Tuesday, August 28, 2007

A local welcome

As promised, the hot humid air of the eastern seaboard mixes with the cold fronts coming off the Atlantic to create some *wicked* thunderstorms. This one, on Saturday the 25th of August (2007) generated repeated severe weather warnings and sundry cries of "Auntie Em!!" from local government and public safety types.
The Overture had just started as I was leaving the library and Act One was closing in on Hayattsville when I stepped off the metro and headed for home. Though I was supposed to be going straight back to studying I just had to interrupt it a few times to run out and document the progress of the storm as the clouds piled up and the lightning developped from flashes to great forked arcs. I like the area already, but talk about value added!

Perhaps the novelty will wear off (probably next time I'm in dress clothes) but as it is, I get a kick out of the warm, steamy air combined with the cool rain. The lull and rush of the cicadas as the wind picks up and the rythym of the rain as it's driven in waves across the tree branches is so perfect it seems surreal. It's all terribly atmospheric and sensuous; to walk out into the beginnings of the storm after the quite, air-conditioned sterility of the library makes me feel invigorated and alive.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Don't try this at home...

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.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

I could get used to this

Well, two full days in the city and now I see why people like it!

I must admit, I feel pretty swell having a downtown DC zipcode. I'm living on the 2nd floor of a 10 story apartment building in what is pretty much the center of Washington. 13th and M is about 6 blocks from the White House and Capitol Mall and 7 blocks from DuPont circle. My main commute to school, 13th street, is complete with all the trappings of city life. Newspaper vendors, hotdog vendors (a Hebrew National trolley with a Vietnamese proprietress selling Polish sausages...) business men and women, and of course, homeless people wedged into out of the way cracks of buildings.

The neighborhood is neither great nor terrible, falling into that relatively sweet spot that allows for concievable affordability on a student budget but isn't palpably unsafe. I certainly don't feel unsafe, despite the litany of "Thou should nots" that I hear from well meaning friends and superior sounding longtimers alike. I don't want to have my optimish disproven by a knife to the ribs, but thus far I'm quite pleased and not the least bit intimidated.

Monday, August 13, 2007

And Hello to you too!

My time as a Rambling Rover this summer has reminded me how much I enjoy writing for its own sake. Though in the past I have tried to use readyFIREaim in the past as an outlet for my creative impulses, I often suffered from the (all too real, I'm afraid) sense that I had nothing of great interest or novelty to relate. I believe that the essence of interesting conversation (and, by extension, writing) is "Be relevant, be original, or be quiet". My adventure this summer gave me something to share and I thoroughly enjoyed doing so. On the cusp of a move back east and the beginning of law school I feel that I am once again on an adventure, this one even larger if somewhat more subtle than the first.

In brief, I'm entering the final frontier of my formal education. After years of soul searching, anxiety, and "discernment" (which is the dignified name for slow-motion existential crises) I satisfied myself that law school wasmy proper path and fought my way through the institutionalized hazing of the modern law school application process. I was accepted at the Catholic University of America School of Law in Washington, D.C. and, after visiting in May, I accepted their offer. The 3 months that followed were a frantic montage of preparations for school and Europe follwed by my my and my brother's incredible 6 week romp through the old world. I arrived home barely 4 days before I was due to leave for DC with, once again, my life packed into bags. It seemed very much like a continuation of our trip; back on a plane, to another capitol city, with a more than a little trepidation and the promise of another great adventure.

Arriving into DC via Washington Regan (DCA) is quite an introduction to the city. Though Baltimore (BWI) is the cheaper choice for people not going directly into the city, DCA seems to be almost deliberately placed to provide tantalazing glimpses of familar landmarks to wide-eyed passengers as the plane taxis to the jetway. Driving into downtown DC the freeway signs were almost as comical as they were gratifying to me as a newly minted "local". So dense are the noteworthy sights, monuments, buildings, and institutions that the signs seem to rattle them off like a breathless maitre'd at a restaurant with 60 specials.

I couldn't help smiling at the peak of the Washington Monument off the port bow of our SuperShuttle, and I had to remind myself that locals don't gawk at the tourist sights.

Out for an orienting constitutional later that evening with my new roommate I was soaking in the pace of city life and delighting in the hordes of pedestrians vying bravely with cars for use of the crosswalk. I learned very quickly that tourists watch the stoplights, locals watch the cars. Slipping across a busy street right before a red light I had just commented on how city traffic moved to a different rythm than suburban traffic when *BANG!!* -- right behind us, an SUV t-bones a sedan.

We laughed for about two seconds, watching the karmically-chastised red light runner limp his 4-door off to the side of the road, then noticed that the SUV wasn't moving. No one else seemed to be doing anything and I didn't think citified indifference extended to car accidents, so I hustled over and poked my head in the window.

Me: Whoaaaa. Everyone ok? Anyone hurt?
Me: Uhhhh...{Shiiiiiiit} I'm only gonna ask one more time then I'm calling an ambulance
Passenger 1: Y-yes. Help. Ambulance.

And wouldn't you know it, I hadn't brought my cell phone. Fortunately Brendan, my roommate, had, and I called it in while being mercifully sidelined by the pros who showed up in a squad car as I was stepping away. Welcome to DC indeed!