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Life in DC

I don’t know if we’ll stay in DC but I must say that for the last six months the city has seemed especially beautiful. Some mornings I bike to work and my route takes me along the National Mall. Usually I am rushing to make the 8:15am shuttle, and at that hour the streets are empty and the air is frosty and clear. The rush of the wind and the rasp of my breathing contributes to the effect of passing through town in a slowly moving bubble.

As I creep along the Mall I never fail to be surprised by the succession of world-famous landmarks. There’s the Capitol Building, there’s that National Gallery of Art, and there’s the Smithsonian Castle. And as I get closer, I can see the Washington Monument and the White House and the Lincoln Memorial.  Other times my path takes me along the Tidal Basin, where I can see both the Jefferson and Washington memorials reflected in the water.  Even after all this time, I still frequently stop and stare at the reflection of the marble on the water for a few seconds before moving along. Sometimes I amuse myself with thought that I am biking through the back of various coins and bills.

Having grown up in suburban Pittsburgh--seemingly 10,000 miles away from anywhere important--Washington, DC seemed less an actual city than a media construct. It was where this mythical being known as “the president,” a man I knew to be imbued with superhuman powers, resided. The place seemed about as real to me as Oz. In my adult life, I've tended to live in the second banana: not Massachusetts but Connecticut, not Seattle but Portland, not Arizona but New Mexico, and not New York but Philadelphia. To live in a place of undeniable importance is fascinating and novel.

I suppose those inclined to DC are a different breed from those inclined to NYC. People drawn to New York are those drawn to extremes of experience. But for my taste, the archetype of the perfect city is not New York but London. I prefer grace and cultivated urban beauty to the endless hyperactive rush of Gotham.  I have always held with Evelyn Waugh: “For in that city [New York] there is neurosis in the air which the inhabitants mistake for energy.” New York always seemed like a place to visit to me. At the same time, I always assumed I would despise Washington. I assumed that the egotism and hassle and bureaucracy would irk me. I am surprised at how much I enjoy being able to dip into a museum on a whim (today I saw Michelangelo's Apollo-David sculpture at the National Gallery). I love that the boundary between Rock Creek park and the National Zoo is murky; you can just sort of stroll in and visit and elephant an stroll out. I like the Boston-like historic neighborhoods and the tracts of green that permeate the city. And, having moved back into the city, I like that the things I like are a just a few Metro stops away.

Yoko is still frustrated at her job  and keeps threatening to find a gig elsewhere.  But one of my goals for 2013 is to get whatever else I need to get out of DC so that if opportunities arise elsewhere I can say that I had the experience I was meant to have in DC.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 4th, 2013 03:34 am (UTC)
"But one of my goals for 2013 is to get whatever else I need to get out of DC so that if opportunities arise elsewhere I can say that I had the experience I was meant to have in DC."

Good advice for living anywhere at any point.
Mar. 4th, 2013 04:01 am (UTC)
I've reach a point in several places where I've lived in which I realized I had taken the whole ride. And sometimes I realized that that the ride had finished nine months ago and I didn't realize it. But I am not completely there yet with DC.
Mar. 4th, 2013 04:12 am (UTC)
Where we are it's not so much of a ride as it is a nice summer cottage. Lots of natural beauty, local things, and great weather. Living here doesn't feel like having a big to-do list, but we've made it a priority to take advantage of it and make it our routine.Between my daily walks of the dog and Mrs. Geek's outings with Lil' Geek, we are at the beach about 10 times a week combined.Years from now I'd like to look back and say "we went to the beach/ the nature trail/ the zoo/ the duck pond/ the botanical gardens/ the mountains/ the butterfly grove/ the slough/ etc. ALL THE TIME."

I've lived in several places for short(er) periods of time and heard from residents that when you live in a place, you often don't make the time and effort to do the things that tourists and people passing through do. I took it as a big lesson to be aware of the natural inertia when you live somewhere and to push back against it.
Mar. 4th, 2013 05:56 pm (UTC)
I don't know if what I have been doing is "threatening" so much as "unsuccessful."
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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