It Sure Is Easy to Get Lost in the District . . . and Maryland . . . and Virginia . . .

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By Dispatch From . . . Ah, Who Knows?
Thursday, January 29, 2009

The first time I got lost, I was 6 years old and wandered away from my mother in a department store. I remember that when the security guard found me, crying under a rack of sale dresses, I became Queen for the Day. I got a cherry sucker, hugs from my mother and a gentle admonishment that I really needed to watch where I was going.

I did okay for years, until I drove my older daughter to college and wound up in New Mexico when I should have landed in Arizona.

And then I moved here.

Let's just say I am directionally challenged. I try to get around. I heard that the District is a grid and that Virginia is pretty simple to navigate and that Maryland is easier still. I think I must have misunderstood.

When I first got here, I drove to see a friend in Anacostia, made a wrong turn and somehow wound up in the middle of the Juneteenth parade. I decided I'd just smile and wave.

I have gone around Chevy Chase Circle as if it were a merry-go-round and invariably wound up on some street that is not where I need to be.

It took me forever to figure out that somewhere out there Connecticut Avenue becomes 17th Street and then shows up again two blocks away.

Virginia remains a complete mystery, and I have yet to determine the different sides of the road for the entrance to Tysons Corner.

Don't even mention Baltimore.

I'm sure you are asking why I don't just get a Global Positioning System device, or at least avail myself of MapQuest.

Well, here's my little secret:

I actually like getting lost. How else will I learn up so close and personal about the region where I live? I might never get to the same place in the same way twice, but I've doubled the chances of learning something new about how it, and I, got there.

-- Cheryl Kravitz, Silver Spring

A Childhood TV Icon Spans the Decades

In the mid-1960s, as with most young baby boomers, television was a large part of my life, and my brother and I never missed a show on Channel 9 called "Ranger Hal."

One day, my mother took us to meet Ranger Hal at an appearance at a grocery store called Grand Union. I was beside myself with excitement. Would he bring Oswald Rabbit? Would I get to talk to him?

It was hot that day, and I stood in a long line of what seemed like hundreds of other kids. We were speculating what it would be like to meet him and imagining the mother lode: What if Captain Kangaroo had come along, too? Finally, after probably more than an hour in line, we were face to face. He was pleasant and friendly. He treated me like I was special, like he hadn't just talked with dozens of other children before me. He shook my hand and gave me a picture and candy. It was so hot that sweat streamed down his face from under the ranger's hat. Wow, Ranger Hal sweats, I thought to myself.

Fast-forward to the mid-1980s. I was a young mother living in Reston with two young children. An article in a local paper announced that Ranger Hal would appear at Colvin Run Mill park. I decided to take my two daughters and capture the magic for them as well. He looked the same, just a little grayer, but still possessed the kind smile and youthful enthusiasm. He brought all his old puppet friends and entertained us for more than a half-hour. Afterward, I sought him out and said, "Ranger Hal, I last shook your hand 20 years ago."

He laughed and said something about making him feel old. He greeted my daughters and smiled that smile. Thanks, Ranger Hal, for letting me return to a simpler time once more.

-- Kathy Thomas, Reston


© 2009 The Washington Post Company

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