Mention gentrification in DC and you're likely to be greeted with either angry tirades or guilty feet-shuffling. I'm somewhere in between. Do I like that long-time residents are being pushed out to PG County by skyrocketing rent in my neighborhood, or the blatant current of racial conflict that runs through what we politely call "transitioning neighborhoods?" No. But nor do I care for the dulcet ring of gunshots echoing down the street. If I did, I would still be living in Detroit, thankyouverymuch. No, I go for the neighborhoods that are a good five years past gentrification; the ideal combination of urban reality and being able to walk down the street without having a knife plunged into my ribcage.
I love my neighborhood to the point of obnoxiousness, but gritty it ain't. Where visitors used to troll for crack, they now troll for organic vegetables. I like that my block is sunshiney and full of young families with impossibly cute cubby-cheeked children bouncing in expensive slings on their daddies' chests. I like that I have enough friends in a five block radius that I can, at any time of the day, pad over to someone's house in my sweatpants for some guilty pleasure television. And, because I am a total geek, I really love that we have conversations like:
"Do you wanna stop by the liquor store after work?"
"The one by Mary Landreiu's house."
"Do they sell the hard stuff?"
But frequently I feel a pang for the Eastern Market of yore. The Eastern Market of my freshman year of college, when we were warned by overearnest orientation leaders that it was Not A Good Idea to go there alone or after dark. The Eastern Market that held the now-defunct shady Las Placitas franchise, makers of the world's strongest margaritas and willing to give them to anyone old enough to order them. The Eastern Market, where, stumbling back from yet another night doing our part to keep up morale in the armed forces at the Dirty Pigeon, we'd pass people smoking blunts out on their front stoops in the same manner my Grammy used to sip a cup of coffee on her patio.
I was on the phone with my mother yesterday walking home from work, telling her about my new job when, lo and behold, I noticed a gentleman relieving himself on a tree across the street. A tree in a churchyard. At 5:30 in the afternoon. Mid-stream, he caught me looking at him and shifted slightly as to better conceal his junk. But, unlike every other guy I've ever accidentally locked eyes with while he was urinating in public, this one didn't start ranting and raving. And hey, if you're going to live in a city then people are gonna pee on the street, and if people are gonna pee on the street then quiet and unobtrusive peeing on the street is the best way to go.
And this morning, I was stopped from crossing Penn because of a motorcade. I was prepared to be all internally huffy, because in college we'd forever get stuck behind a stream of nineteen towncars because Clinton wanted a burger or a Bush daughter had to pick up her forgotten credit card from Smith Point, and we'd whine and be all "Ugh! Motorcades are so annoying!" but secretly feel incredibly cool because hey, college sophomores everywhere are late to class but WE were late to class because the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES WAS DRIVING BY US. WE WERE SO MUCH COOLER THAN YOU.
So I'm waiting for the familiar whine of sirens to pass, thinking how weird that a motorcade would be driving into the city from Southeast at 7:45 in the morning, when I suddenly realized: not even a diplomat would travel in a white caged-in school bus.
Organic vegetables, public urination AND early morning prison transports. I really do love my neighborhood.