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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

I may not have to imagine much longer...

As scenic and wonderful as Laurel has been the past seven years, it looks like I'll finally be making my way back into the District. My humble abode will be going on the market this month.

I have a lot of history in the region here. I was born in Foggy Bottom. I grew up inside the Beltway in Silver Spring. I went to grade school just outside the Beltway, and high school in Wheaton. I attended Montgomery College, and I even lived in Rockville for a year. I joined the Army at 21 (pre-9/11, but just barely, if you were wondering) and resettled here after my basic and advanced training. I joined the Army to see the world, but they stationed me back in Maryland.

I purchased a house in Laurel in 2003 when I was 23 years old. I was a Specialist (E-4) in the Army at the time, making about $1,800 a month plus a housing allowance. It took a lot of scraping to stay in this house, but a couple of war zone deployments helped me pay the mortgage as my taxes skyrocketed during an unprecedented housing boom. After I got out of the Army, I languished in unemployment for about six months, during which I picked up odd jobs and took extreme measures to afford the mortgage until I managed to crack into a government job with an entry level wage suitable for allowing me to live somewhat comfortably while keeping my house.

I've come a long way since then, and so has the housing market, not to mention the city of Laurel and the DC Metro area. I know I am very fortunate to have survived the housing boom-and-bust and still have made money on my house. It was part determination, part luck, and part having smart people around me.

But as it goes, my current job sends me all over the DC area quite regularly and Laurel is no longer a suitable staging point. I'm moving back into the city of my birth, to a yet-to-be-determined neighborhood. Having grown up in the shadow of the Capitol and lived just about my entire life here and being a person who loves cities, it is a powerful notion for me to be moving back into a city that has overcome so much strife. In my youth, the mass exodus from DC was taking place. By the time I was in the sixth grade, DC was the murder capital of the US. While I was in high school, my mother fought with me every time I wanted to go to RFK or the 9:30 Club, citing my safety. And even as recently as 2004, the Army forbade me from going into the parts of the city where I am currently looking to purchase my next home.

But in November 2008, Election Day, I saw a celebration at 14th and U, an intersection that for the past forty years had been overcoming scars left by race riots, neglect, and construction of the Metro. It was a historic day for many reasons as Obama became the first African-American president in a critical period for the nation, but for me it was different, something that had nothing to do with politics. All kinds of people celebrated in the streets of a fully rejuvenated neighborhood. Washington had returned to being a great American city. It made me want to go back. And now it looks like I can finally do that.

So I'll be posting about that experience, schedule permitting. And if anyone is looking for a spot halfway between DC and Baltimore, I know of a cute little bungalow off of Route 1.


IMGoph said...

the Army forbade me from going into the parts of the city where I am currently looking to purchase my next home.

really? what neighborhoods? i want to know where in the united states the army won't even go. this just sounds insane.

Davemurphy said...


This was my brigade that forbade me, I ought to have been more clear. We were not allowed at any of the clubs where the Nationals Stadium now stands. Nor were we allowed on U Street, H Street, or (for a while in some companies) Adams Morgan bars. I was strongly discouraged against moving to Prince George's County, and I heard rumblings about similar issues for soldiers trying to move just about anywhere affordable in the District. For some reason, Baltimore was no problem though.

IMGoph said...

i can see why the military might want to warn fresh-faced kids about the potential dangers of certain areas, especially if they're completely unfamiliar with a city, or (to play to stereotypes) straight off the farm, but it seems like this was more of a 'stay away from those bars' than 'stay away from the neighborhood,' right?

i mean, if you wanted to go shopping at store in one of these areas, they wouldn't be able to stop you, would they? it just seems very un-american (yeah, that's a little dramatic, but so be it) to tell people you can't go somewhere in your own country.

Davemurphy said...

It's not a democracy in the Army, that's for sure. I thought some of it was over the top, but I get where they were coming from. As far as I know a lot of those restrictions were lifted by my old unit. Now they caution against going places like Arundel Mills Mall, right by the base, where tons of carjackings happen. Times are a'changin'.