Henry Allen, a staff writer in The Post's Style section, lives in Takoma Park:
I would never live in Virginia because it isn't enough like New Jersey, and Maryland is.
Like Georgia Avenue going through Wheaton, a landscape of phone wires and tired concrete and a guy selling hubcaps out of an old bus. Virginia has Route 1 south of Alexandria, which is as good an introduction to Southern seediness as I know, but it's nothing like New Jersey, where I grew up, and Georgia Avenue is.
Maryland has the mean-spiritedness that comes from thinking you're normal. Northern Virginia has the hypocrisy that comes from thinking you're Southern. I'll take mean over hypocritical any time.
Late at night in Virginia, you can hear the retired generals pacing back and forth. In Maryland, it's the retired New Dealers who can't sleep. Their heirs keep the idealism going with nuisance laws about guns and cigarettes, and more public planning than the former East Germany, the sort of planning that produced Rockville Pike.
Virginia, with no planners at all, produced Tysons Corner. In other words, Maryland had to work to build something that ugly, while in Virginia it just came naturally.
Virginia fails in the generic good taste that's supposed to pass for gentility. Maryland fails in the educated earnestness that's supposed to pass for progress, but at least it reminds me of my lost New Jersey.
R.R. Angell, a Bethesda writer, is working on a collection of short stories about the Chesapeake Bay:
It's a North-South thing. I don't want to live on the southern side of that glittering thread of a river ever again. Don't get me wrong; I was born deep in Virginia, down in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and some of my family still talks of the Confederacy and "The War." But I hopped into the far north at 8 years of age and had the accent teased out of me in no time. I've been a Northerner ever since.
Maryland leans north, toward New England and New York City. Virginia leans south, inward, toward Charlotte. Northerners tell you what's on their minds; Southerners get around to it, maybe. It's about information up here; it's about information control down there. Why else do people with security clearances in movies always have Southern accents? Why else is the CIA in Virginia? In Maryland, what you do and know defines you. In Virginia, your family history defines you; they always ask about your "people."
To be fair, I once thought of myself as strictly Northern, but I now realize I have a kind of dual citizenship, and the older I get the more I respect my Southern heritage. As a place to live, though, Virginia is a briar patch, and I'm just the wrong sort of rabbit.