Wow. The City Paper has really outdone themselves with last week's offering, "Shell of a Town," which just BLEW THE DOORS OFF a story you couldn't possibly have known about: College Park is sort of a shithole. Hard hitting stuff, I know. One marvels at the effort it took to exhume that corpse of a topic in order to dutifully shoot it dead, once again.
Actually, when you hold it up against the City Paper's cover story of the previous week, this low-rent journalistic rendezvous with College Park practically reeks of effort. The week prior, if you aren't keeping score--like the owner of Felix is, oooh, SNAP!--your alternative weekly's crack reporters really dug deep, walked approximately one block from their office and shattered any and all illusions you may have had that people do not drink to excess in Adams Morgan. Armed with the fourteenth best illustrator they had at their disposal and the newly transplanted eyes of innocent pound puppies, the CP brought home this reportorial Moby Dick, and now NO ONE will ever be able to say that people don't vomit on 18th Street again! One can hardly wait for this week's cover story--maybe it'll be "Capitol Hill Denizens Slightly Stodgy" or "The National Mall: Monumenty!"
The article commences with a bold premise that is never really substantiated: that the University of Maryland has a worse campus life than ANY OTHER SCHOOL in the area. Frankly, we don't buy this. Socially speaking, it'd be dead on wrong to suggest that the kids from Maryland don't--and, indeed, currently aren't--enjoying the fruits of the DC area like everyone else. When you're talking about a trip to the Black Cat, whether you come from College Park or Clarendon is basically six of one and a half dozen of the other. Besides, if, say, Marymount, stuck out on a forgettable corner of Glebe and Old Dominion, is hiding some attraction worth noting, THAT'D be a story. As it is, Catholic has got, like, a pretty nice Quiznos, NOVA has an ample supply of flourescent lighting, and I can't possibly see how the GMU campus is distinguishable from any large suburban parking lot. In fact, I'd bet they have a 100 level class that teaches their students how to make this distinction.
The City Paper describes the College Park environs as "an ugly shopping strip, a scarcity of choice, an air of lurking danger, and the promise of thoughtless mayhem." You see--right there, I read that and I think, "Really? Sound pretty promising to me." Kids at Longwood or Mary Washington would KILL for an air of lurking danger. They'd give their right testicle for even a fleeting promise of thoughtless mayhem! Towns like Berkeley and Charlottesville are held out as the gold standard, but I can tell you personally, there are plenty of regrettable bars in C-Ville, the Satellite Ballroom (which recently opened) is the only decent rock club near Grounds, and when it comes to lurking danger, we once had a kid get beat down by the son of the guy who owns Federal Express for absolutely no reason other than the fact that he was the son of the guy who owns FedEx and who was going to stop him?
But, we're not here to insist that one campus is better than it's made out to be or that another is worse. We're here to ask, SO FUCKIN' WHAT, CITY PAPER? SO FUCKIN' WHAT? In building the case against College Park--which is, in itself, a case that nobody short of some illiterate area WILDLIFE needs made for them, the CP awesomely blends the plainly obvious with the dazzlingly overblown. The centerpiece of the article revolves around the googolth mention of the fact that Maryland students riot after Duke basketball games. Jeesh. Thanks for the heads up on that! Right now, the fact that Maryland students set shit on fire after Duke games has reached such an extremely high level of total awareness that there are people who are waking out of 25 year comas who know about it and are using it as the lone shred around which they are rebuilding their tattered sense of self.
Even so, the CP gets the story wrong. First off, they don't riot because Duke sucks. They riot because Duke exists. And the story wrongly asserts that "Violence like this hasn't cropped up on campus or near it since the antiwar demonstrations of the '70s." Uhm, no. To name one example of idiotic campus mayhem, consider Ohio University, where students riot when Daylight Savings Time forces them to lose an hour of drinking every year. I mean, it's not like they aren't warned far enough in advance that the clock will be springing forward. Why not start getting shitfaced an hour earlier? In 2004, a Boston Red Sox playoff loss led University of New Hampshire students to riot and put Plymouth to the torch. You'd think they'd be pretty used to the Red Sox losing, but, fuck it, LIVE FREE OR DIE, BITCHES!
