The Beauty of Paying Attention

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May 18, 2014, Washington, DC: Sunday morning. Paul Simon plays softly on the record player. I open the front door to retrieve the Sunday Times. I look left and right in awe of the colorful rose bushes that have overtaken in my neighbors’ little yards up and down the block. White tents rise at Eastern Market across the park. Pancakes, crepes and homemade donuts are being prepared for the morning crowd. Inside the house, coffee brews and our newborn rests peacefully in my arms, soothed by Simon’s lullabies: “Was a sunny day, not a cloud was in the sky, not a negative word was heard, from the people passing by…”  I open the newspaper to “36 Hours on Capitol Hill,” delighted that today my favorite section of the paper features my favorite neighborhood. I watch the places referenced in the article stir to life from the front door. My stomping grounds are truly as good as New Yorkers have made them out to be.

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Someplace Good for Business

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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 29, 2014, Washington, DC: It doesn’t take long after meeting local business owner Matt Weiss that we’re deep in conversation about the power of a good location and a belief in this neighborhood. We’re sitting in a Capitol Hill basement known as the Elixir Bar within Weiss’ new establishment, Barrel, a whiskey joint on the 600 block of Pennsylvania Ave. SE. We’re in agreement that this is a curious block. For years, the turnover on this stretch was rampant despite its geographical allure as a strip of the city that connects the bars and restaurants closest to the US Capitol with those on Barracks Row and at Eastern Market. The block is home to a post office, an old mattress store and a realtor’s office, but hasn’t been much of a hub for good food and drink. And yet within the last two years, there’s been a noticeable shift. This stretch is now offering a bit more connectivity with the addition of new bars and restaurants including Hank’s Oyster Bar, Beuchert’s Saloon, Sona Creamery, and now, as of three weeks ago, Barrel.

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Happy Birthday Wrigley Field

Wrigley Field 100, Photo credit: Kate Gallery, Neighborhood Nomads

April 23, 2014, Washington, DC: There’s something about ballparks. Their charm and nostalgia is unrivaled by virtually all other types of gathering spaces. Today on the 100th anniversary of the opening of Chicago’s Wrigley Field, I’m especially appreciative of those old ballparks still standing in the heart of our cities, now wedged tightly into urban neighborhoods. They’re aren’t many of them left and they’ve stood there as anchors while their communities grew up around them. I recall an afternoon I spent at Wrigley several years ago, drinking a Schlitz on a snowy April afternoon, and I can’t think of anything more quintessentially Chicago.

The Chicago Sun Times and the Chicago Tribune have lovely tributes to Wrigley on their websites today. It’s evident in features like these that there’s more to it than the game, that there’s something about the place as well that brings out the collective energy of the people who gather there. The last time I was in Wrigleyville was about a year and a half ago on a drab day in the offseason. Even then, driving west on Waveland Ave. past that ancient scoreboard, the history and pull of the structure itself was palpable. I was immediately daydreaming of the next time I’d be inside, enveloped by the spirit of 100 years worth of fans and ghosts.

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City Hike: Follow That Crowd

Cherry Blossoms DC, April '14, Credit: Kate Gallery, Neighborhood Nomads

Cherry Blossoms DC, April '14, Credit: Kate Gallery, Neighborhood Nomads

April 15, 2014, Washington, DC:  Washingtonians often remark how much they hate tourist season, but once in awhile it’s wise to keep the opinions to yourself and follow that crowd. The tourists of April are onto something here: a refreshing tradition that celebrates the arrival of spring with an explosion of pink. Sure, cherry blossoms are scattered throughout the city and we don’t need to head specifically to the Tidal Basin to catch a glimpse, but isn’t it nice to get caught up once in awhile in the spirit of something you wouldn’t necessarily do at home? A total mob scene, but a joyous one, and boy, is it beautiful.

Taking a cue from heaps of visitors, Sunday’s city hike took us on a walk down Capitol Hill straight to a Tidal Basin filled with paddle boats. We ducked through family photographs and slipped through crowds jam-packed along the sidewalks before turning east along the waterfront for a walk around Washington’s south side. Crowds thinning as we strolled past the marina and an already smelly fish market in the heat of the day, we continued past construction advertisements along the Southwest Waterfront, alongside Arena Stage and beyond the shiny new buildings of M St. SW. We detoured after crossing South Capitol back into the quadrant where we live, taking the long way through L’Enfant Plaza and between DC’s federal buildings, then going against the grain back up Capitol Hill and arriving home.

Soon enough, blooms will disappear, heat will weigh on us, tourists will vanish, and traffic will subside. In no time flat, the city will be ours again and we’ll be glad we followed that crowd while it lasted.

Cherry Blossoms DC, April '14, Credit: Kate Gallery, Neighborhood Nomads

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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