Anyone who's run into me in the last six months has heard me gripe about being homesick. Seven years ago, I couldn't wait to get out of DC (I was bored to tears). However, for the last year, I've been dying to go back--for a visit. Even if it's boring, home is still home. Problem is, I've been too busy grinding--my current resume lists me as a reporter/ editor/ blogger/ author/ event planner who dabbles in marketing and PR. It so happened that I was being forced out of the city for Labor Day weekend. The West Indian Day parade, the biggest annual event in the city, takes place one block from my apartment. It's one thing to go to it and an entirely different matter to live in the middle of it. Every year, I leave for the weekend. This time, I decided on a visit to the Old Country (Maryland.)
I booked an Amtrak ticket and looked forward to a delightful weekend of peace, quiet, and near-boredom. I planned to lay about the house all day, cuddle up in lounger (because my parents don't have couches) and watch DVDs of movies I'd missed in theatres. I would bask in the glory of central air and a stocked refrigerator and pantry (!) and then maybe just hang out in the laundry room for awhile, marveling at the suburban luxury of having a room just for the care of dirty clothes. (Yes, I know this is weird.)
Ace picks me up from the train station, and immediately I get to complaining about the suburbs and all things DC. The fresh air and greenery are irritating my allergies. I can't stop sneezing and my eyes are watery. And why is everything so damn bright? It's like these trees are in Technicolor or something. ("D, you need to go to the park more up there," Ace begins. "No one should ever be alarmed by a cluster of trees.") I whine about how much space everything takes up. ("Look at that parking lot. Do you know how many condos would fit there?") I moan about the wideness of the streets (wasted space), all the SUVs (gas guzzlers) and about how I won't be able to sleep well like I planned to because I know the sound of crickets (and birds) will keep me up (or wake me up). That and I was invited to a million BBQs and park parties in BK this weekend. I'm missing out on everything. I shouldn't have come. I want to go home--New York.
Quickly, Ace has enough. "You are not going to complain about my city all weekend," she lays out firmly. Ace, who never yells, is yelling at me. "You never thought it was this bad before. You've gone to New York and now you think it's better than everywhere else. Well, it's not!"
Ace grabs her cellie from her purse and calls reinforcements--Tarik and Jason, two amazingly well-connected guy friends or ours. She reports what I've done and said (Bad, D!) to each of them. They discuss and devise a plan (the Demi in DC Love Movement) to teach at least one New Yorker that "up top" ain't the only place where things get poppin'.
I rode 3 hours down on the train, but that's not enough of an excuse to get me out of partying with Ace & Crew for the night. It's too early--10:30--to go out, I remind her when she shows up at my house. And I typically don't party on weekends. And I only go out during the week because... Ace cuts me off and reminds me that I am not in New York and that I need to put on my highest heels– right now. "We get dressed to go out here," she reminds me. Then she reminds me that the clubs close at 3. Early, but better than LA. I'm skeptical... in five-inch patent leather heels.
Jason and Tarik drive us to Love (www.lovetheclub.com), formerly known as Dream. Seven years ago, I spent every Friday of the seven months of my discontent at this nightclub. I also celebrated my 23rd birthday here. My friends booked a table that came with its own bouncer, white choclate cake, 4 bottles of champagne (for the 4 of us)and choclate -covered strawberries. By the end of the night, I was dancing on a couch and smearing cake on men’s noses (long story.)
This place is still open?
Indeed. We valet the truck in front of the stadium-size structure that calls itself club and I stare at the long, long line snaking down its length. I'm a New Yorker now. I don't do lines--especially not for clubs, especially not for clubs out of state. I turn to Ace with a sour, oh-hell-no! look on my face. She rolls her eyes, grabs me by the wrist, and drags me as we follow Tarik and Jason to the front of the line.
Thirty seconds later we're up the marble steps, through the mahogany and glass doors and inside. Since I was last here, the venue's been reconfigured. The dark wood that once reminded me of a stuffy, Old Money cigar bar has been accented with more modern touches. The massive space feels more homey now, like I'm hanging out in a friend's parents' basement with a whole lot of other people. I look around at all the partygoers moving to and from the bar to the dancefloor. Men--attractive, freshly-shaped up men with broad shoulders who 2-step (ie, they can actually dance) and can get backed up on too– are in properly-sized button downs, properly-fitting slacks (!) and loafers. ("DC men care about fashion," says Jason, who’s decked out in a baby pink button down, white linen slacks and white soft-leather footwear. "Especially shoes.") The women are fly as well, but I was too distracted by the guys--french vanilla, butter pecan, chocolate deluxe– to give you a decent description of them.
