In 2004, staring at acceptance letters from graduate programs, I had a choice to make: fulfill a lifelong dream and move to England, or come to D.C. Finances and a weird sort of tugging in my heart led me here. Six years later — longer than I ever intended — I’m still here. It’s a story I hear from a lot of people: “I came for X, and then I just sort of stuck around.”
I won’t be here forever — came close to leaving this summer — but for the time that I’m here, and likely for the rest of my life, I will fight to the death with anyone who dares say this city is anything but an amazing place to live. Those people are legion, inside D.C. and around the world, and if I could, I would take each of them on a personal tour of MY D.C. and dare them to be so cynical.
No, we are not a perfect city, and certain things — this summer’s streetcar funding fight; the quiet acceptance that blue blazers and khakis are an appropriate sartorial choice for grown men; Metro’s desperate attempt to solve overcrowding by forcing as many people as possible back to their cars — seem maddeningly backward. But if you are able to stand on the National Mall at dusk and face the U.S. Capitol as the sky gets dark and not think to yourself, “GodDAMN this is a great place to be,” you are simply dead inside.
I’m sitting in Peregrine Espresso on the Hill right now, listening to some vague indie pop play in the background as I think about my favorite things about this city. Peregrine is one of them, that’s for sure. And so is the feeling of leaving the 9:30 Club at midnight in the middle of summer, where everyone is hot and sticky and the music’s still ringing in your ears but it’s too early to go home so everyone just stands around in the street, willing the night to last a little bit longer. Or descending into the bowels of the E Street movie theater on a weekday afternoon, when your cell phone dies and it’s just you and the screen for the next two hours.
But other cities have coffee shops, and music clubs, and movie theaters. Probably perfectly fine ones, too. (Though hey, New York? Our theaters are still bedbug free.)
One spring afternoon a couple of years ago, I stopped in at the old Chapters bookstore, down near 11th and E streets NW. (It’s gone now, too, just like Olsson’s Books and Music. Sigh.) I picked up a copy of “American Brutus,” about John Wilkes Booth and the Lincoln assassination, because, well, those are the types of things I pick up for fun. It was April 14, a coincidence the clerk pointed out when she handed me my receipt. “Are you buying it because today is…?” “What? No I just…ohhhh,” I said as it dawned on me that I was buying the book on the anniversary of the assassination. (Where else would a bookstore clerk have that date at her fingertips?) Two blocks later, after walking up 10th street, past Ford’s Theatre and the scene of the crime, I looked down an alley and saw a re-enactor dressed as Booth, dragging on a cigarette and involved in a heated conversation on his cell phone.
That is why love this city.
In no other place on earth can a girl like me mouth off to a security guard in a fit of righteous indignation and four months later find herself testifying before a congressional panel about the funny way Union Station’s management had decided to circumvent the concepts of free speech and public property to its gorgeous building.
That is why love this city.
I love this city because of the people who live here. The people I have met in the last six years are, almost without exception, driven, creative, fun, wicked smart, explorers, entrepreneurial in spirit, and never at rest unless they are building things — websites, photo exhibits, music, governments, buildings, anything. Many of them have become the best sort of friends I could have ever hoped to find in any city the world over. And so I thank them for reminding me daily why I love this city.
Right. Enough of the sappy stuff. Why don’t I just shut up and stop talking about why I love this city, and just show you?