24 Jul 2009

Freshman on The Hill

I, like so many other people who call Capitol Hill home, am not from around here.

I will pause for a second and let you take that one in– I know! You’ve never heard that one before, huh?

A comment I kept hearing early on about DC is that you know you’re in DC when the locals are not from around here. As a matter of fact, I did not meet a true born-and-raised Washingtonian until a few months after we’ve moved to the city–as if the point needed to be driven any further. I don’t think there are many places where you can claim that in earnest.

D.C., in spite of the tidal erosion brought about by its transient population, is also rich in scandals, skirmishes and characters whose aura lives more in the realm of legend. After all, people live here; it’s not all politics, all the time. And one of the unfortunate things about the actual DC where people live, work and create families of all types is the fact that few people outside the area get to hear these stories. It is the other DC of swindlers, corruption, concrete blocks and sharpshooters that dictates the nation’s perception.

I remember the puzzled expressions on some faces when I stated that I lived in Capitol Hill.

“You mean, people LIVE there?”

Being a recent transplant to this city means that I have known a DC without the seedy bars and the active gay scene that was pushed out when our shiny new ballpark was erected. I know a Capitol without a rolling lawn on its eastern entrance. I see barriers blocking entry to its grounds instead. I know the airport more as Reagan than as National.

I didn’t get to experience the awful fright and heartbreak of September 11th firsthand; stopping at gas stations in Montgomery County does not make me want to duck.

And here in my neighborhood, I only know the rustic wood floors and abundance of the Safeway on D and 14th; to our family, Lincoln Park has always been an idyllic children-and-dog park, untouched by unsavory activity to me; the Harris-Teeter across the street from Potomac Avenue Metro has always been under construction or operating; game day has not meant that I’ll regret moving my car for a while; and there has always been some sort of construction on I-295 –though I highly suspect this last one has been that way for longer than most people care to remember.

But as I have scratched below the surface, even in passing conversations, I have discovered that there is much that binds us as a community. Take, for instance, the devastation and subsequent restoration of our beloved Eastern Market, which truly brought us together. A range of responses, from deep sorrow to active rallying and culminating in sheer happiness, have become part of the weft and warp of my own family history. I hope I can bring some of my newcomer’s perspective to these stories, or fill you in if you’re a newcomer yourself.

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6 responses to “Freshman on The Hill”

  1. Jenny says:

    Nice post Maria, congrats! 🙂

  2. Janet says:

    I have lived here a little longer so I remember some of the things, though not 9/11. But I can relate. I was walking down my street the other day wondering if I would have walked down it 10 years ago…

    But, as always, good blogging lady!

  3. Janet says:

    Whoops, wrong link to my website in previous post. That “s” makes all the difference.

  4. Ren 33 says:

    Uhh..there are tons of people that have lived in DC from birth. You just happen to not interact with them. Perhaps the bubble you live in is one of the reasons I don’t like Capitol Hill.

  5. And, yet Ren, there’s a profile of a Hill native posted today.

    DC’s a diverse city, and the Hill is a diverse neighborhood. There’s room for everyone.

  6. Solomother says:

    Wow, you brought back memories for this native Washingtonian! Change is change.

    I loved dancing at Trax and the Nation down where the ball field now resides. I’ve been hit on by congressmen and I grew up with the Mayor for Life. I can tell you of a narrow space between two shops in Georgetown that has seen more than one gruesome murder.

    But I can tell you about the local swim team when I was a teen, and Screen on the Green and Crumpets and all sorts of magical things about the city.

    And the city has more magic every day. You write a lovely piece about viewing my home town with fresh eyes. It’s one of the reasons I love being a tour guide to friends who come to town for the first time.

    I mean come on, I work less than two blocks from the White House. How freakin cool is that?

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