Well, it became clear after only a few days that, much as I liked living in downtown DC, it wasn't going to last. Living in a highrise apartment is nice, but sharing a room was even less fun than I remembered. (Actually, I'm probably spoiled because I had cool er roommates/housemates than most people would be entitled to expect.) With the workload, however having an office/sanctuary to yourself is pretty much a must.
Problem is...it's the start of the school year. I've already moved into one place; I did all my looking for housing in a frantic rush at the beginning of the summer so I could leave for Europe with a place to come back to. Now what?
I don't recommend trying to duplicate this if you get into a bind housing-wise, but here's how it happened: While traveling around Europe I made sure to make mention of the fact that I was moving to DC when I met other Americans. Turns out a lot of other people live, work, and go to school in DC, too. One of those people was a woman taking summer classes at Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland. We met her in a hidden little university restaurant, off the street and down a flight of stairs. She mentioned she was returning to law school in the fall. When I told her I was going to start at Catholic in DC she responded that she, too, was a law student at CUA. And when I mentioned my trepidation about plunging headlong into yet ANOTHER new city at the end of the summer, she mentioned that if I needed housing her mom just so *happened* to be a real estate agent. Of all the gin joints in all the world...
Once back stateside I packed up my affairs and moved east. I arrived on a weekend so the business office of the apartment was closed; I couldn't sign papers. Orientation week kept me so busy that I couldn't get in to sign during the first few days of the week either, and by that time it had, as I said, become clear that I needed a change. So I called Lindsay. She picked me up, gave me the tour, and it was all but a done deal. I moved in the next day.
There's probably no principle to be gained here other than "It was supposed to work out this way"; I can't see how meeting your future housemate 9,000 miles from home under circumstances that simultaneously shield you from being locked into a bad lease is something I could duplicate if I tried.
I'm now living in a classic old red-brick two-story in Hayattsville, Maryland. I don't have my DC zipcode, but I'm still within the Beltway, so it counts. Hayattsville is a fairly lower middle class suburb of DC. It's closer to DC, so there's not much of a price break as compared to Silver Spring (which is *the* student zone) but it's got most everything you need within walking distance and it's not as crowded or citylike as Silver Spring. Plus, here, thanks to the magic of sharing a house with the daughter of a real estate agent, I can get a floor of house for less than the kids up north pay for a share of an apartment. Ahhh, it feels good to be putting down roots again after being in transition for so long. (Anywhere from 7 weeks to 5 years, depending on how you count.) I'm really looking forward to becoming more at home as the months go on. I'm already starting to think about whether, if and when I get visitors from out West, I will feel like a local showing them around, or still another tourist. Guess there's really only one way to find out.