I hate to disparage the city where I grew up, but I outright laughed when he told me this story.
I have only been to five cities in my life: Salt Lake City (obviously), Boise, Los Angeles, New York City, and Washington, DC. Every city offered a different experience and I cherish them all. Some, though, are more special than others. Washington is one of them.
I lived in Washington during the spring semester of 2013, working for one of the top lobbying firms in the country. That semester was the first time I was truly on my own. I learned what independence meant, both the benefits (do anything you want) and the drawbacks (paying the bills). I learned what it was like to live with roommates (who, this time, weren’t all under 18 and acted like it). Before going, I remember I was very anxious about the idea of living with strangers; now I miss (at least some of) my old roommates. For these reasons alone, I loved living in DC.
Make no mistake, though: the city itself was a major contribution to the experience. Visitors always have a different experience from locals because visitors operate under the belief that they “may never get the chance to do this again” (whereas for a local everything in a city is always available, and thus they take it for granted; perhaps I’m guilty of this in Salt Lake City). That is exactly what I and all the other interns did. Every Saturday I would go out and do something new, something different. DC was filled with museums, monuments, famous buildings, local events (the cherry blossom festival in particular), activities, and local attractions. I would try to see as much as I could either alone or with friends. It is a city filled with marvel, and sometimes I would merely enjoy the fact that I was living in one of the country’s—and the world’s—most important cities.
From the four months I lived there, I can’t pick a favorite memory. There are too many good ones, from getting a warm hamburger at Five Guys after freezing our buns off since 7 AM at the Presidential inauguration in January (we’re glad we did it and we’ll never do it again) to playing multiplayer games with my roommates on a Saturday night, cans of root beer, milk, and double-stuffed Oreos not far from hand.
Nonetheless, this memory is special. On the night of the cherry blossom festival, while waiting for the fireworks to begin, we sat on the edge of the Potomac near the steps of the Jefferson Memorial, the sun setting, casting brilliant hues over the water, the Washington Monument looming in the sky above and wiggling on the water below. We chatted and laughed while eating Wheat Thins with dip, cheese, and wine. Little scenes played out around us; kids played on the steps, ducks ate bread on the water, and a man proposed to his future wife. The sun cast shadows through the Memorial’s colonnade, with cherry blossoms blooming all around.
A good city coupled with good friends can lead to memories that will always be revisited, when one needs a brief escape.
We were sitting in the wrong place for the fireworks; they started flying behind us, and our view through the trees left much to be desired. But I loved that night anyway. After the fireworks ended, we saw the DC monuments at night, which is arguably better than during the day. It was a lovely walk. After seas of darkness came islands of light with scenes demarking important events or individuals, the shadows pulling out the features of stone and metal figures from FDR (my favorite President) to Martin Luther King, Jr. The Washington Monument loomed giant and white as we passed it, the Capitol behind and the White House off to the left. Afterwards, we rode the train home to our apartments, where we played drinking games the rest of the night, laughing with each other.
I seek out times like these in cities. They can happen here in Salt Lake City as well when one takes the time to explore. Salt Lake City may never have everything DC has, but it is special in its own way. A good city coupled with good friends can lead to memories that will always be revisited, when one needs a brief escape.