Washingtonienne in Playboy!

Here's a safe-for-work article. The scary part is, her musings on Washington society are frighteningly accurate:

"People like to pretend that money and looks don't matter, but they do. It's supposed to be a big meritocracy, but people here are just as shallow as anywhere else. The thing about D.C. is it's not Miami or New York where there are all these hot people everywhere. I'm cute by New York standards, but when I came here, my stock just shot up fast."
What are you saying, Jessica? That people like "Lisa Farbstein" aren't hot?

For shame.

That's right, Mac... duff. I am dangerous.

Macbeth is my favorite Shakespeare play, and I saw a great performance of it over the summer at the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon, England.

I will not be going to see the play at The Shakespeare Theater in D.C. Why?

Well, let's say you're casting Macbeth. Who is the absolute last person you would cast as the conniving, murderous Lady Macbeth?

If you said Kelly McGillis, the love interest from Top Gun, you win. And yet, hilariously, that's who they cast: the least convincing on-screen astro-physicist ever. I can see it now...

LADY MACBETH: My review of your performance was right on, Macbeth.

MACBETH: Is that right?

LADY MACBETH: That is right, but I held something back. I see some real genius in your swordfighting, but I can't say that in there. I was afraid that every one in the courtyard would see right through me, and I just don't want anyone to know that... [breathlessly] I've fallen for you.


Woo-hoo, GO CONCRETE PILLAR! Hold that line!

I have long maintained that all aspects of the Redskins perfectly mirror the awfulness of life in Washington. The billionaire owner, "Douche Bag" Dan Snyder, flies his private helicopter from Ashburn, Va. to Landover, Md. to get to the stadium, thus avoiding all that nasty riff-raff in between. The ticket prices are the second-highest, on average, in the league (Patriots have the most expensive). The stadium is difficult to get to via public transportation. Even the parking spaces around the stadium cost around $40 per game... and those are the cheaper ones. The fans often get drunk and get in fights, resulting in humorous situations such as the Pepper Spray Incident from Monday Night Football in 2002 against Philly.

And, of course, the topper: the team is fucking awful.

I refrained from getting tickets this year, although overall demand was a lot higher thanks to the return of some old coach or something. The team tried to take advantage of this by expanding [product-placed shipping company] Field by 4,000 seats, bringing the capacity to a league high 91,000 and change.

The only problem with that is the stadium architecture, which gets in the way. Many of the seats have obstructed views. And I don't mean obstructed as in, you might not be able to see the corner of one end zone. I mean completely obstructed, as in, there's a gigantic concrete pillar right in front of your seat. Here's the story of one fan who moved from the upper bowl to the new lower-level seats:

He said he was told the lower bowl seats had a "limited view," but was told only part of the end zone would be obscurred [sic; attn. Post: I'm available for copy editing, cheap]. He said he was also told he would not see the scoreboard, high passes or punts.

When he arrived at the Redskins-Carolina Panthers game two weeks ago, he sat down in his new seats and found a pillar blocking the entire midfield between the 35-yard lines.
Ha! Also, this guy talked to the team's sales staff, and was told that refunds are not allowed. But don't worry, it's only $690 per seat down the drain. SUCKER.

The story goes on to quote anonymous fans about similar disappointment in their new seats. Yes, Snyder is so much of a bastard that these people felt the need to withhold their names for fear of retribution by the team.

But the best part of all this, as if it wasn't gut-wrenchingly hilarious already, is that the Redskins actually issued an infantile press release in response to the Post's story. I really must excerpt the whole thing, in its entirety, for posterity. Here it is.

Clarification: 'Washington Post' Inaccuracies

Today's Washington Post story, based on issues from a "handful" of people and identifying only one fan from among the more than 4,000 who bought new seats, accepted the premise that ticketholders had been somehow misled. That despite reporter Jason La Canfora's possession of the three computer-generated views of the seating areas that were provided in advance to all who sought to purchase the seats, team spokesman Karl Swanson said.

The Post also failed to point out that the co-author of the story, Thomas Heath, visited the stadium on August 10. His resulting August 11 story correctly quoted Swanson that "we made full disclosure and told people to come look at the seats and see if you want them." That is why the seat assignment process took more than two months.

Over the eight-week period, hundreds and hundreds of account holders visited the seats. Those who could not come received computerized drawings of the seating areas.

