August 24, 2012

Confession: I’ve been having a summer affair. I’ve fallen in love with my own neighborhood again. Let others curse the heat, the sweating tourist hordes, the Metro escalators. I’ve been on vacation, skating amid the embassies.

Within the Northwest D.C. swath that ranges uphill from Dupont to Kalorama, I glide serenely on rollerblades before dusk, taking note where catering trucks rumble to a stop: That means a party, later.

Which celebrities will emerge? What will they eat? Here come the chefs. At curbside, the next day, I’ll find treasures the ambassadors threw out: curved furniture and crates that held the special party wine. Throughout the years, I’ve gleaned my share of finds: Best was the leather bar stool. Dragging it home, I wondered what political ideals encircled it when hardy diplomats made toasts to war and peace.

Each stone arch has a memory, and each street has its ghosts: the powerful who lived here, and the working stiffs like me. Before she died, I’d sometimes see Betty Friedan dining at Bistrot du Coin, the restaurant that for years was Food for Thought. I first ate there in 10th grade, just before I read Friedan. Now I teach her books at George Washington University and Georgetown; rest in peace, Betty. We both liked that front table, there at Bistrot.

I walk across the Taft Bridge to the zoo and give directions to tired families, and banter with the woman who makes my shake with cinnamon at Baskin-Robbins. I’m walking, and it’s summer, and I live here, in the middle of it all — neither diplomat nor political appointee, not a Washington insider in that way. Just a historian who bloomed where she got planted, aglow with plain appreciation of the city where I rent.