And sing I love this town

18Jun08
The media likes to talk about something they call the Beltway Crowd or the Washington Insiders. It’s a cynic’s connotation given to the gaggle of politicians, lobbyists, pundits, etc., who give the appearance of being the voice of DC.

I’m not going to kid anyone, six months in a city is nowhere near long enough to be an ‘Insider’. I feel like I’ve gotten to know DC well enough to get by, and maybe even a little better than that. But my finger is not on its pulse and I don’t know much about the real, nitty-gritty, undiscovered-by-tourists DC. That’s a shame, I think, because I really would have liked to have been able to call DC my city of permanent residence.

However! Because I am – regrettably – leaving DC in one week and because I am one of those people who likes to wrap up my memories in neat little packages and who likes to have definitive boundaries between one phase of my life and the next, I give you A List (Or Two):

Things I Will Miss About DC:

1. The Washington Metro Area Transit Authority. The DC Metro system is, in my somewhat limited experience with public transportation, probably the easiest, most user-friendly, cleanest, and most convenient transportation system I’ve ever used, with the possible exception of London’s Underground. Thanks to the Metro, I have only put around 400 miles on my car in the six months I’ve been here and I’ve only filled my gas tank twice (the most recent fill up was April 26, and I’m only a quarter-tank down). For approximately $3.70 a day (all prepaid on my equally lovely SmarTrip card), I commute easily, quickly, and rush hour traffic-free directly to my office. In addition to the Metro trains, the Metro Buses are extremely user-friendly and for a flat-rate fare of $1.25, will take you anywhere in the city that isn’t conveniently accessible via the Metro.

2. Georgetown at M St. & Wisconsin Ave NW. This is my favorite area of town. A short ride on the 32 or 36 bus down Wisconsin and I’m in the midst of some of the best shopping this city has to offer. Though it may have been a devastation to my bank account, my almost-monthly trips to Georgetown filled, if not my wardrobe, then at least the wardrobe of my imagination, with dresses, purses, and otherwise fashionable clothing from the likes of Zara, Max Azria/BCBG (a certain friend will get an lol out of that), Vineyard Vines, Banana Republic, Lacoste, and Bestey Johnson. The store I most frequented, and will miss the most because of its lack of location in Cincinnati, is H&M: cheap, fashionable, and most importantly, the single biggest gauge of my weightloss. (My first H&M purchase when I moved was a size 14; my most recent purchase was a size 10.) Not only is shopping in Georgetown the best cardio you can get without a gym membership, the University is beautiful as a backdrop, Rhino Bar is one of the best in DC, and Jinx Proof Tattoos is certainly the place I would go if I ever felt the urge to add another inking to my small collection. Don’t worry, Dad, no plans. Yet.

3. Adams Morgan. With the exception of the three-quarter mile hike from the Woodley Park Metro station to the intersection of Connecticut and 18th NW (a bitch to do in heels, trust me), this little gem of a neighborhood is the place to go on Friday and Saturday nights. Madam’s Organ is a cheeky little three-story bar with live bands, tacky wall decor, and a very large-busted graffiti mural gracing it’s southern exterior. Millie & Al’s is sort of like Hooter’s – delightfully tacky, yet unrefined: $1 jell-o shots when an oversized light bulb lights up, mounted antlers on the wall, extremely friendly bartenders, and the kindest bouncer you could ask for. Though I was only able to show my face there once (we don’t need to revisit that occasion; I only half-remember it anyway), it was the only bar I stumbled upon that I would want to be something of a regular in. Reef, the three-floor, ecosystem-themed bar with fishtanks and a jungle patio would be much more fun if my salary were higher. In addition to the bars, there are two or three really, really great record stores, and a horribly over-priced vintage store that carries the kind of clothes you would expect to see at a drag show.

4. Starbucks John. My barista at Tenleytown Starbucks. The only reason I know his name is because it was once written on a sign that said ‘Today’s Barista is John’. He is the friendliest and nicest Starbucks employee I’ve ever come across, and though he has seen me in the store almost every day for the past few months, has never once looked at me like a no-life weirdo, and the one time I asked if he knew the amount of calories in a peanut butter cookie, he just laughed and said, ‘Oh, I get asked that all the time’. I will miss trying to figure out how old he is and wondering what he does when he’s not popping the collar of his Starbucks polo shirt.

5. Working in the shadow of the Capitol Building. My office, the Hall of the States, sits at the intersection of North Capitol and Louisiana, the northern border of the Capitol grounds. Though I don’t think I’ve ever walked to work with any of our fine legislative representatives, I have walked to work with their lowly aides and staffers. I will miss the wonderful people I work with: Tiana and Luis, and Michael, Ben, Deb, and Tim, who used to work with us. I will miss reading proposed bills on Monday and seeing references to them in the news on Tuesday. I will miss the random, B-list politico-celebrity sightings in the lobby of our buidling: Bob Dole, Karl Rove, Sean Hannity, and Arnold Schwartzenagger when he visited the offices of the Governor’s Association.

