I am sitting here in what will be, knock on wood, the new state of New Columbia, remembering how many years ago in New York, the city decided that it would be a wonderful idea to change the name of Sixth Avenue to Avenue of the Americas. Someone put the flags of the American republics on the street lights and, I suppose, a ceremony was held, and then everyone went on calling the street Sixth Avenue.
It will be ever thus with New Columbia, which is the name chosen by the statehood convention should the District of Columbia become the 51st state. New Columbia beat out Anacostia, Potomac, Capital State and Utopia. The person who proposed "Utopia" should be treated to two weeks of observation in St. Elizabeths.
It does not matter what name the convention chose because people will always continue to call the city Washington. But as long as it was playing with names, it should have seized the opportunity to have some fun--like Jennifer if it's a girl, Jason if it's a boy. It is not every day, after all, that you get a chance to name a state. My choice is "California"--a place I have always wanted to live. This may be my only chance.
It is true, of course, that there is already a state called California, and there probably would be some confusion. People would not be sure any more which California produces avocados, or whether the oranges they are eating came from California or California, unless one of them was labeled with a little Supercan.
But then there is already a state called Washington, and no one gets that confused with the city of Washington. In the same way, Brooklyn, New York, is not confused with Brooklyn, Wisconsin, although, you can be sure, more trees grow in the latter than in the former. If Washington were called California, then the University of the District of Columbia would be called Cal and would be eligible to play in the Rose Bowl, and William French Smith would not be homesick any more.
Maybe just having the name California will improve the climate here in New Columbia. At the very least, people who live here will not have to answer dumb questions about crime and can say they moved here for the weather. There is something wonderfully perverse about that.
The other name that comes to mind is Alaska. I like Alaska because of how it will addle the mind of Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), who likes to say how much he hates Washington. If the name of Washington were changed to Alaska, he would have to say how much he hates Alaska. This would either so complicate his life that he would stop unloading on Washington or, if he persisted, he would lose the next election. In that case, he would probably join a Washington law firm and then we could change the name back to California.
In fact, we could keep changing the name. We could call Washington Miami in the winter and Maine in the summer. This way, we could get the tourist business of extremely dumb people and be entitled to the weather reports of these places. Maybe Washington could mimic New Orleans and then we could have a Metro named Desire or, considering the recent performance of the City Council on auto insurance, the place could be called Illogica.
Or maybe Washington should be named after some local phenomenon or attribute. It could be called Drizzilia or Humiditia or maybe Bureacratia. Or maybe it should be named Fairfax County to get back at those newspaper and magazine ads that praised Fairfax by knocking Washington. Then people will have to commute from Fairfax County to Fairfax County and since that is just a waste of time, they might decide to avoid the commute and move to Fairfax County.
It's obvious that the framers of New Columbia's constitution wanted to distinguish between Washington the capital of the nation and Washington, the place where ordinary people live. For this reason, they considered names like Rock Creek. (How would you like to tell someone you live in a creek--or, worse yet, a ginger ale?) This is noble sentiment and it could be combined with the fact that no matter what Washington is called, it always will be Washington.
Let's name it after D.C.'s first elected mayor.