part time local

Being back in Washington, DC is always a tumultuous treat. I never spend enough time here to make it feel like home, but – unlike NYC – DC doesn’t change very quickly. So, I can go back to the spots I remember fondly and discover new ones at my leisure. Over the past few months, I have made a real effort to get out and about. The metro still sucks, but here are the highlights of journey.

I’ve discovered the Torpedo Factory with its art classes, studios and seminars. Just a few weeks ago, I went to see a talk by Sheldon Scott and discovered lots of interesting pieces by novice and seasoned artists.


My husband also got me to go to the CapitalOne Arena (formerly, the Verizon Center) to check out the Washington Wizards at their game against the Cavs. Let me be clear, the seats are uncomfortable, the other fans are kinda obnoxious, and I still don’t understand why cheerleaders still exist, but… it was a fun experience.


I also revisited the Holocaust Memorial Museum for the first time since 8th grade. It was much less depressing than I remembered  as a kid and much more informative than I expected. I highly recommend that everyone take the time to check it out. It only takes about 2-3 hours to get through the permanent exhibit. The temporary ones tend to be about modern day slavery, which is also important to be aware of.


And though I’ve found myself being an architecture and design buff in other cities I’ve visited, I never considered walking tours in the nation’s capital.  The DC Design Tour of Georgetown was very cool and, frankly, took me to a part of town that I rarely visit.

All in all, living in the DC area has been a breath of fresh air. There are sidewalks and tap water! Even better, there are interesting tours, historical sites, museums, art talks, and apparently big events worth catching. I’m soaking it all up while I can!

The Best Coast

Alyson L. Palmer was born and raised in the Seattle area. After undergrad she spent a year in NYC and two-ish with the Obama administration in DC. Now gearing up for her third year of law school at UDub = Univ of Washington. Timing seems sweet for her to jump back on the campaign trail for Obama 2013, but as yet she has no comment on that subject. 

Before I moved to New York City, a co-worker cautioned, “on the west coast, we’re wash and wear. On the east coast, they’re dry clean only.”  For you East Coasters, that was a dig at you.  Those of us on the “Best Coast” are decidedly more relaxed and we like it that way.  We don’t walk like something is on fire. Unless, you know, it is.  We don’t consider traffic signals mere suggestions, but rather a useful tool to regulate that pesky balance between pedestrians and vehicles.  And when we talk about having an apartment or office with a view, we don’t mean a view of other apartments or office buildings.

Don’t get me wrong, I love traveling east.  I graduated from college and high-tailed it to NYC as fast as JetBlue could carry me.  You folks have the market cornered on revolutionary era buildings, cobblestone, and national monuments – all symbols of years gone by that a wonk like me enjoys.  I mean, you occupy 2/3 of every US history book…and you know it.  I don’t think I am letting out any State secrets when I say ya’ll have a superiority complex a mile wide and an ocean deep.

True, the west is the rebellious, upstart little sister with all her unbridled energy running around without a care in the world, because Thomas Jefferson never signed a proclamation on her desk and Sojourn Truth never ate at her counter.  But, that is what I love about the west!  She can invent and invest in whatever strikes her fancy.  There aren’t as many traditions on the west coast, so we make our own way – do things that don’t fit inside a box constructed in 1799 or 1999 for that matter.

This idea manifests most clearly in our ideas of style and culture.  If the east coast is Paris, the west coast is Tokyo.  We’re quirky in that “sure, this doesn’t match, but I meant to do that” kind of way.  We aren’t afraid to make mistakes and start trends we will regret in 5 years (flannel anyone??).  We drive with the windows down rain or shine, because we aren’t worried about the leather in our BMW becoming discolored.  An advertisement saying “vintage clothing” means someone actually wore it before and not just to the tents last February.  Street style on the west coast isn’t folks trying to make the “trends” page in Elle magazine, it’s stuff we actually wear while walking on the street to work, school and play.  And we indulge in music, art and science as part of our everyday life, because “work-life balance” isn’t a synonym for the “mommy-track”.  We exercise by paddling, biking, skiing, surfing, and climbing, because not to would be an unforgivable waste of this gorgeous landscape.  After all, we’ve got all those adventures 15 minutes away from home.

