The DC (area) in me
I don't know if I'm going to stay in this area forever but no matter what, it seems like this will always be the place that is most "home" to me. I was thinking about places to live in the area and in other cities and I sprialed off on this train of thought about how appropriatey I am for DC (and the surrounding metro area). As a disclaimer, I don't live in DC. I live in Arlington which is in Virginia just outside of DC. And I didn't grow up in Arlington. I grew up in Herndon which is in the 'burbs outside of Arlington. But as the crow flies, I was never more than 10 or 15 miles outside of The District so whenever I am on travel and meet new people I refer to DC, instead of Virginia, as my home.
The reason for this is because when I say "DC" its meaning is a little more nebulous than the municiapl bounds of the city. Like any other region it's a collection of attidues, states-of-mind, philosphies, lifestyle choices, and even language. Given the things I've seen and the people I've met during my various travels, I see Washington DC as being a singular place and me being a part of it. So I came up with a mental list of why I feel at home in the "DC Metro Area" and why I am not a part of any other metropolis' culture. First, the "nots."
What a beautiful city. I think it helps that when I was there the weather was nothing short of perfect because I didn't once feel in any way encumbered by the whole depressing rain mythology there. But for all its physical charms and wonders, Seattle is not the city for me. I've said this before, but the people there are just too damn nice. When you grow up in a place as jaded and cynical as the nation's capitol, you don't trust anyone (especially strangers) who offer assistance, compliments, or idle chit-chat. Seattle had that in spades and I was constantly waiting for someone to try and sell me something. Anyway, I would feel bad living in a city where I mistrusted everyone solely because "back home we don't do friendly."
Admittedly I've never visited the place, save for driving from East Rutherford to JFK, but the Big Apple ain't for me. For starters I drink beer. The thought of paying upwards of $10 for a beer is beyond absurd. I will never comprehend how people manage to go out drinking in that town. And I have no need for a place with such a superiority complex, especially a place where "the city" means Manhattan. Plus, it's not the baseball town people claim it to be. No doubt everyone loves the Yankees but that is the extent of it. I think people are more concerned with the success and institutionalism of the team than the game itself. Not that I'm shitting on NYC (although I'm sure it reads that way). It's just not me.
This is one city that certainly has a lot of allure for me. My father went to school at USF, there's probably a decent indie rock show every night of the week, the surrounding areas are incredibly beautiful, and who doesn't want to be able to drop the line "when I was living in San Fran." But we've got a "friendly situation" similar to that in Seattle, it's one of the few places where the real estate market (buy or rent) is even more obscene than DC, and I have to believe that my cynically ironic witticisms would be seen as obnoxious and gauche. Don't think I could pull it off.
Another good one. It's on the beach, the weather is PERFECT, and it's cheaper than LA. The problem with this town, the people are way too pretty. It's a surreal place to visit when you look around and every single woman you see is incredibly gorgeous. And they're walking around in droves so who wouldn't want to live there, right? Unfortunately that wouldn't do much good for me because I look better with my shirt on rather than off, my hair is to thick too get that matted down shaggy peaking out from under a trucker hat thing happening, I'd rather wear shoes than flip-flops, and oh yeah, I'm not that young. It seems everyone there is 22 and just graduated from SDSU. It's kind of similar to when H.G. Wells travels into the future in The Time Machine and the human race has become cherubic and childlike. Very bizarre. Again, to reiterate, I'm not shit-talking these cities. These aren't supposed to be negative qualities so much as reasons why a lot of other cities just aren't right for me. (And these assertions are of course based on the narrowest of experiences and a lot of extrapolation). So after going through all of that, here's why I think that no matter where I end up I will always think of DC as home.
And then there's DC...
For what it's worth, I at least know the town: I know that there is a difference between de facto Southeast DC and de jure Southeast DC. I know that riding the Metro and transferring from the Orange Line to the Green Line will tell you everything you need to know about race and class in the city. I know the difference between a city with a substantial gay population and a "gay town." I know to never drive in the left lane of a two-way street because there are no turn lanes and even fewer turn signals. I have yelled out "Stand to the right!" I curse tourists that somehow wander off of The Mall into other parts of town. I know that DC-proper residents curse me when they see my Virginia tags. I know that the term "DC" really means The District of Columbia plus four counties in Virginia and Maryland. I know where the cab zones begin and end and that there is nowhere in North Arlington that costs anything more than $19 to get to when leaving Northwest or Capitol Hill by cab. I know that even though DC has a later last call, the blue-laws in Viriginia are far friendlier. I know that the term "frontier neighborhood" means there will be a baseball stadium or Whole Foods built there soon; buy now. I know that the best place to hear a live show is the 9:30 Club but the best place to "see" a show is at The Black Cat. I know that the huge bouncer with "all the shit in his face" at every 9:30 Club show is actually a very nice guy. I know who you're talking about when you say "Famke Jansen was working at the Cat last night." I know that anyone in a bar wearing a suit and their Congressional ID badge is an asshole. I know that you shouldn't believe a word anyone says because irony is a dialect in this town. I know that distance is measured in units of time and everywhere takes 45 minutes. I know that upon meeting someone new (male or female) the subjects of my residence, occupation, and educational background will all come up within the first 120 seconds. I know that no one is impressed by anything anymore and that someone always has a better story. I know that there are bars to drink in, bars to dance in, bars to find casual sex int, bars to hear bands in, and bars that only serve as drinking calisthenics for trips to other bars. And I know which one is which. I know that last call doesn't always mean last call and I know never to open a tab with a credit card. I know that everyone is in law school, just got out of law school, or is thinking about going to law school since working as a HR manager isn't as fulfilling as they had expected. I know that Georgetown Law School is a very good school and that Georgetown undergrad students aren't very good people. I know that Redskins will always be the most important sports franchise in this city and that DC will never be a baseball town. I know that DC could be a great baseball town. I know that we're not as lame as people from New York say we are and that we're not as cool as we tell people from Cleveland we are. I know that for all of its cycnicism and whining the DC area has a lot of good people to meet and spend time with. I know that purporting to know everything about an area and teh people in it makes me the biggest asshole of all but at least I know where I stand.
Because of all of that and more, DC is home.