I technically live in Maryland, but if anyone asks, I live in DC. Fewer people know where Silver Spring is than the nation’s capital, and my house is 11 miles from the White House. If I was very industrious, I could walk there on the Sligo Creek trail. My Metro station is the first Maryland stop outside the district, so I can pretty much get anywhere in the city in 40 minutes. It might seem like I’m bragging, and that’s because I am.
I love where I live, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world… especially since I don’t drive, and every other city where I’ve lived has lacked true mass transit infrastructure.
I don’t know if I’ll ever start driving again, but it’s nice to have the option to not. Parking is expensive because there is more demand than supply, and it will always be that way in a city that’s only 60 sq. miles. There’s barely enough room for the cars that already “live there.” If you’re not used to walking, DC will have you up and at ’em in no time, because unless you have copious amounts of disposable income, you’ll most likely be dropped off between .2 and one mile from where you want to go. It’s the easiest workout routine ever, because you’re incorporating movement into your day rather than having to make time. Carry a backpack with everything you’re going to need for the day and you’ve got weightlifting AND cardio. For maximum hard core workouts, there’s always the years we are in full Snowpocalypse mode, and you have to lift your knees up to your chest in order to get forward motion.
If you’re going to be a tourist here, it helps to learn a little about the city before you arrive. For instance, in every Metro station there are escalators. Stand on the right, climb on the left. Break this rule and not only will we know you’re a tourist, we’re going to hate you a little bit. Also, most people on the Metro will not be friendly if you make them take off their headphones… and if they are, they’re still seething on the inside because you’ve interrupted their Metro mojo. We all have it, whether it’s getting settled with games, podcasts, or music. But Metro is a time of transition between work and play, and the zoning out is the beautiful part. We don’t want to be “on.” You’re better off talking to other tourists or using Google Maps. I’ve been using the walking directions for three years now, and they’ve never let me down.
Additionally, the federal government is here, but it’s not really indicative of the feel of the city. We are liberal loudmouths (well, most of the time, anyway) who will protest almost anything. Political activism doubles as leisure, because if we get fired up about something, we’re taking a group of friends and making a day of it. At the women’s march last year, there were so many people at Braddock station that when I got on the train with my friends, I leaned over to my friend Lindsay and said, man… if they squeeze us in any tighter we’re going to have to get married. I was riffing on Dorothy Parker, who said that her first office with E.B. White was so small that if it was any smaller, they’d have to call it adultery. If you come to DC during a major march weekend, be prepared to have to wait in line to get on the train AND to stand so close to someone that all personal space becomes null & void.
Washington reminds me a lot of Portland, Oregon for two reasons. The first is that the emphasis on political activism as leisure is about the same. The second is that the Potomac runs through the city, making it look very much like the division the Willamette provides. It’s kind of interesting that the neighborhoods are similar as well, groupings that felt like home the moment I arrived.
For those just joining us, I am originally from Houston, but have spent a lot of time in Portland, to the point where I identify both of them as my “home towns.” That means I don’t feel particularly at home in either, because they are so night and day different that I never felt settled. To my great pleasure, here I feel no wanderlust at all. Yes, it’s cheaper to live elsewhere, but why would I want to?
And, it has to be said, DC is one of the gayest places on earth, and because of the emphasis on politics, filled with the type people that make my heart beat a little faster because they’re so incredibly intelligent. I haven’t found romantic love here, but that’s because I’ve never gone looking for it, and probably won’t for a long time. I am smart enough not to wish a relationship with me on anyone right now. It’s a rebuilding year, as they say in sportsball. But when I do feel ready, I will have no shortage of ridiculously attractive choices. The hardest part is finding women who are single, because why would they be? If I think they’re star-spangled awesome, chances are, someone else does, too.
For all you southern gays out there that are looking for a place to relocate because your red state politics make your head explode, I can’t recommend DC highly enough. I think the best thing about living here is that it successfully mixes northern and southern culture… as JFK so eloquently put it, Washington is a city with Southern efficiency and Northern charm. This comment is absolutely tongue-in-cheek, and yet, right on the money. Some of us are suit and tie, some of us are all fleece, all the time. I remember a few years ago, I got the comment, we can tell you don’t work on The Hill. You’re wearing brown pants.
What, you mean the Converse All-Stars didn’t give it away?