The Features, Why I Still Love DC

Why I (Still) Love DC: Tom

When I started writing about DC more than ten years ago now, it was a reflex. I had decided that I was going to make the best of my time here, I decided that this was a place to love, and that I should love it here. And so I went out to find all the things I loved about DC. There were many of us at that old site that wrote because this city had made a personal connection with us, that it was a part of our makeup.

As We Love DC came into being, we were doing so at the curl of the wave that was a new DC. Adrian Fenty was Mayor, everyone was talking about how DC was changing, growing, building. The Williams administration, though decidedly unsexy, had made DC a place that could receive investment again, that could build a tax base that could increase services again. DC wasn’t the inner city, DC was just the city.

The last ten years have been a major change for the city – not a change that’s been just for the good, there’s been a lot of DC history that’s been swept out past the boundary stones – and it was exciting to be here and watch it happen. Old vacant storefronts became award-winning bars. Breweries appeared for the first time in almost a century. Industry was possible in a city that was largely focused around political capital, DC has proven, and those are the things that have excited me most about the last ten years. We make things here. We make beer. We make bikes. We even make weed now. We make things. We’re not just an economy of accidental convenience, we’re an economy of industry, of confluence, of vision.

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The Features, Why I Still Love DC

Why I (Still) Love DC: Jenn

At the end of 2013, I wrote what I thought was my ultimate love letter to DC, filled with the moments that had sustained me during my struggle with a life-threatening illness. It was a thank you to the city I’d lived in for over two decades, yet I also suspected, at the time, that it might be a farewell – not because I was losing that struggle, but because I thought I was moving. Of course, I was incorrect, life being a lesson in derailment and the power of creative disruption. My DC in 2013 turned out to be the penultimate love letter, and while I spent most of 2014 investigating another city, by the end of that year I was back where I started.

So here we are. DC, you still have me. And yet, the time to leave our beloved site has come to pass. So I find myself writing another love letter, one that’s slightly bittersweet. But don’t worry. I always rally by the end.

If there’s any lesson I’ve learned over the past three years of incredible life change and regeneration, it’s this: the story never ends. You may think you have come to the end of your journey, but it’s only a chapter, or an act in a play that continues on and on. Just as cities never stop evolving, never stop rising, only to fall, and rise again. If not in actuality, then in the mind.

Maybe that’s why there are so many discarded drafts of my Why I (Still) Love DC. They litter my mind, my desk, my laptop, piling up like sediment in an archeological site. Rather as my discarded selves litter the city itself, so many experiences, haunting this corner and then the next. I feel like Scheherazade, and worry that if I ever finish the tale, I’ll lose my head.

I began to wonder if all the difficulty writing it meant that I no longer loved DC the way I used to, and frankly, yes, it’s true. But isn’t that as it should be, after so many years? Love’s not an ever-fixed mark, no matter what Shakespeare said. He knew better, anyway. Love must change – always. Otherwise, it calcifies, and your city crumbles into dust.

There’s a narrative to my love story that’s already established here in other pieces at We Love DC. I moved here for the architecture. The cherry blossoms. The subculture politicos ignore. The fact that it wasn’t New York or Boston, the other cities which courted me, but provided an escape from my New England youth. That DC was supposed to be just a way station on the way to London. That I didn’t leave, because I unexpectedly fell in love, with its music scene, with its theaters and a thriving community of artists. Bought a house, brought it back to life. That was the first act. In another act, life went haywire. My heart stopped several times. I regenerated in many ways, but haunted my old life in others. I was poised to escape, but grounded in limbo. I wasn’t as certain about my love anymore.

We’ll talk about that chapter another time, somewhere else.

I could tell you about all my other selves wandering DC. Continue reading

The Features, Why I Still Love DC

Why I (Still) Love DC: Rachel

The day-to-day existence I was living when We Love DC came into my life was one with little light. A darkness enveloped most thoughts I had at the time due to having lost my dad, dog, and two grandmothers all within the span of eight months. I had lost focus and direction. After having coffee with Jenn Larsen, one of the founding editors, I was persuaded to start writing for We Love DC. Finding my way into that world changed everything. The light was back. And I was ready for it.

