D.C. is a multicultural city in the midst of dramatic change, which makes it a perfect spot for any artists or writers out there looking for inspiration.
The pros and cons of the changes are debated in bars all over town. A recent comment from a friend who was born and raised in the District is stuck in my brain: “DC is turning into a real city.” Veterans of DC can tell you about how violent it used to be here.
Amanda has lived here for 12 years. She can remember literally running to the Metro hoping not to get robbed after work. Muggers would often wait for restaurants workers to finish their shifts, and attack when they left to go home. Most were crack heads hoping to snatch a purse full of cash tips.
She also tells me about the notorious El Salvadorian gang known as MS13 that once dominated columbia heights. MS13 initiates are often tasked with killing an innocent person as part of a gory hazing process. Members of the gang committed brutal crimes. Often MS13 gangsters committed murder for no reason at all other than to impress fellow gang members or to entertain themselves. The US strain of this gang were homicidal enough, but the original gang in El Salvador was a plague on the populace.
Now, with all the recent developments and restaurants popping up in the area, it’s hard to imagine Columbia Heights as a gang turf. If anything, Columbia Heights shares more in common with an affluent suburb.
Not everyone appreciates the changes. Increasing property value means higher taxes, and not everyone can afford that. As a result many of the families that lived in DC for generations have been forced out of town. Recently established restaurants like U street’s Brixton have tried to pay homage to DC’s grungy roots, while simultaneously catering to the upper crust.
Not everyone is buying it though. A columnist from the Washington Post accused these new businesses of “swagger jacking”.
Much of what DC has to offer is artifice. DC is a wolf in a sheep suit. Though it isn’t nearly as dangerous as it used to be, DC won’t hesitate to bite if given an opportunity.
It’s one of the best towns to visit for anyone who enjoys people watching.
The bus to NYC from Union Station is $40 round trip. Even though the Big Apple has a lot to offer in the way of comedy clubs, exhibits and random tourist attractions, it’s simply not as fun for people watching. Maybe it’s all the tourists. Maybe it’s that there aren’t as many ugly people walking around. Everyone in New York seems like they are hip and well off.
DC is NYC’s weird uncle. The city is like your smooth-talking relative who recently got out of jail and who is trying to get his shit together. Sure, he may have recently bought a fancy new suit and successfully talked his way into landing a steady job, but everything about him still screams out hobo. He’s harmless enough, but you still would rather not leave him alone with your children. That’s DC. It’s a fascinating place to visit, especially if you have the inside scoop.