During a conversation with La Canfora prior to publication of the current story, the Redskins noted that any dissatisfied fan should contact the ticket office to discuss their options. It was noted that the Redskins have several different ways the team might address fan desires. Among those options is refunding the fan's payment for the seats, an option that to date no fan has chosen to accept.

Surprisingly, The Washington Post newspaper is in fact the single-largest general admission ticket holder at FedExField, with more than 200 prime lower bowl seats under one discreet account.

General admission seats are intended for the individual fan. Each account is limited to six seats, and there are more than 100,000 households on the wait list hoping to purchase general admission seats.

"Since general admission is designed to benefit the individual fan, not major corporations, having secretly garnered more than 200 of the best lower bowl seats, isn't it time for the Washington Post to recognize the needs of the individual fan?" said Mitch Gershman, senior vice president in charge of the team's ticket office.
Dear God. Where to start with this?

Who wants to bet that taking a refund bumps you to the back of the decade-long waiting list?

But most curiously... what does the number of tickets the Post has have to do with anything? They "secretly garnered" lower-bowl tickets? WTF?

They're clearly mentioning this as a dig at the Post, but... who sold them 200 tickets in the first place? I'm assuming, um, the team did? And that last quote by "Mitch Gershman" (he's, I'm assuming, "Lisa Farbstein's" husband) is an all-time classic in terms of Washington bullshit. "Isn't it time for the Washington Post to recognize the needs of the individual fan?"

Um, dipshit... you're the ones who built and sold seats directly behind a fucking concrete pillar. Sure, the Post could give up some of its seats and open them up for regular joes, but that wouldn't change the fact that you built and sold seats... that are located directly behind... a concrete... fucking... pillar.

So congratulations, "Mitch Gershman." You just won the Worst Attempt at Misdirection Award for 2004. Karl Rove will be calling you with a job offer.


Lexus lanes a go in Virginia

Richmond is where my tax dollars go. But they don't come back. Since our anti-NoVa legislature refuses to provide adequate funding for roads in the area, it's now up to a (say it with me) corporation to build extra lanes along the Beltway.

But it will cost you an unspecified, variable amount to travel these lanes, at all times of the day. And even though state funds will be used to help build the lanes, the company keeps the toll revenue, just as with the Dulles Toll Road (which sucks up $1.50 from me every work day).

Bleh. I'll be in the Hispanic lanes, with the rest of the traffic.


What a bunch of glory hounds

I'll bet a good, like, half of their fatal combat wounds were self-inflicted, just so they could get up on this wall.

Have they no shame?

This post brought to you by the James Institute for Hating D.C.

All of these public policy-slash-research-slash-lobbyist groups can be found on or around K Street in the District:

American Forest Foundation
Americans for Balanced Energy Choices
Capital Research Center
Center for Consumer Freedom
Center for Media and Public Affairs
Environmental Issues Council
National Center for Policy Analysis
National Center for Public Policy Research
National Consumer Coalition
National Wetlands Coalition
National Wilderness Institute
The Progress and Freedom Foundation
They sound innocuous on the surface, unless you're really well-schooled in political bullshit. All of them are actually funded by industrial interests and corporations... and, by extension, are against any and all pro-environmental laws and regulations. In fact, even the groups that don't try to trick you by including "green" words like "Forest" or "Wilderness" in their names are anti-environment. (I don't even know what they do now that Bush's administration has abolished every environmental regulation he could get his hands on, but there you go.)

Seriously. "American Forest Foundation." That's a level of propaganda that would make Orwell blush. And we have an entire street dedicated to groups like them! What a glorious wonderland of crap we've built!

I, of course, can only take so much bullshit before being sent into a murderous rage. Thus, I propose, primarily for my benefit, that these groups re-form under the banner of a new coalition:

The American Foundation of People Who Would Ass-Fuck Your Grandmother For Some Money

There, much better. This way it's all out on the table. We would fuck your grandma up the ass... for some money. Everybody knows what to expect, and there are no surprises.

Granted, that would be tough to make into a cool acronym, but I'm also really, really sick of acronyms too. It also might be a little tougher to get a good table at Capital Grille, once they find out you work for those "ass-fucking-grandmother" people. But I think the benefit to society would easily outweigh those petty concerns.

