I’ve been trying to get to Washington DC for a few years now, and every time I tried life has interceded. Finally I’m here. As I’m writing (most of) this blog post, my trip is almost done, having been here about two weeks. First I attended a conference for professional speakers, then I did my own seminars and coaching. I had two days in the middle to go do fun stuff.

What a great city! I ended up liking DC much more than I was expecting. If it wasn’t for the horrible weather (I’ll explain in a minute) and taxes (5.5% sales tax, 8.5% income tax; yuck), it would seriously be a city I would consider living in. It’s not perfect of course, but overall it stacks up pretty well compared to most other large US cities.

As always when I do these city reviews, I stayed in the downtown core (on purpose) for the entirety of my stay. I understand that as you move out from the core, things start getting more shitty, which is usually the case for a big American city. Keep that in mind as I go on; I can’t describe the entire area of Washington DC, just the central city core.

1. The women. Let’s talk about the women here since I know that’s probably what most of you are curious about. When I first arrived at DC, I was surprised to see how fit and trim everyone is compared to most other US cities. Several guys informed me that DC won fittest city in the US at some point recently, and I wasn’t surprised. DC women are definitely fit. In terms of attractiveness, they’re about on par with Chicago women. Chicago women are one tiny notch better than New York women, which is to say that Chicago (and DC) women are fit and generally average looking but nothing to get super excited about. This is opposed to places like New York (women who are fit and trim but somewhat plain looking) or Miami (super hot women of all races).

As you get closer to the government buildings, the women do start to get a little better looking. There are hotties to be found in DC, but you have to hunt for them.

So as to whether or not DC women are “hot,” that would depend on what city you come from. If you’re from Miami or LA, you’re going to find DC women disgusting. If you’re from Memphis or Detroit, you’ll think they’re gorgeous. (I stopped off at Detroit for three days prior to this trip, and the difference in women between there and DC was staggering.)

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Typical DC subway station

2. The subway system here is clean, efficient, and seems to be well kept. Regardless, it’s still decades behind the subways of Asia. The subways in DC use primitive LED signs that look like something out of the 1970s. Instead of a computer voice announcing the next stop, there’s either complete silence, or a very fast muttering from the conductor over a 30 year-old speaker you can’t understand. On the plus side, the subway stations are very clean and well thought-out.

While the subways in DC are adequate, it’s a little sad to see the subways within the capital of the most powerful nation on Earth so far behind those of other nations. Oh well.

3. Traffic and crowds in Washington DC are very interesting. Like most cities, things get crowded after about 5:30pm. Unlike most cities, everything stays crowded until 11pm or even later. Very strange. I was in a Walgreens on a weekday night at 10:30pm, and it was jam-packed crowded, with huge, long lines at the checkout counter. At a Walgreens? At 10:30pm on a Wednesday night?

I asked someone if some big event had just ended, like a concert or sports game. “No,” he said with a shake of the head, “it’s always like this.” Even Manhattan doesn’t have late-night crowds like this in stores. Fascinating.

People in DC are very chill and relaxed as compared to most American cities. It’s refreshing. They’re almost as chill as the Seattle/Portland people I’m accustomed to. However, when DCers get into a car, they suddenly become New Yorkers. DC folks honk their damn horns constantly. Walking down the street at any time of the day you’ll hear honk after honk, all day long.

I started paying attention to why these people were honking, and as you might expect, they were honking for the dumbest and most minor reasons you can think of. And no, this is not a “black thing;” most of the people I saw honking for no good reason were white folks.

What is it about the east coast that turns normal people into short-tempered assholes when they get behind the wheel of a car? It’s probably the biggest cultural difference in the US between the east and west coasts, and I admit I don’t understand it. At least in New York it somewhat makes sense; New Yorkers as assholes in or out of a car, but DCers are chill people…until they start to drive. Bizarre.

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A couple I saw getting married in front of the Washington Monument. Poor bastard. I wonder if he looked into DC prenup laws.

4. The weather here is dreadful. I have a rule that I never travel in the summer, because that’s when most of the world is too hot and/or humid and it’s also when were I live (Pacific Northwest) is the most beautiful. This year I had to make an exception to this rule because of this conference I had to attend (I had put it off two years in a row and couldn’t put it off again), so I was prepared for shitty weather.

And boy, did I get it. Friends of mine in DC have admitted that while DC is a cool city, the weather sucks. Well, they’re right. The humidity here is bad. Not horrible bad, but definitely in the bad category.

