110 days to decide if I will make D.C. my home.
One thing I miss about living in the Midwest is the last apartment I had in St. Louis. I paid $585 a month and got a lovely one bedroom/one bath apartment in a nice neighborhood. I had the following all to myself…
A living room
I don’t envy my friends who still live in St. Louis. But I have to admit I hated my friend just a little bit the other day when she told me that she and her fiance snagged a 1,000-square-foot 2 bedroom apartment in the business district of St. Louis with hardwood floors for $1,100–and then complained because she had to pay $20 extra a month for underground indoor parking. Underground. Indoor. Parking.
I now pay $600 to live in North Bethesda, Md. But I share common spaces with two other people. And my room is seriously tiny.
If I were to stay in D.C., I would want to leave my safe but wooded area (and cross the line between Maryland and the District where rent magically triples). I would want to feel part of the city (which is hard when I have to take the Metro to get to escape the suburbs), but I’m not sure if I could justify spending a lot on rent to live there.
I’m not picky about my living environment, because I spend so little time in my apartment. In fact, I could live in a hovel if it meant being able to step outside my door and be walking distance from restaurants, stores and bars. I love the sound of traffic. I love people watching. But, in D.C., said hovel would cost upwards of two grand, and I’m not sure if I could stomach that. Granted, I couldn’t stomach paying $585 to live in St. Louis either.
How much is location worth to you? Would you be willing to spend half (or more) of your income on rent to live in a neighborhood you love?
116 days to decide if I will make D.C. my home.
There have been a lot more people (and a lot more strollers) on the Metro lately. Tourist season is upon us. Having to fight my way onto the Blue/Orange line at Metro Center has made me think about something I hadn’t yet factored into my decision: could I live in a city that is a huge tourist destination?
On one hand, it can be overwhelming. There have been huge lines at my normally sleepy Metro stop, Grosvenor/Strathmore.
It’s harder than usual to find a seat on the train. Out-of-towners tend to stand left on the escalators. And Metro stations near tourist destinations are packed. Take this video for example (I shot it while getting off the Red Line at Metro Center when the cherry blossoms were in full bloom):
But on the other hand…
I kind of like it. I’ve never lived in a city that people from out of town actually wanted to visit. In Milwaukee, everyone you meet on the street grew up there. And, as for St. Louis, well…
I like it when tourists ask me for directions. As a Midwesterner, I don’t mind if my train is full of them—they’re friendly. And every time I see the crowds I’m reminded that I live in a really cool place that people want to travel to.
128 days to decide if I will make D.C. my home.
If I didn’t have to commute to the suburbs for work, I would not own a car. Washington, D.C., is one of the few cities in the United States where it’s practical NOT to—and I like that. I like walking to my Metro station. I like reading a book and people-watching while I wait on the platform—and doing the same on while on the train. I like riding the escalator and emerging into sunlight and the sound of traffic. Sometimes, if I’m lucky, I get to take a bus, too.
If I choose to leave D.C. I don’t know if I can go back to worrying about driving—and parking.
Milwaukee, where I spent the first 18 years of my life, has no public transportation to speak of. If you live downtown and are going to another place downtown, there might be a bus to take you there. But probably not.
St. Louis, where I lived for seven years, has this thing called the MetroLink, a light rail system that doesn’t go anywhere useful and stops running before midnight—in a city where bars are open until 3 a.m. or 6 a.m., depending on which side of the river you’re on.
Worse, nobody really uses it. Most people regard it with suspicion and consider it unsafe (in part, because of things like roving bands of teenagers assaulting people on the platforms). I’m going to a wedding in St. Louis in May and, having lived in D.C., for eight months, I didn’t even consider renting a car. Instead, I booked a hotel walking distance from a MetroLink stop. When I told a friend I was actually planning on using MetroLink to get to and from the airport, and, possibly, other places during my stay, she responded by saying, “Ew. That’s disgusting.”
That kind of attitude is what, to me, marks the difference between cities with good public transit and those without: driving in a car is isolating; public transportation forces people together (as anyone who has ridden a rush-hour train knows) and build’s a city’s identity.
Would you live in a city without good public transportation? Or do you prefer being behind the wheel?
132 days to decide if I will make D.C. my home.
I’m on a student’s budget when it comes to food. I clip coupons, plan a menu and go to Giant once a week. I pack bag lunches. I average about $3 to $4 per meal that way.
