Capitol city of The United States of America, located in a special zone called the "District of Columbia" (such that it is not located in any single state) which itself is between Virginia and Maryland. Location of such famous places as The Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, Capitol Building, White House and other notable places. Unfortunately, the city has recently been overrun with politicians rendering it an undesirable place to live.

Dive bars in D.C.

Quick note: I love dive bars. The nastier, more disgusting, the more sawdust on the floor and lunatic penny pinchers ordering Brubaker's, the better. I love all the following places, and hang out there all the time.

Let's start with The Common Share. This isn't so much a dive bar as it is a nice bar with a dive bar theme. It's got $2 Guinness (well-poured, might I add), a stand-up hit-on-people downstairs, and a cool, more mellow upstairs with furniture that looks like it was picked up off the side of the road. The crowd is mostly young people and a few locals. Located at 18th and U NW, across the street from the diner.

Further up 18th street, into Adams Morgan, we have Dan's Cafe. Ah, Dan's. Dan's has some kind of fucked-up liquor license, and they can only serve alcohol in bottles. So you can get bottled beer, or mixed drinks; but if you order a mixed drink, you get a glass, a mixer, and either a fifth of alcohol or one of those little shot bottles you get on airplanes. There are cute little wooden holders on the bar to secure your drink for when barfights break out. There is also a pool table and a fantastic jukebox. Although it does not have Hurricane by Bob Dylan, an important song for dive bar jukeboxes.

The bathroom really deserves its own paragraph. Don't be surprised to see Ewan McGregor swim up out of the bowl with a heroin suppository in his hand. This toilet is straight out of Trainspotting.

Even further up the street, almost to Columbia, is Millie and Al's. This place isn't as nasty as Dan's, and they have lots of tvs, and they always show Red Sox games. There are dollar drafts on Wednesday nights.

At the top of 18th, swing a right onto ... i think it's Columbia. Anyhow, take a right at the McDonald's, and pass the KFC and the Popeyes. A place called Chief Ike's Mambo Room will be on your left. To truly get the feeling, go to Chief Ike's when a band called Liquid Lobster is playing. They serve quality beer, and it's relatively inexpensive. There are spraypaint murals of all sorts of people, famous, infamous, and otherwise, across the walls, and the scene is completely locals.

The Fox and Hounds, at 17th and R. Oh boy. I'd recommend heading to Fox and Hounds during the warm weather months, so you at least have the alternative of sitting outside, as the inside is completely polluted with cigarette smoke and that rotting socks sort of odor that just lingers around dive bars and tells me that I have come home. Order at least one mixed drink here, as they are very strong. This is a great place.

Finally, we have the Vienna Inn. No, it's not in DC, it's in Vienna, Virginia, about thirty minutes away, but this place completely deserves mention. Cheap swill flows like blood in Braveheart, hot dogs and french fries are served amusement park style, in paper cups. Don't piss off the owner's wife, 'cause she'll throw you out and never let you back in.

Again, I'll add more later. Other DC'ers, please append to what I have written.

A bit of historical background: after the revolution, there was debate as to where the new capital should be. New York and Philadelphia were used, but there were two problems with that:

  1. Both of those cities were in the north, that is, north of the Mason-Dixon Line.
  2. Both of those cities were (of course) in a state. The concern was that whatever state the city was in would have inordinant influence over the government. For example (it was feared), the state would demand special perquisites, or it would raise taxes on government buildings in the city.
As a result, it was decided that a new, impartial place must be found for a capital. In addition, the city should be in the middle of the country (that is, in the middle of the thirteen colonies that made up the country at the time). The actual decision to make a federal district was a fairly complicated compromise made by the various writers of the constitution (specifically Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton). George Washington selected the site for the city, a 100 square mile patch of swamp at the joining of the Potomac River and Anacostia River. The city was named after George Washington, and the district was named Columbia, in honor of Christopher Columbus.

Pierre L'Enfant was brought in to design the city. He made it in a grid shaped pattern, with broad diagonal avenues. The capitol building serves as the center, and divides the city into four (uneven) quadrants (NW, NE, SW, and SE). The North-South running streets are numbered (starting with 1, on each side of the capitol). The East-West streets are in alphabetical order, first using the letters A-Z (excluding J), and then using two, three, and four syllable words -- so when you get about six miles away from the capitol, you run into Albemarle St, Brandywine St, Chesapeake St, etc. The system gets more muddled the further you go from downtown, but it works fairly well. The avenues run diagonally, and are named after states. The most important avenue is Pennsylvania Avenue, which connects the White House with the Capitol.