Our refusal to walk the path of the settlers does have its downsides.  Why it takes 4 hours to get to the next city of note is beyond me.  A road trip stops being fun when you realize you are still in the middle of nowhere 3 hours later.  For an area of the country founded on exploration, it’s ironic that we’d be so adverse to cutting away from the pack and starting anew just a few miles down the road.  We still struggle with mass transit, because we are mostly a collection of big small-towns.  Nobody had the foresight to think about what would happen when an increase in population and business would force us to travel not just sea to sea but north to south.  Now that our traffic is legendary, maybe we’ll get it together and figure out high-speed rail.  Last and least is our own complex.  The one that makes us not as sweet as the south with its barbeque and twang, and not as refined as the east with its universities made from the plantations of the Founders.  We are accent-less, our food and architecture are riffs off of someone else’s invention, and our refusal to be pinned in a direction makes us a bit directionless.

But for all of her deficiencies, the left coast is absolutely the best coast.  Because when we say we “went for a run in the mountains,” we’re not talk about a vacation.  We’re talking about Tuesday.  We’re not opposed to being nerdy and techie, because our nerds brought us Microsoft and Google and Apple.  We aren’t opposed to innovative scholarship, but when we use the phrase “ivy of the west,” we mean the school is distinguished and high caliber, not pretentious.

We may be drinking our own Kool-Aid on this one, but we like being “not like the rest.”  If you must liken us to anything at all, think of us as ducks.  We make life look carefree, but below the surface we are working hard as hell and reaping the benefits of a clear night sky and a cool ocean breeze. You east coasters, on the other hand, reap the benefits of using of our MACs & PCs to power through 14 hour days – I mean, stay ahead of the curve.

Damn you, Irene!

This post is long and late. It almost didn’t happen, actually. I was supposed to be in New York City and, thus, this post was supposed to be about the glamorous grit of my favorite city in America and it was supposed to be written while I cozied up in my over-priced, midtown east hotel room. But, nooooo…. this, Queen bee0tch Irene checked ya girl. For real, for real. So, on Friday night I asked myself, “Self, does not being in your planned destination mean that you shouldn’t blog this weekend?” Myself replied just a few minutes ago, and said “Don’t let nobody block yo’ shine.” So, there! Irene – 0, Me – 1, and you all may, in fact, be the biggest losers of all. You all are stuck reading my free-writing on relationships. I apologize, in advance, because it’s sure to make no sense and have no point… Sorry.

Fact: I have no idea what a successful, amorous relationship looks like. But, I’m preaching matters of the ruptured heart, because that I know all too well. I spent the night of Irene’s DC debut downing Bota Box wine with my neighbor, watching My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, talking about failed relationships, dating in DC, online match making sites, and unrealistic expectations. I spoke to another friend on Friday about why she deserved better than the inconsistent and partial reciprocity she’s been getting from the love of her life. Before that, I spent days talking to a friend about his ex-girlfriend dependency gone awry, and why his ex kinda, sorta asked for the shiner she got from the new guy she’s seeing/sharing (read: silly hood rats get away with treating good guys like doormats and, when they deal with scum bags, the likelihood that keeping it real will go wrong increases exponentially- NO SYMPATHY!). And before that, I was at Georgetown Harbor chatting it up with friends about why men should pay for every meal & why I’m used to paying for meals; why men should always plan dates & why I pretty much have planned every date I’ve ever been on. The list continues, but it is far too embarrassing to share further.  After we exhaled, my Bota Box partner sent me home with a prayer and her arsenal: Iyanla Vanzant’s In the Meantime and Steve Harvey’s Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man. I’m a little scared to read the former. I spent all day reading the latter. And now I’m depressed.

First, I don’t know anything about men. Who are they? I get the idea that what they make and what they do, is defining, but I don’t get why that’s just a male characteristic. Trust me, I’ve worked harder, better, faster, stronger to get where I am academically and professionally than many of my peers – male or female. So, after 6 years, 2 ivy league degrees, 4 continents, 2 passports, countless fully armored vehicles, 300+ overtime hours of Blackberry harassment, and an impending 16% pay cut, I’ve earned my stripes. I appreciate a man’s hustle when it’s real and on point. But, in a ball busting contest on careers, I’m not backing down. I’ve been through them before, because most men hint that they won’t have a serious relationship with me unless I leave my job.

