Credit: Darrow Montgomery

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The D.C.-Isn’t-a-Real-City argument tends to revolve around familiar complaints: no skyscrapers, no congressional representation, no shame about wearing flip-flops with officewear. All good points, but the region’s saddest shortcoming is its lack of great neon signage. Cleveland Park’s Uptown Theater is nice enough, but even B-list towns like Oakland and Cincinnati can claim movie palaces with great neon signs. So the best thing this area has going is the cherry-red monster off the Baltimore-Washington Parkway. The National Park Service tends to take umbrage at anybody trying to put up a sign that spoils the pastoral view around here, so it’s anybody’s guess how the Pepsi folks got away with it. (The Pepsi Bottling Group didn’t respond to a request for more information.) That only works to the sign’s advantage—in the middle of the night, when the parkway is empty, you can feel like you’re floating a world defined only by your headlights and a gleaming promotion for sugar water.