You walk outside in the summer time, and within about four minutes you feel sticky and gross. I’ve noticed that people who live here carry around spare T-shirts with them to change halfway into the day because they sweat so much. Sweaty armpits here are common. People here shower two, if not three times a day in the summer time.

Worse, the humidity brings mosquitoes and little flying bugs, the like I’ve which I’ve never encountered in a big city like this. We’re talking both indoors and outdoors.

The final day I was here, it was 85 degrees, hot, and humid as usual. Suddenly there was a boom in the sky and it started pouring down rain, and I mean pouring. My smartphone suddenly beeped with all kinds of flash flood warnings, and within minutes the streets were like rivers. Hot. Humid. 85 degrees. And pouring down rain. Yeah. “Sucks” doesn’t begin to describe it.

I was trapped outside without an umbrella and my laptop in an expandable backpack that was not waterproof. Taxis become scarce when things like this happen, and I was very lucky to be by one that I lunged for instantly.

I had to fly home that day, and the Uber ride to the airport (had to Uber, couldn’t use the subway, long story) cost double because of the rain. Nice. I arrived only to find the airport was damn near shut down, planes had been rerouted to different airports, mass chaos, all because of…rain. (What the hell? People in DC aren’t prepared for this stuff?)

My flight was an hour late, then we had to sit in the plane an additional hour before takeoff, making my five-hour flight back to Portland a seven-hour ordeal.

Man, what a pain in the ass. DC is a very cool place, but this weather is a deal-breaker. I can’t imagine living in DC full-time and putting up with constant sweaty-sticky-multiple showers-change clothes-flying bugs thing for months on end (even without buckets of hot rain dumping on my head).

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Cool architecture

5. The city itself is surprisingly clean, with a pleasant and unique mix of modern and colonial styles (though I hear Boston is similar). I could easily spend an entire week walking or biking around the city and I’m sure I’d enjoy every minute of it. The people, streets, buildings, and sidewalks are very clean and well-maintained. Homeless people are present but there isn’t very many of them.

One very weird thing was the size of the buildings. No commercial or residential building in the entire city of Washington DC is taller than about 12 stories. Some ridiculous, outdated law from a bazillion years ago restricts building height in DC to something around 130 feet. As you walk down a DC street, you see these new yet short, squat buildings for as far as the eye can see. There are no skyscrapers here. None. As a result, Washington DC doesn’t have a skyline.

If you’re accustomed to big cities with tall buildings as I am, it’s a very strange sight. I actually laughed out loud when I first emerged from the subway station and saw this for the first time. My first thought: “There’s no way in hell the free market would do this. There must be a stupid law, and I bet it’s artificially depressing the economy here.” Apparently I was right.

Like Miami and many other cities these days, DC offers a very inexpensive and efficient bike rental system, complete with a smartphone app, which I did use. My only complaint is, once again, after about 5:30pm, most of the bike racks are completely empty, causing you to walk around for blocks (getting more sweaty and sticky by the minute) to chase down a rack that might have one bike left.

DC is flat for the most part, so biking around is easy and fun. Biking around National Mall and hitting all the monuments once the sun went down was one of the most enjoyable moments I’ve ever had travelling. Good stuff.

The food in DC is on par with most large cities, certainly better than a city like Seattle but still not nearly as good as New York. Like with the women here, I put the food at about the same level as Chicago.

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This is where your money goes.

6. Let’s talk about those national monuments. I did pretty much all the cool ones, just like a dorky tourist. Being a libertarian who is planning on leaving the country, seeing the iconic monuments of my homeland is a little bittersweet. As I looked on the Capital building and the White House, I tried to focus on the times when these structures really did mean freedom, trying to keep my mind focused on men like Van Buren, Tyler, Jefferson, and Coolidge rather than the bloodthirsty authoritarian emperors like Clinton, Bush, and Obama we have now.

The Capitol building and most of the Smithsonian museums were mildly interesting but mostly blah. The Washington Monument was very cool. The Lincoln Memorial was unexpectedly grand. It actually created a positive, powerful, and visceral reaction in me. Lincoln was a racist and a tyrant, and history has shown he really should have just let the south go, but regardless, viewing the majesty of that monument connected with my heritage as an American. Ah yes, we Americans are a violent people, but you guys are still my peeps.

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The statue is much, much bigger in person than photos or video imply. It looks like a Roman Emperor.

My strongest moment of emotion was standing in front of something that wasn’t American at all. It struck me as I beheld the original Magna Carta, held in the National Archives building. A very strong and magical moment for me; a connection with the middle ages I wasn’t expecting. I also visited the Rotunda holding the Constitution, Declaration of Independence, and the Bill of Rights. The huge mural artwork around the documents was almost as striking as the original documents themselves.

