A Farewell to DC
This weekend, I’m packing up and moving out of Washington, DC. I may not have a chance to post until after I’ve left, but I didn’t want to depart without a few words about this city that’s been my home for over 4 years.
My wife and I arrived in Washington, DC in June of 2001, not long after President Bush got here himself. Since we too were coming from Texas, strangers we’d meet would always ask “oh, so did you come up with him?” It was clear who they meant by “him” and the dripping contempt in their voices made it clear how welcome he was. Thus was our introduction to the angry left world that too often defines Washington, DC. Being Texan was enough to make us suspect. As quickly as I could, I changed by car license plates and my driver’s license from Texas to DC.
I wish I could say more of what DC was like then in those first months of Bush, still in the Clinton afterglow. But I can’t because we had been here barely three months when September 11th happened. That was really our introduction to what life here would be like. High, welcome to DC, you will live in endless nagging fear that will occasionally spill over into terror. Enjoy.
Sadly, I’m afraid when I look back on our 4 years here, I will too often think of it as a series of calamities. September 11th. Anthrax. Snipers. Blizzard. Hurricane. And the freefall in public discourse and national unity.
Of course this is also where our son was born. Where we bought our first home. Where I started my own freelance writing business. Where we met countless good people and made lifelong friends.
But it was never home. Perhaps it was because we chose to live in the urban center of DC where children are few and self-centeredness is plentiful. Perhaps it was because we had no family here. But I think it was something more. Some people have the ability to find home in faraway places, as if they had been pulled by hidden strings. But some of us are tied to where we first grew. And my wife and I are tied to Texas.
DC has its many charms but it lacks a certain earthy quality. And it lacks the confidence to have a strong character. It can be as trendy as New York or as cosmopolitan as Paris, but it can’t shake off that stuffy, elitist-slicked feel. Too many over achievers. Too many cut throats. Too many lawyers.
Then there’s the other Washington. The one of the permanent residents who were born here and who will die here. Black Washington. I may have once lived in New York City, but DC is where I’ve seen the most desperate communities so overridden with crime and drugs and a self-destructive culture that hope is too much to ask. Survival and escape are the keys. But this Washington is not part of the Washington I lived in—it’s like a whole other city that rubs up against but never fully enters the Washington of yuppies and ethnic cuisine. And the local politicians split their time pandering to poor Washington while delivering the goods to rich Washington. It’s both a subtle and blatant corruption that is hard to swallow—so you just turn away.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed my years here. We have nothing similar in Texas—real urban living simply doesn’t exist. And there is something electric about living in such an important city. I’ll miss seeing the Capitol and the Washington Monument, visible so often because DC buildings are so short. I’ll miss my neighborhood here in Adams Morgan with the eccentric characters, its bars, its restaurants, its neighbors. I’ll miss Washington, DC.
But not as much as I’ve missed Texas. San Antonio is where we feel home. And so San Antonio is where we now go. I hope to write some from the road as I drive down. But, if not, I’ll be back sometime by the end of next week.
Goodbye DC. It’s been real.