I spent the second half of my trip back east in “DC and Baltimore”. Or is that “DC-Baltimore”? I was there to see a friend who used to live in Boulder. According to her fiancé, who works in urban development, Baltimore is part of the greater DC metro area, and the region should be referred to as a whole, similar to Minneapolis-St Paul or Dallas-Fort Worth. This led to some debate, as neither my friend nor I consider DC and Baltimore part of the same area, though they are extremely geographically close. The question of “Denver and Boulder” or “Denver-Boulder” also came up, although given Boulder’s habit of buying up all the land around the city limits to prevent urban sprawl, this seems a much harder sell than DC-Baltimore. But the bigger question my friend’s fiancé raises is this: should experts refer to areas of their domain by the technically accurate but pedantic definitions of their industry? Or refer to them by the terms preferred by the public at large so as to better connect with their audience? I’ve posted previously about my own internal debates concerning whether to use proper grammar in certain situations, so I couldn’t help thinking about his instance on DC-Baltimore for longer than I should have.
That intellectual digression aside, here are my five main takeaways from the second half of this trip, which began in a spectacular fashion, watching all the Independence Day fireworks across our nation’s capital from the rooftop of my friend’s north DC co-op.
- It’s not always easy to pee in the forest. I’ve done my business all over Colorado. If I’m in the wilderness and have to go, I pop a squat and do it. Men and animals do, so why not me? But the dense, wildfire prone forests of Colorado provide a level of privacy the sparse woods of Rock Creek do not. I had to do quite a bit of hunting on my trail run to find an appropriate place to let loose.
- Convenience is dangerous. My grocery shopping is purposeful and controlled. I go to the supermarket with a list of ingredients and that’s all I buy. I only go to convenience stores on road trips. And now I see that this approach is wise. My friends lived in a co-op with a locally owned convenience store on the first floor of the neighboring building. And just like the Wawa, that place has the power to make you spend money on all kinds of junk food you’d never eat otherwise. All the chocolate bars, cookies, chips, everything looked unbelievably appealing. As useful as it is to have that store 100 feet away, I think I’d fall into some pretty terrible eating habits if I lived in a neighborhood like that. But…it is kind of fun to pop downstairs to the corner store in my spaghetti strap tank-top and short shorts and flip-flops when it’s 96 degrees out, ice cream money clenched in my sweaty fist like I’m an 8 year old, hear the bells on the door jingle, feel the rush of cool air hit my bare legs and arms, and eyeball the vast array of sugary goodness.
- The license plates in DC represent the epitome of everything wrong with this country. I’ve seen them many times, year after year, every time I visit DC. And after all these years, I have to wonder, why the fuck does our nation advertise and essentially make a joke out of having a group of citizens who are taxed without representation? Why don’t they fix the problem? Just fix it. Give them representatives in the federal government. Just do it. What insane sense of loyalty to habit and tradition prevents our ossified politicians from adding to the 435/100 head count? Add a few more. The House already has non-voting representatives. Let them vote! I fail to see the difficulty.
- What in the hell happened to Baltimore? I went there only once before, in high school, and didn’t have any opinion of the place. But now, oh my god. The whole city is a ghetto. We wandered far and wide in search of beautiful architecture and incredible seafood and book things, and everywhere we went, there were housing projects and long-ago abandoned buildings and so much litter and people who didn’t seem as if they had anything to do besides mill around the streets. It was not a pleasant place and had an air of hopelessness about it.
- People don’t cease to exist when they aren’t with you. You know the feeling, right? You don’t see a friend for half a year but when you do, you expect nothing to have changed. The friend I was visiting moved to DC from Boulder five years ago. We’ve seen each other six or seven times since then, and I’ve always felt like nothing changed, that DC was still temporary, that her fiancé was a passing phase. This time was different. I had become the outsider. DC is her life, and Colorado is only a place her parents live. Her fiancé and in-laws are her life, and I am a visitor she stays in touch with once in a while. I’m not mad; this is as it should be. After five years, she should have a happy and fulfilling social circle and life in DC. But still, I feel very sad.