A friend asked me last week if I was afraid of going downtown, on the metro, or being in DC in general right now. I was confused for a second, before I realized we had been talking about Boston a few minutes before.
There are few moments when I can be rendered speechless. It’s a writer’s nature to put the overwhelming into words, whether of love or horror, but even we can be caught up with the moment. The past two weeks has one of them. There were no words, only a storm of memories and emotion. Before 9/11, my first of such moments were beautiful. Holding my baby sister for the first time. My first kiss. Surprise birthday parties. The little things that are both common and profound to the young. They teach us so much about how to exult in experience. We learn wonder, awe, and the magic of life.
Some of us experience the flipside earlier than others. 9/11 was my first, as a preteen able to comprehend the utter horror. Hyper-aware and intelligent, it rocked my world as I watched my parents crumble along with the news’ footage of the towers. While adults held their children close, we learned the fragility of our world. Our buildings crash down. Villains are real. And our parents and presidents aren’t invincible. But they can be superheros, after a fashion. Living smack dab between NYC and DC, we all knew people. NYPD and fire-fighters. My best friend’s aunt worked at the Pentagon. My godmother lived in Manhattan. My parents worried about the impact such horror would have on their kids, but adults got the worst of it. They’re the ones with a rocked sense of safety. One of my strongest memories from 2001 was an overwhelming feeling of family. When the worst happens, that love is what saves us. And families will always remember.
I was in high school when Katrina hit. Every school sport, club, and team exploded with various fundraisers. Again, humanity’s great family rallied together to grieve and heal. I have yet to visit New Orleans, but the greatest repeated admiration of the endlessly hurricane-battered city is for the defiantly vibrant statement they make. Weather won’t ever change their joie de vivre.
A few years later, my cell phone rang during a French lecture. It was my mom. Another ring; another “je suis très désolé”. My phone continued to vibrate. An apologetic “c’est ma mère” got me into the hallway. She choked out to come home. Refusing to tell me details via phone, something had happened. My professor should cancel class, the university would be shutting down. I was too young to remember Columbine as more than a whispered story, but Virginia Tech threatened my own blood. I never was more grateful for having gone to college in my hometown more than that day, spent clutching my mother in front of the TV, waiting for my brother to finally call in that he was safe. Big Bro and a whole pile of friends are Hokies, and thankfully all survived. I wore maroon and orange with a sibling’s pride to my campus vigil. We are Virginia Tech, and we are strong.
I have experienced great tragedy in my life. From a young age, into adulthood. From something as personal as a friend lost to cancer, leaving me feeling like the whole world has changed… well, to the whole world actually changing after terrorist attacks. I have seen friends off to war to be shot, and friends have been shot in the ignored warfare waged on our own streets here. Each time, the flurry of phone calls to see who could have been watching Batman in Aurora, or might be homeless after Sandy, are made. Each time, news– both good and bad– trickles through jammed cell towers. I hold a great number of runners and Bostonians in my heart; this time, my loves are all safe.There isn’t much I can say about Boston that hasn’t already been said by the more prominent. President Obama’s speech caught my breath, with the quote about Boston being a state of grace. My favorite laugh came from a spoof-Happy Gilmore twitter, “Boston is probably the only major city that if you fuck with them, they will shut down the whole city…stop everything.. and find you.” And Stephen Colbert made me cry. “These maniacs might have tried to make life bad for the people of Boston, but all they can ever do is show just how good those people are.”
Because it’s true. When the evil fight to bring us down, the only thing good people can do is continue our lives in strength and grace. I would be lying if I said I have never flicked away a grain of fear for living in the US capital. I am far too informed to ignore the target this city makes to a mess of bad people. DC is undoubtedly an iconoclasm magnet. But that won’t keep us away from the places we love. We get back on to the Metro. We return to the Washington Monument. We continue life. This week, a group of runners organized a Run for Boston. I couldn’t attend, but a fellow blogger did a great write-up: thanks for running and writing, Dana. Great cities will always attract envy. Like our sister, Boston, Washington has a heaping of love, pride, and good people. What they, and the rest of the world’s response, embody is an undeniable human power. Threats only serve to strengthen our resolve. Our fragility isn’t a weakness, but a treasure. It makes us resilient. And there is nothing as inspiring, nothing to remind us of our original awe and wonder at the magic in life, as this resilience of the fragile.
And like all good people, we will hunt you down. So don’t fuck with us.
There’s that old saying about which is thicker, and therefore deserves the ultimate loyalty. (One is decidedly more drinkable; please don’t test it.)
But I learned from a Cracked article [where I learn most of my baller/ meaningless trivia] that the proverb’s been twisted. It doesn’t refer to your biological family like we think these days– it means the one you picked. Blood, as in blood-oaths and war; water, as in of-the-womb relatives. In short: your buddies are better than genetics, because you actually CHOSE them. You love family because you have to; you love your friends because you want to. And life is a fucking battle, so choose wisely who has your back.
