Monday, May 23, 2005

The Case Against Why I Hate DC

It didn't escape my attention that James from Why I Hate DC was profiled in the Washington Post--though he had a fighting chance to do just that, considering the big blog news item of the day was the KAC Empire getting profiled in the Express and also that the profiler of record for YI8DC was John Kelly, whose column is infinitely skippable.

Many days around the DME facility, we chuckle along with Mr. Why I Hate. He writes long pieces that stay focused, are often incisive, and make with good research. He's got a long memory, too, and can pull items from the recesses of his memory banks with stunning clarity for details.

But we've soured on Why I Hate, recently, and one part of the Kelly piece calls to attention why that is:

"I thought I could be one of those people who sits around contentedly, ignoring how the people around me behave, trying to deny what I've observed."

My word. James, Chris Carter just called, and he'd like Fox Mulder's personality back!

Honest to God. It's one thing to point out the foibles of where you live. And if you hate where you live, I'd be the last to toss out the "if you hate it so much than move" line, because I know it's not that simple. But where I'm starting to lose the thread of Why I Hate DC is the growing idea that Washington, DC is a Grand Guignol of Torture that only this dude's got figured out.

In truth, you can't swing a stick in Washington without smacking somebody who doesn't resent the onerous way the Federal government asserts itself on the residents of the city. Many are the people in Congress who simply believe that DC residents are superfluous to the city's existence, and the way the Feds use the city as their petri dish of social experimentation is just putrid. Beyond that, DC's like a lot of cities: dysfunctional local government, weird city layout, crime, homelessness, a certain amount of dickheads and weirdos, et cetera.

But in asserting that "We have, somehow, created a city that encompasses everything bad about living in a city, with almost none of the good things," and that "NORMAL PEOPLE DON'T BEHAVE THE WAY PEOPLE BEHAVE IN WASHINGTON. PERIOD," Why I Hate DC moves past the just criticism of those agents in the DC area making trouble for the people who live here into a weird zone of non-thought where he's successfully become No Thing To No People. All of which is fortified by a recent uptick in Mulderian persecution complex.

Perhaps I could accept Why I Hate DC as a windmill-tilting, tortured, socio-cultural messiah figure. God knows I could use one. But as time as has gone on, my enjoyment of his site has lessened because of a creeping dishonesty that has begun to seep into the work. Begin with the fact that the above blockquote stemmed from an incident that occurred at a Washington Wizards game: a fight in the stands between two fans. Now, I can understand being annoyed even angry at witnessing the events described. But I can't imagine the amount of melodrama pills I'd have to take for it to plunge me into a Long Dark Teatime of the Soul. His walk home sounds like the treatment for the next Green Day video, and for what? A non-newsworthy skirmish, the likes of which are found at stadia and ballparks worldwide? There should be a blog, Why.I.Hate.That.I.Don't.Know.How.To.Google.The.Words.Ron.Artest.

To me, this makes Why I Hate an unreliable narrator, because his reaction and his subsequent behavior is just not something I've observed in nature outside of the shrillest of drama queens. What cements the unreliability however, is the outright mendaciousness of posts like this and especially this one--both of which are, simply put, outlandish in their deceit.

The latter post is especially galling--the work of someone who either has no fucking idea what he's talking about or is simply lying through his teeth. In this post--he begins with a thesis: New York City is constantly crawling with people and activity on the weekends, increasing one's opportunity for spontaneous surprise and individual experience, while DC is devoid of such activities. Fair enough. Let's compare DC to New York City.

But WI8DC, like a misguided laser, homes in on the one neighborhood where Sunday afternoon activity is least likely to occur--the K Street corridor, and holds it up as a test case for Washington's social activity. He swings by Washington Circle and declares the sight he sees to be inexoably lame, stating: "Hard to believe that nobody wants to spend their leisure time sitting in the middle of a circle that cars are constantly driving around." And yet, blocks north, at a place he's never heard of called Dupont Circle this is precisely what's happening!

He walks on up K street, just as bemused as his little brain can be, "On a Sunday, almost all of the shops, restaurants and businesses here are closed. Which begs the question: why are the streets still jammed with cars?"

The easy answer--and by "easy answer" I mean "easy fucking plain as day answer"--is this: James--you are walking through one of DC's major business districts. All the restaurants are geared toward capitalizing on work-week dollars. Lunch breaks, 6pm happy hours, dinners with clients. Banking, copying, overnight shipping. You walk a little off this strip in one direction, you'll encounter the social centers for GWU. In the other direction, that place called Dupont Circle. K-L-M-N-O-P Street, douchebag...the restaurants are open! Why so many cars? Because motherfuckers be working, nimrod, and the garages are closed because the garage employees have this thing called a "weekend", in which they get two days off!

I'd lay you odds that somewhere in New York City, there's a business district just like the one he describes (with the exception of the fact that quite probably you'll find more crappy luncheteria type restaurants open because New Yorkers think of themselves as being as least as important as God, same as here, but in much greater numbers worth exploiting if you've got a snappy snack shack on Wall Street). I don't know! And why would I? Unlike YI8DC, I don't plan Sunday afternoons in New York trying to get friends to show me the neighborhoods where all the Kinkos are!

He makes this point over and over again, and very assiduously keeps the exculpatory evidence off the record. In Georgetown, he allows "there were actually people walking around." He doesn't provide any photos, probably because he can't pull off the same type of "Fall of the Statue of Saddam Hussein" trompe l'oeil BS he can on K Street. When he finally arrives at Gallery Place (I was there this past Sunday...was crawling with things to do and people to see!), he manages only one dig at the expense of the Hooters in Chinatown. Yes, the juxtaposition of that restaurant in that neighborhood truly was hilarious the first 50,000 times I thought about it.

