“Creative people have LA and stylish people have NYC,” said a person that I met at the bar. “Nerds like you and I, we’ve got Washington. It’s our city, man.” Flippant, yes, but philosophical at the same time. This stranger that sat down next to me on a Friday evening hit at what, to me, makes DC a great place: community. It’s part Mecca for CLA geeks, like myself, and part city of unseen potential. Since getting to know Washington, DC, I realized that its a place that most Americans visit, but never actually see. The true beauty of this city is known only to residents and this provides a strata of a commonality that binds them together. Why do I love DC? Community, plain and simple.
I’ll admit that I lived in the area for a solid 4 years before I began to discover that DC actually had a personality. Cracking the marble facade of the city takes time and effort. To most, Washington, DC is a giant, historical landmark. It holds our nation’s great monuments and provides beds for its leaders. It’s an effective, yet insular bastion of power that lacks the cultural panache of other, major cities.
Its wonkishness is off-putting to people because they equate it with power-grubbing and over ambition. I did. But getting off the beaten path a bit and meeting the average DC Joe, one discovers that most people here aren’t gunning for public office. They don’t want to network and brag about which senator or representative they work for. They’re merely normal type folks that have an interest in the work that goes on in our nation’s capital. They enjoy thinking about political strategy or public relations or international policy, just like me.
A city full of similarly interested people has provided me a gold mine of conversation and friendship. What’s more, present residents are surprisingly friendly. Who would have thought? Finding places to meet these people has been one of my favorite parts about life in the city. DC is full of little nooks and crannies where people congregate, and locating them takes a little bit of effort. It seems like every day I’m discovering some new farmers market or a nice, quiet little bar that I would probably never get to if I hadn’t spent a year or two in the city. Owning the discovery in common with the other patrons, conversation comes easy and I always find myself in a brief talk with someone interesting.
Adding to the fun, these little treasures are often situated in beautiful, historic neighborhoods. Thanks to DC’s Parisian layout, each of these areas is cozy and personal, as streets meeting a perpendicular angles insulate each neighborhood from other parts of the city. Discussions of DC’s architecture typically center around the monuments and centers of power, but I say “give me the townhouses on Capitol Hill or the shops along U St.” That’s where the city’s real character is.
Recognizing this is another part of what binds DC residents together. In venturing off the mall and away from Georgetown, we all feel like we’ve discovered something special that the rest of America doesn’t know about: that DC has character beyond its nature as America’s capital. The infrastructure that supports the power center is unique and beautiful and hidden, and this goes beyond the physical character of the city, the people are really wonderful, too.
The combination of the city’s collective nerdiness, it’s physical character and the knowledge of its hidden potential creates excellent bonds amongst DC residents. It’s something that I feel is genuine and rare. I could be wrong, I suppose. Maybe DC is full of cold-hearted bureaucrats, but I don’t see it that way. DC is a burgeoning and unique community and I love being a part of it.