10 Cool Things About Living in Washington, D.C.

Think it's "business as usual" living in the nation's capital? The experience of living in D.C. is sometimes awesome, sometimes frustrating, sometimes surreal, but always an adventure!
  1. Tons of Free Culture. Lots of cities have museums - we have the Smithsonian, the Library of Congress, and the National Archives.  Lots of cities have theaters - we have the one in which Lincoln was assassinated.  Lots of cities have free concerts - ours feature the National Symphony Orchestra.  Lots of cities have parks and trees - we have cherry blossoms.  Lots of cities host universities - our city hosts no fewer than five major institutions (Georgetown, George Washington, American, Howard, Galludet).  Lots of cities have monuments - but usually not over 2000 of them.  Need more proof? Didn't think so.
  2. Our News is the Nation's News.  Love going to other parts of the country and reading what passes for the "local" newspaper.  Typically, the articles have to do with issues important to that particular state or community (farm subsidies, education bills, what have you). Our local newspaper, on the other hand, is the Washington Post, which seldom leads with anything having actually to do with D.C.  Oh - and you have to love the advertisements.  While others in the country get car commercials, our newspapers, television and radio stations are peppered with commercials about major military system procurements, homeland security technologies, upcoming legislation and the rights of unions - lobbyists availing themselves of the local media to get their messages out to the various agency officials who might be in a position to influence their cause.
  3. See News Being Made.  Why rely on a newspaper, though, when living in D.C. gives you the opportunity to see news being made first-hand?  There's nothing quite like the rush of witnessing Congress in full session as they debate something heated, watching the Supreme Court justices mercilessly grill intimidated advocates, or lining the road in mute solemnity as row after row of motorcycles thunder past on Memorial Day.
  4. 535 Bosses.  Though, technically, D.C. has a mayor and local government, the city is basically run by Congress.  Which means that whenever Congress wants to try something - affirmative action, school vouchers, banning needle distribution, looser gun control laws, HOV/parking waivers for electric cars, etc. - they don't have to ask DC residents permission first ... they just make it so.  Adding insult to injury, DC residents don't even have the right to choose Senators or Representatives to speak for their interests: you see, DC isn't a state, and therefore not permitted representation in Congress.  And people wonder why this city is so screwed up.
  5. Diversity.  You want to talk about diversity?  Try living in a town that plays host to approximately 170 foreign embassies!  Over the years students from dozens of countries - everything from Cameroon to Denmark, Egypt to Guatamala - have passed through my classroom.  Our Congressmen may still prefer doing business over big steaks, but in doing so they're passing up literally 1000s of amazing ethnic restaurants that exist throughout the city and its suburbs.
  6. Cool Traffic Obstructions.  Other cities struggle with traffic tie-ups due to accidents, construction, or overtaxed infrastructure.  How many cities (with the possible exception of New York) have traffic reports that regularly include updates on the progress of motorcades, marathons, and political protests throughout the city?
  7. Living at Ground Zero.  Part of excitement of living in DC is knowing that you're basically ground zero for irrational people wishing to express their discontent with the U.S. government in violent - often explosive - ways.  Pretty much every school, business and agency in the city lives in constant anticipation of imminent attack, which certainly keeps you focused on living life to the fullest. 
  8. Interesting Neighbors.  Another cool thing about living in DC - trying to guess what your neighbors do for a living.  DC plays host to a host of super-secret agencies and entities - not just the CIA, FBI, NSA, and Pentagon, but a host of other agencies so secret you wouldn't recognize the acronyms if you saw them.  Which means that in almost every neighborhood you're going to get half a dozen folks who are suspiciously vague when asked about what they do for a living.  Moreover, not all of them are necessarily working on our side of the curtain.  ("You say you're a 'cultural attache'?  Yeah, right!") 
  9. Tourists.  I sometimes lose track of the fact that in other cities, you aren't stopped almost every day on your way to/from work to take someone's picture, explain the historical significance of nearby attractions, or give directions to the Museum of Natural History.  Once I was actually asked: "Do people actually work here, or are people in suits hired to make the city look real?"  Good question.
  10. Living Life in the Shadow of History.  This is the literal truth, as I'm reminded every day I pass teams of young adults playing league softball literally in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial, or lugging grocery bags past townhouses that used to house great civil rights leaders, or building snowmen on the grounds of the Capital building.  It's kind of daunting, trying to live a normal life in the proximity of so much that is larger than life! 

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