DC demystification by Eric Nuzum

Where Vines Once Grew
Photo by PoPville Flickr member Rukasu1

The following was written by PoP contributor Eric Nuzum.

This one is for the interlopers and sojourners in the house. Native sons and daughters can sit this one out, opting instead to monitor the comment thread and shake your heads in mild disgust.

So I’ve been wrestling with something lately and could use some advice: How does one go about explaining our neighborhood life to folks back home?

My wife and I have become increasingly perplexed by the fact that, despite moving into our Petworth home 18 months ago, neither set of parents (mine from rural Ohio; hers from rural Indiana) has come to visit us yet. Seeing that we are the first kids on either side of our families to buy homes, we expected a little more interest.

The answer came during a visit home a few weeks ago. When we pointed out the lack of parental visitation to my folks, they were pretty silent.

“You aren’t frightened of where we live or anything…are you?” I asked.

Long pause.

“Well,” my mother said. “Maybe a little.”

In hindsight, this didn’t surprise my wife at all.

“Think about the stories you tell them,” she said. “It’s all crack addicts and crime and problems and sketchy this and that. If that was all I heard about any place, I’d be frightened too.”

Okay, she’s right. But in fairness, when I’m telling stories, I go for the colorful and entertaining, I’m not shooting for high journalistic objectivity and fairness. However, I admit that the end product does come off a bit askew.

Going solely off my solely-for-entertainment-value stories, the unfamiliar might be left with the impression that Petworth is a place where bullets fly daily, bugs and rodents conduct their own ANC meetings, the Sunday paper contains coupons for local heroin and crack dealers, and residents mope down the street openly weeping (when we all know that only the residents of Chevy Chase walk down the street weeping, come on). You can even see from my own previous guest posts on PoP (spottily chronicled here), I admittedly tend to focus on the less-than-positive, less-than-normal, and less-than-flattering.

My wife issued a decree, right there in the car driving across the Pennsylvania turnpike: No more negative yarns and jokes about DC to family and friends.

To me, that seems to harsh, almost like suppressing elements of life here. She clarified that she wasn’t asking me to censor anything, just realize that by sharing stories and making jokes about one side of life here, I was casting the entirety in false light. I see her point. Continues after the jump.

Though, let’s be frank. Crazy shit actually does happen all the time. The day after returning from my illuminating trip home and conversation with my wife, my neighbor Tony went out to pick some roses from one of his bushes–and discovered it was stolen. That’s right, someone dug up and stole…a rose bush. Where else does this kind of stuff happen?

I guess my real problem is translation. How do I talk about life here in our nation’s capital without over- or under-emphasizing the elements of our life that someone from a small town in Ohio has no way to relate to?

I think it is important to point out another fact, before some butthole chimes in with, “Well, if you hate it so much here, move to Georgetown/Laurel/Gaithersburg/insert-suburban-enclave-here.”

I don’t hate it here.

In fact, I love it here. While this area regularly tests my attitudes, biases, and beliefs–I’m glad I live in a place where there is genuine diversity and I am challenged to act as part of a community. I’m a better person for it. It was in Petworth that I learned how to really be a good neighbor. Honestly, I wouldn’t want to be in any other place at this point in my life.

So help me.

How do I translate all those wonderful complexities to my friends and family back home?

Recent Stories

“Dear PoPville, Pizza PSA: Last week you posted an article about 1/2 price pizza at Wiseguys every Wednesday 2-4PM. I was at the Mass Ave location just now and was…

“Oslo Opera House and Munch Museum in background.” If you get a photo with any of your shirt/merch on your travels – please send a photo with where you went…

photo by Mr.TinMD “Dear PoPville, This is so random but do you have any information about a man who wears martial arts – like outfit who is runs very slowly…

“Jojo,College Park, getting his springtime sunshine fix” If you have any animal/pet photos you’d like to share please send an email to princeofpetworth(at)gmail(dot)com with ‘Animal Fix’ in the title and…

Join local sketch comedy legends (in our own minds) Brick Penguin for an evening of live, dark, rip-roaring sketch comedy. See D.C.’s longest-running sketch comedy group do what they do best, when they’re not performing across the country in places such as the terrifying Philadelphia, the gooey Chicago, the M&M Store-y New York City, and the crunchy Seattle.

Now, our last show may or may not have mentioned Taylor Swift, and we may have gotten into some trouble from confused Swifties who thought they scored a $15 ticket to a Taylor Swift concert. So, to apologize and clear up any confusion, we’ve decided to dedicate another show to her. We promise she might or might not appear this time.

Submit your own Announcement here.



Step into the enchanting world of Giacomo Puccini as the Washington Opera Society proudly presents an extraordinary concert that brings the timeless beauty and passionate drama of Puccini’s operas to life.

Read More

Submit your own Announcement here.

PowerPoint Party in Adams Morgan

Make a funny or interesting PowerPoint presentation!

All the cool kids in DC are doing it!

Make a 7 minute or less PowerPoint presentation on whatever you want!

Read More

Authors & Insights: A conversation with author Carlos Lozada

How do people in power reveal themselves through their writings? Hear what author Carlos Lozada thinks in this upcoming discussion with Ashley Parker.
Please join us for our next Authors & Insights event, as New York Times opinion columnist Carlos


Subscribe to our mailing list