When I moved to DC back in the late 90s, I wanted to live in Dupont Circle. Nothing really shocking about that. You ask any young white person back then where was somewhere cool to live, and you can be sure that would be the first place off their lips. Possibly the only place, depending on how much they knew the city. Even Adams Morgan was still a bit questionable back then. (I remember them moving the Adams Morgan Day festival to the Mall one year to avoid gangs in the actual neighborhood).
And for the whole time I was trying to get settled in the city, Dupont Circle did glow as this ideal place to go. It’s always filled with people. It’s as safe as a big city gets. It had nothing to do with the tourist-DC. It has food, and entertainment, and people yelling strange things on the street.
I didn’t actually end up there, but wasn’t too far away. But everything that glows, fades. The circle itself isn’t much different, but the way I looked at it did. I’m not going to bore you to death by examining why my perceptions changed, but they did. The circle was still a decent place to be, but it didn’t feel magical anymore.
In the last year or two, I’ve spent a lot of times at various places around the circle. I’m not drunk enough to claim that it’s in any way magical again. But I think it’s one of the closest things DC has now to the big city image you see in melodramatic movies. In particular, I love sitting in the coffee shop, facing out the giant, old windows. They’re the biggest, highest-def, brightest movie screen you’ve ever seen. Sit there long enough and everything will walk, roll, or shamble past, eventually.
You have no idea how hard it is to not pull out my camera and spend all day taking pictures of the people passing by.