It's all selective reasoning, perhaps unintentionally done (he doesn't discover the existence of Adams Morgan until months later), perhaps not so-it's just impossible to disregard the instances of pure unadulterated disingenuousness.

It softens the blow, to some extent, to note the abundance of instances in which WI8DC simply lies to himself. I love his paean to Nashville--a place he says he "wishes he can stay." It sounds like a fun 24 hours spent there, but when a guy rails rightly at the retarded red-state political foolishness of Virginia, as James does, often, I have to ask: "Move to Nashville? Are you stupid?" In the equation of backwater dipshittedness, TN=VA(10), dude. Hard and fast rule. The recently constant refrain that life is better in NYC deserves to go under the microscope as well: James, you constantly whine about how you'd never be able to afford to buy a home in the DC area (itself a weird obsession for someone who'd made it all but clear that you're shipping out the first chance you can get), let me lay some reality on you--you ain't buying in NYC either, buddy. Divide that Fort Strong pad in half, and double the rent--welcome to your New York City future, baby! But, hell, by all means move, and please let me know how you like dealing with rental brokers--you are going to love them!

At any rate--I still make regular trips out the Why I Hate DC lane. From the recent natterings on the gun ban to the Capitol Hill fly-by to a neglected-by-the-press item on the dicks at VRE--all right out on the main page--it's a blog worth visiting, certainly. And the wit is solid. But it doesn't deserve an ounce of your trust. Don't give him any.


Dr Ock said...

Dam, why are you turning on James??? He's done nothing wrong. He's just questioning the status quo trying to figure out if he's as crazy as these people seem to be.


Dr Ock

schtaple said...

good post. i have to say that i think james started this blog not realizing the response he would get after staying after it a long time, and has begun to lose sight of the poking-fun purpose of the thing. right? because of course, every city is stupid. DC has it especially stupid parts. he should take your advice and not take himself too seriously.

The Deceiver said...

There's a lot about him I appreciate, and were he using his obvious talent to laser in on the city's malefactors, I'd have no beef. But our opinion wildly diverges in that he's happily damned us all, implicating the entirety of this city and the people who live in it.

the h said...

seriously. as a native dc'er who used to loathe the city (and General Metropolitan Area), i found his blog hilarious in the beginning. then i started wondering why he was still whining. move already! it's like guys who complain about being in fraternities--if you hate it so much, leave!

in my opinion (and i think there are people who agree with me) the trick to living in/around and loving d.c. is not paying attention to the parts you really hate. i hate K st, the hill scene and georgetown on most days. my only interaction with K st is when the s1 cuts through it to head towards the kennedy center. otherwise i avoid it (and its people) at all times and i never see the hill or g-town unless i'm hitting up eastern market or have a weird dean-and-deluca craving.

it's not that hard, kids. if you are nice to d.c., it might not hate you back!

ilb said...

I really like James F's blog and visit regularly. Since I'm semi new here most of what he discusses is still new to me. But the NYC>DC arguement is a bit tired. I used to live in NYC and I heart DC. No complaints here.

cuff said...

The DC v NYC thing is more than ridiculous. DC has a population of about half a million. New York has 8 million. The only US cities that can even touch NYC are SF and maybe Chicago (sorry LA - I don't consider suburban sprawl a city).

DC is a great place if you follow the h's advice: avoid Georgetown, K Street and the Hill. And of course separate as much as you can the dysfunctional District government from your daily life.

The Deceiver said...

I have found that if you want to really enjoy New York City, don't live there. As a tourist from Washington, you can afford to do all the things that people who move to NYC tell themselves they're going to do all the time, and then never get to because their hovel costs too much.

Being independently wealthy is another option.

Anonymous said...

Great post, but I can't let you keep going with what you're doing to Nashville's rep. I've visited both states several times. The difference between the two is that my visits to Tennessee have been voluntary.

Sure, Tennessee may be more conservative than VA. And yes, I do find it very hard to swallow that a tourist attraction ostensibly geared toward education and inspiring childish awe and amusement would be compelled to share the heartwarming love behind the Sambo doll, reasonably priced in the Gift Shop (

But, my visit(s) to Memphis, Nashville, and Knoxville have all been very enjoyable. Between the music, the food, the consistently friendly locals (even the Sambo doll was sold to me with a smile (because I'm white?)), I couldn't help but be very impressed with the state. And then I remember the chicken wings so good I coudln't help but dancing at the first taste. Virginia, on the other hand, seems unable to find the right medication for its case multiple personality disorder, and festers amid the smell of dollars and cents wafting down from the Union and that of tobacco and tar coming up from the Confederasah. So yeah, Nashville might not be on the same plane as DC as far as being a cosmopolitan, busy town. But it's certainly more lovable than Virginia.

The Deceiver said...

That's fair. I've always wanted to VISIT those cities in Tennessee, too, and outside of lovely Charlottesville, I have just about had it up to yaaa with the rest of the state, as far as a visit/trip/tourist basis.

In fact, I've spent the weekend in Knoxville. Had a great time. Of course, after 10pm, the whole city was deader than a SIDS baby, but me and my friends were allowed to hang out on the back porch of our hotel, playing guitar and drinking keg beer until all hours without anyone caring (no one was around to care, anyway). Try that shit in Fairfax, if your dare.

Hmmmm. Williamsburg is also nice. For those of you scoring at home, that's the Williamsburg WITHOUT electroclash.