Dear Washington, D.C.: I Hated You…But I Miss You » VSB

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Dear Washington, D.C.: I Hated You…But I Miss You

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Five years and six months; that was my sentence. Blame it on a molotov cocktail of bad luck and amazing opportunities; but I spent the early years of my adulthood in the Nation’s Capital plotting my escape. If it wasn’t a spring break or summer internship I was looking forward to, I was on the first Megabus to New York whenever I had a chance. Simply put — for me, being a young adult in Washington, D.C. sucked.

Fortunately, Howard University shielded me from the things I hated most about the region: the pretentious cruisers wearing their work badges to happy hours. The tension in the air between gentrifiers and D.C. natives. And the insane cost of living that continues to skyrocket.

Between the hellish traffic, parking nightmare and being a repeat victim of the rampant crime – by the time I walked across the stage in May 2011, I was beyond ready to go.

I didn’t get an opportunity, or the boot rather, until the beginning of 2013 when my company decided that it was “moving in a different direction” so it had to reduce a chunk of headcount. I literally spent two months living like a Georgetown housewife. Waking up to watch Moesha before hitting the WSC for a work out, shopping for ingredients to failed cooking attempts before meeting my friends for happy hour at five.

Eventually that got old and after paying off my last set of parking tickets in March 2013, I dropped another $600 on my chariot to freedom — a cross country U haul back home to Detroit. Sure the city had a deplorable job market and was on the verge of bankruptcy, but seeing old friends and family finally brought me some peace.

Unlike D.C., I could get where ever I needed to go in 15 minutes. And also unlike D.C., young professionals supported one another instead of trying to “oneup” each other every chance we got. Gentrification was more of a sociology term than a reality and no one was trying to strip the city of its culture. Life was well…easy.

It wasn’t until I got the itch to make a career move that landed me in the Bay Area last summer that I had a chance to fully appreciate the place I ran to Detroit to get away from. Despite the sunshine, blue skies and moderate weather, San Francisco’s lack of brown faces, horrible traffic and geriatric nightlife made me appreciate the terrible parking, snotty people, pricey rent and transit. I actually moved to a major city where I could spend a day outside and not see another brown face until I looked in a mirror – who knew that was possible?

Suddenly the repeat nights on U Street and drunken brunches from Dupont to Capitol Hill didn’t seem so bad. My last trip back was homecoming of last year and it dawned on me that D.C. wasn’t just that crummy place south of New York on the eastern seaboard, it was the place I grew up. From the second I landed at Reagan National and hopped on the yellow line, I tried to fight the feeling that I was back home. The yoga studios and luxury condos replaced former landmarks in my old neighborhoods of Brookland and Columbia Heights, but they couldn’t erase the memories I made there. The new name for Northeast near New York Avenue, NoMA, didn’t change the fact that I saw my first stabbing outside of FUR nightclub and the new shopping plaza in Chinatown can’t keep those bad ass kids off the corner of 7 and H.

Despite all the things that have rapidly changed, what made DC the most unique has remained the same; the people. College kids at Howard thinking they’re the greatest gifts to the planet walking up and down Georgia Ave, the young, well “ish”, Black professionals congregating on U Street and my old church, Alfred Street Baptist, still drawing flocks out sheath dress rocking naturals to the pews every Sunday. God.

As much as I complained about it when I lived there, DC will always be the same city I loved to hate. Thanks for the laughs, the tears and life.

See you at Homecoming,

Michael Tomlin Crutchfield

Michael is a tech savvy, Detroit native working in Silicon Valley as a communications professional. He graduated from Howard University with a degree in journalism and is passionate about education, health & wellness and economics.

  • Dee

    Wow, I can relate to this so much. I also went to Howard, left DC for a couple of years for grad school, ended up back in DC, spent six years there in a love/hate relationship with the city before getting laid off last fall and moving back to Chicago, where I am now.

    As much as DC itself got on my nerves (sooo true about the yahoos wearing their work badges to happy hour and how absolutely petty colleagues can be instead of being supportive), you’re right: the people made it what it was for me. I met a lot of great people during my time there. I came of age there (for better and for much, much worse) and…well…I can’t say I miss the city, but I do miss the support system I built for myself as an adult. It’s a daunting task to try to recreate that again.

