I'm coming up on 48 hours since I arrived in DC. The transition has been surprisingly smooth, and I feel unsettlingly settled. I'm comfortable. Maybe it's a testament to my adaptability. All these years of traveling alone have prepared me well to move to a city where my friends number exactly one.
I also believe the attenuated period of adjustment has something to do with my new neighborhood, Columbia Heights. It's charming and colorful, and just dirty enough to be interesting. The mix of people reminds me of Hyde Park and Humboldt Park, two neighborhoods I'm very familiar with in Chicago, while the look and feel reminds me of Carroll Gardens in Brooklyn: brightly painted rowhouses with front yards, some meticulously manicured, others overgrown with weeds. And with awesome burritos right down the street, I'm home.
Columbia Heights is also undergoing gentrification/urban renewal/whatever. Bling to the west; blight to the east. All of the expected big box names -- Target; Bed, Bath & Beyond; Staples; Starbucks; Marshalls -- lumped into a shiny boring complex. My housemate tells me it opened only two months ago.
I went to New York City about a month ago, and I remember being surprised and somewhat dismayed that in a span of like twenty blocks, I passed by two TJ Maxx/Linens 'n Things behemoth shopping centers, followed by a few Jamba Juices, Old Navys, and a DSW. Now, I have no claim to be fussing about NY's suburbanizing urban landscape given I've been there maybe half a dozen times, but that experience coupled with my DC move is bumming me out. Everywhere looks the same. Yet, because everywhere looks the same, I feel 'at home' immediately. Bleh.
Christopher Hitchens writes about lost Bohemia in this month's Vanity Fair: "On the day when everywhere looks like everywhere else we shall all be very much impoverished, and not only that — we will be unable to express or even understand or depict what we have lost."
Despicable as I often find his views, this rings true today. And yet, I would be lying if I said I wasn't elated that Target is a five-minute walk away.