From the president: What I liked about living in Hyattsville
BY JULIA DUIN — A For Sale sign that sprouted in my front yard the first week of June was what got the news out that my sojourn in Hyattsville was coming to an end. I had mentally planned to be here a lot longer, but getting laid off two years ago from The Washington Times changed all that.
I moved here four years ago at the advice of longtime friends. After losing my job, I hung on for as long as I could, freelancing for the Economist, The Washington Post, CNN.com, The Wall Street Journal and whoever else would accept my work. During the past two years, I worked out of my home while my daughter, Veeka, now 7, attended school at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Day School, St. Jerome Academy and Hyattsville Elementary. By this spring, however, it was clear that this kind of writing wasn’t nearly enough to support us.
Then out of the blue at the beginning of May, Union University, a Southern Baptist-affiliated institution of 4,400 students in Jackson, Tennessee (one hour’s drive east of Memphis), called to see if I was interested in teaching journalism there. They liked me, I liked them and on June 8, I signed the contract to become an associate professor there. Thanks to Ann Barrett, my home sold in two weeks. So this is our last month here.
Having visited western Tennessee twice in the past month, I can tell you that a lot of the amenities we enjoy here don’t exist there. Folks there joke about making Trader Joe runs to Nashville, 120 miles to the east. That’s far more drastic than the 7-mile run we make to Silver Spring. There’s one Starbucks in town but no IKEA, organic market nor a Wegmans in sight. They don’t even have Giant or Safeway! Five Guys is said to be moving there soon; a major event in that city of 65,000.
Most people have to leave town immediately upon losing their jobs. I am glad I was able to linger for the arrival of all the great retail just two blocks away from where I live on Jefferson Street. It’s been wonderful walking down there to shop and eat. I’ve also enjoyed seeing Crossover Church’s transition from services at their stone edifice on Route 1 at Jefferson to Northwestern High School. I hope their final home doesn’t take them outside of Hyattsville city limits.
I doubt I will ever find a closer-knit neighborhood than this one. Veeka is very sad about the friends she’s leaving behind at Hyattsville Elementary. As for me, I’ll miss the Sunday-evening vespers crowd terribly, as well as the community I’ve so enjoyed on the local moms’ listservs. And annual events like the Vine Crawl — what a blast!
Some regrets: I never did get to ride the bike paths around here, as my daughter was too big for a baby seat but too small to ride on her own. They don’t have bike paths in Jackson. As for the Hamilton Splash Park at Magruder: They don’t have things like that either. And I’m sad to leave my post as president of the board of the Hyattsville Life & Times, a wonderful publication that I’ve been privileged to help guide for three years. Attorney Joe Gigliotti has kindly agreed to serve the remainder of my term.
One thing I won’t miss: the draconian speed traps, especially across the county line in the District. Don’t you just love how they post all the speed limits there artificially low (i.e., 25 mph) and then zap you to the tune of $125 and up per ticket?
More than a year ago, I editorialized that Busboys and Poets should give some space to local authors to pitch their products. They came through for five of us a year ago. And, from 6 to 8 p.m. Sunday, July 29, they’re hosting another gathering for four of us: Richard Morris, David Levy, Andra Damron and me. We’ll all be describing our various books and indulging in refreshments. So, please come by. And farewell.
Editor’s Note: Julia Duin brought years of journalistic experience, talent and great organizational skills to this newspaper. She not only contributed some memorable stories, she also provided strong guidance in her role as president of the board. We thank her for her service and wish her the best in her new life.