Thomas Jefferson didn't want the new nation's capital in a big city. Thus was born the District of Columbia, a federal area under congressional control — and a constant source of frustration for residents ever since. The new capital was carved out of a swampy marshland where the Potomac met other rivers and creeks, making a verdant landscape perfect for malaria, which is why everyone fled every summer.
The swamps have been filled in, but people still like to escape to cooler climes. For gay men and lesbians, that means Rehoboth Beach, or "Rehomo," as it's called. This tiny oceanfront town has become D.C.'s answer to Ptown and Fire Island, full of gay-owned businesses and gay homeowners, clustered around — where else? — Queen Street, known as "Poodle Beach."
Like the nation it governs, Washington's history is full of dramatic ups and downs. The British burned it to the ground in the War of 1812. Its growth exploded during the Civil War (and all subsequent wars). Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his "I have a dream speech" on the National Mall, followed a few years later by rioting after his assassination.
More recently, Washington has experienced a sustained boom that has transformed the entire District. The city's army of professionals makes it the highest in per-capita income, one of the highest in level of education, and increasingly expensive. Techies attracted by fat defense contracts, lawyers, legislative aides, lobbyists — all flock to the city that governs the world's most powerful nation. Embassies and international centers, eminent hospitals, museums, think tanks, houses of worship, theaters, scientific research labs and think tanks — all contribute to the cosmopolitan flavor.
Forget John F. Kennedy's famous putdown that D.C. was "Northern hospitality and Southern efficiency." Far from rolling up the sidewalks at 6 p.m., that's when this bustling metropolis springs to life. After work, the cafes, bars and restaurants that radiate out from Capital Hill are packed with people whose conversation that night might very well determine a slice of your life tomorrow.
A huge LGBT population makes itself felt in every facet of life here — and every neighborhood. Once the undisputed center of gay life, DuPont Circle, like other gayborhoods, still has a large gay presence. It, like Adams Morgan, once the scruffy upstart, have become out of reach for many, who have moved into Anacostia, Brookland, Capital Riverfront, Cleveland Park, Kalorama and just about everywhere else.
At night, our bars are also packed; this is definitely a bar-centric town. Gay nights and gay clubs have opened to more than fill the void left by the closing of Nation and Tracks. Georgetown remains a hub of gay nightlife, as it is for everyone else.
Of course, Washington is one of those "must-visit" cities. Few cities anywhere can offer the grandeur of its monuments, the variety of its museums, nightly cultural events, and a lot more. As a planned city, Washington is full of zoos, parks and arboretums. Every spring, the National Mall becomes a pink wonderland as a forest of cherry trees briefly reveals their delicate blossoms, drawing tourists from around the world.
The arrival of the cherry blossoms provided the inspiration for Cherry, a series of megadances that has grown into one of the largest Circuit-style weekends in the country. Not that you needed an excuse to visit Washington, but consider this spring weekend the cherry on top of this awe-inspiring city.