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A Rarity for Those in D.C. Area: Taking Time to Enjoy Potomac's View

James Johnson catches a catfish along Haines Point, where the Anacostia and Potomac rivers meet. He was among many who stopped along the Potomac, away from D.C.'s frenetic pace. "You don't really realize how beautiful D.C. is," he said.
James Johnson catches a catfish along Haines Point, where the Anacostia and Potomac rivers meet. He was among many who stopped along the Potomac, away from D.C.'s frenetic pace. "You don't really realize how beautiful D.C. is," he said. (Photo: Bill O'leary/Post)
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By David A. Fahrenthold
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, July 14, 2008

People say that Washington is on the Potomac River, but that's true mainly in a geographic sense. Culturally, it might be more accurate to say by the river. Washington, or at least its people, always seems to be going by the Potomac: driving, biking or running, always as fast as possible.

Yesterday, on a clear, hot summer afternoon, legs churned on riverside paths, sweaty faces looked straight ahead. From the Mall to Mount Vernon, everybody was in motion.

Or, almost everybody.

"You don't really realize how beautiful D.C. is. And, look out there: That's D.C.! That's Southeast! That's Southwest!" said James Johnson, 42, of Northeast Washington.

He was standing near the far end of Hains Point, looking at the elegant mansions on Fort McNair and the expanse of water where the Potomac and Anacostia rivers come together. With him were three friends, and they had fishing poles and a grill full of sizzling hamburgers.

These are the people who stop. In scattered spots along the Potomac yesterday, others were also enjoying the river the way Washingtonians did decades ago. They stopped moving, even sat down, and enjoyed the big river's free parade of mallards, sailboats and helicopters.

"Everybody is on the go and cramming everything in," said Jami Bailey, 41, who was sitting with her daughter, Elyse, 16, on the riverbank near Gravelly Point in Arlington County. "Do they really know what they're riding by?" she asked, looking at the city on the other side of the river.

People along the riverbank yesterday said they had come because of sounds: cool breezes in the trees, waves against bulkheads, a sailboat's rigging clanging during a tight turn.

There were things, too, that you only see when you're still, they said.

One man, who said he was an Air Force employee, sat at Hains Point with a bottle of San Pellegrino water and a cooler full of hummus and cucumbers, critiquing landings across the river at Reagan National Airport. "He was a little nose-high," he murmured as a Frontier Airlines jet landed.

Other people said they came to the river because of what's not there. Noise. Traffic. Kids. Computers. Kids on computers.

Wayne Anderson, who moves furniture for a living, joked that he might "kill his boss" if he didn't have his time at Hains Point every Sunday.


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