Pack out preparations are underway. My condo was shown to two sets of potential renters this weekend. Strategies to sell a car on the quick have been fast ablaze in my head. Undoing what has taken a year and a half and two apartments to build is no easy task – mentally, physically or emotionally. It’s all in the things we carry. And I’m always preparing to, transitioning towards, thinking about, leaving it all behind. No wonder there are so many things that I have yet to see or do in the nation’s capital. I have been preparing to leave since I got here.
A friend who had previously lived here came back to town this weekend and we hit some of the regular haunts: Dupont Circle, Georgetown, U Street. You know, where 20 somethings go when they haven’t really the slightest intention of getting to know the ‘real’ DC. Thrilled with the Potomac, not interested in the Anacostia. Speaking of which, we spent an unseasonably brisk hour on a boat tour in the Potomac. Aside from the unabashedly cynical and liberal tour guide’s jibes at the world, I came away thinking of all the things I hadn’t yet seen in DC. I haven’t gone to the top of the Washington Monument. I’ve never been inside the Kennedy Center. I never made it to Roosevelt Island. Mind you, I’m only talking about the desirable sections of town. There’s always so much to see and so much to do, even in the places in which we don’t want to be. Being in a constant state of transition makes it easy to explain why I haven’t yet set foot on every inch of tourist ground. Nevertheless, there is always the lingering feeling of having missed out on something special.
Parting is always such sweet sorrow, because it reminds me that special is relative. The lessons learned from life in DC have been special. The friends? Special. The firsts? Special. Navigating the circles? Special. But, this experience of living and leaving is, for me, not that special at all. Digging in deep to enjoy the bits and spaces that are accessible in the time frame available is quite familiar to me. So, it’s also special to know that there is, in fact, a whole block in Takoma Park where consecutive lawns host magical fairy, wildlife animals. Macs Tire Repair in NE is, in fact, open 24 hours. And Teddy’s Roti does make phlourie and saltfish roti – even on Sunday.
The valuable bits of local knowledge that get residents to and fro often overshadow the pressing need to see what the tourists see. Yet, the local bits can be undervalued, as props on a main stage set to the backdrop of a nation’s imagination of itself. The view doesn’t include the homeless veterans, addicts and families that live on DC’s streets. It doesn’t begin to taste the lead in the pipes or help navigate a left turn off New York Avenue. On the other hand, over taxed taxpayers without tourists does not a nation’s capital make.
So, what can you do? Whether tourist or townie, I would be hard pressed to deny that sometimes it really is just flat out gorgeous to head towards Union Station and see the Capitol building aglow. It is in such moments that I’m reminded that I’m precisely where I need to be, and it doesn’t really matter the cause for my being present or how long I plan to be here.
Two years would be considered a long tourist stay, but definitely not long enough to be adopted as a native. Although, more time wouldn’t mean that I would undoubtedly add a doubledecker bus tour to the daily planner. Sometimes it’s not about having more time. Because, with more time, it’s not necessarily true that I’d do all the things I didn’t care to do in the time I previously had. Perhaps it is precisely because time has been so limited that, thus far, I have even seen as much as I have.
It is true to say that my impressions of DC are born of few lived memories rather than a plethora of tried, tested and reviewed experiences. Both are valuable, though, neither more ‘true’ than the other. For me, authenticity is moot when the intention is to maximize the positive. Whatever it takes to get from point A to point B has it’s place in the life span of a longer than normal transition and a shorter than normal residency. It is not the best of both worlds. It is not a time to sow oats while waiting for real life to begin. It is both the process and the path of living life in my peep toe pumps: always the bag lady, dancing in a sundress and a scarf, at a crossroads between one enchanting rock face of the earth and another, chanting “Ora ye yeo, Oxum!”