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Stumbling forward – An ode to D.C.

January 27, 2009

Whew. Well, it’s been a week. I finally feel like I’ve recovered from the inauguration. Now I feel as though the city is lurching forward, shaking off all those people and all that garbage on the mall and settling into normalcy again.

Except… normal feels a bit different than it did before. Why? Part of it is that now when I walk by the White House I feel pride that the people who live and work there view torture as unacceptable and share my views on a myriad other issues. One in particular, about which I won’t go into detail here, makes me want to skip down the mall and turn cartwheels on the ellipse.

This shift was expected and is great. But I also wonder when the honeymoon will fade away, and we all realize that President Obama can’t change the economy overnight (or even over a number of years).

So is there a more resilient shift happening in the city? I think that there is. I have always liked Washington D.C., even before I lived here. As a nerdy child I loved the museums all in one place, all of them free, and couldn’t think of a more wonderful place to spend my summer vacation. The National Museum of American History was kind of like mecca.

As a high school senior, I toyed with the idea of attending GW University, and almost went there, until I admitted that I really just wanted to be in D.C., and really didn’t want to study at a large university.

But after college I quickly moved here, and fell in love with all new aspects of the community. I basked in the free museums but also in the strange mix of braininess and gentility that seems to hang around the place. I found an apartment that is an easy walk from restaurants, bars, the White House, museums, and embassies. I like being close to “real D.C.” where people live, and “official D.C.” where laws and policies are made. Moving between the two (which I realize is a luxury many of my fellow residents don’t enjoy) adds an official excitement to my everyday life, and makes seeing Dick Cheney’s motorcade or talking about my boyfriend’s meeting with the Kenyan economic advisors seem a bit more every day.

But not many people really got my affair with D.C. before. Most of my friends gleefully moved to New York after college, with enthusiasm I didn’t understand (I grew up near New York, and I think it will always be a little too close to home and little too full with memories of going to Broadway shows with my family). They didn’t understand why I wanted to live here.

Now they’re starting to get it. The Obama excitement is drawing people here and they’re discovering that their nation’s capital is pretty great (except for the humidity. That’s actually not that great). Sure, you can run into rampant and slightly annoying idealism, not to mention partisanship, but for me, someone who lives in the district limits and doesn’t own a car, it’s also incredibly liveable, walkable, exciting, and pleasant. Not to mention the fact that while Wall Street collapses the D.C. economy is looking comparatively stable.

So long New York. Welcome to the District.

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