If that's no good, though, I would also accept:

American Institute for Hiding in the Guest Bedroom and Masturbating to Crush Videos

That way, I don't feel like every lobbyist working off a million-dollar grant from Exxon/Mobil has a leg up on me in influencing Congress or the media. Now, they have a little handicap to work against: that whole "jerking-off-to-crush-videos" thing. Advantage: Push.

Let's make this happen, lobbyists! Stop the bullshit!

(Or, at the very least, give me some money, and your grandmothers' phone numbers.)


"I don't have any money"

That's what 55-year-old Adrien Alstad shouted just before he was shot to death.

Bring me the head of Bud Selig

Oh good. Major League Baseball commissioner and all-around cocksucker Bud Selig is back in town. Again.

Why are we treating him so nicely? There should be a local bounty on his head. In fact, let's do that right here: the first person in Washington to hit Bud Selig in the face with a banana cream pie gets dinner on me.

Seriously, a visit? Now?! What could baseball possibly be hoping to find out about Washington that they didn't already have knowledge of over the past three years?

"Capitol building still there?"
"Supreme Court still there?"

Bottom line: They would be stupid to put the Expos here after stalling for three whole seasons and losing millions of dollars. They would also be stupid to put a team anywhere else, since the other cities in contention aren't a sure thing in terms of TV market and potential support.

Meanwhile, the deadline's predictably been pushed back for about the 428th time. Enough already; time to start slashing Bud's tires. Let's go, people who violently riot at the slightest provocation (I'm looking at you, Maryland fans).


The Ballad of the HawksPhone

Welcome to another episode of Pointless Introspection Theater. This is where I tell you a long, boring story about my life that has weighed on my mind, but which will seem overblown and ridiculous once I write it down and publish it for the whole Internet to see. Let's go!

This story revolves around one of my most prized possessions: the HawksPhone. What is the HawksPhone? I'll show you, presently.

Yes, it's a beat-up old Nokia 5150. The kind of cell phone that was all the rage in, like, 1998 or something. (Thus, HawksPhone is InterCapitalized, since that was also all the rage at the time.)

The HawksPhone was more than just a phone, though... it was special. For one thing, I came in possession of the phone by winning it at a Braves game in 1999.

At the time, my then-girlfriend-now-wife was working for a business magazine in Atlanta, and they had group tickets to a game, so there were about 30 of her co-workers there; some of them I knew, because I had previously worked at a part-time job in the same office for a Braves fan magazine. We had shown up early for the catered food before the game, and gone up to our seats ahead of time to watch some BP. One of the Braves PR people, who was in charge of contests, noticed me in the seats wearing an old ESPN shirt, and invited me to enter the trivia contest to win a cell phone. The contest involved giving the trivia answer over a cell phone during the game, while simultaneously being shown on the big screen for everyone to see. So, obviously, I said yes.

The contest may have been a little fixed; he fed me the question ahead of time to see if I knew it. The question was, "Who is the Braves all-time winningest left-handed pitcher?" Amusingly, I was intimately familiar with this stat after having paged through the media guide multiple times while doing research for the team's fan magazine, so I knew the answer was Tom Glavine. The PR person, perhaps glad he wouldn't have to give me any hints, prompty gave me a certificate for a new cell phone, and explained how the big-screen stunt would work.

When I walked up to the front of my section in the fourth inning, my former co-workers were surprised and wowed. I answered the question on the big screen and got applause from them, and they all congratulated me. It was a great conversational item for days, and something my wife and I will always remember. I'm still grateful to the Braves for giving one of their biggest fans a chance to impress his friends. (Later, I was also randomly awarded a jersey just for attending a game. I still wear it all the time.)

You know what? In retrospect, the "award" for winning the trivia contest probably wasn't that great. The phone might have been free anyway for signing up with the celluar provider. But I certainly didn't know any better at the time, and just thought it was cool that I finally was joining the ranks of cell-phone owners (they weren't quite as ubiquitous back then as they are now, but they were getting there).

It turned out to be extra fortunate, because right about then I was starting graduate school. Now I would have a way to call my girlfriend after class. I have fond memories of doing that, while walking from the Georgia Tech campus, toward the Varsity and the North Avenue MARTA station. I remember that she called me one time, all excited because it was snowing in Atlanta. She's cute that way.