Jason--who has turned into a hugely well-connected promoter since I headed off for Northern terrain– arranges for me to meet the venue's guest relations manager and assistant and the GM, an old friend from college who used to manage 40/40 (www.the4040club.com)in NYC. Apparently, the Demi in DC Love Movement isn't limited to just my inner circle. Joe from guest relations and who I immediately gave the nickname The Gorgeous god Among Men, and Fendy, the too cute assistant, take me on an impressive tour of Love. Only two of the four floors are open tonight and they are both packed. And all those well-dressed, well-coiffed, high-heeled folks are paaaaartying hard.
The pair takes us for a quick pass through all the VIP rooms and sections and points out one area as the stage where Snoop will be performing the following night, if I'd like to come back. Fendy notes that Erykah Badu and Common will be on that stage in a month for CBC weekend.
DC is looking better already.
Half of the third floor and all of the fourth are rooftop decks filled with super cute all-white cabanas that remind me of Miami, especially the fourth floor deck with its hanging paper lights. Very Opium Garden (www.theopiumgroup.com) in South Beach (the only city I party in besides New York. Everywhere else is for relaxing.) I'm... impressed. You know how much a New Yorker loves her rooftop venues! (My favorite, BED, was closed earlier this year after a drunk C-list actor pushed someone down an elevator shaft.) Jason and I dance a quick diddy to "My Drank and My Two Step" under the stars before Fendy leads us to the very-exclusive Penthouse suite, which most people don't know exists and includes its own bar and showers. It's intimate, private, and sexy as all friggin hell.
What happened to the woefully conservative government town that I grew up in?
The Gorgeous god Among Men chuckles at my cluelessness, but I think I fall a little bit in love anyway. *sigh* "That's during the day," he notes.
After Love, we head to Avenue (www.avedc.com) a newer club that I've never heard of. It's conveniently located down the block from the new DC Convention Center (www.dcconvention.com). We park across the street and again, Jason maneuvers us to the front of the line and we are quickly ushered inside. It's not Love. Relatively small by DC standards, three floors, no fancy décor, and undecorated brick walls. The VIP room is just an elevated section with a red, velvet rope. No frills. We start in the reggae rooms on One and Two. It was hot– as in heat. If I had balls, sweat would have dripped down them. Then we work our way up to the hip-hop room on Three.
Dammit if those folks didn't party till the hard wood floors started to shake. At 2 am, sweated out hair and shirts were de rigeur for most of the crowd--though no one seemed to mind. Clearly, these folk came looking for a party and a damn good session is what they found.
We settle into a room off the dance floor with clear plastic furniture and colored lights. (Told you decoration was minimal.) Jason hits the bar to secure our drinks and I have no idea where Tariq is when a familiar face saunters over to me and Ace.
He was a promoter when I was in college and hit the club every Thursday thru Sunday. He doesn't know our names, but he knows Ace and I were regulars at his events back in the day. Apparently, he doesn't forget a face. Since I left DC, he and his boy, Tupac, have taken over the DC party scene. He offers to buy me (and the crew) some dranks and invites us to his Sunday night party at K Street Lounge (www.kstreetdc.com). He promises a good time.
Avenue is poppin, but we don't stay long. We have another stop to make. (Club-hopping in DC? Who knew?) Six weeks ago, a new spot called Ibiza (www.ibizadc.com) opened around the corner from Fur (www.furnightclub.com). Jason raved about its to-die-for rooftop deck with a great view of a DC landmark. Unfortunately, we arrived too late and the party was over (damn 3AM close time). One of the promoters– a John Legend look alike, replete with chest hair and an open collar shirt– offers to give us a tour of the club the following night.
Back in the truck, Jason and Tarik rattle off a long list of late-night spots we can hit up to eat and chill– Ben's Chili Bowl, Georgetown Café, Oohhs and Aahhs, The Diner– but Ace and I are tired so they take us back to the 'burbs.
Jason drops me off with a promise to call with a new list of places to go the following night.
Part II- Coming Soon (right after I knock out a feature story and take a nap. 3 days of partying in DC wore me out!!!)