Reflections: What if I had stayed in the District?

As San Francisco continues to change due to the COVID pandemic, many people are leaving including some people in my apartment building. The City continues to change. There’s one welcome change: The techie basura who have ruined the City are reportedly leaving. Unfortunately, they’re not leaving fast enough.

I’ve been having some reflections lately — with the arrival of president Biden and vice president Harris — what it would be like for me if I had stayed in the District of Columbia, my former city and the nation’s capital.

When I lived in the District, I worked many temporary assignments through my agent. I liked that. I liked the variety and meeting different people. My agent kept me busy. But there was always this uncertainty with a new assignment that it could be a bad job, then what do you do? Ask for another assignment! I only had a couple of those from what I remember. I don’t remember asking to be reassigned. I worked in many government offices of the federal government, worked at the Smithsonian for quite a while, at the National Academy of Sciences and also worked across from the White House in an office at Lafayette Park. That was interesting with these two women there.

Working across from the White House was really no big deal, because District residents become accustomed to the Federal District government environment. The District of Columbia is not a state but rather the Federal District. and the seat of the (corrupt) US Government. I remember being on Metrobus and we’d ride by the White House and nobody would look that direction. They’d continue doing what they were doing. Well, “it’s just the White House that we can see any time.” It was no big deal. Nobody screamed, “Oh look, there’s the White House.” Nobody acted like a tourist and got out a camera to have snaps at the ready. You might think they would, but no one gave it a glance. Today, it’s just some small white house — compared to international standards such as Buckingham Palace or other mansions — behind this fortress so I don’t think anyone can take any pictures of the thing. Everyone who has lived in the White House have said it’s a terrible place to live. That’s the same thing Queen Elizabeth II says about Buckingham Palace from what I’ve read. She prefer one of the other palaces, such as Windsor Castle or Sandringham House.

The District has more residents than the US states of Vermont and Wyoming but most DC residents don’t live around the government area or federal property areas. Well some do, on Capital Hill.

I lived in Foggy Bottom — which I liked — at George Washington University because it was close to the Kennedy Center where I was performing with the Choral Arts Society of Washington/National Symphony Orchestra and then later with the University of Maryland Chorus/NSO and guest-touring international orchestras. It was also a relatively short walk down to Georgetown which I enjoyed. Although Georgetown was very expensive and still is.

A part of me wishes I had stayed in the District. But I thoroughly thought the move through before I moved to San Francisco. I’m not like the females I know who make rash decisions and don’t think things through and who are void of critical thinking skills. My move was well thought out and planned. Even the flight was well-planned. I wanted to leave from Washington National Airport which is right across the Potomac River from the District because I wanted to see a view of the District/my city one last time from above, from the plane. This meant I would have to fly to Chicago and then to San Francisco. If I had flown out of Dulles — which is out past the Capital Beltway and more difficult to get to — I would have had a nonstop flight to San Francisco. So National was closer and my preference.

It was somewhat rough initially because I didn’t really know anyone in San Francisco. But I settled in gradually.

I had spent two weeks in San Francisco before moving here to help me decide whether I wanted to move. I didn’t have any trouble finding a job here after I moved. The agency I was with in the District had written me a superb reference which helped. They told me, “You’ll have no problem finding a job with your skills in San Francisco.” That was very nice of them. They were very good people.

Musically, in DC, I would have stayed with the outstanding University of Maryland Chorus, but their performances had been reduced with the National Symphony Orchestra, so that would have been frustrating. That was frustrating for me the year I sang with them. We only had one engagement with the NSO compared to multiple engagements that they had had for years over previous seasons when I was with the Choral Arts Society. The new orchestral conductor for the NSO seemed to favour Norman Scribner’s Choral Arts Society of Washington, a superb Orchestra Chorus as well. I sang with them two seasons. They were the first Chorus that Rostropovich worked with, and that seems to give a Chorus a “leg up” being the first. They become the preferred for some reason. Whereas Antal Doráti — whose contract was not renewed by NSO management from what I read — always preferred Dr Paul Traver’s University of Maryland Chorus. After I felt more established in San Francisco I did sing with the superb San Francisco Symphony Chorus under Margaret Hillis and Vance George. Vance was a wonderful man and musician as Chorus Director. He was very nice to me.

But I moved to San Francisco when both DC and San Francisco felt like similar cities or “Twin Cities” in a way. San Francisco was of course more progressive and the slogan about “Anything goes in San Francisco” was indeed true, and that’s one of the reasons I moved here. I loved it!

That is no longer true however and hasn’t been true for years. Today, San Francisco is more like the District as far as being more conservative and snotty.

So upon reflection, I feel I left the District at perhaps the “height” of things and the timing was right. Nearly everyone kept telling me “You belong in San Francisco” — I heard that frequently from people who had recently visited here — including one of my supervisors on one of my jobs. She had visited San Francisco and she told me, “You’ll be happier in San Francisco. I think the District is too conservative for you.” She was right. It was in some ways which is why I left.

If I lived there today, DC is not the same city at all. The places I used to frequent are gone. The District is a very transient city, in part, because it’s the Federal District of the US government, and also because of the various universities there: University of the District of Columbia, Catholic U, American U, George Washington University, Georgetown University, Howard University to list a few. Many of my friends have died, and one of the main reasons I lived there — Dr Paul Traver’s superb University of Maryland Chorus (also known as The Maryland Chorus) — was disband/”retired” a few years ago by the University of Maryland’s School of Music. Dr Traver also died. The all-student University of Maryland Concert Choir — which replaced The Maryland Chorus — doesn’t have nearly the number of engagements with the NSO that the University of Maryland Chorus had. During the Doráti years, The Maryland Chorus was practically the Official Chorus of the NSO. They had quite a legacy with the NSO. And during the COVID pandemic, all the Orchestra Choruses have shut down because singing is one of the main spreaders of COVID.

As for Biden-Harris, well, the Federal Government part of the District is really separate from the residential areas. Although one cannot escape the snooty political atmosphere. The government part is mainly at the south end of the District, closer to the Potomac River. For DC residents, it’s sort of a pain to go to the Federal Property areas (the White House, the Ellipse, the Mall, the memorial buildings, the Capitol and Supreme Court), other than by Metro. I wouldn’t have tried to go to the 2021 inauguration to begin with. Do any DC residents do that? I don’t think so. If I lived there, I’d feel the same way I do in San Francisco: A sigh of relief that the international bully/piece of trash and the pompous and arrogant trash around him who once occupied la casa blanca are finally gone, they all belong in prison, and now the civil and more mature people are there. I won’t wake up mornings wondering who the enemy of the day is and if some nut has tried to blow up the world the way I did with the orange loser/the bullying toddler in an oversized adult body.

But really, upon reflection, I made the right decision years ago when I moved to San Francisco. It’s just that the San Francisco that I moved to is gone, although I get hints of it on the odd occasion. But most of my life has been in San Francisco and it will be interesting to see how the City continues to change. Chau.—el barrio rosa