In 2000, I decided the phone needed some customization. First, I found an inexpensive vibrating battery on eBay; that would allow me to know the phone was ringing without disrupting class. But then came the real eBay find: the customized Atlanta Hawks cell phone cover. I had to have it.

Any knowledgeable hoops fan will know that "having to have" an Atlanta Hawks cell phone cover is completely ridiculous and without reason. Of course, I am a ridiculous person. But I did have a good reason; I had some great memories of attending Hawks games as an undergrad. I was a huge NBA fan growing up in a non-NBA town; I especially loved the great Seattle SuperSonics teams of the early '90s. But I had never attended an NBA game until I started going to college in Atlanta in 1994. Suddenly, live NBA games were readily accessible. After a hard week of classes and reporting for the campus paper, I really looked forward to weekends when the Hawks would have a home game. I would get $60 in spending cash from the financial center, and drive down to Candler Park for some cheap Fellini's pizza. Then I'd get on the westbound MARTA train towards downtown, and marvel at the incredible, lit-up Atlanta skyline as we approached at dusk.

The train stopped right underneath the Omni, a 1960s-era arena that was past its prime. NOBODY attended Hawks game; they had the second-lowest attendance in the league at the time, beating only the woeful L.A. Clippers. But because of that, it was super-easy for a poor college student to get cheap tickets; in fact, they were the cheapest in the league. On game nights, I would march right up to the ticket window, plunk down $20, and stroll inside to a front-row seat in the upper level. (Or, if I was feeling especially cheap, it was just $15 or $10 for lesser seats.) I would bring my walkman and listen to the FM feed of WGST, which broadcast the games. That made me feel like I was courtside, even though I was upstairs; I could hear every clang, every swish, and every sneaker squeak. I loved it.

Plus, even though the games were sparsely attended, the team was actually quite good. There were no superstars, but by the mid-'90s there was a good starting four who consistently made the playoffs: Mookie Blaylock at point, Steve Smith at the two, and later on Christian Laettner and Dikembe Mutumbo down low. Not a murderer's row by any stretch, but still a team that consistently made the second round of the playoffs. I remember attending several playoff games, including one in particular against Indiana; I splurged on a great lower-level seat, for a whopping $37. (Note: that's less than the Wizards currently charge for an upper-level seat on the ends during the regular season: $40.)

Eventually, over time, with well-played games, cheap tickets and readily available seats, the Hawks won me over. I may have been the only person sad to see the Omni demolished after the Olympics in 1996. The new arena was OK, if more expensive, but it just wasn't the same, and not just because the team disastrously decided to sign Isiah "J.R." Rider before the '99 season.

Anyway, with all these good memories, I decided to bid on the cell phone cover, and bid it all the way up to $2.25, which is what it sold for. It arrived, and I happily snapped it on, thus creating the HawksPhone I know and love today. The best part was that it was completely unique; never before or since have I seen an Atlanta Hawks cell phone cover for sale, even in Atlanta. That kind of accessory, if made at all, was reserved for the most popular teams, a group the Hawks have never belonged to. This almost seemed like a custom-made piece, or a test item that some company had decided to make a few of but not mass-produce. It was a rare, quirky/kitchsy find, like an in-joke to myself. It was the kind of thing only I would appreciate.

I kept the phone for years, through grad school and my first job; I didn't really need anything fancier, since I only ever used it to talk to one or two people. Eventually it became the beat-up, scratched monstrosity you see in the picture, with dust particles under the display window and a battery that wouldn't hold a charge for longer than a day. But I still liked the memories associated with it; it reminded me of the good times I'd had in Atlanta, even while I was miserable in Washington.

As Alanis might say, we'll fast forward to a few years laaaayyyyterrr. Specifically, it was Sunday, October 27, 2002. I'd been here a little over a year, and was pretty much desperate to make a friend or two. I really missed hanging out with my brother in Atlanta, and felt pretty lonely. Nobody I worked with was anywhere near my age, and besides, I'm just not good at breaking the ice with strangers. The two or three people in the area I knew from college couldn't or didn't want to hang out with me on a regular basis, for various reasons.

