Friday, July 28, 2006

Urban Oasis

When I lived in New York as an intern, I was exhausted mentally. My internship was in art publishing, and I worked long and hard hours. I lived in the Jewish Y on 91st and Lexington in a room that resembled the hallway in an insane asylum. The walls were white concrete. The floors were grey concrete. I had one twin bed, a desk, and a closet in the room. I shared a bathroom with other people on my floor. They were all foreign students from the Pacific Islands. They cooked smelly food in the common kitchen every night. The scents drifted down the hallway. My room smelled terribly. My boyfriend, at the time, lived in Boston. Whenever I could, I drove up to see him. Then we broke up. Then my father had a heart attack. The only flights to Mobile would mean I'd miss work. I got 10 credits for my internship. I couldn't miss work. So, I sat by the phone, waiting to hear how my father was doing.

At the end of the summer, I used the small amount of money I'd received from my internship to buy a pair of Diesel jeans. My first designer pair of jeans. The size? I was a size 25 waist, size 32 leg (I'm 28 waist 32 leg now). I suppose upset has it's positive attributes. I definitely appreciate how much weight I lost looking back now.

My only escape from the loud sirens, bad smells, and white walls was to the South Street Seaport. I'd bring my research for my internship paper to Sequoia, order a small bit of food, and stare out onto the water. I'd pretend that the city wasn't behind me... that my world wasn't collapsing... that my waist wasn't shrinking. I'd escape.

Since then, I've become obsessed with the urban oasis, where people who love the city come to stop thinking. When I lived in New York after college, I'd read my books in Riverside Park three times a week, even in the winter.

It's taken me some time to find an urban oasis in DC. Jazz on Jackson Place is close, but since it only occurs once a month April-September, I feel more tense knowing I must enjoy the time I have there. Tense with fun, but certainly not completely relaxed.

Last night, we held our second Southern Jewish Cluster event at the Morrison-Clark on L and 11th Streets. The Morrison-Clark is the only Inn in the district that is a National Historic Landmark. You are greeted at the door by a staff member who's entire purpose is to hold the door for you. Every employee wears black vests and bow ties and asks how they can help you. The dining room is decorated with plush antique chairs and chandeliers. The veranda, during happy hour, has soft jazz playing and round wicker porch furniture from the 1800s. Our group was seated in the courtyard. Brick walls close out the sounds of the city. A fountain sings water dropping echoes. The drinks are all $7 during happy hour and include mint juleps, hurricanes, and the specialty cocktail, a steel magnolia. Waitors bring out free hors hors d'oeuvres like hush puppies, sweet potato biscuits, and crab cakes. For 2 hours, you forget that you live in a city. You forget about sirens and beggers and murders and work. You relax.

My parents are in town, so we stayed on for dinner. Fabulous dinner. My Amish Chicken was presented in grits. A Senator was seated behind us with his family listening to his daughter talk about her ballet class. What a perfect urban oasis. I'm thrilled I've found one in DC.


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