December 29, 2013, Washington, DC: My neighborhood wears this season well, from head to toe, beginning to end. It starts dressing up for the occasion the moment we down the pumpkin pie and return to Capitol Hill after Thanksgiving and doesn’t change out of its party clothes until now, in preparation for a low-key New Year’s Eve.
For weeks, large decorative icicles dazzled the streetlamps on 7th. Neighbors gathered to light the community’s Charlie Brown tree on the plaza at 8th and Santa came to Barracks Row. A smattering of snow decorated our shared red bicycles, and men from Maryland and Virginia farms hauled in Christmas trees for sale at Eastern Market. In the leadup to Christmas, we watched from the window of our new home as families dragged wreaths and trees of all sizes down the cobblestone street. From the window, we saw partygoers in sparkling dresses enter the market’s illuminated event space late at night.
And then we observed the parking spots open up, the city empty and the quiet descend. When we woke up the day after Christmas, the men with their trees had disappeared overnight, leaving pine needles wedged in the market streets.
Just yesterday, the neighborhood began to stir back to life. Today, people and cars again fill wet city streets, and with a magnificent and dizzying season behind us, the rest of the regulars are returning home.
December 24, 2013, Washington, DC: We moved about ten days ago. For weeks, it seemed, carpets were rolled up, boxes piled sky high, and rooms smelled like cardboard. That’s largely the reason we’re staying put this Christmas. There’s been so much in flux, a few too many loose ends to keep track of during the craze of the holiday season.
But it’s worth a few moments during this hectic time to recognize that my 27th home was good to me. It’s the place we moved into the week our first niece was born, and the place where dad and I pushed the living room furniture aside to choreograph a father-daughter wedding dance. It’s a place that was full of lovable imperfections, marked by days spent carefully building a fire in the back right corner of the fireplace so as not to smoke out the entire apartment, and cooking with no hood above the stove, and bathing in the smallest shower known to man. It’s an apartment where I enjoyed my morning coffee in a stream of perfect sunlight back by the kitchen, and the only place we’ll likely ever have an octagonal living room. It’s the home from which we could hear musicians performing above the Metro and see straight into the game shop and library windows at night. Home #27 was also the place where I began this blog and became heavily invested in exploring the meaning of the living spaces and surroundings that shape our everyday lives. And it’s the place I fell in love with Capitol Hill and came to truly understand the value of a great location.
Which is why we didn’t go far. Home #28 is just a few blocks away and we couldn’t be happier about staying put in the neighborhood.
December 10, 2013, Washington, DC:Snow day. Two small words that are just as exhilarating now as they were when we were kids. And this one was extra special because we hadn’t had one in full three years, perhaps since moving to Capitol Hill. We had no documentation of Barracks Row or Lincoln Park or Eastern Market blanketed in white, and the neighborhood’s under-three set — the group that feels like the fastest growing segment of our local population — had never laid eyes on more than a dusting in their lives. The last time it snowed in earnest was the epic winter of 2010, when I took photos of Annapolis’ historic streets while living there for the year. This time, I vowed to crunch through the streets I’ve since grown to love to record my first real neighborhood snow.
To be honest, it wasn’t much of a snow day. In quintessential DC style, accumulation was a non-event and the sun was out by two, leaving a few malnourished, half-dirt snowmen melting fast in slushy grass. But having the day off was a godsend, and for a few moments this morning while the flakes were still coming down, I walked down Barracks Row taking photographs of a mildly white winter wonderland.
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.
“The rhythm of life is small-town and middle-class, which makes the town comfortable. What makes it yeasty is the cosmopolitan worldliness of its people. The man across the street has just gotten off an airplane from Karachi, and the fellow umpiring the kids softball game has spent the day over plans for putting a man on the moon.”
-Russell Baker on Washington, New York Times Magazine, 1965
November 5, 2011, Washington, DC: Going out to eat in Washington, DC is fabulous in part for reasons like this: The clientele in cozy spots around the corner from home is more often than not impressive and fascinating. It’s no wonder then that the best seat in the house is right up front for a meal at the bar, where you can observe the people who come and go and hear a bit about their day. That’s the spot we chose last night for our first trip to Acqua Al 2.
October 30, 2011, Washington, DC: I love maps, as you can probably imagine. This morning, we discovered an incredible one that allowed us to track our friend as he ran throughout the city on this cold October morning of the Marine Corps Marathon. By looking up his name and entering his bib number, we saw a little blue man, a friend, running along the race route throughout our city and northern Virginia, as far south as Rosslyn, as far west as the reservoir beyond Georgetown. When he rounded the Capitol Reflecting Pool between miles 18 and 19, we were there waiting, clutching hot coffee, cheering him on.
See more photos after the jump from the Marine Corps Marathon this morning in Washington, DC.