Except... there was one acquaintance from the old college paper, who I knew was a native Washingtonian. We hadn't really hung out a lot but for working together, yet we both sort of had a snarky, sarcastic sense of humor. He had returned to D.C. to attend law school (as had, like 80 percent of my friends). I happened to run into him one morning while waiting in line for breakfast at a diner. I knew he was a Redskins fan, and '02 was the year that I had managed to fulfill my stupid dream of having NFL season tickets, so I invited him to a game.

The particular game we went to was Redskins-Colts, a Sunday night ESPN game. It happened to fall on the same night as Game 7 of the World Series that year between the Angels and Giants, but even though I was interested in seeing that, I was so happy to be going to the football game with a friend that cancelling never even crossed my mind.

I had always taken Metro to the games; it was more convenient, cheaper and maybe a bit quicker than trying to drive over the Wilson bridge and into the stadium area (and back). But for some reason I can't remember, my friend insisted on picking me up and driving to the stadium. He took us south on 395 and east on the Beltway, where of course we got stuck in miles of Wilson bridge backup. In the meantime, I talked with him about some of my frustrations with living in Washington, and got the usual polite nodding (and the usual absence of sympathy). I didn't expect a native Washingtonian to understand any of my qualms with this city anyway, so that didn't really upset me. I was just happy to have someone to talk to.

Eventually, we inched our way to the [product-placed shipping company] Field area, and into the cash parking lot, where, as documented here in the past, you have to pay an incredible $25 to park in the middle of nowhere. My friend was a little surprised, even though I think I had warned him that it would be expensive to park even this far from the stadium. He didn't have enough cash on him, so I took care of most of the charge. No biggie. (I think I also absorbed the cost of the ticket; again, no big deal, since I had offered, and was happy to have someone to talk with anyway.)

We parked by the old Capital Centre, a.k.a. [product-placed bankrupt airline] Arena, and took a shuttle bus to the main parking lot... area... thingy. My friend now wanted to track down some of his law school friends who were tailgating in the parking lot. After wandering around the dark, expansive pre-paid parking lot, we finally tracked them down. They were nice enough; they offered me a beer and a brat, which was tasty. But something about them rubbed me the wrong way. They had that private-school mean-spiritedness air about them. They were a little bit elitist, as rich white kids, lawyers, and future lawyers sometimes are. I've probably repressed most of what made me uncomfortable around them; I just got the sense that money and status were very important to them.

I didn't buy Redskins season tickets that year to impress anyone; I just really liked the NFL, and wanted to be a part of that experience in person. I had struggled with the decision to spend $1,200 on the two tickets, since that was (and still is) a lot of money in the James scheme of things. These kids surely liked the team as well, but they seemed to be there more to show off to each other. Even though they appeared to be attending on their families' long standing season tickets (and their families' $40-a-game parking passes), and not their own dimes.

I know the Redskins aren't a non-profit organization, or anything close to it. They make money hand-over-fist because people are willing to pay those ridiculous prices to watch their games. But it always makes me uneasy to ride the bus from Landover station, through some sad-looking, economically depressed neighborhoods in Prince George's County, to get to the multi-hundred-million-dollar shiny football complex where I would be given the privilege of buying a $7 beer. That money's all going into the team; much of it surely goes into Daniel Snyder's helicopter. It ain't going back into the neighborhoods surrounding the stadium.

My sense of economic justice gets upset when I observe things like that. But I got the feeling that these law school kids didn't have any sense of that, or maybe even revelled in it; they enjoyed being economically superior to those around them, no matter how artificial a superiority it was. At one point while we were tailgating, an old Chevy Caprice drove by, and the kids made fun of it for looking like the beat-up old Beltway Sniper car (that whole terrifying fiasco had recently come to an end; thanks again for making it possible, NRA). The implication being that it was the kind of car a poor person would drive (and didn't belong in the tony Redskins parking lot? I don't know).

But then, came the One Shining Moment that has been haunting me more and more, of late. I don't know why I keep going back to this moment in time in my mind. This is what happened:

It was about time to head into the stadium, and I took the HawksPhone out of my pocket to check for any messages I might have had. I don't even really know why, since nobody would have called in the couple hours I had been away from home, but I checked anyway. My friend noticed the phone, replete with its Atlanta Hawks cover, and said, loud enough for his law school buddies to hear:

"That's awfully ghetto of you, James."

I kind of blinked at him, not sure what to say. The HawksPhone? Is "ghetto?"

