She/He Loves DC is a series highlighting the people who love this city just as much as we do.
Zia Hassan is a storyteller. He likes to ask questions and seek honest answers from (and about) a vast array of subjects. This passion of his is the catalyst for multiple creative projects including a podcast series, original music, (viral) videos, photography, insightful blog posts, and more.
He’s a guy who keeps a pen and paper on him at all times just to make sure a new idea doesn’t get away. It’s his observation skills coupled with a genuine sense of childlike wonder that brings Zia’s creative endeavors to life.
What is it about DC that makes it home to you?
The duration of my stay, which is almost 25 out of 28 years (in the DMV area). Every city is a collection of people, experiences, imagery, and history. The place that I call home is a place where those stories are the deepest and the amount of time I’ve lived here has allowed for a lot of depth. Home is the place that you can leave for an indefinite amount of time, and when you come back, you pick up where you left off. Some of the people in my life are “home” for me, in that sense.
Describe your perfect day in DC. Where would you go and what would you do?
The best thing about DC is its unpredictable nature and the way that everyone has a different favorite place to go or thing to do. My perfect day would involve a game that I’ve made up – you pair off with some friends and each person writes down a schedule for a fun and random day in DC. Then, you meet up at 9 a.m. on a pre-determined day and swap schedules, slowly unfolding the day ahead of you in 2-3 hour increments. 9:30 a.m. WWII monument. 11 a.m. bowling at a nearly empty alley. 2 p.m. matinee at a great local theater, like Woolly Mammoth. 4 p.m. drinks at an awesome rooftop bar, like Local 16. 5 p.m. stop at a great record store. You’d meet up with your group at 6:30 p.m. to talk about your day over dinner. The dinner would probably go well into the night; I imagine there would be so much to say.
What’s your favorite hidden gem of a location in DC? How did you find it and why do you love it?
It’s my balcony in downtown Silver Spring. Yes, it’s actually in Maryland, but we live on the 12th floor and we have a large balcony with a panoramic view of all of the neighborhoods in DC. You can see the national monument, the capitol, the cathedral, and the UMD stadium. It’s worth it just for the 4th of July. From the balcony, you can see all the small towns and their firework shows, in one giant panoramic view. It goes on from 9 p.m. to about 2 a.m. As one of my friends put it, it’s like sneaking into a movie that you didn’t pay for.
Who’s your favorite DC personality and why?
It’s this one WMATA conductor. She’s female and has kind of a robotic monotone voice. I’m not sure she’s widely known, but if you’ve ever been on her train, you know who I’m talking about. She’s extremely apologetic whenever there are delays, and she gives you a lot of great information about delays and how long you’ll potentially be waiting. She’s truly a rarity. I would love to have dinner with her and just pick her brain.
How do you discover new places to visit or new music to listen to in DC? Are there specific websites you check or Twitter feeds you follow?
I don’t follow any particular local music blogs or twitter feeds. As someone who spends a lot of time in new venues and scouring the internet for new music, I can say that there are two ways to go, aside from just going to concerts by your favorite recording artists:
1) Go to random live shows that are reasonably cheap. Do this at venues you’ve enjoyed in the past, ones that suit your particular tastes. You can do a bit of listening ahead of time, but ultimately, you have to take the plunge and just go. You’ll sit through a lot of awful music. But you will find gems, and finding a gem without being told about it beforehand is a magical feeling. And because you’re doing this at reasonably cheap shows, the risk isn’t very high.
2) Then there’s the approach most people take: follow people who follow the strategy above. This is less work, but its effectiveness dramatically depends on the compatibility of your tastes and your friends’ tastes. You could stumble around from show to show, never finding anything that totally destroys you. You could be one of those people who claim to not enjoy live music. It’s not because you don’t enjoy live music, it’s because you need to be adventurous or have friends that know your tastes really well. It’s a conundrum. I highly recommend seeking out new musical experiences, regardless of previous experience.