While DC was originally a 100 mile square, bordering between Maryland and Virginia, Virginia took back what was originally its piece during the Civil War, and somehow never returned it, leaving Washington with just 70-odd square miles.

In recent years, the city has been troubled by both incompetent government and congressional animosity (each of which has reinforced the other). DC residents were only allowed to vote for president by the 23rd ammendment in 1961. They still have no voting senators or representatives, one reason why their license plate motto has been changed to "No taxation without representation".

Famous places to go in DC:

Can anyone think of any more...?

The Street System in Washington, DC

Here's more information about the street system in Washington DC.

In the District of Columbia, streets run three ways - east to west, north to south, and diagonally. The streets running north to south are numbered (i.e. 10th Street, 14th Street), while the streets running east to west are alphabetized (i.e. K Street, F Street). Diagonal streets are given names of states. (i.e. Connecticut Avenue)

The alphabetical names for the streets going east to west start at the East Capitol Street and the National Mall - East Capitol Street starts at the United States Capitol Building and goes straight to the East, whereas the National Mall is a park that extends West from the United States Capitol. (Click the National Mall node for more information). The first street in the designation is A Street, and the streets ascend alphabetically in both the North and the South to B, C, and so on through Y. There is no J Street, no X Street, and no Z Street, (Despite popular belief that there is indeed a Z Street) and instead of I Street, the street name is shown as Eye Street. When they run out of characters of the alphabet to name the streets, they'll use two syllable names, three syllable names, and eventually they'll use names of trees and flowers. This system is referred to the first, second and third alphabets sometimes.

The numerical names of the streets start from the North and South Capitol Streets, where North Street extends North from the United States Capitol, and South Street extends... you guessed it, South from the United States Capitol. The numbers ascend numerically in both East and West directions, from 1st Street on.

The streets are also identified by where they are in relation to the United States Capitol building. That is, if North, South and East Capitol Streets and the National Mall divide Washington, DC into four quadrants, then the streets in each quadrant are named for the quadrant they reside in, whether it is in the Northwest, the Southwest, the Northeast, or the Southeast from the Capitol. For example: E Street NW, E Street NE, E Street SW, E Street SE.

The factoid is often bandied about that Virginia was given back (or took back) its part of DC during or as a result of the Civil War or Reconstruction. Actually, the US Congress voted to give Virginia back the 32 square miles it had ceded in 1846. This made residents of the city and county of Alexandria, parts of which later became the city and county of Arlington, residents of Virginia again. (The "retrocession" was granted in advance of the abolition of slavery in the District: Virginia slaveowners feared that runaway slaves could easily find safe harbor in the Virginia-bordered side of DC, and Alexandria was already a thriving center of slave trading. Had retrocession not happened, the precedent set by the 1856 Dred Scott decision of the US Supreme Court could have been a different decision in a very different case.)

That's not the only odd feature of DC geographical history by a long shot, either. Originally the District of Columbia and the City of Washington were not co-contiguous. The portion of the Maryland cession not occupied by the city of Washington and the city of Georgetown was designated Washington County, and the portion of the Virginia cession not occupied by the city of Alexandria was designated Alexandria County. In 1871 the charters of the cities of Georgetown and the city of Washington were revoked, and a territorial style of government was established; in 1895 the city of Washington was re-established, incorporating what was formerly Georgetown. However, no mention was made of the disposition of the County of Washington, so technically it still exists.

Sources:

"Washington DC History: Origins of the Name District of Columbia."
http://dcpages.com/History/DC_Name_History.shtml

"The District of Columbia: Shaping Northern Virginia."
http://www.virginiaplaces.org/regions/16dc.html

Other references:

"Counties: Geography of Virginia."
http://www.virginiaplaces.org/vacount/

U.S. Census Bureau Tiger Map of the DC region showing political boundaries only:
http://tinyurl.com/6b57j
This is good for a general look at how the District of Columbia's original 100 square miles is divided up today.

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