USA: The Best Of Washington Life?
Perhaps Washington’s life lies in places far away from the National Mall, all scattered with majestic monuments boasting freedom and sovereignty. Sports bars with happy hours and slider specials colonised by navy-blazered, beige-trousered, brown-loafered boys, as desperate to turn their internship into a job as they are to catch the attention of the girls at the booth next to them.
This was the Washington I saw when I first arrived in the New World I have come to consider my New Home. Washington life is the tree-lined sixteenth street, the pedestrian part of Penn Avenue, the green patch of mall where Sunday football teams meet for a good (net)work-out.
Though border control reminds me I’m an alien with a delightful accent, my DC community welcomes me back and assures me I’m home.
When the notion of ‘Washington’ is erased, people can think of ‘DC’ as their own ‘District’ to build their popular monuments on the less celebrated avenues of Rhode Island and Georgia. We make music on streets lower down the alphabet and dance in basements that the interns with their hairdos couldn’t know about. Neighbourhoods once notorious for fear now adopt global bass beats and throw parties, revellers in glitter and wigs, quasi-pyjamas, or shiny pants.
The colours clash and muddle, they melt and curdle like tropical beats on the Blandensburg Road. While Washington looks on, magnanimous and free, we live to create a new story for DC. The tale won’t be sports bars and obelisks, but capoeira on Malcom X Park, the ladies of Batalá leading the parade, and stereos harking back to local legends: Mr. Hathaway and Roberta Flack, and Marvin Gaye. You have to look closer for beauty beyond monuments and avenues to admire murals by anon, taste Ethiopian spices, and sway to the analogue soul of the streets lower down the Alphabet, higher up the map.