Why do I still love DC? Because of what We Love DC brought to my life.

It took a few months for me to find my groove and re-establish my writing voice but coming from a place of feeling stranded, lost, and confused will do that to a person. In the Fall of 2009, We Love DC offered me an opportunity to utilize the skill sets I developed during my time studying journalism at American University.

But for me, We Love DC was never about having a byline or wearing a press pass. To me, We Love DC was a project that fostered my sense of self during a time of much needed self-discovery and mental preservation. I could write about any topic I wanted as long as I could compose a piece with passion, integrity, and facts. And the topic I was most passionate about was music.

It’s no secret that music is the love of my life. We Love DC provided me countless opportunities to not only interview national touring acts that I’ve admired or kept track of for quite some time – like Rachael Yamagata, Tony Lucca, Megan Hilty (of Smash), Kris Allen (of American Idol), and Barry Manilow. But, even better than that, We Love DC presented the opportunity to live, breathe, and document the current state of the DC independent music scene. Continue reading

Why I Still Love DC

Why I (Still) Love DC: Rebecca

I came to our fair city a fresh faced, college graduate who knew only one thing about her move down here: I definitely did not want to work in politics. Thinking back I only vaguely recall who that girl was or what she was thinking, or even what made her happy. Despite twenty odd years under my belt, I was new to the world, and pretty much had zero life experiences to learn and grow from.

It’s said that childhood and adolescence are the most formidable years of your life.
And while it’s fruitless to argue that those years aren’t important, for me my most formidable years, my 20s and early 30s, happened right here in DC. More profoundly put, I truly grew up in this city.

The last 9 years here have had their ups and downs, their failures, their simple pleasures, their soul crushing, heart breaking events, their depressive episodes when I literally had to scrap myself off the floor, their serendipitous meetings, their triumphant fist in the air celebrations and a whole hell of lot of in-betweens.

At the center of it all is DC; its people, its culture, its evolution, its bars, its opportunities, its music, its heartbeat are all at the crux of this personal growth and discovery. Continue reading

The Features, Why I Still Love DC

Why I (Still) Love DC: Fedward

When I moved to the Washington area in 1998, it wasn’t for any single good reason. I had a few reasons that added up to something, but I can’t say my logic was in any way sound. Mostly I was 27 years old and felt like I’d exhausted my opportunities in my home town. I didn’t have anything tying me down, and I figured I had enough connections here that I could make a go of it. When people asked me, I’d say that everyone else lived in DC for four years so I thought I’d give it a shot.

I had a friend who lived in a group house on the Hill, and she idly said she was thinking of moving out, but she needed a roommate. I told her I’d arrive in August, and she should find us a place to live. That first year we lived in a rented house in Crystal City, but a couple weeks after Metro’s Columbia Heights station opened up I moved into an apartment a few blocks away, where I lived for ten of those four years.

Seventeen years later, I’m a married homeowner and I have a different glib answer about why it would be impossible for me to leave: I can never live anywhere with fewer than three airports. Given the choice I’d never use any of them but National, but I’ll fly out of Dulles or BWI if the itinerary is right.

But that doesn’t really answer the question of why I (still) love DC.

When I came to DC I found a culture that didn’t revolve around the business of government. My friends aren’t lobbyists or politicians. I’ve come to know a few congressional staffers and lifetime feds over the years not because of their answer to the question “so what do you do,” but because of the things they do when they’re not on the Hill (drink, mostly). I know a few lawyers, but most of them continue to prove my belief that the happiest lawyers are former lawyers. Continue reading

Essential DC, People, The Features, Where We Live, Why I Still Love DC

Why I (Still) Love DC: Ben

Full disclosure: I really wanted to title this article “Why I (Still) Love DC: Take Two (or Ten)” but Jenn wouldn’t let me. (Something about ruining the pattern or other such reasonable editorial argument.) If you’re a long-time follower of We Love DC, you’ll know I wrote a similarly titled piece back in 2013 after this site’s fifth anniversary.