  • NomadaNare

    It’s like every young Bison whose career has taken them from DC feels the same. I graduated in 2009 but didn’t leave until 2011 and headed out to the Detroit Metro. I hated DC while I was there, but have had trouble meeting groups of people like the ones I met at Howard. It’s like in DC everyone believes they’re more important than they are because of proximity to power, but don’t realize that those government jobs don’t really mean much given how the city is behaving with the influx of those with contractor jobs that pay 2 and 3 times as much. In other places, beautiful and well-adjusted black people are rare, let alone gobs of them and I don’t typically gel with many people.

    • HeyBooHey

      That “proximity to power” comment is nothing but the truth. Some guys really have an “Obama-adjacent” complex that can annoy the spirit. But I love living among so many faces like mine, even as it’s being gentrified to glory

      • Val

        “But I love living among so many faces like mine…”

        That must be nice.

  • CrankUpThe_AC

    DC, NY, ATL, and Houston. That’s it. That is all we got. I used to say Chicago but you couldn’t pay me to make moves out there the way black people are dying. Large groups of young, educated black people are hard to come by. I used to dream of living in a city made up of Love Jones characters. Busboys and poets is gonna have to do for now lol.

    • Nick Peters

      the cold will freeze a n!gg@ you gotta be extra through to survive that

    • PunchDrunkLove

      Plus my coworker in Chicago pays $185 (or something like that) for a monthly railcard. Just no, no, no. I was griping about $143 a month to park in the building and the $94 I pay to park right next door.

    • Amazonian Midget

      “I used to say Chicago but you couldn’t pay me to make moves out there the way black people are dying. ”

      Chicago is honestly a beautiful city, and if it wasn’t for the crime rate, my husband and I would still be there. I just couldn’t keep holding my breath every time he took the El to visit his aunt on the south side. Too many innocent bystanders in Chicago for me, and we used public transportation (I was not dealing with Chicago traffic) so you never knew who you were standing next to and whether or not they were a “target.”

      Like the author, I lived in DC, well Arlington, for a little while, and convinced myself that I was sick of the pretentious people that existed there. I moved to Chicago, and have been trying to get back to DC ever since. In about a month, I get my chance and we’re headed back.

      I miss the environment, the attitudes, the brunches and happy hours. I miss the success stories, and the large amount of Blacks who just “wanna be somebody.” I can’t wait.

      • HeyBooHey

        The brunches and happy hours are a big part of what makes DC great for me lol. The social aspect here is pretty good, it’s big enough but small enough. I’m in Alexandria not too far from the Arlington line, I definitely get the pretentious smell in certain places. I’m excited to move into the city soon to get a different feel. Good luck on the move back!

        • Amazonian Midget

          Thanks! I was telling my husband that brunch and happy hour is like a religion there. lol 29 days and counting…

        • Ger Wil

          I agree with this here. Bottomless Mimosas or bust. OR those $1 bottles of bubbles at Irish Whiskey on weekends!

          • HeyBooHey

            ALL of the bottomless mimosas!!!! And What is this $1 bottles you speak of??

            • Ger Wil

              Irish Whiskey on 19th and M. They do $1 Brut during brunch hours. You can choose to buy orange juice to accompany per your own discretion.

              • HeyBooHey

                Thanks for the info! If I end up wasted beyond belief, I’ll be sure to place complete blame on your head lol

        • U Street was my home after I turned 21 and got to really indulge in brunch.

          • HeyBooHey

            Yes, U St is my go-to for hopping around for drinks. Find a park by the grace of God and bounce around, grab a jumbo slice to sober up lol

      • LeeLee

        “Chicago is honestly a beautiful city”

        It really is. I lived there for 2 years while in school, just went back this past July. I love the city’s architecture, the river and the lake. I could just walk around and take pictures, its so pretty downtown and Evanston too. And I don’t know what they put in the water, but they make their men tall and down to earth out in the Midwest :) If only the winters were warmer…..

    • TeeChantel

      Large groups of young, educated black people are hard to come by.
      This. All of this.

    • Yonnie

      Chicago Not Actually ‘Murder Capital’ Of, Well, Anything http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2013/09/26/chicago-not-actually-murder-capital-of-well-anything/

      • CrankUpThe_AC

        Great article but the parts of Chicago i’d want to work in or kick it in are most definitely getting shot up.

    • Dee

      Chicago is a great city. It’s no more violent than many other U.S. cities. Which is unfortunate, but you have to watch your back no matter where you live, to be honest. Chicago has a lot to offer (great food, amazing architecture, top-rate museums, music fests, etc.) That said, it’s not the best place to be as an artist…

  • Can we have a VSB Howard function? Y’all are all over the place.

