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Week of 8/26/19

PUBLISHED: September 1, 2019

In an effort to better acquaint you, the reader, with the VQR staff, members of our team will share excerpts from our personal reading—The Best 200 Words I Read All Week. From fact to fiction, from comedic to tragic, we hope you find as much to admire in these selections as we do.   


Click here for access to the complete project archive


“I hear you,” Leonard said again and again, with the patience of a dog trainer. She explained to the residents that no, they could not restrict access just to dogs from the immediate neighborhood (where the houses for sale currently range in price from $1.1 million to $22.5 million). The village purchased this 15,000-square-foot parcel of land in the 1980s, in part, using state money, so it had to remain open to the public. For years, it had been a favorite spot of local dog owners, so when the village wanted to update its parks, a dog park just made sense. Neighbors voiced their support. A unanimous vote followed.

But now the park was somehow both a wild canine circus sabotaging property values and a beloved gathering space for only the politest of pooches.

Leonard, whose Norwich terrier, Pippa, does not frequent the park, tried to make both sides happy. To limit barking in the early hours, the board changed the opening time from 7 to 8 a.m. To stop outsiders from driving to Chevy Chase Village and parking on the Bourkes’ street—taking the spots where the family liked their lawn maintenance service to park—the dog park was wiped from the village website. To determine the extent of the barking and the parking, the board paid $1,300 for a woman with a graduate degree in epidemiology to spend weeks studying the behavior of the dogs and their humans.

Executive Editor Allison Wright
Excerpt from “ ‘NO EXCESSIVE BARKING’: A Chevy Chase dog park divides the rich and the powerful”


My father, who meant well about some things and not about others, died at seventy, not that old. He’d been living in our house in New Jersey, with caretakers around him, and in the front window was a bumper sticker that said, Get US Out! ! United Nations. He’d once been a member of the very far-right John Birch Society and maybe always was (we didn’t keep in close touch). In our years together, when the Cold War was still on, my father took pride in never being duped by the insidious plots of those trying to turn the US into a socialist hell, a pride that rode on urgency. Every day he woke up to important work. The sticker did not look that old, actually. My mother was now long since married to someone else, but my sister and brother lived nearby. How green and hilly the countryside looked, how pretty those older suburbs seemed. The maple trees in the front of our house had grown into vast leafy giants. I’d flown in from another continent, and when they saw me, my sibs said, “Oh! You’re here!” as if they hadn’t believed my voice on the phone. We were gathered on the front porch. I was glad enough to see them. Cecie, my sister, was looking a little dried out but not bad, and my brother, Dillon, was portly in a friendly way. “This is it,” Cecie said, which meant she was really very sad.

“It is it,” I said. He was my father; I had my sadness too.

“He had the life he wanted,” my brother said. That was enough, we didn’t need to go any deeper into it.

Assistant Editor Heidi Siegrist
Excerpt from “Fields of Empire” by Joan Silber


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