The CP's points get much weirder from that point out. A few paragraphs are spent asserting that the clearest example of College Park's failure as a location is that the local economy barely sustains the single operating comic book-slash-libertarian tract bookstore in town. Because at most colleges, students struggle to decide which comic book-slash-libertarian tract bookstore they are going to shop at. Yet, it seems a perverse complaint to lament the presence of Chipotle, Starbucks, Potbelly, Noodles and Company--oh, I really shouldn't go on because I don't want any of my peeps cloistered at Catholic U. to start weeping.
Here's the craziest assertion: "The place with the most traffic, though, has to be Wawa, although its customers show it little outward affection." Uhm, the DCist comment streams say otherwise. Each grocery store in the area has its backers, but NONE are as zealous in their regard as the Wawa fans.
Other signs of civic malignancy include:
- The fire department is fast to respond to calls! Why, if you listen closely, you can hear DC residents bragging about the way fire crews in town are awesome in the way it takes them months to arrive at the scene of a fire.
- Years ago, when nothing was developed elsewhere, the University of Maryland was founded near Route One, and now the area is mostly a dense traffic conduit instead of, you know, Del Ray. Silly, stupid, University of Maryland! The Oracle at Delphi WARNED YOU, but did you listen? NO YOU DIDN'T!
- It's not just a turn lane...it's a SUICIDE turning lane. By which you turn left from Dismay Avenue straight into the Darkness That Lurks In The Heart Of Man (affordable two-bedrooms available!)
- "The road... is the spine of the city--and also its angry heart. Formerly a stagecoach trail between Baltimore and D.C., it would later define what College Park was to become: divided." Ah-yup. Why, some say the ghosts of stagecoach drivers still haint this place--angry, spectral hearts still beating--cleaving men from the bonds of brotherhoodand a-turnin' 'em all 'gainst each other an' whatnot.
- "At rush hours it is a parking lot. Returning home, traveling the two-and-a-half miles from the main gate to the Beltway can take, in some extreme circumstances, an hour and a half." WHAT??? YOU MEAN TO SAY THERE ARE LENGTHY COMMUTES IN THE DC AREA? God, man, has anyone thought to ask the Pope, or Hawkman, for help!?
- "For those who drive, heading to campus is the equivalent of going to work. Home--where you buy groceries, eat, and sleep; where you raise a family, vote, and host neighborhood barbecues; where you watch fireworks, bowl, and pay taxes--is elsewhere." Fuck. I don't even know what this SENTENCE MEANS. But I have never met anyone who bought groceries at home. And, "bowl?" "Bowl?" "BOWL?!" WTF?! Home: where this author's thoughts escaped him. Permanently.
The thing eventually settles into a snooze, documenting Maryland's problems with the presence of alcohol and criminals, which, yeah, are two challenges that no university in America has ever had to face. But I wouldn't want you to miss out on some of the accompanying pictures, which I have provided titles for.
- "No One Should Have To Live Near Something as Declasse as a Trailer Up On Blocks"
- "If We're Not Careful, Tokyo Drift Could Break Out At Any Minute"
- "My God! It's Full of Queens!"
- "In College Park, Even the BIRDS are Sad and Friendless"
- "What Do You EVEN MEAN You Have No Wheatgrass?"
- "What? A DUMPSTER? In PLAIN VIEW! Come On, Son, There's No Way I'm Letting You Matriculate Here!"
- "Uhm...If I Wasn't an Inanimate Object, I'd Be Able To Tell You That I am Actually a Useful and Modern Innovation that Might Be Able To Help You with that Fire Problem You're Always Talking About."
- "Hey, Lurking Danger, Thoughtless Mayhem Just Called...AND HE HUNG UP THE PHONE UPSIDE DOWN!! Oh, Yeah, Bitch! It's ON! What're You Gonna Do? Huh? We Gonna Do This Thing? We Gonna Do This? You Don't Want This, Motherfucker!"
Anyway, oy to the vey. The article is off the charts where unintended hilarity is concerned--from the silly comparative assertion of the subhed to the concluding vignette which sound, frankly, made up. It's said that Erik Wemple chose to not take the job at the Village Voice because he felt like he wasn't going to have the editorial freedom he wanted as a serf in the New Times Media fiefdom. That's rich. Gotta get this message to Phoenix: After the past two weeks, I, for one, am prepared to welcome any new Arizona overlords with open arms.