Top 13 Things I’ve Been Warned About at One Point Since Moving to DC in ’97

Photo by PoPville flickr user ep_jhu

The following list was inspired by the masterful words of C. S. Lewis:

“It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.”

However, the list was in no way affected by the consumption of Bulleit Bourbon and ginger ale which by the by is surprisingly more tasty than Makers Mark and ginger ale – anyway the following is what some folks used to warn others about:

13. Don’t go east of 16th Street, NW

12. Don’t go east of 14th Street, NW

11. Don’t go east of Georgia Ave (or anywhere near Georgia Ave)

10. Don’t drink the water (this might actually still be true, I can’t remember if I have lead lines or not…)

9. Don’t go to Meridian Hill Park

8. Don’t walk home from the 9:30 club

7. Don’t walk home from HR 57 (the old Logan Circle location)

6. Don’t go east or north of Lincoln Park

5. Don’t take the bus

4. Don’t look anyone directly in the eye

3. Don’t go to the Movies at Union Station

2. Don’t ride the Green Line

1. Don’t cross Kojo Nnandi, he has the memory of an elephant and will bury you

79 Comment

  • Good one Pop; I think your only mistake is that Bulleit is better straight. BTW: I regularly violate 9 of these warnings 🙂

  • That’s true about Kojo. He’s the most dangerous man in town.

  • to be fair, you probably shouldn’t try to go to the movies at Union Station

    • brookland_rez

      When I lived on Parker St, I used to go to the movies at Union Station when I didn’t feel like going to Gallery Place. They were mostly empty. The staff running the place didn’t do a very good job. Like the movie wouldn’t start on time, they wouldn’t turn off the lights. I would have to go and tell them to do it. It was kind of a pain, but the movies were cheap at least. I remember right at the very end they got new seats. I remember thinking “the seats aren’t the problem, it’s the staff running the place”. I think it closed for good not too long after that, like maybe 2007 timeframe.

  • Overheard a discussion on bus the other day about whether “the line” has officially moved to 7th-Georgia. The consensus of the discussants was that it’s pushing to 7th in some neighborhoods, but hasn’t completely made it there yet.

    • given that people are paying over a half million dollars to live in Trinidad, i think the “line” is wherever you can afford for it to be/where you want it to be.

      that being said, a simple look at a crime map will show you if you want the safest DC has to offer you’re going West of the Park (yawn).

      • Plus Capitol Hill is much nicer than a lot of neighborhoods west of 7th street NW.

        • Capitol Hill and NW have different line systems. I’m not endorsing this like of thinking, btw– it’s just the way people have always been. Talk to a long-time Hill resident and they’ll tell you how their lines have moved.

        • Capitol Hill and NW have different line systems. I’m not endorsing this type of thinking, btw– it’s just the way people have always been. Talk to a long-time Hill resident and they’ll tell you how their lines have moved.

      • brookland_rez

        I agree. People are pretty much buying everywhere now, though the Anacostia river does seem to be a barrier still for many people.

    • Considering that there’s a sherry bar next to a whiskey bar next to an oyster bar on 7th Street, I’d say the line is substantially past 7th Street.

    • I guess those of us living on the Hill, SW, or Brookland are in real trouble then!

      • Brook land is one if several people that never really declined very much and never entirely lost its white population. It was just unknown to people E of the Park, unless they had some connection to the Catholic institutions here. People E if the Park in the 90s were amazingly dumb about the 16th Street corridor.

      • brookland_rez

        The line used to be 16th St and Massachusetts Ave. So Capitol Hill south of Mass has always been desirable. Brookland has always been an exception to this.

    • Anybody that thinks that the line is at 7th and Georgia must be a subscriber to Washingtonian.

    • there are no lines.

    • The line now is the Anacostia River. Of course there are areas WOTR in NE where someone who worries about lines should not go (like, er Carver Langston) but I don’t know thats really easy to draw a line around them, certainly not a straight line down a street. And of course there are better areas EOTR, but its always been true that these lines were never completely accurate.

      • gotryit

        “The line now is the Anacostia River.”

        Reread the rest of what you wrote. The whole notion of lines is overly simplistic and not very helpful unless you want to live your life in an overly simplistic way. In which case, just stick with the Virginians and “don’t live in DC”.

  • I’ve been hearing this canard for most of my DC life:

    “Don’t buy a one-bedroom condo– (it won’t have any resale value)”

    • Ha…yeah that’s a good one. I bought a 1-BR condo 4 years ago. Best financial decision I’ve ever made.

  • lol the movies in union station used to be the WORST
    but being that we were right up the street in hs (Hail Gonzaga) we still went

  • When I first moved to DC from the burbs 3 years ago everyone just told me to “be careful”.

  • Proud to say that I have lived on the evil green line for the past 8 years and I love it!

  • anonymouse_dianne

    When I was working at DOL I went to movies after work at Union Station with a friend. When we came out, it was getting dusky. We walked out into the middle of a drug bust, complete with narco dogs. My friend was totally oblivious to it, but my street smarts said let’s chill on the other side of the street, thank you very much.

