Crossing the River

I was sad to learn upon telling people that there was now a Chuy’s open in Rockville, MD that there’s four relatively close to me, in Woodbridge, Sterling, Springfield, and Fairfax, VA. I have been depriving myself of creamy jalapeño the entire time I’ve lived in DC. What is this crack-smoking foolishness? You can take the girl out of Texas, but you can’t take the Texas out of the girl. I was actually in Fairfax the other day, even wearing my “Juan Solo” t-shirt. I expected better of myself.

The only excuse is that I don’t have friends on that side of the river who would volunteer these things- mostly because they think of it as “too far.” Let’s clear this up right now. I would have driven ALL DAY to get to a Chuy’s. All. Day. Perhaps the flip side is that it isn’t as special anymore- the t-shirts being an exclusive Texas souvenir. But with the loss of Austin Grill, it’s nice to have something to replace it… or actually, something even better. There used to be an Austin Grill in Alexandria, and perhaps there still is, but the one in Silver Spring is closed. I personally think they jumped the shark when they stopped selling Amy’s Mexican Vanilla ice cream, because that’s basically the only reason I went there…. and in talking to Texpats, that was their favorite thing about it, too. The rest was mostly $20 peasant food I can make way better at home…. and yet, don’t.

However, I cannot reproduce to perfection Chuy’s beans or rice. Neither can I perfect the Chicka Chicka Boom Boom sauce, which is similar to creamy jalapeño and baked into enchiladas. I am also a big fan of the “Lunchie Dot,” a small frozen lime margarita with a dot of strawberry frozen margarita on top.

I can also count on one hand the number of times I’ve crossed the Potomac, so having a Chuy’s on this side is fantastic. It’s not that VA is too far- it’s a mindset. I live in Maryland. VA, for all practical intents and purposes, does not exist… and it’s ok, because Virginians have the same mentality in reverse. It would never occur to them to go to Rockville for dinner.

I think that’s less about the distance and more about the traffic. My theory on DC traffic is that it is screwed up for two major reasons. The first is that there is not one singular area where people work and then travel to the suburbs, but many. Therefore, “lighter contraflow traffic” is almost always in your head. The second is that with so much turnover, I believe that that only between a half and two thirds of drivers know where they’re going at any given moment. Google and Apple Maps have made that better, but not for people who insist they have a map in their head and won’t use a GPS. When I do cross the river, I go at off times so that the traffic doesn’t bother me- the exception being when I was going to my cousin’s house for dinner during rush hour. Google Maps’ answer to that was to route me through the city, which was probably better than fighting the traffic on the Beltway and GW Parkway, but annoying because the speed limit in the city is mostly 25mph, and you have to watch out for pedestrians who refuse to obey the lights.

Pedestrians seem to be oblivious or entitled…. or tourists, which are both.

There’s also a lot of construction going on, so it is not guaranteed that you won’t drive into a clusterfuck at 11:00 pm or 11:00 AM. I heard on NPR that they’re thinking of building a high wire gondola that goes from NoVA to Georgetown, but it’s going to take at least three years to even get consent for the project. Anything to get more cars off the road is a good idea, and I wish it could be greenlighted faster than that.

We are, however, going into winter, and the traffic is less heavy naturally because there are more people hunkered down and unwilling to leave the warmth and safety of their homes- as it should be. When I didn’t have a car, walking from the Metro to my office during the big snowstorm was taxing, so I didn’t have any energy for anything else but getting home. I got a full workout even in that quarter mile, because I was walking in snow up to my knees… and because it was cold, it took even longer for the snow to melt down into a manageable level. Even shin-deep snow isn’t that great. I spent most of the winter looking like Gerald Ford.

I wouldn’t trade it for anything, though. Houston doesn’t get snow at all, except for perhaps a few sprinkles on off years. Hard to make snow angels and have snowball fights in the rain.

I have also found that I am very outdoorsy when it’s not a hundred degrees in the shade… the exception to that being when I first moved back to Houston from Portland and my vitamin D level was six. I sat out in the sun for hours, refilling my water bottle and just getting it handled.

But the take-home message is that DC is fantastic despite all its infrastructure problems, and though I love Portland and wouldn’t have wanted the chance of meeting Dana to pass me by, and Houston because of the close connections I have there, the biggest regret I have in life is moving away from it in the first place.

Dana and I used to pretend that we were in the same room when Wallace Acton played Hamlet at the Shakespeare theater in 2001/2 (can’t remember) and that we just missed each other… but perhaps it isn’t pretend. We could have been. It was a Sunday matinee, and she wouldn’t have had to drive in traffic crossing the river.

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