One thing that continually amazes me about the city in which I live, the nation's capital, is how drastically different the neighborhoods are - grimy poverty side-by-side with opulent excess. I wonder why we allow either one to continue.

I am also struck by how different the "cultures" are in the various neighborhoods. This contrast was particularly stark one humid afternoon in July as I sluggishly walked from the downtown bank where I was applying for a mortgage, up Connecticut Avenue, past Dupont Circle where I work, through Columbia Heights where I (used to) live (until I got the mortgage) and to my church on the border of Mount Pleasant. Four neighborhoods. Let me share with you my DC.

Downtown (near White House):
Big, grand buildings. Wide streets. Men and women in conservative suits of different shades of grey. Mostly white, with either cell phone in hand to ear or bluetooth sets coming out of their ears, which always makes me think they've been assimilated. Often with a Starbucks coffee cup in the other hand, newspaper and briefcase under an arm. They are too busy and/or important to say "thanks" (or even notice) when you hold the door open for them.

Dupont Circle/Adam Morgan:
Funky shops and cafes. Gay and hipster central. Still well-dressed, but not as stuffy. Still mostly white, but a little more diverse. Still with cell phone in hand and Starbucks coffee in the other, but instead of talking to some important somebody, they're talking to friend about last night at the club, or how they need a better-paying job so that they can buy more stuff. Will usually say 'thanks' if you hold the door open, but otherwise everyone tries to avoid eye-contact with each other.

Columbia Heights:
Bizarre mix of luxury condos and run down row-houses and housing projects. Bizarre mix of working-class black folk and 20-something white hipsters with tell-tale ipod buds in their ears. Trash on the narrow streets. Potholes. Trendy restaurants and bars. People asking for money. Drug dealers. Trendy restaurants and bars. People look you in the eye and ask "How you doin?" as they pass by, but they don't wait for an answer.

Mount Pleasant:
Largely Hispanic/Latin. Working-class neighborhood, slightly shabby but maintained. Mothers in brightly colored flea market clothes pushing strollers with other kids in tow. Narrow, crowded streets, bustling with activity. People selling fresh fruit from an ice-cooler on the sidewalk. Others selling cds. Latin music blaring. A taco truck. Short men with a twinkle in their eyes who give me a nod and the once over as I walk by.

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Acknowledgments is made possible in part by generous support from the Fahs Collaborative