And then suddenly, here we are not two years later and the party’s over.

Back in the fall, when it was discussed about putting the old gal to rest, I didn’t really want to let it go. I’d hoped that a fresh generation, newer (or older) blood would pick up our baton, and sally forth. But alas–and unlike our lovely Congressmen and Senators on the Hill–our grand lady would not blather on about nothing, limping towards digital obscurity.

And I’m okay with that.

This will be my 647th and final post here at We Love DC. (And, for giggles, that’s about half-a-million words.) I never thought I’d be saying good bye, both to our readers and to the site.

It’s a bittersweet milestone for me, particularly.

2015 marks ten years -half my married life!- since I moved to the Metro DC area. My wife and I escaped a wretched employment outlook in Pittsburgh when the International Spy Museum took a chance and hired me to help run their retail shop. Brenda Young, my manager at the time (and she’s still there, I believe), was a true District resident from Capitol Heights and during our downtime in the office, would tell me all about this city and its secrets. Actually, considering where I worked and who I rubbed shoulders with on a frequent basis, I learned about a lot of secrets in the District…

Anyway, it was during my time there that I stumbled over Tom and his merry band of Metrobloggers. I applied to write, figuring I could bring a ‘fresh-behind-the-ears’ view to the team (only having been here two years at that point). I showed my bona fides and I was in.

And plunged straight into the depths of rebellion. Continue reading

The Features, Why I Still Love DC

Why I (Still) Love DC: Don

I confess: I looked at the other pieces my cohorts wrote so far before starting this, hoping they’ve give me something to rip off inspire my direction. For what it’s worth, they helped me not at all.

This feels like writing about why I like air. For me the DC area just is, at this point. It’s where I settled, somewhat accidentally, thirteen years ago. It’s where I met so many good friends. It’s where I met the woman who is now my spouse. It’s where I became a dad. Turned forty. Died.

Just kidding about the last one. Would make a nice creepy short story though, wouldn’t it?

But maybe I will die here, just hopefully not soon. It’s hard to imagine going anywhere else. Before all those things above, this is just plain where I felt at home, and that hasn’t diminished in the slightest. When new, cool things come along I think well of course; in the city I came here from I would think well of course when hearing about something crappy. DC is the place where I expect good things to happen, and they so often do.

Maybe that’s the best indication of being in love. You look at the whole thing, warts and all, and can’t help but smile. The minor flaws feel like quirks and the bigger things you think are worth living with or trying to improve.

I love DC for what it has been for me, is, and promises to be.

The Features, Why I Still Love DC

Why I (Still) Love DC: Patrick

White House Bowling

Bowling at the White House. Photo by author.

So, I have a hashtag. It’s called #RageLikePho.

People have come to associate me with the hashtag to the point it’s often mentioned in introductions to other people.

“This is Patrick, he has his own hashtag.”

People ask to take “#RageLikePho photos” with me thinking the hashtag refers to the goofy yet on-trend face I tend to make when people take photos of me.

They are not entirely correct. The roots of #RageLikePho stem from a We Love DC writers meeting back in January of 2013, when we discussed content ideas and approach of writing stories that reflected each writer’s own personality. A lot of regular features at We Love DC used a well-established pronoun-verb-object nomenclature: She/He Loves DC, We Love Music, We Love Drinks.

In a pizza-induced coma-like state, I started joking around about writing articles on the one good thing I can do: go out all night. I messed up the naming however and jokingly suggested a series of stories that recap my weekend benders and call it “Rage Like Pho.”

Everyone laughed none the less.

A few days later I used it as a hashtag for the first time:

The first mention of #RageLikePho on Twitter

The rest is history.

When people ask me what #RageLikePho is I say it’s more like a lifestyle than a face. You might think it means rampant drinking, dance parties, or streaking through the quad. While it does have some debaucherous overtures, I personally think #RageLikePho is about having a good time, but not in a Clarendon Bro kind of way.

