A Weekend In Washington, DC


I feel like we hear enough about New York City on this site, so I am going to delve into the less-explored territory of Washington, DC. (I know it’s a small step. I know there’s a big country out there. Baby steps, people!)

I moved to DC about a year ago. Before that I lived in San Francisco and before that I lived in New Orleans. Now I live in DC.

(Yeah, we call it “DC” here. Rarely “Washington.” Never “The District.” Don’t call it “The District.” Just don’t, no matter how many times you listened to that Postal Service song in 10th grade. Calling it “The District” is a good way to stand out as a Grade-A lame-o.)

(In San Francisco it was pretty clear that the locals called it “S.F.,” new people called it “San Fran” and asshole tourists called it “Frisco.” Calling SF “Frisco” is about as socially acceptable there as pulling your pants down and relieving yourself in the middle of Dolores Park. New Orleans was “NOLA” or “New OR-linz” to locals, “New Or-lee-UNZ” to old school city residents, and “New Or-LEENZ” or “N’Awlins” to asshole tourists. But I digress.)

It took me a while to get used to living here. In San Francisco, I was a part of a huge community of creative people, freelancers, artists, writers, etc. In New Orleans, the same, plus I actually was considered to be a person who had his shit together and was “professional,” which is hilarious in hindsight. In DC, however, I do not have my shit together. At least not to the people around me. I met a person in a bar recently who, with a straight face, called me “a creative.” This is my favorite thing I’ve ever been called in my entire life. It’s like something out of Mean Girls. “There are the Populars; they sit under the trees. Over there? Those are the Politicos. And the skinny kid by himself in the dingy corduroys? The one with the coffee stain on his shirt? Yeah, he’s a Creative.”

I started off the weekend at a concert for a band called Stepdad. An old friend of mine does the publicity for the band, so I got to be on the guest list, which is one of the greatest feelings on earth. Walking up to a crowded entrance to a club and saying you’re on the list, while totally shallow and empty and elitist, is truly a wonderful feeling. It made me feel a little shameful for feeling so good about being on “the list,” but a beer helped me get over it pretty quickly.

Stepdad looks like a hardcore band in that they’re greasy and covered and tattoos, and the people I brought to the show were a little concerned, I think, when they saw the guys get on stage. Then the band started into their synth pop, which sounds a bit like M83 and Passion Pit, and they forgave me. The lead singer of Stepdad weighs about 300 pounds, and has a beard, and looks a bit like a hipster Hagrid, but when the music started he might as well have been Michael Jackson.

I should mention that there was no one at this show. DC’s concert-going community is a small one. (I’ve literally seen a writer I know (he writes for the excellent blog All Things Go) at the last three concerts I went to. We’re at the stage where we just acknowledge each other with a curt nod.) It’s not like in SF or Brooklyn, where the hunt of finding the next big band is part of the city’s fabric. In DC people want to see shows by bands they have heard of. Bon Iver or Passion Pit will sell out three nights running. But a band on the rise? Not a chance. I saw Youth Lagoon play to a crowd of 12 less than a year ago.

The concert was at a venue called DC9, which got famous a year or two ago when a bouncer there killed someone. Curb stomped him, I think, as the story goes. (I tried to confirm this was how the guy died but was unable to. Articles say he was “beaten.” So take it as hearsay.) People are still a little hesitant to go to DC9. They call it “sketchy.” This makes me madder than anything on earth, when people call neighborhoods/venues/bars “sketchy.” It usually means “non-white.” Though I guess in this instance, given the death of a patron, it might fit, white or not. It’s one of my favorite bars in DC. I don’t know what that says about me.

The concert ended pretty early, but I was tired, and went home a little drunk and went to sleep.

On Saturday I rode my bike over to Georgetown. Georgetown is one of the most interesting places on earth. It looks a little like the town in The Truman Show, except with more tourists and some retail stores. The streets are lined with pretty girls who all look vaguely the same. They have square jaws and sandy brown hair, and they all wear vests and pearl earrings. They were all on their way to brunch, or yoga, one or the two. Biking past them, I got the sudden instinct to call one Madison. Don’t ask me how I knew it, but I knew for a fact that at least one girl in every group was named Madison. I also decided they were all dating kids who played lacrosse at Johns Hopkins.

I know I’m generalizing. I know I’m being a terrible person here. I know this says more about me than it does about them. I know they all don’t have expensive-sounding names like Madison and Jill. I know that they must have jobs, and they probably don’t brunch or go to yoga 24/7. I know they probably don’t all date a member of the Johns Hopkins lacrosse team. (Sheer numbers suggest this is impossible.)

But riding my bike past these girls (who I concluded all definitely went to Vanderbilt, Penn, Colby, or the College of Charleston) I couldn’t help but think this way. I hate that I do this, but I do it: I generalize people who are different than me. The same way that these people called me “a creative,” I in turn call them a “Madison.” It sucks. I know it sucks.

Then I went and played soccer.

That night we went to a bar with some friends. The DJ played 90s tunes and we danced, and the songs made us all nostalgic and I think a little sad. It was a charity event, I think, though I’m not sure what for. (People like to have a reason to drink, here in DC.)

Then I went home and drunkenly read Cormac McCarthy, and I got a little sad because his writing is so good that it honestly hurts me, in my gut, to read him. It’s like being a high school basketball player and seeing LeBron James in person. Part of you just wants to go “What the hell is the point?”

On Sunday I listened to an old Townes Van Zandt album and tried to write and failed. Then I met up with some old Boston friends (I grew up just north of Boston) and watched the Patriots win while drinking cheap beer. Then I went home and read more Cormac McCarthy and took a nap.

That night I ordered in with my girlfriend and watched Hannibal on Netflix. Something about watching a scary movie on a computer screen takes away the scariness. I giggled at the end when Ray Liotta’s brain is hanging out of his head, a reaction I distinctly did not have when I watched that movie in theaters however many years ago. It’s funny how different context will do that. Add new meaning to something.

On Monday morning it was chilly, so I put on a sweater. Then about three people commented to me that it was “sweater weather,” and someone said “I can’t believe it’s October already!” and I wanted to die a little. Come on everyone. Let’s not have the same conversation every single other person on the planet is having. Just this once.

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