The DC Dilemma

October 8, 2011 § Leave a comment

Ah, Washington, DC. I’ve lived here just over a year now and for the first time in my life, I honestly want to live here for longer than my lease length. The weather sucks, I’ll admit. Its summers are hotter and more humid than my homestate of Alabama (despite being 700+ miles north) and the winters…. Well, look, I’m used to a few months of 40 degree weather, maybe some clouds and some rain drops here and there, and *maybe* twenty days total per year that are under 40 degrees. DC doesn’t roll that way. Winter starts quite suddenly (fall isn’t big here) in October and lasts through April, and we consider ourselves lucky if we have a few days in the 40s. Most days are in the 20s with this awesome wind that blows from seemingly every direction at once and makes the temperature drop 15 degrees. It goes right through your wool coat, your scarf, your gloves, and your sweater to freeze your bones from the inside out. It’s literally painful to be outside when the wind is at its worst in the winter. DC also has exciting blizzards and ice storms that shut everything down and lead to nightmarish traffic jams and metro delays. During the ice storm last year, Alec and I just walked home because the delays were unimaginable. It’s a bit longer of a walk to the new apartment from work–about 4.5 miles–so I’m not sure what I’ll do this year if we experience another storm like that, but what’s a few miles in the ice, snow, wind, and below-freezing temperatures of DC…

Anyway, the weather is a downside, except for right now. Currently the weather is absolutely heavenly. Sunny, breezy, 70 degree weather. We’ve got the windows open, which is one of my absolute favorite things. Not only having lots of windows to open, which is a huge bonus and a definite upgrade from my last two apartments which were in basements, but being able enjoy the sounds of birds and the warmth of sunshine as a cool breeze blows across your skin makes this weather absolute perfection. This is the first weekend off I’ve had in over a month, so it’s been pretty darn fantastic sitting inside enjoying the weather outside through my many, many windows. We’re on the second floor too, so that helps with the breeze as well.

this isn't our place, but I wouldn't mind living here!

Another downside to DC is how expensive it is. I really want a house, with a yard and windows and a porch or two. It’s so stereotypical of the “american dream”, but I want my own place where I can paint the walls, hang bike racks from the ceiling, make my own dramatic changes, and most of all, where I know I’ll be living for more than a year. I want a home, dammit! DC is insanely expensive, though, so that puts a damper on my dream a bit. Yards, too, are scarce, or you have to trade off space with closeness to a metro. I quite like the metro and don’t at all miss driving (well, driving daily. I miss long weekend drives.) so I’d rather stay as close to a metro station as possible. That means prices go up, though, and square footage and yard space go down. The chances of seeing more than 5 stars a night go down as well, but in my DC fantasy, I will have a car for weekend drives down to shenandoah valley to picnic and/or camp. Shenandoah offers excellent star-gazing.

So why do I want to stay, considering the weather, expense, and crowdedness of urban living? MUSEUMS. museums. museums. museums. I’ve never been in a place with this much art, and there’s no where else in America with as many great FREE museums as DC. If I want to go say “what’s up” to Rembrandt, I can do it easily, without any planning or cost besides the metro trip there. There are exhibitions opening all the time here, so many that I still miss some (there was a fantastic wood exhibition at the Renwick that I missed. still upset about that.). even beyond exhibitions, there are always events going on at the museums for families, students, retirees, everyone! the arts here are inexhaustible. the only downside is the lack of ancient art in DC, but I can always go to NYC for that. Also, I do consider it a plus to be so close to both Philly and NYC in case I want to see an exhibition there, or maybe catch a broadway show? Bahah, I’ve never been to a broadway show, who am I kidding… but I guess it’s nice to have the option just a few hours away by train, car, or plane.

this woman has the most beautiful flowers in front of her house down the street from us. I love walking by her home!

there are other downsides, of course, mainly family related. Most of my family lives in the South, so I always have a fantasy buried deep in my mind of living close to them, in a world of big yards and rocking chairs on covered porches and eating frozen blackberries while watching the dogs play. big family meals at my grandmother’s house, meeting my parents for coffee downtown, breakfast at the original pancake house. you know, those kinds of things. things I want, almost desperately,  but things I don’t want enough to justify leaving the art-centered life I have in DC. a dollar goes a lot further down south, but here I’m making many more dollars than I would down there… so it’s kind of a balancing act. it’s not like I could make my salary down there. or could I? even if I could, what would I spend my free time doing? the Birmingham Museum of Art does what it can, but it’s still not the National Gallery, or the American Art Museum, or the Phillips… there aren’t even galleries left to balance out the lack of museums.

so I’m in a tough spot right now, trying to figure out where I want to be but finding no perfect place (ah, utopia, you tricky tricky thing). I could make it work in DC, but I would have to give up the fantasy of seeing my family more often than twice a year. I would have to give up a lot of things. and I have political and religiously related issues with alabama that I don’t have with DC. our capitol is incredibly diverse ethnically, religiously, politically, economically, and so on. I thrive on that diversity. I appreciate it every day. I get bored seeing just white people, or just black people, or just black and white people, which is all birmingham is to me. everyone speaks in a southern drawl (or at least a softly southern accent) and you almost never hear other languages. it just seems so closed to me, and the south is becoming increasingly conservative and republican by the day. I find that incredibly suffocating. but if I could stay in my $1,000/mo 4 bedroom home (believe me, I’ve scoped out the rentals and FSBOs in bham) then maybe I wouldn’t notice or care! hey, it could happen.

my walk home from eastern market. you never realize how many trees DC has until you try to photograph the neighborhoods. it's insane! and totally appreciated, even if I don't always notice all the green.

but for now, I’m tempted to stay in DC because I have to be here for another two years anyway (that Master’s degree thing), so I might as well enjoy the museums while I can in all their wonder, but I’m tempted to move back to birmingham to be closer to my family and to enjoy the value of a dollar. le sigh. decisions, decisions.


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