Reader mail

Laura writes:

heh, I was gonna take issue with your ragging on the DC crime stats and all, given that I actually like this town....so I went to an Atlanta, Georgia crime stats site to gather some ammo, and well, you'll see why I'm sheepishly sending you this.

To be fair, these stats are from a few years ago, when nobody was going to come anywhere close to touching D.C. in terms of crime. I found a site with more recent data, and Atlanta (city proper) was actually not that far behind D.C. in murder rate per capita (I think it was a ratio of about 47-40).

Make no mistake: Atlanta, my former home, is far from perfect. It's got many of the same big-city problems that Washington does: crummy schools, questionable government ethics, awful traffic, bad air quality, inept police force, some bland white-bread suburbs.

Meanwhile, Washington has much better "stuff to do." I just spent all weekend taking my mom from attraction to attraction: we hit the Folger Shakespeare Library, the Corcoran gallery, the ballet at Kennedy Center, etc. Mind you, this is not stuff I would elect to do on a regular basis myself. But in terms of tourism, and having things to show people when they visit, Washington wins out big-time over Atlanta, which has very little to show the out-of-towner.

But it's living here that gets me down. Atlanta has one big thing that Washington does not: personality.

When I left Atlanta, I was working in Buckhead, which is very much the "party district" in Atlanta. The building I worked in was a former bank; in what used to be the vault was our breakroom, which had satellite TV and pinball when we wanted to blow off some steam. For lunch, there were numerous choices within walking distance, including an incredible New York-style deli--and, in fact, the whole city seems to be filled with the best one-to-two-dollar-sign restaurants (that you can drive to) of any city I've ever been to.

Obviously the after-work atmosphere was great too; tons of bars and revelling right across the street. Or, let's say work's over and I'm in a foul mood. I could drive to Little Five Points, pick up a Creative Loafing, grab myself a Cuban sandwich at La Fonda Latina, rummage through the old comic books and CDs at Criminal Records, and presto, good mood again. Or, if I really want to keep it real, I head downtown and get come chicken & waffles.

Atlanta bills itself as "the city too busy to hate," and it was my experience that this is absolutely true. I don't recall ever feeling the resentment and hostility between races that I do in Washington. Perhaps it's because there are so many more opportunities for blacks in Atlanta, and the playing ground is more level; you have several strong historically black colleges downtown, and a successful R&B/hip-hop community as well. In Washington, the primary opportunities in blacks seem to be in local government, but obviously their power is limited to what the federal government tolerates. Fairfax County in Virginia and Montgomery County in Maryland are two of the richest in the country; D.C. is suffering with extreme poverty. I think this fosters resentment between the races, and prevents the Washington area from ever hoping to scratch together any kind of civic pride.

And I think that's the sharpest change I've had to tolerate in moving from Atlanta to Washington. Atlanta is an inviting city, where you can feel like you belong, no matter who you are; I was totally content to spend the rest of my days there. Washington is completely non-inviting; I've found it to be a very difficult and lonely place to live. Alas, I am trapped here as I put my dreams and happiness on hold.

The toughest part is: nobody sympathizes with my plight, and nobody understands why I'm so unhappy here; not my friends, not my family. Nobody except you, website.

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