entrance shaft is a quote from Walt Whitman about the soldiers he nursed in the Civil War hospitals of Washington DC. The inscription was added in 2006 to honor the caregivers who gave so much of themselves in the fight against AIDS – Dupont Circle was particularly ravaged by that scourge, having been the heart of the gay community in DC. While perhaps no longer the geographic center of the gay community (it has moved to other, cheaper, and more geographically dispersed locations as times and attitudes have changed), Dupont Circle is still the spiritual home.
The quotation reads:
Thus in silence in dreams’ projections,
Returning, resuming, I thread my way through the hospitals;
The hurt and wounded I pacify with soothing hand,
I sit by the restless all the dark night — some are so young;
Some suffer so much — I recall the experience sweet and sad . . .
The poem in question, first published in 1865 as part of a collection called “Drum-Tips”, was originally titled “The Dresser”, and re-named “The Wound-Dresser” in later publications. In my image, the inscription is not legible, but the escalator tops plunge over the precipice of the entrance like a waterfall into a cavern, taking you down into the unknown.
The view looking up the escalator is equally vertiginous. Exiting at night you emerge from the confined but bright space of the underground into a dark circle of the open night sky. You’re falling UP into a different unknown.
Turning around and looking back down at where you came from, it’s a bit like Orpheus and Eurydice or Lot’s Wife, looking back at whence you came. Fortunately, the only time there’s instant regret is in the depth of winter when it’s 15 degrees F outside and the wind is whipping your face. And you don’t turn into a pillar of salt.
The flow of traffic up the escalator at the Dupont Circle platform:
Boarding the train:
Sorry if I can’t wax poetic for every image. It’s just as the mood strikes and the juices flow. Maybe if I have a show of this work I’ll edit my better bits of commentary out of the blog into quotes on the wall as captions for the images.