Carl Ballard
Carl Ballard

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Born and raised in D.C., I can say sadly that many of the “best things” are no longer here—places like the Columbia Hospital for Women, my birthplace (now a GW dorm), or that oh-so-sweet inner smugness you got when you heard those Riggs Bank commercials claim, “You live in the most important city in the world,” or the opportunity the city provided to get your gay sleaze on (Rod and Bolt tube socking it at the Follies and Secrets). Alas, all gone.

For me, to understand the best of D.C. is to appreciate the subtle. It’s to acknowledge that Councilmember Schwartz’s mayoral campaign declaration of years past—“It’s My Turn and You Know It”—is the best campaign slogan ever and to still feel some perplexing gratitude to Mayor for Life Marion Barry for providing your first summer job—even if it was insanely shitty. (I rode along with D.C. workers cleaning and exchanging Port-a-Johns throughout the city. In July. At $4.75 an hour.)

I could tell you the best of D.C. is listening to the organs during noontime rehearsals Mondays and Wednesdays at the National Cathedral or people-watching from the patio of Fox & Hounds or in Dupont Circle. But that would probably make me sound like a fag who drinks too much.

I think one of the best things about D.C. is the local news media’s ability to whip the freak out of the city’s denizens during a snowstorm. Sure, the accumulation won’t even warrant switching to closed-toe shoes, but there’s ever-intrepid Pat Collins standing outside the Dupont Metro, yardstick in tow, measuring snowfall. If you don’t think that’s one of the best things about D.C., you have no soul.

As a native I never grow old of listening to the classic, “Wow, I have never met a person actually from D.C.,” uttered to me by every 20- to 40-something newcomer living in Northwest or Bethesda or Arlington. I always think, “Wow, I grew up knowing nothing but Washingtonians. I have a whole family full of them, you big dodo.” And this really does bring me to the best thing about D.C.: my family.

Why? Because even after all the “who-do-you-know-and-where-do-you-work” questions and answers, my family still talks to me. I find having my family within the same 10-by-10 square miles cool. I like I having the ability to go home and see my mom on a random Tuesday instead of waiting for some Hallmark holiday. I like how I can grab a coffee with my sis, or a movie with my brother any day I feel like it, without having to fly away or couch-trip. Whenever or wherever, I’ve got family at the ready. It’s a good thing; it’s my best thing. That, and knowing the true identities of both the olive-skinned Adams Morgan flower guy and that white guy with dark hair who wears a suit and walks the streets of D.C. with newspapers folded under his arm.