So, let me spell this out. Nice and C-L-E-A-R: for children, anything is possible. But, for a full grown, adult, partner, with all his faculties: I’m not compromising. I’m not stroking ‘neh body’s ego, if the ego is all he’s got. Either you’re doing your thing or you’re not. Don’t worry about me, cause I stay winning. I can bet you dollars to donuts that I’m not that worried about what you’re doing, if you’re doing something worth something. And if I’m not worried, I will make you a happy man. Support is one thing. But, if you’re not about yours, then frankly you’re not doing me any favors. So, explain, why do I have to fake it til’ you make it? I am not…wait for it…the one.

Second, I was born in the mid 80s. Hence, I caught the tail end of Jody Watley – not Joan Cleaver.  I swear, until about December of last year, it never occurred to me to think about my partner as a provider for me. Our future, fictitious children? Yes. Me? Hell to the naw. What do I look like? I’ve worked since I was thirteen. When I started my own mag, I found a way to pay off 20Gs in start up costs in 5 years – while in college, full time. Point? I am Joan Clayton with Toni Childs’ never go back to Fresno (ahem: Newark) fund. I’m not never going to be without. The messages, subliminal and overt, I learned from childhood all screamed “don’t depend on any one for any thing, ever. For ever, ever? For ever, EVER!”

I went to a women’s college. I had boyfriends who weren’t complete douche bags. I mean… really… I thought I was doing ok, not being dependent on guys. Not asking for gifts, paying for meals, being as undemanding as possible – aside from asking for the freedom to be who I am. And, let’s be honest, who I am is not easy to put up with.

A mani, pedi, brow wax, brioche french toast, tall iced soy mocha, American Apparel leotard, 7 peanut butter cookies and 24 hours later, Steve Harvey’s Stacy Adams suit wearing self comes to tell me, I’m effed up in the game? DAMN DAMN DAYUM! So, how do I walk it back? How can I be so good at telling my friends about their really crappy relationships and I can’t see the more subtle, but definitely present, dead ends right in front of my face?

I haven’t been beaten or cheated on (to my knowledge), so I guess I’m ahead in some ways. But, do I really have to give a man the big piece of chicken to keep him around? I don’t eat meat. Do I really have to stop doing the adventurous things I love to do, because he can’t protect me while I’m doing them? I think bullet proof vests are heavy, but still kinda cool. More importantly, if I’m really in charge of setting the tone for the relationship, at what point am I supposed to hand over responsibility to him and let him ‘lead’ our family? Guide to transitions please!

When I read this book all I heard was (1) a guy likes a woman who has it all together before he meets her, and (2) he certainly expects that she’ll unravel all of that togetherness if she wants to keep him for life (togetherness exceptions include taking care of kids from a previous relationship and going to church, because everybody knows that everyone who reads Black relationship books must be god-fearing Christians – SMH!). So, what about the hard headed, worth every dime, loyal, adventurous, nurturing, creative, adaptable, value added woman who actually likes who she is, what she has, and wants a guy to up the ante, but really, honestly, truly, has always worn the pants and doesn’t know anything else? How do we, I mean – I, I mean – she, get to the place where I’m supposed to be part Beyonce, part Carol Brady, and part Whitney Houston (pre-crack), when in real life, I’m part Jazmine Sullivan, part Hillary Clinton, part Jada Pinkett-Smith and all me?

I get that these guides to relationships make sense when you’re so fatigued by love’s evil twin, douchebaggery, that you’re so desperate to find a valuable partner that you’re willing to disregard everything you believe about life and your valued place in it. I also get that my generation is in this weird in between place where women are supposed to be 21st century independent everywhere else but in their own homes where they go all early 20th with their partner.  The recession means that my generation is full of highly indebted, late bloomers, so providing can be an issue and it has nothing to do with ambition. But, in DC, the majority of the single population is college educated and earning that contractor paper. The pool is large, but I’m a big girl and I swim in oceans.