All I really need are friends and a chill place to hang out in a neighborhood that gives us options to mix it up after awhile. I’m not a one-bar kind of guy. Luckily DC has always given me those options in the form of many diverse neighborhoods and experiences.

Bar hopping in Dupont? Jazz in the Garden? Bowling in the White House? For the past nine years now I’ve lived in the DMV and have been drawn to the combination of history, power, and urban life that is truly unique. Sure, Los Angeles or New York may be bigger and Portland or Austin maybe hipper but there isn’t a place that has the right combination that DC has.

The District is my Goldilocks match in a world full of many great cities.

It’s why I fell in love with DC nine years ago and I continue to love it today, whether I’m Raging Like Pho or not.

The Features

Why I (Still) Love DC: Joanna

“Snow Shovel 0, Snow & Ice 1.”
“Just die already winter. I hate you. Die.”
“Winter wonderland, we good. You can go now.”

These are the updates I woke up to in February from friends in DC. As of January, I live in Los Angeles, and it was surreal to read people’s misery – to know how cold the winters can feel on the National Mall – and still miss the place. So. Damn. Much.

When my husband and I first moved to DC we didn’t know if it was temporary or permanent, but we decided to invest everything we had in the community there, just to see what happened. We weren’t expecting anything.

Scratch that – we were expecting lobbyists as our only drinking buddies. Dismal.

We left DC five years later, so I guess it was temporary. But by the time we left, our drinking buddies were actors and graphic designers and animators and librarians and, ok, a few lobbyists.

Truth is, we left right when we wanted to stay the most, kicking and screaming. Even reading those icy posts from friends, I had to hold my hands back from typing “cheap flights to DCA.”

Here are three things I miss terribly about DC:

1) Having a conversation with anyone about anything.

The city is full of experts, educated at every level and on every subject. People settle in the nation’s capital not to become bureaucrats, but because they care about stuff. That passion and intelligence is unlike anywhere else in the country, and it’s something I took for granted.

2) Getting around.

In DC, you can go outside and walk, bike, or ride wherever you need to go. Give yourself extra time for Metro, and demand better from it, sure; but never forget you have it, and other options, when so many cities don’t.

3) The village and the metropolis.

In DC, your shows go to Broadway and your Fringe is fringe. You can spend a day for free at one of the best art museums in the world right before joining the regulars at that dive bar. You know everyone and still have so many more people to meet. You can get lost in the crowd or run for president.

DC attracts some of the most creative go-getters in the world, and they still smile at each other and know how to share a proper whiskey. It’s the only place I’ve ever lived where people are as kind as they are educated, as empathetic as they are intense. DC deserves the naysayers’ gratitude, the country’s investment, and the right to vote.

So yeah, I miss it all.

I miss it all except the weather.

The Features

Why I (Still) Love DC: Dave

Photo by author.

Photo by author.

Sometimes I think it’s easier to love a city, or a place, than it is to love another person. It’s apples and oranges, really, or maybe it isn’t. Maybe it’s just as hard, just as complicated, and just as wonderfully exhausting to love a city.

I used to write a snarky blog called Why I Hate DC, and I’d spend my time finding things to gripe about, usually accompanied by Simpsons references or funny pictures. I wrote a lot and some of it was pretty funny. But it was tiring. It was exhausting to be looking for reasons to be upset.

Years ago, when Tom invited me to write for We Love DC, I was intrigued. I was excited by the premise of the site, its attitude, and the community of contributors. I made the leap, from Hate to Love, and it was wonderful.

I’ve been a few different people in the time since I wrote here. I’ve been a twenty-something, just old enough to think I wasn’t stupid anymore. I’m now thirty-one, gradually accepting the fact that I’ll always be pretty dumb. But, I’ve tried to keep a positive attitude about my life and my city. That’s in no small part to the friends and community that came from this place.

To be truthful, it’s incredibly hard to keep a positive attitude. There’s always a million things vying for your attention, and a lot of them are negative. Political scandals. The Metro crashing or bursting into flames. Children being abducted. Services for our most needy failing. You get the idea.