The American Constitution is perhaps the most important single piece of writing in modern history. Too bad our government doesn’t follow it anymore. I will see these documents (including the Magna Carta) again. Definitely a highlight in a trip full of highlights.

I was also able to fulfill one of my life-long goals by being able to go inside the Pentagon(!). One of the attendees at one of my seminars mentioned he worked at the Pentagon, and when I expressed interest, he was able to get me in using a civilian visitor’s pass. A rare treat. Being inside this massive, iconic building (30,000 people work there!) was exciting to say the least. I was even able to snap a few pictures, which technically is a no-no. Here’s one. Hopefully the NSA won’t be throwing me in jail.

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Pentagon hallway. Many nukes were pointed at us.

In summary, Washington DC is a very cool place and I enjoyed every minute of my two-week stay. Other than the weather and taxes, those who live in DC should be proud to live there. DC is now officially one of my favorite cities in the US, and certainly my favorite east coast city with the exception of Miami. I will certainly be back (just not in the summer time!).

16 Comments on “A Dragon In Washington DC

  1. Hi BD,

    Looks like you enjoyed your trip. I was in Washington many years ago.

    I wonder if you found the people friendly in general. Did you form an opinion on that? And if so, how does it compare to other places that you have been?

  2. It’s interesting to read a well-traveled man’s comments on a less-explored place which I know rather well. My family moved to the DC suburbs when I was a boy (and never left). DC is divided into four quadrants, and my family got to know the area where BD stayed (which is the northwest quadrant). The rest of the city is different (less conspicuously alluring or rewarding, unless you live there).

    NW DC has so much going for it, and yet national media under-rates it, compared to other cities they constantly admire, such as NYC, LA, SF, Chicago, Miami, etc. I guess that’s because national media is so fixated on gov’t news in DC that they see it strictly through that negative prism. The whole region is so rich with American history. DC offers lots of great culture, much of it FREE — the excellent museums & art galleries and site-seeing, and many concerts. Growing up here, great art & culture felt like a natural part of life to enjoy, not some alien thing that’s either deadly dull or a way to posture (‘I’m special because I like Mozart’) the way it is in much of LA, for example. Being highly literate and well-educated seems natural & fairly common here.

    DC had a massive make-over in the late 19th century, imposing French neo-classical aesthetics, much like what happened in Paris in that era, so DC & Paris have surface similarities, like sister cities.

    Funny thing about the central ‘mall’ area where most of the monuments & museums etc. are located: one might get the illusion that one can easily walk the whole area fairly quickly, but then you realize there is much more distance & walking involved than first meets the eye. In summer weather this can wilt you.

    Yes BD, the summer weather here is like a jungle. Before DC was built, the area was a swamp. Someone made a great deal on land (otherwise the nation’s capitol would be located elsewhere). They filled in the swamp to make the ground solid, but they could not change the swampy air.  Men being required to wear typical office clothes in the summer jungle air here is ridiculous torture. FYI, spring & fall weather in this region is marvelous.

    Many adults have observed that DC is full of status-obsessed adults who want to know (right away) where you fit in the hierarchy of the gov’t power/status structure (somewhat like the entertainment biz in LA). Then that info is a big part of how they view you and treat you. I can’t say if I agree, because I try to avoid the whole herd mentality phenomenon. However I can say there is a corporate culture ‘stuffy’ quality in DC (and the region). There can be a suffocating PC atmosphere, in which fear of liability lawsuits seems to be the prevailing concern.

    Anyway BD it was very interesting to get your impressions of NW DC. Glad you enjoyed your time there.

  3. P.S. to BD: Next time you’re in DC, you might want to go up to the top of the tower in ‘The Old Post Office Building’ on Pennsylvania Ave. (now it’s some Trump property and the tower may be temporarily closed to the public). It’s free to go up there and it offers one of the best views of that part of DC — better than the top of the Washington Monument. You get a real feel for the layout of that area.

  4. I wonder if you found the people friendly in general. Did you form an opinion on that? And if so, how does it compare to other places that you have been?

    Yeah. Like I said, I found people in DC very friendly and relaxed considering the size of the city (until they started driving that is).

    I’d say they are the nicest people in a city of that size (5 million or so) anywhere in the US (that I’ve visited). Canadians are still much nicer though.

    Funny thing about the central ‘mall’ area where most of the monuments & museums etc. are located: one might get the illusion that one can easily walk the whole area fairly quickly, but then you realize there is much more distance & walking involved than first meets the eye. In summer weather this can wilt you.