  • I was informed that Adams Morgan was a “free fire zone” when we moved there in 2007. I really don’t recall more than 1 or 2 gunshots in the year we were there. I was also warned that Foxhall was “boring as shit” when we moved over here, and that was 100% correct.

  • “Don’t wear ‘the face’ on the metro” – my dad (the face = north face jacket)

  • My favorite – I lived in Dupont for over a decade, starting in 2000 and up until last year. My parents, who had never lived in DC, would constantly mention that they worried about me (a petite female) living there by myself.

    Ended up that I moved out, and my parents lived in my old place for 6 weeks (they needed short term housing in the area). I stopped by to visit, and caught them a) leaving stuff in the front seat of their car, b) leaving the front door wide open while taking the trash out back. They were shocked when I pointed out that neither was a good idea “but it seems so safe…”

  • Don’t leave ANYTHING exposed in your car.

  • Don’t bother voting, because it won’t count if you’re a DC resident.

  • When I first moved to the East edge of Petworth by Ft Totten , my elderly (but fit) neighbor sternly warned me, “Don’t go out at night!@! He then proceeded to tell me about bodies being found in dumpsters! Luckily the area offers nothing to go out at night for! LOL

  • I love this list! Shows how much DC has changed and continues to change. When I moved here in 2004 the rule was don’t live east of 16th Street. And at that time Meridian Hill Park was legitimately scary in the daylight.

    • 2004? More like 1994.

    • LOL yeah, I lived east of 16th in 2004 (eastern Columbia Heights) and it was very much not scary.

    • I didn’t live here then, but as a 16 year old in 2004, our bus and group leaders dropped us off and let a bunch of midwestern teenagers roam around east of 16th st by ourselves. It wasn’t scare at all. I think you typoed?

  • I’d LOVE to hear the story (stories?) that prompted the Kojo Nnandi comment!

  • They probably told you not to go to “Malcolm X Park” though (Meridian Hill Park)

  • Times have changed!
    13. Don’t go east of 16th Street, NW.
    – When my parents moved to DC in the 60’s, 16th St was a hot bed of prostitution (all pun intended).
    12. Don’t go east of 14th Street, NW
    – When I was young 14th was a hot bed of prostitution and largely abandoned.
    11. Don’t go east of Georgia Ave (or anywhere near Georgia Ave)
    – Through the 90’s and most of the 00’s GA ave was legitimately the hood.
    10. Don’t drink the water (this might actually still be true, I can’t remember if I have lead lines or not…)
    – This has always been bullshit.
    9. Don’t go to Meridian Hill Park
    – I’ve seen two dead bodies in Malcolm X Park, which oddly enough no one seas to call it anymore.
    8. Don’t walk home from the 9:30 club
    – See # 12.
    7. Don’t walk home from HR 57 (the old Logan Circle location)
    – During the time HR57 was on 14th it was already safe enough.
    6. Don’t go east or north of Lincoln Park
    – 90’s probably good advice if you were the kind of person who needed advice.
    5. Don’t take the bus.
    – Thats just rude.
    4. Don’t look anyone directly in the eye.
    – Thats even ruder.
    3. Don’t go to the Movies at Union Station
    – This was in fact pointless.
    2. Don’t ride the Green Line
    – When the Green Line route was truly hood the trains didn’t even go north of downtown.
    1. Don’t cross Kojo Nnandi, he has the memory of an elephant and will bury you.
    – I have no idea about this.

  • I think a good, somewhat related list might be, “What DC customs did you have to get used to?”
    (1) People take their birthdays off work.
    (2) Snow days occur easily.
    (3) People parallel park on Sundays in Byzantine ways….
    (4) People wear their ID dogtags after work.

    Others? POP, maybe seed for a different line later?

    • Huh? People take off on their birthday? That hasn’t been a custom at anyplace I’ve worked.

      • I’ve always taken off my birthday. I didn’t realize that that was a DC thing.

        • ditto here.

        • I guess I’m the only one who hoards all their vacation days for vacation! I work with military guys who would think I was soft for making a big deal about my birthday. What do you guys do on your day off?

          • For starters, I sleep in. My first gift to myself is: No alarm clocks on my birthday. In the past, I’ve actually met for lunch with friends from my job. I often go get my hair done or a pedicure in the afternoon – and part of the treat is that it’s less busy and more relaxed on a weekday afternoon. Then dinner or whatever. I figure if I can take a day to celebrate the birthdays of dead presidents, I can take a day off to celebrate mine! I’m usually very low key about it being my birthday – it’s just a personal/ mental health day, and I’ve pretty much always done this, and most of my friends and co-workers do as well.

        • See? This is what I mean. I grew up in New York and don’t recall anyone taking off their birthday, but here it is very common. It’s not good or bad, just different from what I knew.

  • Don’t try to chase a teenage thug to get your phone back!