Sometimes it’s dangerous, but it’s a big part of who I am: the woman  who actually does the stuff she says she’s doing, goes to the places she says she’s going, and isn’t afraid to be her beautifully flawed human self. Nuff long talkin’… time for action! Where does my integrity come in? After I’m done stroking your ego and being someone I’m not, then will you love me for life? Steve? WTF? I’m confused…

The real point is that I, like everybody else, want to find a meaningful relationship. You know, the fairy tale that’s grounded in today’s realities. But, I don’t want to stop being who I am to get it. AND, if I’ve never really seen a successful marriage, is scouring the negative space around all of my friends’, family members’, and ancestors’ failed and infuriating relationships the only tactic I’ve got? You know, aside from Steve Harvey’s bible on successful boo-loving?

How is this supposed to work? When is it too late to start over?  What if all this works, but I still think it’s a crock of crap? Am I too principled for my own good? Am I letting guys get away with too much? Do most guys cheat on their wives and then discover how to be good men? Are men really like children? If so, can I make mine go out back and get a switch when he acts up? My spirit is broken, my head hurts and I blame this all on Irene.

Washington, DC

DC is all about lovers and friends. You have them or you don’t. You’re solidifying connections or on the prowl. You live near them or, in your quest to approximate, you haunt the metro by day and pray for cabbies by night.  By my estimation, about 20% of people move to DC for a significant other whose employment is grounded here in the District or surrounding DC, Maryland & Virginia areas (lamely referred to as the DMV). The other 80% of us cut out the middle man and dive face first into our jobs. While what brought us here and what keeps us here may be a government paycheck (or a paycheck from some other institution that prides itself on being anti-government, but can only exist because of the government… I digress), what makes the experience bearable are the relationships we hone.

When I first moved here, I hated it. Now, I still hate it. MESSAGE! But, what I hated most when I first arrived was the fact that people introduced themselves with their resumes. What happened when I dared to be so bold as to not wear my employer on my sleeve? Either, I was (1) voluntold to answer the question or (2) outed by one of my friends or co-workers who thought my job was cool, impressive or otherwise relevant to the conversation. And, at the end of the embarrassing jig, these people still could not pronounce my name. So, after almost 2 years here (lord, help me), why do I still find it oxymoronic that in the superficial, politically correct, networking capital of the world relationships take the cake?

Let me explain. In my humble experience (read: gospel truth), people who find this way of life repugnant form bonds with those also allergic to DC’s politically public and pretentiously frequented spaces. Through college alumni connections, mutual friends, social networks, or community events, we seek out the other wall flowers, the anti-social, the non-believers and we do the unheard of… we stop networking. We try hard to come home after work, and live the rest of our lives. We don’t talk to the girl from the mail room just because she happens to be walking out of the front door at the same time as we are; we acknowledge her, but only launch into conversation if we genuinely are interested in getting to know her. We throw out the idea that we should keep Pompous Pete’s business card from High on-the Hill, Inc., just because he can do something for us in the future. Instead, for people like me, D.C. after 7pm and before 3am turns into a ‘Where’s Waldo?’ search for people who are genuine.

Once you find them, I can’t guarantee that their political beliefs, sexual behaviors, eating habits, ethnic identification, economic status, educational background or support for the Redskins will mirror yours. But, I can bet you 2 DC United tickets and admission to The Park that you all will be equally as busy and that squeezing each other into life outside of work will be like trying to get from Foggy Bottom to BWI on a Friday at 4:30: a long and hard road. What I’m trying to say is that finding real friends here can be hard, but making time to enjoy them is much harder. And the same applies for those single like me, who are finding time to date or finding time to pretend that we don’t have time to date.

I’ve come to think that DC residents are often trying to find some bit of a genuine human connection in this conservative city that’s little understood and politically artificial. A paycheck is never enough, but that’s the only thing consistent in this town. So, it only makes sense that how one earns it can be defining. And let’s face it, a lot of people move to the nation’s capital because being an amateur politico flunky turned incumbent insider is really their life’s dream. Whether Huff Po is your schtick or HIV/AIDS prevention is your passion, everybody here works too many hours to not have an outlet.  All of our jobs are too stressful not to have someone with whom to go to happy hour or to plot the next day’s sabotage of a co-worker.

DC is defined by this quest to find these people, these friends, these lovers, these love-worthy DMV residents who understand that you are worth more than your security clearance, the degree you’re pursuing, or the money you make. You have a name: that is printed just as clearly on the front of your business card as on the numerous DC traffic camera tickets you will inevitably receive by mail. ARGH!