Well, sure. I suppose a four-year-old model with an Atlanta Hawks cover is somewhat ghetto. That's also one of the reasons it's fucking awesome. But the way he had said it was not the "hey, that's kind of cool" way. It was more in the derisive "you're a broke-ass loser, aren't you? And, also, if you don't mind, I'm going to point that fact out to my awful friends in order to impress them" way.

After all the elitism I had endured already, this was the heartbreaking puncuation mark. How could he insult the HawksPhone, which had such good memories attached to it?

The remark didn't even bother me all that much at the time. But it grew and grew n my mind the more I thought about it. We walked up the ramp to our seats (a little late because of all the delays), and I put on my walkman to listen to the baseball game while watching the Redskins. I had brought people with me to Redskins games before, and it was never easy to sit back and relax and chat with each other the during the game, since the speakers right over our heads were so loud, even during the time outs. But after a while I wasn't even really making an effort at conversation. I kept my walkman on so I wouldn't have to talk to him so much, except to keep him posted on the baseball score. My heart was no longer in trying to be social.

When the game was over, I decided to take the Metro home rather than drive back with him in the car.

"Are you sure?" he kept asking me. Yeah, I was sure.

I didn't want to have to truck all the way back to where the car was parked, and then sit through all of that traffic, awkwardly trying to make conversation with yet another one of the billions of people in this world to whom quirkiness and individuality are alien concepts. Instead, I rode the train home, and solemnly sat alone with my thoughts once again.

I never contacted or heard from my friend again after that night.

And... scene.

That's a pretty lame story, eh?

I think about all my crazy stories of things that have happened to me in Washington... getting screwed by the lie detector at NSA, having the movers cheat us out of $2,000, being unable to find a job, getting stuck in a police dragnet after the snipers had struck, and getting into that humiliating smoothie-covered car accident. After all that... why is this the story that sticks with me the most? It's not even all that concrete a memory, and I know that I'll meet elitist creeps in the future throughout the world, not just in Washington. But maybe that night keeps haunting because this is the one memory that's closest to encapsulating what's off about the culture here.

The HawksPhone, meanwhile, has been retired, and sits in the secret ticket drawer in my desk at home (that would be the top drawer... shhhh!). It's still got the Hawks cover, dust stuck under the display, and the vibrating battery that no longer holds a charge. I keep it because I still always associate it with all those great memories.

But now, also, one disturbing one.

Suck harder, WaPo

Two great columns on how the Post blew Iraq by blowing the President.

Hey, look at that

It's a well-staffed, content-filled, D.C.-centric blog, with which I have no hope of competing.


Check out DCist.

Three years

That's how long I've been here.


And it's not just living in a miserable, hateful city that weighs on me. It's living in the same crummy apartment that whole time. It's having to still live like a poor college student despite holding down a fairly well-paying, boring job for three years.

But I did have an interesting weekend. (Uh-oh, blog alert!)

I talked with a friend who happens to own a house in Arlington not far from me; it's a smallish size house, with maybe three bedrooms, that's valued at $750,000.

I went to a party that started with drinking games, but degraded into people comparing the law schools they had attended, like they were comparing penis size. It's the only time I've been to a party where the phrase "I'm proud to be an elitist" was said out loud, in a completely sincere fashion. I really wish I could say I was kidding about any of this.

I went to JournalCon D.C. and served on a very interesting panel about political blogging. It took me a while to get used to the idea of people saying hello to me completely unprevoked.

The convention hotel was a quirky, modern boutique; I'd never before seen automatic curtains that swing open as you approach. A block away, I walked past a homeless man having a very loud and disturbed conversation...


...with a public mailbox. Another block away is Logan Circle, which was packed with several homeless and/or crazy people. Only in D.C. can you see Two Americas on display in such close proximity. "Hey, poor people! Check it out... you can't afford to stay here! BWAAHHHH HA HA!!! [Curtains automatically slide closed]"

I passed a taxi stand near K St. and 15th, and told the driver I wanted to go to Arlington. He shot me a look like I had just asked him to take me to Saskatoon. I sunk low in my seat, depressed, as we drove home in complete silence.

Went to another party thing Saturday night. Some friends of mine from a gentrifying area of D.C. told me that a 2-bedroom townhouse in their neighborhood recently sold for $800,000. Much consternation among people my age about property values, since none of us will ever be able to afford a house here, ever.