    • Nick Peters

      Negro Illuminati

      • KMN

        LMAO this for some reason made me cackle out loud at work…

    • panamajackson

      #SpelHouse

      • Can I please have my moment? As an aside, when is Spelhouse this year? I’m trying to slide through.

  • So many HU grads frequent VSB. It’s amazing.

    I couldn’t get nostalgic over any Northeast city I’ve been in. They all feel like mini portions of NY. Not that they aren’t unique in their own little ways put there’s so much crossover that I couldn’t imagine feeling like I’d need to go back anywhere in Philly, the state of NJ, DC, Baltimore, etc. I do legitimately miss Virginia Beach at times. I grew up as a military brat though so I’ve never had a home to really grow attached to or make memories.

    • You still an honorary HU grad in my eyes since you went, even for a short time :-)

    • HeyBooHey

      VA Beach always felt like a time warp with ratchet characters whenever I’d go down there from school. But it always gave me a real comfy feeling as you get closer to the water

      • Glockenspiel

        “VA Beach always felt like a time warp with ratchet characters”

        All of this to the fullest extent. Went there last year for a friends wedding and the vibe was definitely 1993. Witnessed a “lady of the night” proposition and her “boss” collecting her money. Yikes.

        • HeyBooHey

          Lol! Yea those “ladies” are in all the dark corners out there, mixed up with taffy and dudes in baggy jeans. It’s a different vibe

      • Every single place that isn’t NoVA is a timewarp in Virginia.

        • HeyBooHey

          Richmond included?? The country parts though, definitely.

          • Nick Peters

            some parts of Richmond are better….VCU, but its not NOVA

    • Tristan

      I do love VA Beach, but its because its always under the guise of visiting idk if i would ever want to live there

      • Wild Cougar

        I prefer the outer banks. All the breaches close to DC seem cheap and dirty to me.

  • Nick Peters

    Just in case you live or are ever in the DC Area:

    There is a barbeque spot called DCity Barbeque….best sandwich I have EVER had in my life (fried witing) it is a MUST…. off of Florida and North Capitol

    • Dee

      I used to live a 10-minute walk from that spot. I’m a vegetarian but I’ve heard nothing but good things about that place.

    • kenyadigit

      That place is nothing but the truth. Looks like a hole in the wall the food…

    • Ger Wil

      I KEEP saying im going to go to that place. Ill have to try it soon!

    • Solomon Grundy

      Everytime I’ve driven by that place there’s a crowd out front

    • Bukky AL

      I’ve been following their IG and the NEXT time I go home and step off the plane at DCA. I’m sooo there. It looks so damn good.

  • Nick Peters

    I’m unique to this because I’m from DC and went to Howard and so to me Howard and the negro good job class always seemed extra bougie…I was always more comfortable in the GoGo than at any bar, happy hour, or day party…..

    …Plus I already had my groups of friends, family, and regional events to enjoy and even Howard was a culture shock to me (even though my mom went to Howard).

    • QueLoQue

      I know that feel dude, I was born and raised East of the River and I’ve always felt more comfortable here than anywhere else. I try to tell some of my colleagues and coworkers about buying property in Anacostia to get ahead of the Gentrification (won’t be too long now), and they act like I asked them to go war torn Iraq. I guess it’s beneath them, until the White folk start moving that is.

      • panamajackson

        Just make sure the nice white people stay out of South East between June 15-July 15. My neighborhood is still on tilt at night. And July 4th, the actual date, sounded like an actual warzone. LOL.

        • QueLoQue

          I already got three White families on my block, there’s White women walking their dogs around Old Anacostia at night now.

          And of course July 4th sounded like war, that’s the point of the fireworks. You know ninjas go up to Pennsylvania to get the kind that are illegal in DC.

          • panamajackson

            Yes they do. I actually have quite a few white folksin my neighborhood now. They were not ready for July 4th. LOL.

      • Ger Wil

        When I first got here, every..single.. folk* that i talked to would tell me “Oh, well just go to SE. It’s really bad.” as if it were the third world and that you automatically catch ebola when you get half way across the Benning Rd bridge. The former Detroiter in me just refused to believe it was quite that bad.

        And that former Detroiter was right. I now go to church on Alabama 3 seperate times a week and will probably start going to a barber shop in that area too. heck maybe ill make my commute to tysons even longer by moving. Lol

        • QueLoQue

          Yea, a lot of people go off of reputation instead of actual experience, and it’s even harder to break the stigma because there’s a river between here and the rest of the city.

