May 28, 2012, Washington, DC: It’s on these hot summer nights that arrive unseasonably early in Washington that we romanticize Vieux Montreal. We let our minds wander back down the narrow streets and alleyways in the oldest part of the city and we recall — sweating — what it was like to feel cold there. Downing lemonade with extra ice, we remember fondly our dinner by a fireplace on Rue Saint-Paul back in December when the cobblestones were slick from an icy rain turning to snow. We remember feeling oh-so-Parisian during that lunch of butternut squash soup and red wine at the luxurious Hotel Nelligan, and we consider how quickly time passes — that it feels like just yesterday we ducked into Bon Secours Market for hot chocolate and now we’re darting into DC’s museums desperate for a blast of cold air.
May 26, 2012, Washington, DC: The Friday night and Saturday morning of a holiday weekend is always a good time to enjoy the city. If you’re staying put, you watch the evening traffic head out, bound for the beach or a weekend with family. You watch the roads clear and things grow a bit quiet, then hear the volume crank up a notch as the neighbors head out for the night and reclaim their local spaces. It is on city nights at the start of a holiday weekend that you realize how small this place really is, nights like this when you feel like it’s entirely your own.
May 18, 2012, Washington, DC: We’ve got a few pit stops to make today and stopping by to applaud Bike to Work Day is only the first. Next up, we’ve got a stop at the Metro station and another at the airport, a hiatus up in the air and a trip out to Long Island. We’ll stop by the rental car counter and set out for a drive on roads we’ve never navigated before arriving for a wedding in a town we’ve never seen.
But first we stop one hundred yards from the front door at one of 58 pit stops throughout DC, Virginia and Maryland set up this morning to help riders navigate Bike to Work Day.
“We shall solve the city problem by leaving the city. Get the people into the country, get them into communities where a man knows his neighbor, where there is a commonality of interest, where life is not artificial, and you have solved the city problem. You have solved it by eliminating the city. City life was always artificial and cannot be made anything else. An artificial form of life breeds its own disorders, and these cannot be ‘solved.’ There is nothing to do but abandon the course that gives rise to them.”
April 27, 2012, Washington, DC: How differently things are shaking out, huh? So much for eliminating the cities that the founder of Ford Motor Company declared the root of our troubles. Today, more than half of the world’s population lives in cities and projections show nearly three quarters of people on Earth will be urbanites by 2050. Despite Ford’s declaration, it seems people — most people — have not abandoned our cities. Perhaps today’s cities are neither isolating nor fake nor problematic, but rather full of solutions.
Washington’s city leaders certainly think so. Earlier this week, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray and his team laid out a vision for making D.C. the most livable and sustainable city in the country. Goals include cutting citywide energy consumption by 50 percent, increasing the number of jobs devoted to green goods and services by five-fold, and guaranteeing that 75 percent of all trips are walkable, bikeable or accessible by public transit. Imagine 1.5 million square feet of green roofs on city buildings. And swimming and fishing in the Anacostia and Potomac rivers. And knowing that a quarter of all food consumed in the District is grown within a 100-mile radius of the city. It’s all part of the plan.
“Cities make it easier to watch and listen and learn. Because the essential characteristic of humanity is our ability to learn from each other, cities make us more human.”
-Edward Glaeser, Triumph of the City
April 12, 2012, Washington, DC: That right there describes the draw of these places. These places allow us to crowd the streets, listen to music, gather for meals, run into friends, meet strangers. Implicit in the idea that cities make it easier to learn from each other is the idea that they facilitate spontaneous connections. We wander out onto our sidewalks and see where the day takes us. It could lead anywhere. We felt this way on Polk Street in San Francisco and we feel this way on 7th St. in Washington.
April 7, 2012, Washington, DC: Oh happy Saturday. There’s been a bit of a lull here on the blog, but we’re back in action and inspired by the promise of a great weekend. Water taxi service starts today. Free outdoor yoga on the National Mall gets underway shortly, followed by a marketplace, beer and sake garden, and music later this afternoon at the Southwest Waterfront Fireworks Festival. On today’s agenda is a visit to The Daily Rider, a commuter bicycling shop that opened just last week on H St. NE, and our neighborhood hardware and garden store, Fragers, to buy flowers, and a stop off at Eastern Market to prepare for Easter Brunch. Today’s goal is to make the kitchen smell amazing.
It is a good morning indeed. There is coffee and bright sunlight and chilly air and the sound of construction trucks already at work. Here is a place where things are happening. There is much to enjoy about these early hours in a city full of good ideas.
March 29, 2012, Washington, DC: We have a little outdoor space here at home. It overlooks an especially narrow alley because the street behind ours is a diagonal one that squeezes the backs of our homes close together. A mess of tangled black wires hangs above and a confident squirrel paces back and forth there daily. In late afternoon, a woman with a baby seat on her bike returns home from her errands, announcing her presence with squeaky gears. Across the alley we can see families in the homes behind ours in their kitchens cooking dinner, or people reading books through the large library windows. Quarters are tight and there’s no green in sight. It doesn’t much matter. We get a surprising amount of afternoon light. Our little outdoor space is a breath of fresh air.