Stranger in a Familiar Land
It hit me when I was walking down H Street after leaving Biergarten Haus, the sticky, damp DC night clinging to me like a warm, wet blanket: my previous city, the place I’d called home for four and a half years, hadn’t changed, but was still different. Biergarten was still there with its litres of beer, Kitty’s with its plethora of High Life’s and Disney tunes, Ben’s with its chili, Po Boy Jim’s with its (you guessed it) po’ boys, and H & Pizza with its rectangular carbo loads.
But where did that high rise come from? How about the one that faced it across the street? Where was the shopping center with the incorrectly-named Marvelous Pizza? Had H Street become the new U Street?
These thoughts bounced around my mind as I walked around DC during my week back. The Griffins were gracious enough to let me crash in their Roost, keeping Duncan company while working from home and watching the Olympics (side note: some of the coolest sports, like white water kayaking and archery, were on only during these times). My days consisted of rolling out of bed, rubbing my bleary eyes as I dumped myself into James’s car to drive us to November Project, then heading back home to shower and hop on the computer for work. I’d be (thankfully) interrupted at the end of the day with the return of the Griffins, at which we’d go out to grab a bite or drink(s), visit places I wanted to see, followed by rounds of self-pity as we realized how much we’d eaten and drank.
Even five months away from the DMV gave me the chance to view my old city from a new angle. It’s a city that will always be growing, expanding, a bubble that won’t burst because the government will always need, and will always get, employees. I knew this city, had walked its main roads and backstreets for years. I knew my way around, yet I still felt a bit like a stranger in a familiar land. Something was off, I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I don’t think that really mattered. I’d moved on from DC, and I guess DC had moved on from me. Atlas Brewery had grown up, putting in a brand new tasting room complete with three of my favorite summer beers. November Project had evolved, forgoing the marble steps at the Lincoln for (dare I say it?) an even harder workout beneath the steps. The H Street streetcar was actually alive and chugging along, the city’s boondoggle now upgraded to a black sheep.
But all these things weren’t why I was back in my old stomping grounds. It was the friends I’d left behind as I blazed a trail out west, striking out on my own, bittersweet and looking back as I left. There were the Ruggers and the Dudapest boys; Erin, Liz, and Eamon; Collin and Kelly; The Griffins and Duncan; and the countless others I sadly didn’t get the chance to see. And honestly, I was a bit wary of being back, trying to fit myself back into the group that surely had gathered more inside jokes, stories, and experiences since I’d left. This wariness, these doubts, were shattered when I walked I walked through the door and was tackled to the ground by the J’s. All of them. At once. Keep in mind these are heavy rugby guys; it’s like watching a gorilla (RIP Harambe) try to hug a spider monkey.
Like the rest of the city, though, the time with my close friends was still a bit different than before, but not in a bad way. There were the jokes I had to catch up on, the life events, the stories (Mostly the jokes; as Packy so aptly put it, one thing about our group is that if there’s a dead horse to be had, we’ll beat it).
Things hadn’t changed, but they had. It was the familiar unfamiliar, and it was good to be back.
Beer I drank: Atlas Brew Works' Should I Stay or Should I Gose
Song I heard: Fruit Punch by Kaiydo
Book I'm (still) reading: Hawaii by James Michener