Why why.i.hate.dc?

I realized I needed to put together some kind of FAQ post, after a new reader posted some questions in a comment thread:

1. Is there anything about DC that you like that has abated your hatred of the city somewhat?

2. What keeps you from moving away?

3. Where would you live, if circumstances permitted it?

4. Where have you lived before? Did you like any of these places?
4. I've lived four other places:
- Great Falls, Montana. Actually not bad. Boring, yes, but there's clean air, friendly people, and beautiful country.
- Jacksonville, Fla. Awful, hot, stringently Bible belt. But it got a little better after I left for college.
- Atlanta, Ga. Fun and diverse. Good for living in, not so good for tourismy things. Best restaurant town ever.
- London, England. Da bomb. If you can't find something to do here, give up.

3. Seattle! It's always been my favorite place to visit. They complain of "Californiazation" these days, but I could work around that. It's got the right mix of weirdness and metropolitanism (that's probably not a word).

2. My wife's working on her PhD. I don't know how much longer that will take.

1. It's actually gotten a little better since I've started this blog. Things I like:

  • People are complaining that Clarendon has been developed into yuppie heaven, but I really like some of the stuff that has gone in there, and it's within walking distance of my apartment. Dinner in Clarendon + train to Metro Center + movie at E Street Cinema = a perfect date.
  • Speaking of my apartment, it's crappy and expensive, but in a good location, and the rent hasn't gone up much since we moved in.
  • There aren't many cities that have a pinball league. There are three here, and I've made some friends through that. (Hmm, I've got some catching up to do.)
  • I work as an on-field football official, from little kids up through varsity high school, and the officials assocation in NoVa is great. Maybe a little too regimented due of all the members from the military, but at least I always know they know what they're doing.

    So, why do I keep this blog going? Because, while there are things I like, they are so far outweighed by the negatives that, after a while, I just needed a way to vent.

    Primarily, the source of my frustration is the repressive social environment. I always feel like a jerk trying to explain this to people, because it's not like I can plot "personality per capita" on a graph as proof. But I feel like that, by moving here, I've forfeited my right to be weird.

    It's hard to explain what I mean by that. But I've been thinking about it since the other night, after watching Gigantic, the movie about crazy-rock duo They Might Be Giants. I loved listening to them in high school; they were (and are) so weird and so clever. It was always so much fun to try to figure out what they were singing about.

    I'm not all that weird myself on the outside; no tattoos or piercings, normal hair, always wearing jeans. Pretty boring, really. But I like hanging around the "alternative" people once in a while. Back in Atlanta, when I would start to feel down, I would take some time to go to Criminal Records in Little Five Points and thumb through indie records and comic books. Or maybe I would grab a $3 slice of pizza at funky-looking Fellini's and catch a movie at the Lefont theater. Or grab a delicious breakfast at Flying Biscuit after checking out the local arts and crafts shop next door.

    It was relaxing to me, but not because it made me feel cool to be in on the indie/alternative culture (I have never felt cool). It was nice because I was around unique people who weren't afraid to express themselves. Those little field trips of mine would remind me that it was OK to just have fun and be myself, and, as someone with perpetually low self-esteem, that felt good.

    In Washington, I've never had that feeling. I can't feel comfortable expressing myself here, because uniqueness just isn't encouraged. It's not like anybody in Washington set out with an agenda to suppress weirdness; it just seems to have developed that way. During the winter, I'll step onto the platform at Metro Center station, wearing jeans and my puffy bright-green-and-yellow Seattle SuperSonics jacket that I've had since high school, and suddenly I'll realize that I'm the only person there wearing an article of clothing brighter than dark brown.

    That kinda creeps me out.

    So anyway, I got more and more frustrated about not feeling comfortable expressing myself. This came to a boil last March, after the start of the war in Iraq. I was all, "Iraq? Uh, where did this come from? Why are we attacking them?" and everyone else was all, "Yay, spill the blood of the brown-skins! Doesn't matter which ones!" (I'm paraphrasing, of course.) I felt marginalized, like I had no voice. I really wanted make myself heard.

    Blogging seemed like a good way to do that; I could vent my frustrations about living in Washington, D.C. without having to deal with all the blank stares that usually result. Plus, I could be creative and express myself to anybody who cared. All the guys wearing the same black leather jackets, and the ladies wearing the same black track pants with the white stripes down the side, could ignore me if they wanted. But any kindred spirits out there -- people who maybe have been frustrated trying to express themselves in a very status-minded city -- might appreciate what I have to say.

    Luckily, there are a few kindred spirits out there. (Incredibly, this blog now gets almost 200 hits a day during the week.) And the ironic part is I'm happier now, knowing that I can express myself to people who actually want to hear what I have to say. I think I can tough out living here for a little while longer by getting other people to understand why I find it so uninviting.

    So... let the hate and obscure pop-culture references continue! Join me, won't you Stetmeyer?
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