Missing DC again. Real bad. I remember why I wanted to leave. Outside of government, it's a really small town. Inside government, possibly even worse. It's not a town to live in if you want to feel like you are on the cutting edge of culture. The electronic music scene sucks. Like every city in America, it's always on the edge of getting big without quite getting there. It's gotten really expensive. It's not Chocolate City anymore. H St NE turned from burned-out ghetto to sports-bar shithole so fast that the hipsters it was marketed to never even had a chance to move there. I could barely keep myself apart from self-important interns then, and I imagine it's even worse now. The records stores aren't that great.
But it's the little things, the things I haven't found replacements for, even when I was in New York. The Kung Pao chicken at City Lights of China (which is not the amazing, but always tasted exactly how I wanted it to). Kramerbooks. Not a great bookstore because they have everything, just because they always had something I wanted to take home. Taking a piss in the bathroom inside the hotel outside of which Reagan got shot. Dukem's Awasi Tibs. DUANGRAT'S!!! The Potomac. Wandering the monuments listening to Slowdive stoned. Random conversations at Pharmacy Bar. Seeing The Rules Of The Game and Battle Of Algiers steps away from the FBI building. Battling tourists on the Metro escalators. Walking up the stairs of the Dupont Circle Metro station just because. Hating Georgetown, but going to Cafe La Ruche anyways. Going to late night, smoke-filled dinners at Bistro Francais, back when smoking was allowed. Spending a Sunday reading the New York Times at the Four Seasons. Watching the Redskins lose so many times. Old Ebbitt. Walking along the GW trail past National and listening to the cabbies talk in thick accents about their distant homelands. Walking less than two miles from my (relatively) affordable appartment to the White House (fuck who lives there, it was fun!). Oh yeah, and visiting my favorite Rothkos or Bacons or Dubuffets before or after a hamburger. Why not? It was free, just like the Truffaut or Antonioni film shown on 35mm the weekend before. DC might be the most beautiful city in the country. It felt less parochial than New York. But New York is the privilege of being parochial and knowing that people everywhere else actually give a shit.
There was a period. Why did I think life could get better? When I was still living in Virginia but bartending in DC. There was a cab driver. Ali. He used to pick myself and a coworker up every night after work. He gave us a discount because he could depend on our business. My coworker would get dropped off in a northern section of Arlington and then we would head south to Crystal City and grab Pakistani food at 4am at a 24-hour place filled with cabbies heading home. I would get some chicken, some rice, some bread, stuff myself, and get a ride back to Alexandria. Real, real peace.
But so much of it has gone. Chinatown. Convention Center. I remember when downtown had edge to it, when there was mystery. I never got to go the club district that has now been replaced by a baseball stadium in SE. Red! DC Sanctuary! There's so much more. Olsson's. Tower Records Foggy Bottom. The electronic music section. A real one! With Chain Reaction and No-U-Turn. On CD of course.
You know what has happened to cities in the last 15 years. For some reason, I keep thinking that that trend can be escaped, can be outrun. But it's not the case. Family has never been home to me, and every community that I have searched for and found is gone. Sure, the people remain, but what can we do? It's that adult solution of just living one's own life that makes me so sad. The people I've seen at their best, enabled by the support around them, now just taking their diminished place. Is this all that can be? For me too?
DC was when I believed in art most, and also when I gave up. It's just a representation of imagination. I want a new ontology! And I know it comes down to belief. Which is why our current era sucks so much. It's not a lack of things to believe in, just a lack of belief.
DC is beautiful and Brooklyn is fucking ugly, Manhattan is an island for assholes, and I don't think I'll ever quite have what I want. I don't know if I can even define it. But if I have to choose between having no life, having a life that's not quite good enough, and continually torturing myself with a life that doesn't exist... Something is better than nothing. For a time there, for real, I felt, as Audrey Hepburn said in (surprisingly) one of my favorite films, Sabrina, "in the world and of the world". That's not too bad, is it? Is it foolish to want more? Or can I at least keep wanting more while gaining just a little more pleasure from my time?
Of course that time corresponded with the time during which I had the lowest expectations for myself. So what does that mean? That's what I have to figure out before I return.
Or maybe I won't. For fuck's sake, I just want a life again, regardless. Illusions, mystification, romanticization: purpose.