They're Proud to Call Washington Their Home

Thursday, April 24, 2008

This year, we asked readers to participate in The Guide. We wanted them to share some of their local expertise by telling us about their favorite places in the city, what they like about living here and what advice they would give newcomers.

In response, we received more than 60 short essays. We heard from readers in their 90s and in their teens, from lifetime residents and just-off-the-bus newcomers. We learned that some of the District's most popular qualities are unique to the city: the Mall, especially with the monuments illuminated at night, the pervasive sense of history and the international flavor of our populace and restaurants. But readers' other reasons for contentment were more universal: closeness to family members, the neighborliness of their part of the city, the trees in their yard.

When it comes to favorite destinations, a few dominate -- the Mall, Union Station, Rock Creek Park, Eastern Market. But there are also enthusiastic proponents of the National Cathedral, Ben's Chili Bowl, Hains Point and the National Zoo. (The zoo's prairie dogs are highly recommended.)

Many readers referenced the ease of getting around, including several kudos for Metro and one particularly heartfelt ode to taxi drivers. And, it appears, as city dwellers, our readers really appreciate their access to nature. Beyond Rock Creek, there were raves for the National Arboretum, the cherry blossoms, the C & O canal, Anacostia Park, the Georgetown waterfront, and running and biking trails throughout the District.

Although tourist-watching is one reader's pastime, another noted his favorite time is Thanksgiving and Christmas, when the tourists are gone and he gets his city back.

Below are dozens of responses we received. Read on, to meet some of your neighbors.

Anacostia as Oasis

I recently purchased a new home in Anacostia in Southeast Washington. It is an oasis. My back yard bumps into Fort Circle Park. Oftentimes, when I walk out my front door, I see deer in my near back yard. When I lie down in my bed at night and look out the window, I see towering oak, pine and maple trees. I see stars twinkling in the sky. I hear squirrels, rabbits and insects. I smell what seems like fresh country air. It feels like my house is sitting in the middle of the woods. When I drive out of my complex, I see the Washington Monument, the Capitol, tree-lined streets, steep hills. Not to mention that Anacostia is full of rich history. I live a few minutes from work, shopping and entertainment. Besides, how many people can say they live near the Anacostia waterfront? It's a wonderful place to call home.

Paula Day

The Shadow of the Capitol

Living in the Eastern Market neighborhood of Capitol Hill, I had a part-time job bartending. I regularly walked four blocks home at 3 or 4 in the morning. This required me to cross Pennsylvania Avenue at Eighth Street in Southeast. At the median, I always paused to look at the Capitol in the distance. I soaked in its brilliant white dome against the still blackness of the city night as it shone upon me like a beacon of freedom. I bathed in that freedom and the pride I felt living in the shadow of the Capitol. I recalled the fear I felt on Sept. 11, 2001. I remembered dreading that a plane could be headed toward the Capitol. Then I looked to the still-standing Capitol and felt defiant resilience, strength, hope and optimism. After that, I continued crossing the street to go home, where I slept soundly.

Ryan Eades

Natives Aren't Afraid to Drive

I was born and raised in the District. My nation's capital has it all. My wife and our 6-year-old daughter also love it. Many people simply miss out on the eclectic lifestyle of African American families such as ours.

So why do many newcomers believe most residents are from elsewhere? Not sure. . . . I don't have enough time to list all my family members and friends who also are lifelong residents.

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