Photo Credit: Canden Schwantes
This is one in a series featuring our city neighborhoods and the people who love them. Would you like to participate? Click here for more information about contributing to Neighborhood Nomads.
April 24, 2013, Washington, DC: Washington tour guide Canden Schwantes is living proof that Capitol Hill is not all senators, congressman and politicos. She may spend her days telling stories of great American history on the National Mall, but at the end of the day, she returns home to a neighborhood on the northeast side of the city where the narrative is very much happening in the present day. It’s a place where grills and guitars are dragged out onto the sidewalk for impromptu block parties, where children publish their poetry and adults make music.
Canden is at home among many creative types who live just off the H Street corridor of Capitol Hill; in addition to being a tour guide, she’s also a writer whose first book, “Wicked Georgetown: Scoundrels, Sinner and Spies” is due out next month. I first heard about her when I learned of Literary Hill BookFest, a neighborhood festival coming up May 5th at Eastern Market, where Canden will be debuting her work. Right away, I thought the local authors featured at the festival might make for good additions to Neighborhood Nomads — not only because they’re my neighbors, but because they’re people who know a thing or two about the role a strong setting can play in telling a good story.
Read on for an interview with Canden Schwantes about the neighborhoods of Washington, both past and present.
“Every mile out there is a gift.”
-Amby Burfoot, winner of the 1968 Boston Marathon
April 22, 2013, Washington, DC: Amby Burfoot was less than a mile from the finish line last Monday, ready to celebrate the 45th anniversary of his marathon win, when the bombs went off on Boylston Street. I heard him recount his story a few days later on NPR’s Fresh Air as I drove home up Independence Ave. and past the U.S. Capitol where flags flew at half staff to commemorate the victims of the Boston Marathon. When I got home, like so many others, I went for a run. Past the Capitol Police on the corner of Independence and 3rd, behind the Library of Congress and the Supreme Court, out East Capitol and around Lincoln Park. The usual route, spiked this time with an unusual sense of patriotism.
I ran a lot last week, in fact. Undoubtedly inspired by those who ran the marathon and those who cheered them on, undoubtedly motivated by the neighborhood 10K coming up next month. On Thursday, I ran my occasional six mile route home from work, through Dupont Circle into downtown and east along Pennsylvania Ave towards Capitol Hill. The pedestrian plaza in front of the White House, a highlight on the route, remained closed due to increased security, but the crowds of runners and visitors out that day detoured around it and carried on.
April 21, 2013, Washington, DC: Late April in Washington this year marks the beginning of our Potomac days. We’re off to a later start than normal, it seems, but we don’t let the chill in the air stop us. We check on our yellow kayak and introduce ourselves to Nicholas, the new manager at the Key Bridge Boathouse formerly known as Jack’s. Soon we’ll be there often, grilling by the water’s edge and pushing off from the dock for short trips past Georgetown’s already crowded waterfront steps towards Watergate and the Kennedy Center. When the weekend comes, we bundle in fall layers and bike down to the marina, hitching a ride on a friend’s boat out of Washington Channel and around Hains Point into the Potomac where the river gets wide. We are making preparations for summer Saturdays. We are getting reacquainted with the water.
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April 17, 2013: Hello, NoMad! This place so deserves a shout out here on Neighborhood Nomads – not only for its name, but for that picturesque ivy that creeps around a streetscape otherwise full of cement and for the two bicycles on their kickstands in the lobby parked on those oh-so-New York City tile floors. Not to mention it’s not just the hotel, but the entire neighborhood that’s called NoMad, named for the area north of Madison Square Park. How perfect is that? Husband and I picked up some coffee and walked north up Broadway to NoMad Saturday morning, circling back through the Shake Shack in the park. How could we not? An entire neighborhood called NoMad just feels like the right place to wander.
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April 13, 2013, New York: Early on in high school, my art teacher started taking groups of us on outings known as Saturdays in the City. Every month or two, we’d take a train trip into Manhattan to go to an art exhibit, walk around New York, and head out to lunch. They were easy afternoon trips — in retrospect, a simple way to take advantage of New York for students who lived in a nearby town but weren’t yet ready to navigate a city they didn’t live in on their own. Funny that I hadn’t given much thought to those trips, let alone noticed their presence among many influences that have unconsciously shaped Neighborhood Nomads. Not until this morning, that is, when I woke up and looked out a window onto New York and thought, This is just the type of day that reminds me of Saturdays in the City.
Whichever city we’re in, Saturdays in the City are old hat these days. But isn’t it nice to see them like we used to, full of something fresh and different that we’ve never laid eyes on?
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April 4, 2013, Washington, DC: Shortly after landing in Washington from spring training, Nationals phenom Bryce Harper announced his arrival to the nearly 200,000 people who follow him on Twitter. “DC, I’m home!!” the 20-year old reported with apparent glee, judging from the multiple exclamation marks and hashtags #NatsFamily and #DCLove that followed his declaration. Within the week, he’d also asked his fans for restaurant suggestions, a barbershop recommendation, and the whereabouts of late night donuts. Oh, and he hit two homeruns out of the park on Opening Day.
Harper’s new teammate Denard Span is likewise embracing Washington, the city of his birth. In his first week in town, the only player with Washington, DC listed on the roster caught the NCAA tournament at the Verizon Center and made a stop into the Library of Congress. Ryan Mattheus took in a Wizards game with his family. Pitcher Gio Gonazalez dined at Dupont’s Lauriol Plaza and Georgetown’s Filomena before hitting a solo homer Wednesday night.
Yes, this week the city’s best season officially arrived. Not in the form of cherry blossoms or tourists crowding the Metro or Easter eggs on the White House lawn, but in the form of a freezing cold night game like Wednesday’s, rooting on the ballplayers who love Washington from a seat in right field. The city’s best season has arrived because the Nationals are back in town and they seem as happy to see the city as the city is to see them. Because they are first and foremost here with a job to do, and because this year they might do it better than any other team in baseball. But also because they’re not just “here for work” like countless professionals who come and go within the Beltway. The Washington Nationals are here to settle in and become a true part of this city as the weather grows warm.
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April 3, 2013, Washington, DC: Last winter, I published a post called Writing About Place: A Reading List where I planned to keep tabs on books and articles that spoke to the power of place. The idea was to create a resource of conversations about neighborhood history, urban studies, compelling travel writing — any content in which location is a living, breathing and central character rather than an afterthought or a convenient backdrop. It recently occurred to me that I haven’t done a good job at keeping up the list, let alone encouraging other neighborhood nomads to add their suggestions. So I went back into the Comments section earlier today to freshen it up and add some works to the tally. I invite you to do the same– if you’ve read something that hits the nail on the head in describing your neighborhood, your hometown, someplace you’ve traveled, or the overall power of place, share it with the rest of us by clicking here.
Pictured above: Some bookshops along the way… Clockwise from top left: Riverby Books on Capitol Hill, DC; The Depot in Mill Valley, CA; Subterranean Books in the Delmar Loop, St. Louis; Inquiring Mind Bookstore in Saugerties, NY; Random Row Books in Charlottesville, VA; Atlantis Books in Oia, Santorini.