This week’s Ten on Tuesday is focused on things you like about where you live:
1. How protective we are of our identity. Coming from New England, I know how touchy one can get when outsiders confuse New Hampshire and Vermont or try to make New York part of New England. But that does not begin to compare to how a D.C. resident feels when someone tries to claim that they live in Washington, D.C., when, in fact, they live in Virginia or Maryland. Also, that if you are referring to us as “Inside the Beltway” or “Washington” it is obvious that you are not referring to the local municipality and its citizens but to the federal government.
2. Height restrictions. People (particularly our friend John) will tell you that more high density residences are the key to keeping open spaces open. But I still love that in D.C. how high a building can be built is limited. (Contrary to what people will tell you, it is not restricted by the Capitol dome, but by the width of the street the building sits on.) With a few rare exceptions, no building in D.C. is taller than 12 stories, which means that you can always see the sky, unlike in many cities.
3. Green space. The District has a lot of parkland, ranging from triangular pocket parks where three streets meet to the C&O Canal towpath, which runs between a defunct canal and the Potomac River. Plus, we have Rock Creek Park, one of the largest urban parks in the country and where you would swear you’d left the city limits when you’re inside it.
4. Political awareness. Whether it’s because they work for someone in the Capitol or because they have no representation within it, nearly every person in the District knows a great deal about politics. Sure, people elsewhere know plenty, too, but I bet D.C. is one of the few places where half the population can reliably tell you how many electoral college votes we get. (For the record, it’s three.) Plus, we’re a die-hard, indigo coursing through our veins kind of place, where marriage equality was recently legalized and medical marijuana is also likely to become law. We’re so heavily Democratic, mayoral and council seat elections are routinely determined in the primary race, rather than in the general election, and District law has been re-written to force non-majority party membership on the Council.
5. A wide diversity of food. Yes, you can find chain restaurants and crappy hot dog vendors. But you can also find farmers’ markets every day of the week at various spots around the city and Eastern Market handily located on Cap Hill. And the restaurants range widely from New Haven-style pizza (not as good as pizza in New Haven, but far, far better than anything else within 300 miles) to Ethiopian injera to Salvadoran pupusas to chili half-smokes. There is a growing awareness of vegetarian food (finally!). Asian restaurants are starting to filter in from the Virginia ‘burbs. There are always plenty of fancy restaurants for celebrations and we have a growing supply of cupcakeries and independent coffee houses.
6. Free cultural resources. Sure, New York may have more museums, but we’ve got them beat by allowing free access to nearly all of ours. The Smithsonian is an amazing resource to have at your disposal — from the Museum of the American Indian to Air and Space to the National Zoo. We also offer a number of great, free festivals down on the Mall from the National Kite Festival in March to the recent Folklife Festival to September’s Book Festival. And that doesn’t even look at the daily Millennium Stage offering at the Kennedy Center, Friday night jazz, or the plethora of outdoor film screenings during the summer.
7. A well-balanced transit system. Our Metrorail system is clean. We’ve got lots of bus lines. We’re building a street car line or two. They add more bike lanes every year. You can walk lots of places. And you generally can find street parking in your neighborhood if you have a parking permit.
8. Politics and Prose. One of the best bookstores in the nation. Knowledgeable, friendly staff. Daily author readings. A great members’ program. Remainders. And a decent cafe, to boot.
9. Local sports. Our beleaguered Nationals now boast the first winning pitcher of an NL squad in 14 years. I’ve seen women’s world cup soccer at RFK. I’ve seen a friendly match between our men’s club and one of England’s premiere-league teams. I’ve seen men’s and women’s basketball. We’ve got a roller derby team, a tennis team, and a women’s football team. I hear rumors we have an ice hockey team. Maryland has a football team that claims to be from here (note the Washington reference in #1 above). We host one of the largest open-entry marathons in the country. And if you walk around town any night of the week, you’ll see we have amateur-level sports in beach volleyball, kickball, rugby, softball, bocci, ultimate frisbee, crew, and cricket.
10. Dupont Circle. My little ‘hood has grown more … mallified … since we moved down here, but it still offers a fantastic place to live. There are public spaces, bookstores — of both the new and used varieties, a music store, a tea house, two indy coffee joints, two cupcake shops, an ice cream shop, a gelateria, two 24-hour drug stores, and, soon, a yarn shop. Yes, we lost both our movie theaters. Yes, high rents and greedy landlords have driven out a number of adorable little shops we liked. But, overall, you can’t beat the above list combined with the quiet streets that spur off from the main drag as a place to live.
I could go on. But I won’t. But you can. Share in the comments what you like about where you live.