My attitude is that, if I’m going to eat out, it better be better than what I can make myself. When I have dined out in D.C., it’s been hit-or-miss. H Street NE has some good stuff at a decent price. Ray’s Hell-Burger in Arlington is tasty. Kramer’s has some amazing (but overpriced) waffles. And Ben’s Chili Bowl has always been good to me.
But I haven’t managed to find a good Indian restaurant or good dim sum. And, too often, I wonder why I just paid $17 for some pasta dish I could have made myself.
Of the top meals I’ve had in my life, none of them have been in D.C. My favorite restaurant is this place:
The Odd Duck, located in Austin, Texas. That’s right–that little trailer in Texas beats out all of the restaurants I’ve been to in our nation’s capital. Today’s menu, for example, is carrot soup with cumin and cilantro ($4), grilled broccoli salad with goat ricotta and farm egg aioli ($4), soft boiled duck egg with grilled asparagus, gruyere and duck leg ($6), grilled half quail with cauliflower and mustard ($6), grits with rabbit belly, mushrooms and soft farm egg ($6) and pork belly slider with pickled onion ($6).
You can buy everything on the menu for $32.
I have only a few months left to figure this out. I have the wherewithal of a tourist when it comes to dining out in D.C., and I’ve been here for the better part of a year.
Where are all the good restaurants, hidden gems, D.C. staples and food carts I need to try before I make my decision?
133 days to decide if I will make D.C. my home.
I’ve been saying that I’m going to move south for years now. Often, when I tell someone this, they respond with, “Oh, but you’ll miss the seasons.”
In a place with winter, things like this happen:
I’m no stranger to harsh winters—I grew up experiencing this kind of weather. But as far as I can tell, D.C.’s climate is defined by horrible winters, nice springs, miserable summers and nice falls. Two nice seasons are cancelled out by two awful ones. St. Louis was much the same way.
That’s still better than Milwaukee, where snow was on the ground between October and May. But if I were to move south, I’d gladly take sweltering summers in exchange for three other pleasant seasons.
In a city like Washington, D.C., where people rely heavily on public transit, it’s especially difficult to deal with unpleasant weather. You experience it walking to the Metro, standing on above-ground platforms and waiting for buses. Winter seemed especially long to me this year because of the wretched half-mile walk to my Metro stop.
If climate plays a major role in my decision, it’s not looking good for D.C. But maybe the cherry blossoms will change my mind.
Would you sacrifice good weather to live in a great city?
137 days to decide if I will make D.C. my home…
No matter where I live, I need a favorite place–somewhere I could go alone and still enjoy. In Milwaukee, it was Veterans Park on the Lakefront.
In St. Louis, it was the U City Loop.
In this city full of historical sites, famous museums and hidden gems, what is your favorite place? Mine is…
About a month before I moved here, I asked a friend who had lived in D.C. for a couple years to name a place she wished she had discovered sooner—and this place was her answer. I visited it my first month here, and, whenever I need a boost (and have the time), I make the half-hour Metro ride.
The courtyard has free WiFi. You feel like you’re outside (you can see the sky through the glass ceiling). It’s the perfect place to study and write because, when you need a break, instead of turning on the TV, you can walk around and be inspired by the art on display. And no matter how many people are in the courtyard, it somehow always feels hushed. It is refreshing and relaxing.
When I set up the inevitable pros and cons list to help me make my decision, this place will be near the top of the pros list.
What is your favorite spot in D.C., and how did you discover it?
With fewer than five months left (137 days), I’m going to change direction on this blog—because I want to use it to answer a vital question, one that I have been answering with “I don’t know” for several weeks now.
Will I stay in D.C. after this is all over?
For the time being, I will ignore the finding-employment aspect of my decision and simply try to figure out if, as a city, D.C. is a good fit for me. Would I be happy here? Even though I have lived here for more than eight months, I’m still not sure.
When people from back home ask me how I like D.C. I say, “Well, I’ve heard good things about it. But I wouldn’t know.” And that is an honest answer—I live in a Maryland suburb invested with deer. I work in a Virginia suburb. I spend the rest of my waking hours in a classroom or staring at a computer screen. As a journalism student, I do reporting in D.C., but pointing a flip cam at strangers hasn’t taught me much about the quality of life here. In short, I do not feel as if I have ever lived in our nation’s capitol.
Once I finish school, I could suddenly find myself with the option of moving anywhere, an option I may never have again. I could return to one of the cities I’ve already lived in. I could try my luck somewhere new. Or I could stay here. As the clock ticks down, I will attempt to determine not if I should stay here—but if I want to.