I first moved to the United States from a suburb of Toronto, Ontario, Canada in the summer of 1997. My first foray into the country brought me to Los Angeles/Beverly Hills, which was a culture shock and half. After only a year, I moved to Boston, where I, Liam Michael Patrick Darmody, fit in quite nicely for 3 years. In 2001, upon graduating high school, I was deciding between UMass Amherst and American University and decided to go with the latter almost entirely BECAUSE of the DC location. To me, going to school in a world class city, even one with a crime rate higher than any other place I’d ever lived, appealed to me. And so in August 2001, I made my way to the District and have called it “home” ever since.
I love DC for so many reasons, but paramount to all others is the fact that my “backyard” (metaphorically speaking) is a place that millions of other pay to vacation. In this sense, you could say that I live in some type of urban resort. I love that about DC. I love that I’m one of the few, the proud, the RESIDENTS of Washington. I walk down the street on any given day and see people wandering around lost, but do I just go about my business and not pay them any attention? Of course not, because unlike the residents of that “other” major northeastern city everyone is always talking about (cough, NewYork, cough), we Districtphiles are NICE people who actually stop and ask, “you look lost, can I help you find something?” And that brings me to my next love of this city: people.
Washington, DC often gets undue slack for being a “homogeneous” place full of government types and a social divide between the have’s and the have nots. But there’s so much more to our population than that! Just because we don’t have a “little Italy” or a Chinatown that rivals San Francisco’s DOESN’T mean that the residents of the District don’t have an entirely different form of uniqueness to them. First off, you want to talk about diversity? How about the fact that every single country in the world is basically represented in DC? Or the fact that most people who live here aren’t originally “from here?” Where else do you meet someone and say, “so where are you from?” instead of “what do you do?” as your first question? It’s like saying, “tell me your story – share with me who you are.” I love that. I love hearing people’s stories. Secondly, you’ve got all sorts of people in this city who make it what it is. There are the govt types, the techies, the hipsters, the college crowd, the diplomats, the hard-working who have slugged it out for years and keep our city running while the Congressmen are “working” on the Hill. There are tons of different people here, each of whom has a story to tell, and each in their own area. And that brings me to my next love of this city: neighborhoods.
Neighborhoods in most large cities are defined by the nationalities of their neighborhoods. Chicago’s got Polish, New York has the Italian and Jewish neighborhoods, Boston has its heavy Irish focus. Although DC represents all nationalities, we are not defined by them. And yet, all of our neighborhoods have flair and all of them unique in their own way. My school was in fancy schmancy Wesley Heights, which shares similar feel to posh Georgetown; then you’ve got the West End, where GW students mix with professionals of all types. A little further and you end up in the downtown area where lobbyists dominate by day and people enjoy themselves by night. Dupont Circle offers an eclectic mix of personalities, sexuality, shopping, dining, and even outdoor markets. Woodley and Cleveland Park offer a quaint, neighborhood feel without being too disconnected from the actual hussle and bussle of the city. Adams Morgan is a colorful place where you can go to let loose and really tie one on if you’re feeling so inclined. Mount Pleasant gives you a chance to experience Latino culture in a way you’d never imagine – when I lived there, I had some of the best meals I’ve eaten in this city for $5 and without knowing how to order it. Columbia Heights is ever becoming more and more popular – a mix of hipsters and longtime residents of the city. U Street brings with it a rich history of African American culture and enables people of all backgrounds to indulge, experience, and learn. Shaw, which many a cabbie have told me used to be Heroin central, is now home to the largest convention center in all of the US and the area is really blossoming. Capitol Hill, with it’s colorful rowhouses, open parks, and streetside eateries offers residents a lovely environment to kick back and relax. I could go on, but this paragraph is long enough as is. The point is: the personality of the neighborhoods in this town are unique and wonderful in so many ways, and I love the fact that I can walk to pretty much any of them from my central spot in Shaw. And that brings me to my next love of this city: size.
Los Angeles was too large, Boston was too small, New York casts a shadow over me even when it’s sunny out. DC is, in my opinion, the perfectly sized city. I love the layout of Washington, with it’s large, open sidewalks; low buildings; green parks; and, of course, monuments. I feel like I’m walking around a grande European city that’s thousands of years old whenever I leave my front door, and no other city in this country (that I’ve been to) can make me feel like that. I love the Lincoln, Jefferson, and little-known FDR memorials. I love strolling down to the mall on a lazy Sunday and watching people relaxing or throwing frisbees, playing kickball, or just lying on a blanket with a lover. I love staring at the US Capitol, realizing that it’s the epicenter of power not only in this country but in many ways, the world. I love the White House, and all that it represents. I love the fact that I can hop a circulator for $1 and get pretty much anywhere I want to go in just about no time. I’ll admit I once thought about moving to New York, but I abandoned that idea long ago when I realized that when I’m in DC, I feel in perfect balance, and that’s not an easy thing to find. And that brings me to my next love of the city: the feeling I have when I’m in it.
Washington, DC is my home. I have wonderful friends. I have tremendous opportunities. I have what I want, when I want, anytime I want here. I have wonderful memories, enjoy the present moment whenever I’m in it, and am optimistic about the future here. I’ve met people from all over the world here, shared my story with them and in turn listened to theirs. My life in DC is full of rich experiences that I wouldn’t trade for anything else. How could I possibly NOT love DC if it makes me feel this way?