14 June 2008

First Impressions :: My Neighborhood

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.

i love my porch!

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.

3 comments:

HomeImprovementNinja said...

welcome to the neighborhood. I've been in CH for about 4 years, I think you'll like it.

Jamie said...

Don't fear the Target. To me it's not the corporate brands that create the suburbs - it's the fact that everyone goes from home to car to work to car to mall to car to home. There's no community, no interaction. Putting corporate stores in walking environments seems to me a long-needed step in the right direction that will do just the opposite - help strengthen communities and get people out of their cars and on their own neighborhood sidewalks, as well as create local jobs.

The mall is also a magnet for population growth and commerce in the area; it's presence has already had a strong ripple effect that will help smaller local businesses succeed where they couldn't have otherwise.

Welcome to CH. You moved here at a pretty exciting time; there's a lot going on. Explore and enjoy.

miss maria said...

thanks for the comments! don't get me wrong, i'm actually quite loving the neighborhood so far.

and good point, jamie. i just hope that the vibrancy i'm coming to love and enjoy here will last through all the change (speaking from some experience where those smaller shops have suffered in the wake of the big box arrivals).