    YES! On the map it looked very walkable, but damn, it’s a LONG way from the Lincoln Memorial to the Capitol. Add in the heat and humidity, and yeah, it’s not as fun as one imagines. That’s why I started biking instead of walking.

    Men being required to wear typical office clothes in the summer jungle air here is ridiculous torture.

    Yeah I felt sorry for all the dudes I saw wearing suits. I see the same thing in Asia sometimes.

    Poor bastards. They need to start an Alpha 2.0 location independent business.

    Many adults have observed that DC is full of status-obsessed adults who want to know (right away) where you fit in the hierarchy of the gov’t power/status structure (somewhat like the entertainment biz in LA). Then that info is a big part of how they view you and treat you.

    I saw some of this, but that treat-you-based-on-status shit in DC is nothing, and I mean NOTHING compared to Los Angeles.

  5. Glad you had a good time. I went to DC, Boston and NY for my high school junior class trip. I think we went in May, and the cherry blossoms were blooming. What I remember most about DC was the beautiful green grass, white buildings and cherry blossoms. I loved Boston too … NY not so much; it’s just way too crowded for me. I’m a fellow West Coaster and the terrible attitudes of drivers on the East Coast (as well as in West Coast big cities like LA) just baffles me! We’ve got bad traffic here in Santa Cruz and only two lanes on the freeway, but road rage incidents are really rare. Unfortunately, the environmentalists protest widening the freeway every time it comes up, in favor of people riding bicycles or something silly that would only work for people whose homes and offices are close together.

    Interesting what you said about the women; a lot of guys seem to complain about DC women! I don’t remember much of what people looked like from the time I visited, but I do recall seeing a lot of white and black people, with few other races/ethnicities. Thought that was interesting, since many other areas on the East Coast have a variety of cultures.

  6. 1) White Americans are not violent in relation to the rest of the world. If America were an all white country, our crime rates would be equivalent to Europe. Actually, stats vary, but American whites are less violent than Europe. In NYC, blacks and hispanics account for 98% of the crime. If NY were all white it almost might prove the anarcho-capitalist view of no government (anarchism is nonsense but an all white NY wouldn’t need much of a police force).

    2) As much as I would like to see a fully free market in transportation, the fact remains that if you look at who has the best subway systems in the world you will see that it is countries with small or no black and hispanic populations. Of course the Asians have great subways. But if Japan had a 13% black population and a 20% hispanic population you can bet your reputation that its crime rate would sky rocket and its subway system would be the same crap you get in NY.

    3) Calling America an empire is an insult to empires. True empires would proudly conquer other peoples and plunder them. That is NOT what is happening in the Middle East. The ME wars are costing America trillions and are being done for the purpose of attempting to de-radicalize the Islamic world which is a pipe dream. Whatever defense companies are making money, America’s foreign policy is the product of largely Leftist social engineering ideology which is also accepted by Conservatives. Its a massive orgy of sacrifice in a sense. We are bleeding ourselves to death because we can not allow ourselves to acknowledge that Islam is evil and that Muslims should all be removed from Western nations. No Muslims = no Muslims to commit Muslim violence. It is liberalism that is the root of our foreign policy. We are no empire.

     

    I love libertarian economics too.  But you are case in point why libertarians are so often considered autistic by right wingers (who cares what the Left thinks). You’re way of looking at the world is not reality oriented.

  7. White Americans are not violent in relation to the rest of the world.

    I’m not talking about us right now. I’m talking about us over the last 200 years in totality.

    The American Civil War was the third bloodiest civil war in world history, and that was white guys fighting white guys.

    As much as I would like to see a fully free market in transportation, the fact remains that if you look at who has the best subway systems in the world you will see that it is countries with small or no black and hispanic populations.

    What a bizarre thing to bring up. I’m not talking about any of that. I said our American subway systems suck as compared to those in Asia and Europe, and regardless of the reasons, it’s our fault as Americans. If you want to get into the deeper whys of this, I’m not super interested. (Do you like assigning racial correlations to everything you see?)

    Calling America an empire is an insult to empires.

    Now I agree. America is a very, very lousy empire. We’re utterly horrible at it. We are not the Romans. But we’re still an empire, sadly (over 1000 permanent military bases outside the US all over the world, almost 200,00 troops deployed all over the world in 75% of the Earth’s nations, numerous countries dependent on us for military protection, etc)

    who cares what the Left thinks

    Agree. And who cares what the Right thinks? The modern-day Right is just as responsible for this cluster fuck as the Left.

