Slowly, steadily, I am becoming aware that I can love a city other than Chicago and that my love can go deep. If you’d asked me a year and a few months ago if this were possible, I would have been almost angry that you would ask that. When you love something a lot it feels like you have ownership of it and as ridiculous as it is, for over thirteen years Chicago was mine. To suggest I could love another city even half as much was to take something away from me. Like a toddler with a plushy Mies van der Rohe skyscraper, I did not want to give. But I’m now welcoming this new understanding.
The understanding has opened doors in my head but the understanding has also been the crowbar that opened those doors in my head, so that’s weird. Look, let me stay out of the metaphysical for now and just say that Washington is every bit as fabulous as Chicago — and in some regards (don’t shoot) it is, in fact, more fabulous. Let me give you a few concrete examples.
1. There are murals everywhere here. Everywhere. Beautiful murals on the sides of buildings, some big, some huge. They’re all thoughtfully designed whether they’re sweet, thought-provoking, representational, abstract, art-for-art-sake-y. As a person who likes urban art of the brick wall kind, I am pleased. Chicago is mural impoverished by comparison.
2. There’s more music on the streets. Jazz combos, guitarists, saxophone players. Back in Chicago you have the drum boys on Michigan Avenue, the dudes who play in the tunnels at O’Hare, and there’s always something going on on the Jackson train platform. But today I saw a man at the Metro Center train stop playin’ a damn tuba! He was part of a killer trio: him, a guy on sax, and a kid on a drum kit playing so good and so into the jam, people were pulling out their phones to film him. I’ve never seen a tuba player in Chicago. And if you don’t like tubas, in Washington you can probably just get off one train stop up and you can enjoy a different concert.
3. Vegetation. It’s the Potomac. It’s the Anacostia. It’s the mid-Atlantic climate. The water and the air and the soil combine to make so much green here. Valleys, parks, thickets of trees, sun-dappled groves — it’s all here. Whenever I get to take a taxi drive instead of the train, I gape as we go through the outer neighborhoods. Of course there are trees in Chicago but Washington… If Chicago were a man’s head, it would have a crew cut. Washington would be a Beatle. In terms of green. The difference. The hair analogy.
4. The National Cathedral, the George Washington Monument, the Naval Observatory and everything else beautiful and monumental.
As I’ve said before, Washington has gotten into my heart. There are reasons and there are reasons.