late but not never

photos of Logan Circle via flickr members LaTurdbkingMr. T in DC, and NCinDC, respectively.

When I first moved to DC in 2005, the city was everything I imagined it to be. It was adventuresome and exhilarating and historic and monumental. I worked among legends and walked past the White House twice daily on my commute. It was a surreal place where motorcades would zip by when I went outside for lunch, sirens blaring and secret service wielding machine guns out the window; a place where protesters blocked the entrance to my  office building and cab drivers argued with me about government policies and more tourists than I thought possible swarmed the museums each spring.

Then my second year here turned into a third, then a fourth, and then suddenly I wasn't so enamored with the city any longer. D.C.'s quirks became routine. I decided to leave. It was for reasons that can hardly be blamed on DC, admittedly, but I can't say the city's familiarity wasn't a factor. I had a wanderlust for the unknown, for new neighborhoods that can't be traversed in 15 minutes, for neighbors who are neighborly, and people who discuss fashion and design and music and creativity with the enthusiasm that people here talk about senators and the Hill and the importance of standing to the right, walking on the left. 
For bigger, trendier, less humid. 

Twelve days from leaving, a later-than-usual walk home from the office took a leisured turn onto a two-block segment of Vermont Avenue. It was quiet, just birds chirping in rhythm and an idling truck's engine softly humming, the city-sounds of Massachusetts Avenue distant. That's when I spotted one of the city's historic homes -- it was Mary McLeod Bethune's this time, but it could have been Duke Ellington's or Abraham Lincoln's or Frederick Douglass's -- and started pondering the attributes I had always thought made D.C. special. It is a place where we walk past history each day without pausing and it's a place where kindergarten teachers bar-hop with FBI agents and a friend chit-chats with John Kerry about the best spot for eggs benedict while waiting for the allergy doctor.  Those things are unusual and they are fascinating and they are not to be overlooked. 

But what made me realize just what a magnificent city I was leaving had little to do with all that. It was about new energy. It was about a summer that can only occur when the stars align just so in the city-lit sky and suddenly it all seems brand-new and completely undiscovered. When pool parties pop up every Sunday on hotel roofdecks and nights that begin rather ordinary end as secret dance parties in former bank vaults, followed by journeys for sandwiches at 4 a.m., followed by sunrise strolls home through just-waking streets.  When an summer evening BBQ turns out to be mahi-mahi marinated in beer and tossed on a grill in the quasi-industrial backyard of an arts collective, and new friends talk you into going to a bar at 1 a.m. on a Wednesday, even though you have to work in the morning, but it's the night before your 27th birthday and just come to Chi Cha, damnit, there's a great DJ and they project old movies onto the wall. So you go. And your new friend buys you a birthday gin-and-tonic, and it's completely worth Thursday morning's haze.

I miss you already, DC. I'll be back before long.

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