    You’re way of looking at the world is not reality oriented

    Everything I say is based in fact, regardless of whether or not you like it.

  8. Here’s a thought BD. When we find new places, sometimes we fall in love with them (not saying this is the case for you here) and we are tempted to move there. When we find a new woman, sometimes we fall in love with them (or have NRE) and are tempted to “settle down” with them.

    Few of us (I would like to think anyway) would relocate to a new country, or city, or town without doing all the research and further reccie trips before we moved. It is possible to get NRE with a place, I’ve done it.

    So why would we do it with a woman? Without doing all the research, which can be a lengthy process.

    I’ve lived in a few places around the world and one meets ones countrymen who have moved there too. And many of them are not really happy. It is said that you can’t know a place until you have lived there for a year and paid taxes. Places, like women (and men) can be Just Like All The Rest.

    Just a thought, for what it’s worth. 🙂

     

  9. I know your don’t like to be labeled politically, but I’m surprised someone of your “political leanings” has admitted that our public transportation and infrastructure sucks ass.

    I’m from Chicago, arguably the best public transit city in the US outside of NYC, and our train system is abysmal — it’s an outdated hunk of slow, plodding, embarrassing garbage compared to any modern country, yet it’s #2 in the US.

    Why do the subway trains in Beijing, China …. hell, any city, China …. look like ultra-modern trains of the future … compared to the dog dung we have in the US?

    I get it … many people don’t want to “pay for it” (they’d rather subsidize a new football stadium that does nothing for the economy, except line some rich fuck’s pockets) — and instead want to hop in their car, get on the Eisenhower or Kennedy …. and sit in a laughing stock of constant traffic for 3 hours a day.

    The fools are paying for it — in commute time + car expenses. If you value your time at $30-$40 an hour … well … you do the math.

    I won’t even talk about inter-city or inter-state trains. We don’t have any high-speed trains in the US, period. The rest of the world is laughing at us (and our healthcare system).

  10. When we find new places, sometimes we fall in love with them

    True. Like you said, you have to do piles of research before you move.

    I know your don’t like to be labeled politically

    I don’t mind at all. I’m a libertarian minarchist.

    but I’m surprised someone of your “political leanings” has admitted that our public transportation and infrastructure sucks ass.

    I state fact, as always.

    Why do the subway trains in Beijing, China …. hell, any city, China …. look like ultra-modern trains of the future … compared to the dog dung we have in the US?

    I get it … many people don’t want to “pay for it”

    Like I said above, the reasons to me aren’t super relevant. I’m just saying it’s embarrassing for the United States to have among the shittiest subway systems in the Western world. It doesn’t have to be this way, and it’s 100% our fault.

    Not that I care. I’ll be leaving here in a few years regardless.

    We don’t have any high-speed trains in the US, period. The rest of the world is laughing at us

    Correct and agreed.

    (and our healthcare system).

    Well that’s a completely different topic. Other countrys’ healthcare systems suck too. I’ve spoken with plenty of Europeans who don’t like waiting three months for a key doctor’s appointment, or “aren’t allowed” to take certain needed blood tests when they need to. Anyone with socialized government healthcare who laughs at us, I laugh right back. ALL healthcare systems suck at the moment. But let’s not get too off topic.

  11. <blockquote>

    If you’re from Miami or LA, you’re going to find DC women disgusting. If you’re from Memphis or Detroit, you’ll think they’re gorgeous. (I stopped off at Detroit for three days prior to this trip, and the difference in women between there and DC was staggering.)

    </blockquote>

    Yeah…I’m from the Metro Detroit area and sadly that’s an accurate assessment. I have a hard time staying motivated because of that too. The last time I got laid was in LA about a year ago, and I did more approaches that weekend than the entire year before or after back home. It’s hard not to approach when you’re practically tripping over beautiful women, but when average is as good as it’s likely to get, then Netflix and pizza seems like the better option. :/

  12. DC is a fabulous city to visit. Once in a while. Once you live in the city you realize it’s very transient and thus has no culture of its own outside the political. Plus it has no beaches which automatically disqualifies it as a great city in my book lol

    I’ll take New York over it anyday. Miami is heaven though, food, women, beaches and music, weather (I’ll take flooding and hurricane over snow, seriously lol. Now that city has every city beat by any metric on the east coast. Period. Haven’t been out west though but I get the feeling certain cities in Cali would be awesome as well.

  13. Miami is heaven though, food, women, beaches and music, weather (I’ll take flooding and hurricane over snow, seriously lol. Now that city has every city beat by any metric on the east coast. Period.

    Completely agree. It’s very unlike the rest of the east coast.

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