According to Google Maps, the distance between the Jefferson Memorial and the White House South Lawn is 1.2 miles. It’s a 24-minute walk, and on the morning that I took this route, it was windy, and the grass was muddy and covered with geese droppings. I wanted to see the National Christmas tree because nothing pleases me more than a city dressed up for the holidays. When I finally reach the southern edge of the park, I discover that because it is before 10 am, public access is restricted. The tree from the distance looks puny and plastic-wrapped. I am not impressed.
Near the intersection of Connecticut Avenue and K Street, there are a four park benches, placed perpendicular to the sidewalk curb. If you sit on the side next to the street, you’re close enough to the traffic that to stretch out your hand means running the risk of amputation. Chunks of gravel and small pebbles clatter along the gutter. Breathe at the wrong moment, and you’ll inhale a lungful of exhaust from a passing 42 bus. This is my favorite place to read.
In a city known for brunch, I am still waiting to find a place that does not oversalt their hash browns or make me miss Valois.
The best way to find your way to the Jefferson Memorial is to follow a group of women carrying little lunch bags from Pret A Manger.
I’ve been told that while DC is not a literary city, it is the most literate city. Someone is always reading on their morning commute.
The bonsai trees at the National Arboretum are surprisingly impressive. (I also like all things miniature, so the impartiality of the above statement is dubious at best.)
The best place to people watch: 11 o’clock on the corner of U Street and 12th Street, right outside the U Street Metro station.
My favorite museum: the Hirshhorn, or as a friend once called it, “the poor man’s Guggenheim.” Second place goes to the Phillips Collection because of their Rothko Room. But all this doesn’t matter because you’re most likely to find me at the National Portrait Gallery at the end of the day.
During the summer, I waited for a bus in Adams Morgan in the company of a homeless man. Skinny with a buzz cut, he wore a neon jersey (the kind a traffic director would wear) and sat on a milk crate, selling copies of Street Sense and talking to the voices in his head. Four months later, I am waiting for the bus outside McPherson Square. As the Circulator headed towards Woodley Park pulls up, I see the same man, still dressed in his jersey and holding a milk crate under his arm, walk towards the stop and board the bus. The world feels extraordinarily small.
At Dupont Circle (the roundabout), there is a healthy growth of moss and algae on its fountain. Crabgrass and clover have displaced most of the grass in the park. Amateur brass bands play show tunes during the summer. I watched pigeons and sparrows devour an apple core that someone dropped on the walkway. Across town, there is a roundabout in Capitol Hill that is always emerald green, which might also make it inhospitable to urban wildlife for there are no vicious birds hunting for food. Instead, you might run into an outdoor wedding with guests walking in their Sunday best from the doorsteps of their townhouses.
Nothing is more frustrating that a Metro system that refuses to run 24 hours, even on the weekends.
And why does it take up to 3 business days for the money I add to my transit card online to be usable?
The fact that DC does not have a real also Chinatown boggles the mind. But at least there are a lot of interesting grocery stores.
The city is pretty in the rain.
Any of life’s sorrows can be cured by the white peaches or the free samples of apples found at the local farmers market.
The National Mall has its perks. Like many other vast green spaces, it offers opportunities for pickup soccer games, scenic walks, impromptu picnics, and suntanning, among other things. But it also spans nearly two miles. The walkways are unpaved, and there is shade only on the outer perimeters of the park. In most cases, the only way to go from one place to another is to go by foot. I am totally uninterested in wasting my energy and time traversing a giant patch of grass.
From The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears by Dinaw Mengestu (this year’s pick for DC Reads): “That’s the dirty little secret about D.C. For all its stature and statues, the city could just as easily have been one of the grander suburbs of America, an appendix hooked to Virginia or Maryland. As the joke goes, everyone who has lived here long enough suffers from an inevitable inferiority complex, size not being the least of it.”