  • My favorite warning as a new transplant, from a friend who’d moved to DC just shortly before me and was trying to sound worldly:
    “I hear Connecticut gets kind of sketchy going up north.”


  • Shoot, none of that is true anymore–if it ever was.

  • What about a warning against appearing in magazines? (Nice to see you and the Princess of P in the AU alumni mag.)

  • I had several friends express sympathy for me living in Mt. Pleasant in the early 90s. Of course, that was the era of the Mt. P riots and the shotgun shooter. But, we got a GREAT deal on our house in 1993.

  • Been here for 45 year have done all but 1. No problems. I love my city!

  • 1. I kn

  • So I was always of the opinion that you should look everyone in the eye on the street. Let them know you know they are there. But when I first moved to DC six years ago that strategy got me propositioned to buy drugs seemingly every other day. So I stopped looking everyone in eye and became more selective. These days no one is trying to sell me drugs (progress) but I get asked for money rather regularly.

  • I remember one – don’t least east of 10th in SE.

  • Maybe it was the ginger ale. Probably not, but maybe.

  • I feel like everything on this list (with the exception of #10) has a slight racial element. This city historically did not have a white lower/lower-middle class, so all the thing you were told to avoid were possibly to keep you from venturing into areas where lower-middle class blacks were in abundance. #smh
    I guess, gentrification happens, so all these rules can now be broken.

    • Lower class whites would have been pushed out just the same as lower class blacks. While I don’t disagree that there’s likely a strong racial element at play, I honestly think it has more to do wit SES than race – at least now.

    • gotryit

      Yeah, I took it as a tongue-in-cheek, this is a list of silly things that people tell you out of ignorance / stupidity. Especially considering that petworth is east of / near Georgia Ave…

    • No all of these things were to keep you from venturing where you were more likely to be mugged/shot. Years ago, you would have gotten a similar warning in Boston about Southie (primarily working class white families). It really has nothing to do with race, and everything to do with volume of crime in a given area.

    • Prince Of Petworth

      Also “This city historically did not have a white lower/lower-middle class” is a very ignorant statement.

      • In some sense it may be ignorant of DC’s longer history, but as the moniker “chocolate city” indicates, this city was (and to some extent still is) predominantly black. The black population peaked at over 70% in the 70s, leaving very little room (percentage-wise) for any other substantial block. For generations (since the 60s), this city indeed has not had a substantial white blue collar community – nothing like Boston, NYC, or Philly, for example. Of course, DC has very little industry compared to those towns.
        In an absolute sense, the poster may be ignorant of DC’s history prior to the 60s. S/he may also be under-estimating the existing white blue collar community. That said, however, it holds up (certainly when comparing to other eastern seaboard cities) that DC has not, in recent memory, had a substantial white “working class” community. (Yes, the term “working class” is a tough one…don’t we all work?)

        • jim_ed

          That’s an awful lot of circular logic to explain away a dumb comment. DC has a large and prominent working class white community up until the 1960s – plenty of whom are still alive and living primarily in eastern Mongtomery County or Bowie. Most of Congress Heights, Anacostia, and Petworth were white (as were Oxon Hill and the rest of PG County). It really wasn’t THAT long ago.

          • Sometimes things aren’t simple and can’t be explained in a tweet, Jim. The 60s were indeed a long time ago – several generations worth of lifetimes. This city has white working class people, that is true now, and has always been. I’m not standing up for every word of the previous commenter, but for most of us who live in DC in 2014, including those who have been in DC for 30 or even 40 years, it is an accurate statement to say that this city hasn’t had a substantial white working class population. Compared to Boston (where I am from), or NY (where I just moved from), one of the first things you notice when you arrive in DC is that there aren’t as many (proportionally) white blue collar workers. Part of this is demographic, part of it is economic – not a lot of industry, manufacturing, shipping, etc compared to other older cities…
            The thing about blogs (and I’m guilty of this) is that we tend to summarize our thoughts instead of spell them out in full. Then, people jump on the openings, the gaps, the poor word choices.

    • well, the notion that the ideas about “lines” have nothing to do with race is a little bit short sighted. 16th street/rock creek park was long the border between white and black neighborhoods. even before the race riots and before neighborhoods east of the park became significantly more dangerous than those west of the park. that being said, there are many many historical, cultural, socioeconomic and racial reasons for those ideas. to classify them as just one is kind of ridiculous.

  • Before moving here, I remember hearing that “everyone has AIDS” and that I’d have a really difficult time finding men to date (because they’re all gay and have AIDS). Turns out not everyone has “the package” and I’ve been on more dates than I can stand! Also, a good piece of advice my mother gave me (actually before going to college in Atlanta) was “don’t act too good to speak to people”. Where I’m from, DC is still considered “the south” (or at least southern), so speaking to complete strangers was something entirely foreign to me. It was one of the best pieces of advice she gave me, and I make it a point to speak to people I pass on the street while walking around my neighborhood.

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