Above: The author poses by the Reflecting Pool shortly after arriving in DC, some years ago. Note the in-line skates.
Before I came to Washington from the Philippines, most of my experience of America had been limited to occasional summer vacations in suburban California, so my general impression of U.S. cities was of vast pockets of sprawl connected by freeways, the isolation broken only by strip malls and Disney theme parks. Go ahead and laugh it up when I say this, but my first day after moving to DC (note how I called 16th St NW an “avenue”), the discovery that a city — any city — could be a livable, walkable, [somewhat] affordable place blew me away after a mostly-sheltered life living in a gated subdivision in Manila.
In the five-odd years I’ve been here I’ve heard a lot of talk about there being “two DCs” — the touristy, political, marble-pillared Washington with monuments and museums and Smithsonians and Duck Tours; and the home-y, social, local Washington community with restaurants and bars and clubs and other stuff that other cities have too. Given time, I’ve been told, you get tired of the Mall and DC becomes about the people.
Now, me, I’m a reclusive introvert who likes space and art and history and nature, so I am all about free museums and historic monuments, and I haven’t gotten tired of those yet.
I love DC because I can live right in the midst of the Capitol, the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials, the Washington Monument, the White House. I can mingle among those tourists who yell like Forrest and Jenny at the Reflecting Pool, watch Marine One fly by in the mornings, or walk over to Air and Space anytime I feel like geeking out on space history or seeing the USS Enterprise.
Just about any day I wish (outside of work, that is), I can drop in on Butterstick, Einstein, or The Girl with the Red Hat. I go to church where Truman and Carter attended, and I regularly pass through — and sometimes eat in — the very basement that Train #173 fell into after its disastrous crash. I ride what is still one of the best subways in the USA, and twice a day walk by one of the most notorious hotels in the world. Without once getting in a car or boat or plane I can walk around Roosevelt Island or hike the trails of Rock Creek Park. In Spring there are Cherry Blossoms, and in Winter for at least a few days I can see the Mall blanketed in snow.
DC is home to me now, and what a home it is. That’s why I love it. But hey, DC people, I love you too.
Tom and I were playing tour guide to an out-of-town friend one evening. Ever the cynic, our Pakistani friend made bitter jokes all evening about how quickly he’d be detained if we took him into the District, but we ignored him and took him on the quick driving tour. After a few minutes of “That’s the Department of the Interior,” “That’s the State Department,” “Look that way, you can see the Capitol,” “Oh yeah, it’s the IRS…” he fell oddly silent, and very quietly said, “Wow, it really does all happen here, doesn’t it?”
The 16th Ave. thing isn’t as amusing as “Addams Morgan”…and here I was, thinking Gomez and Morticia lived at 1-2 Logan Circle! ;-)
Yeah, while awaiting the We Love DC Meetup last night (and my wife) I stood outside the Woodley Park Metro, and in no shorter than 3 minutes, I gave directions to a visiting backpacking couple from France to the Zoo and an older couple to dinner at the Lebanese Taverna I was standing in front of (to be honest, the tree on the other side of the street was blocking the sign, but unless you know what’s behind it…). I love being a tour guide in a way.. at least now I feel like a local…
FWIW, the Connecticut Ave. bridge over Rock Creek Park as you head into Dupont is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful places in the city. It’s certainly one of those “uniquely DC” experiences.