First Place

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Ben Olsen, 28, midfielder for the D.C. United soccer team since 1998. He gave a tour of the top-floor co-op in Adams Morgan where he lives with his girlfriend.

"D.C. wasn't my ideal place to live because it's such a transient city. But I always came into the city for parties and dinners and functions, and three years ago, it finally occurred to me, 'Why aren't I living here?' So I started looking around, and a friend's father owned this place and gave me a good deal.

Last year, my mother sold the house I grew up in [in Middletown, Pa.]. We had a huge, old, beautiful Victorian house just filled with antiques. I claimed the kitchen table. It's all oak and seven feet long. My brother and sister and I did a lot of homework there, had a lot of family dinners. On Saturday mornings, my mom would leave notes there for each of us with our chores for the day. When I had a party last fall, I put a tablecloth on it, but by the end of the night the tablecloth was gone, and the floors were a mess, and it was sticky everywhere. It took awhile to clean it up, but it was an epic party, and it was worth it.

About five years ago, my grandfather surprised me with that painting hanging on the wall. I never really wanted a painting of myself in my own home, but he did that for me, and that makes it special . . . I never saw my grandfather in the act of painting, but I wished I'd asked him more about it when I was younger.

I started painting after I broke my ankle when we were playing in England. Over the span of a year and a half of not playing, I was going a bit nuts just doing nothing, so I started throwing paint on canvas, really, just to feel like I was doing something.

It's the process of creating I enjoy more than the results. Those are a couple of mine hanging over the sofa. I guess you could call them abstract. I can only look at them for so long, and then I have to get rid of them. Give them to friends, sell them maybe. I figure it's a good, cheap way to cover a wall.

I sometimes look around here at my art and my stuff, and I think, 'Oh my God, it looks like a circus in here.' It's nuts. That's the old medicine ball my brother used to throw at me, an antique soccer ball my aunt gave me. It is what it is. I bought what I liked and put it here.

I first realized this was home when the rest of the team left town for the summer, and I stayed. When I get back from a road trip I like opening the doors and windows, and hearing the buzz of the city. At night, you can climb up on the roof, and there's an incredible view. When I'm here, I like being in my space. It's nice to have a place, to finally be able to say it's your own."

-- Interview by Anita Huslin

© 2005 The Washington Post Company