My dad and I were sitting in a diner when he said, “DC is your Paris. You know I would take off for Paris at a moment’s notice.” It’s been that way since I was eight. I have literally been in love with the city for almost 30 years, and I’ve gotten to visit many times, and lived there for 18 months when I was married to Kathleen and she got into ExxonMobil’s Global Information Systems department and they asked us whether we wanted to remain in Houston or go to their Fairfax, VA office. I am positive that I talked Kathleen into it, this whole moving to DC thing, but it was something I had to do. I needed to get out of Texas, and why wouldn’t I go somewhere I’d wanted to be since my mother handed me a copy of “Ramona Quimby, Age 8” and said, “you can’t read it until we’re ON THE PLANE.” My excitement was immediately engaged, because the flight was so special I got to have a special book to read ON IT.
So the love affair with DC has nothing to do with friends; in fact, I would be happy sharing a small apartment and riding the Metro everywhere- kind of a silent observer to the beauty DC has to offer when you’re really looking for it. The drive from the Pentagon in is breathtaking, and even when I lived there, I still got tears in the corner of my eyes as I passed the Jefferson Monument, even though I drove past every week for church. Because I’m an Episcopalian now, I feel a responsibility to at least go to St. Paul’s K Street once, but Ruth and Brian, the co-pastors of my church, had my heart when the first time I came to church, they said, “this is kind of an unusual Sunday- we’re having a potluck during morning worship. We’re using coffee and muffins for communion. Is that okay?”
I’m sorry. Did you say COFFEE at COMMUNION?
Thank you, Jesus. Coffee has always been a life-giving substance for me, and it made Ruth laugh……
I have told this story before, but it is apt here. Kathleen and I were in a bookstore in Dupont called “Lambda Rising,” and I was looking at the spirituality section. I found this book on More Light (the presbyterian reconciling ministry), profiling some of the ministers involved. I knew Janie Spahr. I knew Katie Morrison. And on page 45 (I think), there was a picture of Susan Leo standing at the front of the sanctuary giving the benediction.
Susan. Home. “KATHLEEN!!!!!! WE HAVE TO GO TO THIS CHURCH!!!!!!!”
I was in the choir. Kathleen learned how to make stained glass. During one of Kathleen’s stained glass classes, me and the PK (Roman, then 5) went to the store and picked up a few things. I just let him chatter about anything and everything in his PK world. I am sure that Roman would not remember me, and I would not recognize him, because that was in 2002. I think he’s taller now. But the feeling of home remains. I literally helped put in the tile floor, and the memory still makes my bones ache… because it wasn’t just a tile floor. It’s a labryinth for pilgrims on their way. Standing in the middle of it is glorious.
And now, I have no strings tying me to anywhere except the thread that runs through DC and me. My favorite memories in DC are alone. For instance, sitting on the banks of the Potomac on the Alexandria side and just people-watching with my journal for a couple of hours. Sitting on the mall, watching dogs go by and hoping that famous people own them. Walking through Air and Space with nothing but awe. Accidentally driving into the ghetto late at night and seeing a drug deal go down in front of Frederick Douglass’s house….. because if you get lost in Anacostia, the only roads lead back into Anacostia. I think I ended up in front of the Pepsi plant in MD before I realized that I had just crossed the Anacostia and not the Potomac, and I still didn’t know where I was.
See? This time will be different. I have a personal assistant. Siri would never have let that happen to me.
I am moving back this week. THIS WEEK. I have a ridiculously cool choice of places to live, both $525 in Arlington, which is unreal. I don’t have a job, but I don’t care. At $525 a month, I can support myself by waiting tables or working at a grocery store as easily as I can here. But at the end of my shift, I am a few blocks from the Metro with tablet and bluetooth keyboard in hand.
I am hoping my writing takes off regarding DC…. and not “takes off” in terms of response. Donors have poured out their hearts and it is something for which I can never repay or forget. Those donations make me feel like a real writer…. that my words matter. But my writing taking off is about me. I want new subjects mixed with old ones….. new context to add to what I already know about the city.
Even my dad asked the Argo question. “Is this going to be a thing with Argo?” Let me explain how I handled that. “I love DC on my own. I am easy to find. Reach out if YOU want.” I said more than that, because why use three words when three million will do, but that is the gist. Stop being a burger-flippin’ ho and get on board, because even if you lived across the street, I wouldn’t notice if I had my headphones in. No, seriously.
I also told her that I go to Afterwords on Tuesdays, a date that I’m hoping to keep, because it was absolutely calming to have what Howard Schultz calls your “third place.” You’ve got home and work. For some people, that third place is a bar. For me, it’s Afterwords, a cafe next to a bookstore that looks like a micro-Powell’s. I also love Teaism, where for the first time I had ochazuke, soup brewed with Japanese green tea, and lapsang souchang, a tea that you should only order if you like your tea to taste like they put cigarette butts right in the blend. It sounded interesting at the time…………….
I also really love the HRC store, because they have some really cute preppy clothes with the logo on them. I can just see me in my little blue and yellow polo……
Do you see all the ellipses? This is the part where I’m dreaming. I have so many hopes and wants in returning, but only one of them is truly important. Why did I leave DC in the first place? Why did I leave my dream city when the dream changed, but did not die? Why was I too scared to continue on there without Kathleen? I am hoping it was only because I was young and stupid and didn’t know what else to do. Now I know that I need DC for me, and there isn’t anyone on earth that could convince me otherwise. I have a real life there, and one that was worth supporting instead of just running away.
Because when my dad asked me if I really wanted to remain in Houston, the best I could do was “I like the people here, but I could take it or leave it.” It was such a ringing endorsement that I’m glad I was sitting down. I had to deal with the fact that I don’t like Houston in front of someone who lives here, and didn’t want to make it seem like I was ungrateful for a thing. But at the same time, I cannot ignore that although I live here, my heart beats for both Portland and DC, because they’re MY PLACES.
Just like my dad has his.