Flying Home: Seven Stories of the Secret CityBy David NicholsonPaycock Press, 160 pps.Short stories of D.C.'s past and present depict a city in the throes of change.
Shaw before condos, Bloomingdale before group houses—the “secret city” in Flying Home’s subtitle refers to the D.C. of yore, forever a city that’s more than monuments. Think Chocolate City, U Street music halls of yesteryear, and aging Washington Grays ballplayers. Picture tough guys who loiter with little red wagons and steal peaches, men at the barbershop gossiping into the evening. Imagine the Lincoln Theatre in its movie-reel prime. InFlying Home, seven stories anchored around LeDroit Park, referred to as the Street, dip and dive across decades and seasons.
Characters in Flying Home weave through the entire volume; read closely to catch a glimpse of one story’s main character appearing in another, 40 years later. People make sacrifices to adapt to their changing circumstances and choose sides for the sake of being loved. A young boy, homesick for the Caribbean, yearns to understand his new environment. A middle-aged man drives with his teenage daughter from their upper Northwest home back to the Street, where he’s from, slipping into his old vernacular from the comfort of his BMW. In Flying Home, Vienna’s David Nicholson, a former editor of the Washington Post’s Book World, conjures myriad ways a person can be in two places at once while occupying neither.