I’ve always said something similar: one of the greatest things about growing up is this ability to choose your family. Because that’s who your friends become. The further away from the biological you move and grow, the more you turn to the surrogates in your life. The girlfriends who build a new sisterhood. The guy who steps in as an older brother, to roughhouse and/or protect you. A boss with those mystical parental powers of approval and judgement. On a very basic level, the majority of us will always have some makeshift family dynamic in our day-to-day lives. Whether you find them in the workplace or social circles (or both), the family dynamic is inescapable and omnipotent. It shapes your life.
As kids, friendships are forged mostly by default. You’re the same age, in the same class, seated next to each other alphabetically, or managed to have the same Ninja Turtles backpack. In high school, you shared the same athletic/academic/artistic talent (or mutual lackthereof), and were in the same clique. And college isn’t much different. Majors stick together, and dorm-mates bond. But out here in the real world? It can be harder as adults to find your family.
Freshly pushed from the collegiate nest, we wander like hatchlings [read: idiots] around our new adult lives for a while crying “Are you my mother?” Think about it. For those of you who moved to DC without a support system– and knowing this city, it’s a large majority of us– there was a deep part of you starving for that close-as-blood connection. Some of us turn to classes or clubs to find it within similar interests (fuck bocce ball; but hashing is a “Jules Approved Activity”). Others simply go to a bar to meet people (arguably a similar interest, to those of us alcoholically-minded). Nearly everyone throws themselves into work until life figures itself out.
I don’t know what it’s like to move here without a single friend. Two of my best, Otoño and Sally, were already here. And that was hard enough! But between work and play, I found a few family trees to graft on to. My Restaurant the first year adopted me into a polyglot family spanning over a dozen global cultures. I had a fierce bunch of aunts and uncles, big brothers and sisters, all making sure I ate enough food and had the hugs needed to keep spirits up. Team United Nations pulled me into the wild world of clubs, DJs, and partying the sun to rise. Josef and the Roomies fill in as older brothers keeping me in touch with the art world.
And now, My Bar serves as home base. With a majority of the staff fighting in the DC job market, yet taking pride in Industry life, we understand each other on a very real level. In addition to our “Sunday is Coming” tradition, which kicked off to an awesome start on Easter, we typically meet on Mondays. The Pinch, our friendly neighborhood dive, has made Mondays their Industry Night– meaning certain astronomical specials for those in the know. The rest of the week, we knock off work and set up camp at the corner table at Wonderland Ballroom, where similar benefits are ensured. We take full advantage of industry connections, and have established strong familial ties between our bars.
With that said, sometimes there’s nothing like your literal family. Junior visited with Abigail only once since Inauguration, and it almost felt like a tease because I had to work all weekend. Last week was Fabala’s spring break from high school, and it nearly broke my heart that a visit fell through. On top of it all, my dad was in the hospital for a fair bit (he’ll be alright, but a reoccurring worry). I had to work so much that I still haven’t gotten to pop home and see him. I’m currently the only veteran server at My Bar, and responsibility lays heavy.
The one thing keeping me going: I did get to visit Big Bro up in Philly a month ago; it was ridiculously awesome. He toured me around his favorite bars and restaurants, hopping from one bangin brewery to another craft cocktail bar. He works at one of Starr’s places, the Dandelion, where even their TOAST will make your mouth orgasm. I now have both a new favorite beer and drink– Triumph Brewery‘s Scotch Ale and Continental Midtown‘s ‘Blood and Sand’, a blood orange and scotch drink. I love DC and everything in it, but Philly’s mind-blowing food and drink culture reminded me why I almost moved there or NYC. [No worries, I don’t regret my decision.] One of the greatest things I left my visit with, though, was a strong calm with being an industry worker. Philly is such a great blue-collar-creative environment, and seeing everyone’s pride in their restaurants gave me a sense of peace I hadn’t felt in DC. So thanks to Big Bro, his lady, and all those goobers for the heaps of Brotherly Love.
Which I soon have the chance to return. Junior and Abigail are talking about visiting next weekend. The week after is Big Bro’s and my group of friends’ huge family reunion concert in Philly with our boys, The Heavy Pets (definitely check them out). A month later, the Phillies come down to play the Nats, which ensures a whole bundle of crazy along with it. Then Jules Junior, my pride and joy, graduates from university and officially begins the permanent move back to Our Nation’s Capital! In between all the Clan Jules activities, you can be sure there will be a pile of trouble with my District Family. Because life is best when you have a bunch of love from all corners. Stay tuned.
And because I can’t let the opportunity go to introduce you, this is from last year’s show: