Monday, June 21, 2010
The Historic Liquor Store District: Attractions in our Nation's Capital not listed in Fodor's
Red had an old friend in a good play which I was happy to go see with her. It was playing in a neighborhood downtown which is roughly around the same socio-economic level as described above. The fun part was driving there via the most direct route my GPS plotted for me.
First you drive through some rough parts where there are numerous options of stores for pay day loans, braiding salons, and grocerias. Then you cross the Popeye's/Bojangles line where things start to get a little dicier. This is where you can actually see thought balloons over people's heads reading, "That poor white boy is lost."
Unbeknownst to me there is a further demarcation. Let's call it the Bojangles/Church's line. This is where you will find Washington, DC's historic Liquor Store District not listed in the Fodor's travel guide. Blocks and blocks of nothing but coolers filled with 40's and counters offering limitless varieties of scratch-off tickets. Uninterrupted purveyors of malt liquor and well-marketed cognac one right next to another with no concern of vying for market share. Having seen the equally upsetting other side of the coin where multimillion dollar McMansions cover untold square miles of upper-upper-upper-upper middle class sprawl, in the back of my mind I knew this had to exist somewhere in the same region. Their housekeepers have to taking those buses home to somewhere.
I began to think about the miserable lives of the denizens. Working tedious hourly jobs with no benefits and no vacation. Paying rent when you can and laughing at the late notices the utility companies keep sending you. Living a relentless cycle of working and drinking with no hope of upward mobility regardless of work ethic. What kind of lives were these?
After this I hit the unapologetic blight of North East Crackton and received an answer to my philosophical query: "Lives that these people envy." No stores of any description exist here, just burnt out low income housing. They would kill for a Church's Chicken - no, really. They gave up on the soothing comfort of booze long ago. I can't imagine any vestige of civilization permeates that gutted squalor. This is beyond even Thunderdome.
So the next time you plan a trip to Wasshington, skip the Smithsonian and drive just past New York Avenue. Or down to Ward 8 where Marion Barry still gets elected to city council. You will get a more authentic feel for the DC I know and... know.