DC Is Blooming. No Turning Back.

DC in bloom, April '14, Photo: Kate Gallery, Neighborhood Nomads

National Mall, April '14, Photo: Kate Gallery, Neighborhood Nomads

April 6, 2014, Washington, DC: It’s baseball season, the sky is blue and the blossoms have finally made an appearance. What more could a girl ask for? It’s walking weather here in DC, and we walked for hours this weekend — to Hill East’s Pretzel Bakery and around Lincoln Park, home from Nationals Stadium and through Eastern Market, down Capitol Hill onto a crowded National Mall, to Taylor Gourmet and back again. This year the transition from winter to spring in the city is sweeter than ever. After all, we waited a long time for it. Can you believe it was snowing last Sunday? It appears we’re all doing our best to forget.

Eastern Market April '14, Photo: Kate Gallery, Neighborhood Nomads

DC in bloom, April '14, Photo: Kate Gallery, Neighborhood Nomads

DC in bloom, April '14, Photo: Kate Gallery, Neighborhood Nomads

US Capitol, April '14, Photo: Kate Gallery, Neighborhood Nomads

 

Home Opener, Nationals Park

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“The baseball fan this morning awoke from a long Winter’s sleep, stretched his arms, yawned and frightened the neighborhood trying out the rusty pipes of his vocal register.”

-New York Times on Opening Day, April 12, 1911

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Downtown Miami: A Work of Art

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March 29, 2014, Washington, DC: The city of Miami is itself a work of modern art. Its scale pushes boundaries. Its colors are arresting. Its bold and sculpted subjects ooze style. The other night I watched from a high downtown balcony as someone threw a rainbow of strobe lights against this interactive exhibit to gear up for the weekend’s Ultra Music Festival. The city literally pulsed to the sound of a rave.

In Miami, I instinctively describe the city as an art critic might describe a gallery opening. I begin to study the negative space between shiny buildings, to consider perspective from high above Biscayne Bay, to observe how the shapes and lines that cover this canvas rest on the edges of the Miami River and spread wide over the port and South Beach beyond. I am struck by the contrast of the landscape, by this obsession with the color blue, by the bright white light and the glare and the pushing of the envelope.

Take a walk today and imagine your city as a work of art. What do you see? Who might have painted or sculpted it, and in which museum might it belong?

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Before Photos: Breaking Ground on DC’s Southwest Waterfront

Southwest Waterfront, Washington, DC. Photo: Kate Gallery

March 16, 2014, Washington, DC: Redevelopment of DC’s Southwest waterfront is set to begin with groundbreaking on Wednesday, so I wanted to be sure to spend a few moments today taking “Before” photos of the soon-to-change scene. On a grey day with more unwelcome snow on the way, I ventured over to Hains Point to snap shots of the Southwest waterfront from across the Washington Channel. This is a section of skyline that will be altered dramatically starting this week and continuing for years to come. I’ve grown to love this corner of the city over the last three years, and I’m rooting for its success as it transforms from underutilized, prime real estate to a vibrant urban waterfront.

At midday, DC Sail teams are practicing on the Channel against the backdrop of Arena Stage and Cantina Marina. They navigate cold waters in the foreground of relocated houseboats and the slips they’ve vacated at Gangplank Marina a couple hundred yards west. I imagine how this scene might look on a cold March day several years from now: I contemplate whether the apartments one block off the Channel will still have water views and whether development here will have succeeded in steering clear of generic. I hope I’ll stand in this same spot then, documenting a waterfront that’s full of eclectic people who call this neighborhood home as they go about their Sunday routines in downtown DC.

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Southwest Waterfront, Washington, DC. Photo: Kate Gallery

Southwest Waterfront, Washington, DC. Photo: Kate Gallery

Southwest Waterfront, Washington, DC. Photo: Kate Gallery

Southwest Waterfront, Washington, DC. Photo: Kate Gallery

Southwest Waterfront, Washington, DC. Photo: Kate Gallery

Emerging from Hibernation

Photo by Kate Gallery, Neighborhood NomadsMarch 4, 2014, Washington, DC: You can hear a snow day before you see it. That busy city street out the bedroom window is still, too still, the moment you open your eyes. Something is off kilter and a peek through the blinds confirms it. It’s a weekday morning in the city and not a neighbor is in sight upon a hushed blanket of white.

But this morning those days are behind us. They must be. It is time. The neighborhood sounds different — the passing of tentative cars, the crackle of salt beneath heavy boots, a bird chirping and engines warming as the scraping begins. Washington is moving on. It is ready for St. Patrick’s Day and one more hour of daylight, for riding bicycles and Nationals’ Opening Day.

I feel disconnected from my Washington in winter. Cold days and early nights interfere with the way I interact with my surroundings. Instead of walking three short blocks to the Metro at Eastern Market, I get in the car out front and blast the heat. Instead of exploring new restaurants and visiting friends in other neighborhoods, we stay indoors or choose the closest place in sight. Our social scene slows to a crawl, the circle through which we move tightens to near suffocation. In the indoor exercise classes that replace outdoor runs and rides, I’m reminded that stillness can be more difficult than movement, on both our muscles and on our minds. This winter’s stillness has been excruciating.

But soon the ground will thaw and I won’t mind walking to the Metro or waiting for the bus. I might wander through the city without shivering, no specific destination planned. Not long now before those of us who have spent months hibernating will emerge back into the city and find it just how we left it, full of fascinating people and movement and life.

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Photo by Kate Gallery, Neighborhood Nomads

Snow Day Reading: On Street Life, Hipsters and Brunch

jason grant a place called home

February 14, 2014, Washington, DC: I’m continuously inspired by the writers and thinkers who record their observations about the power of place and our changing cities. Two years ago, I posted a list called, ‘Writing About Place: A Reading List’ on my blog, Neighborhood Nomads. I’ve updated it intermittently in the Comments section since, and invite you to comment with your own recommendations today.

Here are some of the words that have crept up since my last update, now added to the running list. They’re long overdue odds and ends, all worth a read on an icy winter day…

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Vallejo’s Story: A New Breath for Roshanda’s Hometown

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Photo Credit: Roshanda Cummings

This is one in a series featuring cities, neighborhoods and the people who love them. Would you like to participate? Click here for more information about contributing to Neighborhood Nomads.

January 23, 2013, Washington, DC: “The stigma hangs.”

That’s how Roshanda Cummings described her hometown of Vallejo, California when she first wrote me about contributing to Neighborhood Nomads. She described a city that struggles to project a positive image despite having a lot going for it, despite triumphantly exiting bankruptcy in 2011. She shared links to a project she’s been working on called thisisvallejo.com. It was beautiful — the landscape, her photos, her words, all of it.

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Photo Credit: Roshanda Cummings

When Roshanda and I talked a few days later, the story of the hometown that she grew up in and later returned to quite by accident took on a more meaningful shape. Roshanda never intended to go back, but since her return, she envisions greatness for Vallejo’s future.

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