Thursday, July 10, 2008

Show DC Some Love

A consistent conversational topic amongst the 14thandYou household is the apparent inferiority complex and/or general dislike seemingly shared by a good many people with regards to the DC area and its environs. To be sure, the District has its share of problems--many of which we have written about here. Crime, local government ineptitude, questionable/back-asswards developmental policies, poorly run city services...there's no shortage of fodder for these topics. Many cities share them; some less, others more so than D.C.

But it seems that in D.C. there's a greater degree of scorn geared towards the city, and in my own completely arbitrary and un-scientific survey, it seems D.C. has greater proportion of residents who feel "trapped" or "stuck" in their present location than perhaps any other U.S. city. This feeling manifests itself in a multitude of ways, but perhaps none more vocally than the blogosphere. Why, there's even an entire blog devoted to a *hatred* of the District (albeit somewhat tongue-in-cheek). A couple of days ago, DCist posted a story about how Outside magazine had ranked D.C. as the #1 "town" in the U.S. Talk about arbitrary rankings; D.C.'s seemingly random placement atop the list (followed by such urban behemoths as Chatanooga and Crested Butte) was simply bizarre. But, hey, the District at least warrants a pat on the back for the good press generated by the Outside magazine ranking, no matter how seemingly strange it may be...right? Not according to the majority of commenters that followed, many of whom reacted with a mix of head scratching and disdain over why *any* publication might rank D.C. atop *any* list, short of perhaps a list of governmental inefficiency or some other unfortunate ranking. Which we feel is more than a little unfair.

The 14thandYous don't take issue with many of the complaints lodged against the District, but a lot of truly wonderful aspects about our fair city get completely overlooked in such visceral commentary. Thus, we're embarking upon a series of posts designed to point out the things that we love about living here (with full respect and props to the recently launched To cap off this introductory post, and shed a little light on my own feelings about the District, I'll share a brief, personal story:

Growing up in the midwest in the livable-but-tremendously-bland Columbus, Ohio, I often imagined packing up and heading off to greener pastures in one of the great American cities. Boston with its New England setting and high culture called to me, as did the gleaming towers of Chicago. New York was, well, New York--congested, overpowering, expensive and amazing; and I was fairly certain life in San Francisco would be highly enjoyable. But no city captivated me with inspiration and--dare I say--romanticism like D.C.

I never made it to D.C. as a child. Despite living only 6-or-so hours away by car, my family always had other vacation destinations in mind. Thus, I grew up with a somewhat larger-than-life vision of what visiting the city would actually be like. To stroll the Mall amongst the Smithsonian buildings, to see the Capitol lighting up the night atop its perch on Capitol Hill, to stroll through Lafayette Park on the way to the White House, capped off with a dinner in Georgetown--these were the thoughts that resided amongst my midwestern-bred mind.

My first visit to D.C. came eight years ago, on a business-related trip. I'll never forget my initial gasp and excitement as my car wound its way up 395 into the heart of the city and the Washington Monument appeared in view. Strolling through the streets of the city that evening, observing the way the light gently shown off of the stately federal buildings, the quiet and surprising tranquility of the downtown at night, the reflection of the Kennedy Center in the waters of the Potomac, I became instantly hooked. I had a strong suspicion that somehow I would end up here someday.

My opportunity would come several years later, in the form of a job opportunity that I couldn't pass up. I moved here with my small, ill-tempered feline companion in spring 2004, met the future Mrs. 14thandYou several months later, and haven't looked back since. I'm still awed at times by the stunning beauty of L'Enfant's city; how the city can--despite its problems and warts and everything else seemingly leveled at it--radiate with an elegance unmatched by any other American city. Both of us truly do feel blessed to live here.

Feel free to share any of your own personal observations or stories in the comments...we hope to have our first installment of this series up within the next couple of days. Cheers.


Tom Bridge said...

I really loved your "Why I love DC" post, and I can't wait to see more of them :)

IMGoph said...

thanks for putting this up!

i can bitch and moan about DC with the best of them, but i never do it because of some hatred of the city. i love DC. LOVE IT. when i point out shortcomings, i'm doing it with the intent of moving the city forward and making it a better place. (you should see how many calls i made to 727-1000 before realizing i could do that online!)

we live in a great city. flawed, yes, but not inherently!

fen said...

thank you thank you thank you for this post!!! it's late and i'm pooped, so i'll just lazily, and sincerely, ditto what imgoph said....

Elsie said...

I'm a Midwestern transplant as well. I've also lived ALL over, been to all the major cities, and I love it here best. For me its a combination of history + political energy + diversity + teaism = LOVE

Chicago is still pretty awesome though. The only place I'd rank up there with the 'strict