6. Culture, Culture, Culture. The (National) Mall on a Sunday afternoon – including the stormy Sunday I spent at the Earth Day concert. The Smithsonians with free admittance (all of them). The Reflecting Pool at sunset. The easy walk from Lincoln to the White House. The skyline with no skyscrapers. The Library of Congress with free, almost unrestricted access to visitors. Eastern Market. The cherry blossoms in March. The roses in May. The Capital Crescent Trail: ten miles of lovely, shaded bike trail following the Potomac and the C&O Canal from Silver Spring, Maryland all the way to Georgetown Harbor. Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals hockey team. The Ethiopian, Thai, and Japanese food that can be found on every corner (some of it is even authentic). Guapo’s – with the best margaritas in town. And of course, Whole Foods Market: purveyor of whole foods, organic fare, and much fresher produce than Safeway or Giant.

Things I Won’t Miss About DC:

1. The irratic, and often freakish weather. Winter brought too much ice, and not enough snow and an inadvertant bike crash put me off winter probably for the rest of my life. The beginning of Spring was beautiful, with incredibly crisp sun and temperatures in the 60s and 70s. The middle and end of Spring were a disaster, with unseasonably cold winds and entirely too much rain. Summer days are either too hot and sickly humid to want to venture outside or perfectly temperatured made horribly imperfect by strong winds.

2. The District of Columbia Fire Department. More grating to the nerves than the sound of a baby crying unrelentlessly in Target, DCFD truck sirens produce the most awful noise known to man. Something between a school fire alarm, a very loudly dying cat, and several misbehaving children screaming, the sirens here can be heard from nearly 100 miles away and never seem to stop. Living with a DCFD station in your backyard makes for busted eardrums at 2:00 am and 6:00 am wake-up calls that, no matter how hard you try to ignore, simply DO. NOT. STOP.

3. Traffic and parking. I saw a study today saying DC has the 4th worst traffic in the country. It is the main reason I refuse to drive unless I absolutely have to. (That, and $4.23/gallon gas.) Commutes are already long, and made longer by the hordes of taxis and tinted-window Escalades carrying who knows which Important Person. Parking is expensive in garages, rarely found at meters, and almost nonexistent for free. Even for residential parking, you have to purchase (at $200 a year) a zone permit and have DC plates (a new title and new plates will cost around $200, too) to park on the street for longer than two hours. The free parking you can find (I’m on Belt, several blocks from my house) is inconvenient and sucks when carrying shopping or grocery bags in the rain.

4. Real Estate. Renting is outrageous in DC. My 6′ by 8′ closet (it really was designed to be a closet off the master bedroom) in a house shared with three other women costs me $500 a month, not including utilities, parking, or any other luxury I might enjoy (a private bathroom, for instance?). Studios and efficiencies in extremely inconvenient areas can range from $900 to $1400 a month, not including utilities or parking. Singles are off the charts. And I don’t even dare to look at the price range for an apartment with a convenient location (to Metro or shopping or businesses).

5. TOURISTS. Whether it’s family jaunts to town during the Cherry Blossom Festival in early April, or Fairfax County School field trips to experience the Capital, tourists are everywhere, all the time, typically wearing matching t-shirts and completely ignorant of the way this place operates. On escalators, the policy is stand on the right, walk on the left. Since April, there has been a complete drop in adherence to this policy as small, whiny children and slightly confused senior citizens park it anyplace they choose. They know nothing of Metro ettiquette, which is: sit down, shut up, and don’t make eye contact. They stop in the middle of the sidewalk to take pictures and stumble around with huge suitcases on wheels. I realize I should have patience and be a little more understanding, especially considering I’m about to be a tourist in Bosnia, but really, I just don’t know if I can stomach another group of kids (and their teachers!) wearing flourescent yellow shirts with some slogan or other clearly displaying their school and age and that OMG WE’RE IN DC HAHA LOL WHEEEE.

This list is not a complete one. There are other, small things that I will miss about DC, and there are other small things that I certainly won’t miss about DC. These are the big ones. But I think it’s an accurate assessment of the time I’ve spent here that there are more things I will miss than things I won’t.



7 Responses to “And sing I love this town”

  1. 1 Dad

    AH Whit!!!!, If the rest of your blogs are going to be this sad —– I’m not going to read them. Look on the bright side, maybe your next place of residence will be even better or maybe you’ll end up back in DC.. At least you now have the experience of living away from home and you can make an intelligent comparison. I’m 52 and I can’t say I have this kind of experience…. Love You Dad

  2. I wish my dad read my blog. I don’t think he even knows what one is.

  3. 3 Mom

    The top 10 things I miss most about you:

    10) You sleeping on top of your bedspread and not under it.
    9) Our chats on the porch over a big bottle of wine.
    8) Keeping me in the loop about current music.
    7) Letting me “hang out” with you and your friends at “The Den” on Sunday nights.
    6) The Kenny Chesney concert.
    5) The Menus concerts.
    4) Our Party in the Park excursions (especially the one with the “P” man).
    3) Your “belly laugh” that you still carry with you.
    2) Wild Mike Wednesdays for drafts and wings.
    1) Our Sunday morning political chats after watching Meet the Press.

    So, my one bit of advice I have for you comes from a saying that our buddy, Tim Russert would say, “Go Get ‘Em.” (RIP Tim)

    Miss You!
    Miss You!
    Miss You!

    I love you and miss you lots,

    Mom

  4. Aughh! I am leaving soon too, and this makes me tear up. Gots to love some things bout DC, for real. Will miss – neighborhoods and rowhouses, won’t miss – humidity.

  5. Have a good time in Bosnia – I lived in Sarajevo for a year, and while I wouldn’t live there again, B-H is a lovely country with a lot to see.

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