Friday, July 22, 2011

Summer in the District

In terms of beautiful weather, scenery, and long days of sunshine, I would be crazy to choose summer in D.C. over the Pacific Northwest. Nothing tops a perfectly mild day wandering around Seattle or a weekend spent on the lakes of Northern Idaho with the family. But D.C. has a whole unique culture that comes along with the sweltering days that I am just now beginning to fully appreciate. Here are a few of my favorite D.C. summer things.

Yes, it's gorgeous, but D.C. has some stuff to offer too

The dress code. Most people would find the fact that DC residents insist on wearing suits and jackets when the heat index reaches 112 (as it did today) crazy. I find it endearing, cute even. I was walking to a meeting across town and passed the back gates to the White House, where visitors to the West Wing come and go, and there were was nothing but suits and ties. Me, I was carrying my jacket in a breezy sleeveless dress and felt bad for those guys, but there was something insanely admirable in maintaining formalities in the face of oppressing heat.

Interns. I (sometimes) wish that it had occurred to me to spend a summer in DC filing papers, making copies, or doing whatever else it is that DC interns do. They get to experience the ins and outs of this town without any of the responsibilities that come with an actual salary.  There are plenty of other older working folks like me who are fascinated by/secretly jealous of the interns, devoting blogs and twitter feeds to all the silly things that they do in and out of the office. Most would never admit it, but come fall when the interns return to their ivy covered dorms we all are a little sad to lose our youthful office mates and sources of interesting gossip.

Food trucks. Due to some mundane change in D.C. regulations and the rise of twitter, the last year has seen a marked increase in the number of food trucks. Though these mobile establishments can be enjoyed year round, the quest for all things hip and the brief escape from A/C create prime food truck conditions. Each day, legions of desk-bound feds dutifully check the live online map in hopes that their favorite truck will be visiting their quadrant of the District that day. Several trucks have taken to livening up our dreary lives with festive picnic blankets, music, and costume-clad servers. I realize that many cities, such as Portland or NYC, have their own cadre of food trucks, but I can assure all that no group of people appreciate a good korean taco or jerk chicken empanada than the Federal workforce, who were previously confined to bland cafeteria buffets and subway.

Jazz in the garden. There are many, many fine outdoor events in D.C., and plenty are probably more cultured or more scenic than Jazz in the National Sculpture Garden, but this stalwart of outdoor social events is one of personal favorites just for pure scene. Every Friday the sculpture garden on the National Mall opens its gates to thousands of downtown workers, offering spendy pitchers of sangria and Heinekken along with live jazz music. By 6pm, every square foot of grass and dirt is filled with suits and skirts. Shoes are kicked off, smuggled bottles of wine are opened, and cheese, crackers, and hummus are spread out on blankets.  It doesn't matter how long or stressful the week has been, jazz has a way of resetting everything and starting a weekend off right.

So it's not hanging out in mountains and or on the Sound, but the residents and workers of the District embrace summer in their own, uniquely suited up way.

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