Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Why I live here

I realized how much time I spend lately complaining about the weather and various other aspects of the Washington area. And while I could do with some decent weather (that holds, not just that teases with promises of springtime for a weekend before disappearing again) and some lunch from my favorite taqueria, I do love where I am right now.

I love being in a big city where Things Happen. When something important is going on, I can be there for it. Two months after we moved here, I participated in an anti-war rally on the National Mall with hundreds of thousands of other people. The following spring, I heard Peter, Paul, and Mary sing peace songs at the base of the Lincoln Memorial, and stood outside the Supreme Court when the Court was hearing the Michigan affirmative action case. I shook Coretta Scott King’s hand the day a marker was unveiled at the Lincoln Memorial to commemorate her husband’s famous speech there in 1963. When Rosa Parks died, I stood in line for hours to pay my respects to her in the Capitol Rotunda.

I love being in a city of free things. I can go into a museum for just a short time and not feel that I’ve wasted my money by not staying longer. I can go hear free music at the Kennedy Center every night if I feel like it—and I’ve heard Odetta, John McCutcheon, and Bobby McFerrin there, along with some classical and world music that I normally wouldn’t have the opportunity to experience, all for the cost of the Metro ride it took to get me there.

I love that nearly everyone I interact with here is very politically aware, and, for the most part, have seriously considered their political opinions. By going to graduate school in public policy, I admit I have likely selected into a social circle that tends towards political awareness, but I think it’s just something generally a part of the city’s culture.

I love the simple novelty of being in the capital—of turning the corner at night and seeing the Capitol dome lit up against the sky; of flying kites down by the Washington Monument; of braving the crowds to wander among the cherry trees at Tidal Basin; of seeing a sign in the Metro station directing me to the White House.

I love it here, but I know we won’t stay forever. Our families are in California. Better weather is in California. Great Mexican food is in California. Our favorite beaches are in California. And there are some things about Washington I won’t miss.

I won’t miss being considered the liberal one, shocking my fellow graduate students by advocating for the legalization of medical marijuana (and I am so glad I didn’t do my project on general legalization of it) or by admitting to have voluntarily subscribed to The Nation.

I won’t miss the button-down boringness of downtown Washington on a weekday, or the fact that pretty much all the women here shave their legs, making me feel freakish if I don’t.

I won’t miss the cynicism that so many people have, even for the causes they are most passionate about. I tell myself that I will get out before I turn cynical too, but maybe it’s too late.

I won’t miss the painfully hot summers or icy spring days.

But most of those complaints seem awfully trivial when I look at the positive aspects of living here. I’ll be moving back to the West Coast one of these days—family, Mexican food, and the ocean will make certain of that. But I will still be sad to leave DC.

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