You have to make a choice to be positive. You won’t always do it. You’ll fail. In fact, you’ll probably fail more than you succeed (indeed like most everything in life). But you can make the choice to say you love the place you live, and that you’ll try to find the good and to praise it when you can.

That’s what I loved about this site, and more importantly, about the folks I met writing here. To Tom, Tiffany, Don, Jenn, Katie, and many others — thank you. I owe you some of you more than you know (and others, you know how much I owe you).

I know that long after we’ve all moved on to what’s next, part of us will always be centered around the idea that we can and will choose to love DC. For that I am so thankful.

The Features

Why I (Still) Love DC: Tiffany

When we started this site nearly 8 years ago, we got a little gentle ribbing from other local blogs about how so many of our original Why I Love DC entries were just super-earnest variations on “DC is where I truly became who I am.”

Funny thing about that: DC is where I became who I am.

DC is where I am becoming who I will be.

DC is where I am, becoming.

The longer I spend in DC, the more I am entwined with it, the more inextricably we become part of one another. Every landmark, every neighborhood, every watering hole goes from being a feature of this geographic location to being an anchor for my life.

When the cherry blossoms peek out and promise the coming spring, I remember the spring I spent riding my bike to work along the National Mall, knowing that it was the only way I was going to see the blossoms that year because I was working too hard to launch an important project.

When I’m cutting through the city, trying to shave a few minutes off my too-long commute, I’m not just driving through strangers’ neighborhoods, but passing near to the homes of dear friends where we grill dinner and relax on the patio, or friends we haven’t seen in far too long and resolve to shove aside the never-ending press of our calendars and make time to bring them over, cook for them, laugh with them, and relax.

Coming up North Capitol, I pass the hospital where my son was born. I drive through the neighborhood my husband Tom and I chose together and see the school Charlie will attend, the playground where we take him to run around and induce a long nap, the homes of our friends whose children will grow up playing with ours. I marvel that they get to grow up in a city other kids will only get to visit once on a school trip.

As the site called We Love DC draws to an end, I still love DC; how could I not? I may first have loved DC for her beauty, her talent, her quirks… but as the years pass, like any other lovers whose knowledge of each other deepens with the passage of time, I love DC for the things affectionately familiar, the things I am still discovering, and the sweet memories we have made and will make together.

The Features, Why I Still Love DC

Retrospective: Why We (Still) Love DC

Since our founding in 2008, every writer who joined We Love DC was asked to pen a love letter to the city. Our original Why I Love DC series became a running manifesto for how we wanted to engage with our readership and our lives beyond the capitol. We were unabashedly cheerleading for the District, with no agenda other than to challenge the dominant opinion at the time that DC wasn’t worthy of abiding love. The litany we fought against was: “It’s a transient city;” “No one wants to stay here;” “It’s just a political city;” “It’s boring.”

We felt differently. We still do. All those myths we set out to bust.

Over the subsequent years, we’ve asked nothing more of our writers than to speak the truth about their experiences living here, to be positive, and to write about what they loved. Now that we’re winding down the site, it felt appropriate to ask alumni to revisit their Why I Love DC pieces and take their current pulse on the city’s heartbeat.

While many of the articles written the first time around focused on what it meant to find yourself in love with a city unexpectedly, a city at the time maligned and misunderstood by many, our revisitation comes at a different time for DC. It seems almost overnight the District went from punchline to cool, but of course, it was a far more organic process than the hype would lead you to believe. Those of us who’ve directly experienced the waves from murder capital to millennial chic are thrilled by the District taking its rightful place as a cosmopolitan nexus, a gateway to the world, its beauty fully appreciated, while at the same time some can feel a conflicted nostalgia for those other days.

Like all great love affairs, it’s complicated. That’s what makes passion interesting.

So please join us as we launch our retrospection on Why I (Still) Love DC with articles by past writers over the next several days. Sift through the original Why I Love DC archive for some memory lane action. Join the dialogue #WhyIStillLoveDC and let everyone know your own pulse.

We’re still curious. And that’s as it should be.