My City

I feel like I should post something about my city. It’s odd that I think of Washington, D.C. as my city, since I only lived within the District’s limits for around 4 years of my life. Still, I was born there, and of all the places I’ve lived, that’s the one that always felt like home.

It’s a visual cacophony, D.C. I don’t know how to explain it otherwise. There is amazing architectural diversity, with Roman columns living next to glass-box high rises. But there appears to have been no plan to how these structures were laid out. I’m guessing the last real plan predates the British’s burning of the capital in 1812.

There has been a building boom in recent years, prompted by former Mayor Fenty, who got stuff done. That, I believe is why he was so universally hated. We don’t like that quality in politicians in these parts. Politicians are supposed to be warm, kiss babies and asses, pander to the constituency, and do nothing of consequence. Fenty was kind of a “f*ck that sh*t” kind of guy. He was distant, abrasive, and effective. Personally, if I hire you to do a job, I don’t much care whether you kiss babies, unless you’re a nanny. But that’s me.

So the city is growing, expanding from the sports teams out. Chinatown is home to the Capitals and the Wizards, and as close to a restaurant row as we have. The Nationals play in what was mostly vacant lots, but now which are new multi-unit homes and constructions in progress. It’s spring, and the city is beginning to awaken.

That doesn’t mean the old city is gone. There are still the old Victorians that used to scare me as a kid. I still don’t like them much, with their haunted, droopy eyes shielding some phantasm from years past — like Tip O’Neill or something. Gives me the creeps. But I do love that the old places still stand, even in decline or decay, and await someone with enough love to restore them like new.

This is the city I like. It’s blocks from the tourist spots, a little weathered, a bit dangerous, and past its prime, until love springs up. I suppose that is why I identify with it so much. A city should reflect the people in it. Being in my mid-50s — there, I said it aloud — I am forced to hope things acquire a bit of graceful elegance as they age. The peeling paint and sagging lines aren’t decay, they are stories waiting to be told. We have stories, we city folk, and in the coming months, I will be telling them. Some may actually be true.

City folk lock themselves in behind iron bars and painted gates. The suburban undead, among which I die a slow death, shake their heads at the city’s supposed claustrophobia, and feel superior as they spend their entire lives commuting from one suburban purgatory to the next. Meanwhile, people in the city are outside — walking, waiting on the bus, running to the train. City folks are as mobile as squirrels at mating season. Home is where you put your stuff, to keep it safe, and where you entertain. The city is where you live. I figured out, much too late, that the reason none of my relationships lasted for life is because marriage is for suckers and women are my torment is because by the time I married a city girl, she was in love with the wrong city. (Sucks for her, says me.)

D.C. reminds me of parts of NYC in only one way, some of the coolest places to eat sit on the sidewalk, if you know where to look for them. I love that the tourists NEVER seem to know where they are, and we don’t tell them. (If you come, I’ll give you a list of where to go, however.)

This ain’t one of them, but the place next door was. (Sigh) It got infested with tourists and the health dept. shut it down.
Thomas Circle, reborn
Chinatown, where smart tourists eat after hitting the museums. The coolest museum is actually in Chinatown — the SAAM.
Capitol Hill

It’s an odd place, in that there is hidden opulence among the mansions that line Wisconsin Ave in upper Northwest, down to the near abject poverty of Anacostia, which never recovered from the riots of 1968. But, for the most part, it’s just a normal, southern, middle class city, with an international flair.


It’s kind of fucked, but it’s home.

Not my actual home, so don’t stop by.
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5 thoughts on “My City

  1. I’ve been to “your city” once. In 1964 and you are absolutely right. I didn’t see anything at all like your pictures. I saw all the touristy governmenty things. I’m really not complaining. I think every American should see those things at least once in their lives. However, those things aren’t really the city, now are they? I grew up in small towns in Kansas and cities have always held a fascination for me. The photos you post help me to see why I have always been fascinated by cities. Thank you. Keep writing and taking photos Bill, I’m still reading. Mary

    1. Mary, the government part is the city, and residents take pride in them. We just stay away during tourist season. The rest of the city is very diverse, with some pretty cool neighborhoods. However, in my opinion, there really isn’t much to do in them. It’s still an overgrown southern town in that respect.

  2. Love the pics. D.C. looks like an interesting place to visit. While living in San Fancisco, I used to marvel at the Victorians every time I saw them. I think I might enjoy them in D.C. and Chinatown too. Someday I’ll get there.

    1. There are some similarities there, especially with the row houses. However, if I had a choice, I’d visit San Francisco. the appeal of D.C. is that much of the tourist stuff (all the museums, etc.) are free to the public. However, tourists come when the weather is the worst, during the summer. I’d only come April – May, or September – October.

  3. It’s admirable how you captured all the facets of your city and gave it life. You showed a rich texture of colors, culture, history, even the contrast of social status. Honest, real, inspiring.

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