          There’s also a racial component to it, where ‘ghetto’ is any place with too many black people; one of these neighborhoods exists in almost every major city in America. You would think the ‘educated’ Negroes in the area wouldn’t fall for it, but a lot of them like to sh*t on lower class Black people just like everyone else. Them ninjas are still following the slang and music that comes from said ‘ghettoes’ though. Idk, i guess it’s a status thing.

          • Ger Wil

            *Claps* YES. That connotation of “ghetto” is spot on.

            YES. Some BBP are super bipolar when it comes to their relationship to the “hood.” They will say stuff like “I want to hear some ignorance today.” They will TURN……UP to Trap Queen like theyve lived that life [ever]. They will then turn around and deride those very people for the same things they are celebrating. Then theyll turn around again and call folks* culture appropriators.

            *White Folks

    • PhlyyPhree

      All the friends I have who were born or raised in the area feel the same way and I get that. To them, it’s just home and it has the appeal of home. I loved hanging out with them though and learning ‘their’ DC. It made it that much better to me.

  • all i know is I used to live with a chick who went to howard and let it be known…a lot. “You know, I went to Howard…” “Back when I was at Howard…” She also said she wanted to move back there so she could be “big fish in little pond.” That’s all I need to know. Everyone I have ever met in the flesh from that city has been beyond arrogant. Hopefully that will change one day.

    • Ger Wil

      Sounds like 85% of the people I know from Howard. My friend invited me to an I4RC event recently though and WOW…A lot of “important” people there. But Howard does churn out some very visually pleasing black people so there is that! lol

      • Well I went to The New School and a lot of my best friends went to Berkeley, UCLA, Penn, NYU, and a lot of other really great universities. I guess since I’m black I was supposed to be impressed? Take your degree and move on lol

        • Sela Lewis

          The fact that you know the alma maters of your other friends means that either you or they think the name has some value or relevance. Why is it different when your other friend mentions their time at Howard?

          I can say from experience that one of the stigmas that comes from being a Howard grad is that because I attended an HCBU, I made a poor academic choice. Really, I made an explicit decision not to orient my academic excellence to my proximity to whiteness. I just assumed I would get a good education because it’s, well, Howard. Just like your friends who went to Berkeley, UCLA, Penn, etc. attended those schools because, well…

          I’m proud to have gotten my degree at the School of Fine Arts — suffering through hours of art critiques, crying over ruining my last roll of photos, thinking I would never master the Pen Tool in Illustrator — just like your friend who is proud to have gotten their degree at The New School.

          • It’s about the way in which they do it. They’re not always dropping the name in every day conversations as a way of trying to make you feel inferior.

    • PhlyyPhree

      IT’s something they do to us in orientation. We can’t help it.

    • panamajackson

      My son’s mom is Howard grad. She ain’t too bad with it tho. Plus, my son is going to morehouse. she lost anyway.

      • More proof that Howard women are the best

  • DC Lawyer

    It’s unfortunate that you had that experience. Yes there are some one uppers but there are also a lot of people doing “big things” who also want to be, and are, supportive of others doing “big things.” I live in and love DC because you do have a great group of black people who are encouraged to do great things and can have hope that it’s possible because there are, in fact, others who look like you “doing it.” Just wanted to put out another perspective.

    • Amazonian Midget

      Your perspective truly is shaped by who you choose to let in your inner circle. That was the biggest lesson I’ve learned since I left DC.

      • NomadaNare

        I’m learning this right now. I naturally always hung around people that were like minded so staying on track for whatever was effortless. Now that there are so few black people around to hang out with I wound up depending on my romances to nurture my drive. Worst. Decision. Ever.

        • Amazonian Midget

          Do you have all day, because we could talk about depending on romances for hours!

    • HeyBooHey

      That’s a big part of what makes your experience here or anywhere really, the people around you. I hated it here for awhile cuz I worked with people I didn’t like and my friends lived farther out. But changing jobs and getting out more has made me take to the area in a different way. It’s fun meeting black who are excelling and humble but still know how to have a good time.

  • Julian Green

    I’ve gone past D.C. several times, but I’ve only been to the city once. I spent some of my summer vacation there when I was 13, going with my older cousin to visit an aunt I never knew I had. She lived in Friendship Heights, but for some reason we spent an inordinate amount of time in SE DC.

    I got to go to the Smithsonian and had a very good meal in the basement of a church on a Tuesday afternoon.

    • Ger Wil

      “There’s just something about spending your college years in a place away from home.”

      Yes, that!

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