Monday, January 29, 2007

That Little Hellhole that I Call Home

Sure, there are a lot of drawbacks to living in Washington. It’s expensive, it’s pretentious, and it’s full of workaholics, traffic, crime, and guys who try and pick you up by flashing their business cards. The climate leaps between frozen tundra/wind tunnel and swampy humidity, with maybe one or two nice weeks in between. D.C. will never be as hip as New York or Los Angeles. But that’s why I love it here and don’t want to ever leave again. So, here is a tribute to the dreadful overpriced hellhole that I call home.

I love that DC is so transient. Nobody who lives here is from here, and that’s the way I like it. I enjoy the fact that, compared to most people, I’m considered a hometown girl. (I’m from Woodbridge, for the record, it’s an outer suburb.) It also thrills me that we have a ten-second test for spotting a local. Simply use the phrase, “The bitch set me up!” If they laugh, they’re one of us.

Washington is a dorky, fashion-challenged hick town. You get the occasional preppy hipster, sure, but for the most part we never could let go of cargo pants, shoulder-padded skirt suits, and the dreaded white commuting sneakers. It isn’t beautiful to look at, but it means that today I went to work with visible bra lines, ill-fitting corduroys, and a prissy pink sweater, and I was STILL the hippest girl on the Metro. I imagine in New York or L.A., the Fashion Police beat you senseless before you can even leave the house.

I actually missed the Jersey barriers, the constant paranoia, and the fact that if you dropped a nuclear bomb on the Capitol, my apartment would be in the “instant kill” radius. The rest of you suburban suckers can mutate then die, or just mutate, I’ll be vaporized within seconds. Instant kill is the height of hip.

I never cease to be amused by the stupid rolling briefcases that people bring onto the Metro. Every morning, at least one person will run over my feet or hog the escalator. Seriously, what do these people carry around? Maybe a book, their lunch, gym clothes…what on Earth else do they need? Does anyone really have to lug that much crap around? Only in DC do people pack for eight hours in a cubicle as if it’s an African safari or a lunar expedition.

I love Adams Morgan. I don’t know whether that neighborhood got nastier, or I just got older, but either way, the sheer ick factor fascinates me. The puking frat boy 22-year-olds, the dirty sidewalks, the three women wearing two outfits (seriously, all women who hang out in Adams Morgan look the same to me). It’s the only place you’ll hear a woman brag to her friends, “I didn’t want to make out with that guy, but there was nothing else to do!” Uh, crochet? Jogging? Whatever, Adams Morgan is people watching at its finest.

I am very happy that my old apartment building is now an abandoned crack den. I’m not pro-drugs, it just pleases me that I’m such a badass for having once lived there.

D.C.’s Bluetooth mania is fascinating. Every day, I see well-dressed people ranting to themselves. Since it always seems like they’re talking to me, I’ve started to play along. “No, you want the skim milk.” “So dump the boyfriend already, OK?”

“Black Cat, Black Cat…gimme some money!” I like to picture Black Cat Guy on vacation. “Margaritaville, Margaritaville…gimme some money!”

I love that every time I walk across the Mall, a family of tourists will ask me to take their photo with the Capitol. Invariably, I cut off their heads.

I’ve been here so long that all of my hairstyles since 1991 have been dutifully cataloged and mocked. I wither as soon as I leave. D.C. is home, and I don’t see myself ever leaving again. My town is backward and gross and work-obsessed, but that’s the way I like it.


Michael J. West said...

My town is backward and gross and work-obsessed, but that’s the way I like it.

While I'm glad you like it, I've always been of the opinion that D.C. is absolutely hip and cosmopolitan, in its own way. (It's certainly getting more cosmopolitan every year, now that it's actually getting bigger) You just have to look past the Federal government.

Which sounds like a stupid thing to say, since, what, 70% of the people here are employed by the Feds? But there's a real, live, vibrant city up north of K Street. We're WAY hipper than L.A. (although not hipper than S.F.) And work-obsessed? New York City is the most work-obsessed city in the world, except MAYBE Tokyo. Puts DC to shame.

Sorry for the rant. I get a little defensive when people--even people who love the city as much as you do--see it as backward. I think we hold our own against any city in America.

Shannon said...

Hi Mike! The point of the essay wasn't to bash DC, it was to say that yeah, we've got a New York inferiority complex, we're expensive, and so on...and that's the way I like it. DC's flaws are what make it so endearing and fascinating to me.

With virtually every city in the world, there's a "real, live, vibrant" neighborhood. I'm sure even Boise has a hipsterville.

What I love about DC is precisely that it's scungy and gray and humid. When I came back last year, I was astounded to see that my city had been cleaned up and repackaged. I liked my old city better.

Michael J. West said...

Hi Shannon!

Welllllll, okay. There were some things I liked better about old D.C....the super-trendy stuff does get to be a bit much. Luckily there's still H Street NE, as gritty and sketchy as they get.

I think I was reacting to the theme you sent in your update notification, the one of "the lameness of DC, and why I like the lameness." I know what you mean, I just don't see it as lameness, on any level. Even in comparison to other cities.

But I know what you mean...the things that people from other cities might think are lame about DC (e.g., we don't have tall buildings, our subways don't run 24 hours, and we keep electing Marion Barry to city government) really are the greatest things about this city.

Except, of course, for the Tourons.

Consul-At-Arms said...

Except, of course, for the Tourons.

That's why she cuts off their heads!

"guys who try and pick you up by flashing their business cards."

Does that every actually work, btw?

“I didn’t want to make out with that guy, but there was nothing else to do!”

Ah yes, total airhead boredom is the moment to make your mojo move.

The bitch set me up!”

I totally laugh at that, but then I grew up in Fairfax County.

fso2 said...

The bitch set me up!


loved this entry.

I still live here (tho not for long), and get tired of people asking me "where are you from?" - saying "HERE", and they are like "no where are you REALLY from?". HERE damn it!

I was born inside the beltway - 395 at my feet and an attitude that treats the political as mundane..

Hey Pretty said...

I like it when people ask me how long I've lived here, and I tell them 8 years. That always seems to impress the true natives. Transient? Not this girl. Speaking of which, my 8 year anniversary with DC is this month! Holla!