But I will get out, dammit. There has to be a fourth year for me here, but there won't be a fifth.


Metro opens doors, and then comes charging at you through those doors

Metro's newest misadventure begins like a horror movie...

Freeman and her husband, Robert, also 32, live in a Capitol Hill rowhouse three blocks from the Potomac Avenue Station. On Friday, they planned to take Metro to the Kennedy Center to see "The Producers."
No, take a cab, TAKE A CAB! Oh no, it's too late... I can't watch...

"I asked him if the escalator was broken, and he didn't say anything," Jade Freeman said. "He pushed his seat back and threw up his arms, very annoyed. I put my ears on the little holes [in the plexiglass of the booth] and said, 'Um, is the escalator broken?' He got up and just started saying things. He wasn't answering my question; he was throwing tantrums."

Jade Freeman said that after asking for the station manager's name, she went through the fare gate and saw him repeatedly slam his name tag against the glass. He opened the door to the booth and stepped out, she said.

Robert Freeman rushed back to his wife. "He was coming at me," Jade Freeman said of the station manager. "He said, 'Get the [expletive] out of my station.' "

The station manager picked up a nearby broom, the couple said. "He turned to me and said, 'You think you can come down here and harass me because you're white!' " said Jade Freeman, who is Asian. Her husband is white; the station manager is African American.

Then he tossed the broom aside and shoved Robert Freeman in the chest, the couple said.
Ahh, this story has everything. Good customer service, racial harmony... and even everybody's favorite Metro spokeswoman and creature of myth, Lisa "Go Fuck Yourself" Farbstein. Even she is going to be hard-pressed to find a good excuse this time.

Farbstein says the manager did not threaten the couple with the the 2-foot long broom, but instead was picking it up after it had fallen when he exited his kiosk.
Ohhh, so as he was bursting out of his little booth in order to shout at this couple and shove the husband, he just happened to innocently knock over the broom. Which he then, of course, picked up. And held onto as he assaulted the husband. Honest mistake.

The couple took a cab to the Kennedy Center [after the incident].
Told ya.

The WTOP story says Metro received 71 complaints about rail employees in July, so more than two per day. Way to go! Let's shoot for 100 this month. There's still time.


Why I Hate DC: The 3-D Experience!

The good people organizing JournalCon D.C., for some reason, asked me to serve as a panelist. They somehow have been duped into thinking that I am capable of discussing topics outside the realm of hardcore profanity.

We'll be talking about political blogging, which should be interesting. This will be Saturday afternoon at Hotel Helix on Rhode Island Avenue. Check it out... if you dare.

Speaking of Washingtonienne...

She had a big biographical story in the Post's magazine over the weekend. I can't wait for her book; I imagine seeing Dianetics-style commercials for it on TV.

How can I make a difference in Washington? Page 13.

She liked to joke that her job was really to throw out the mail, the stacks of letters from earnest voters who believe members of Congress actually care what they think.
What can Al Pacino teach us about life? Page 74.

"I was watching the movie 'Scarface' the other night, and I was like, Oh my God, this is exactly how I feel ... He was all coked up. He gets thrown out. He tells everyone in the restaurant, 'You need me. You need me. You need me so you can point at me and say that's the bad guy.'"
What's the most important thing to look for in a relationship? Page 132.

As a teenage student at Syracuse University, she dated a 38-year-old doctor who liked to take her shopping for clothes. The gifts he bought her, she says, made an impression. "That's the standard you hold every guy to for the rest of your life."
How can I get people to see me for who I am on the inside? Page 214.

"When I grew up and saw the way people are, I had to adapt. It's more about your looks than anything you can do. If you are not attractive, if you are fat, you don't get seated [at a restaurant], like, in the window or outside. If you want to do what you want to do, you have to look a certain way."
What's the best way to end an unsatisfying relationship? Page 349.

She began cheating with older, more powerful men she met around Washington, and she wasn't even sure why. Maybe, she says, it was for the sheer thrill.
All brilliant stuff. But perhaps the most telling passage is this one, which demostrates why Jessica's nom de plume is dead-on.

"I had six boyfriends, and now none of the guys really want to have anything to do with me," she says. "I guess none of them really cared about me in the first place."

She's embarrassed about posting that gushy stuff on her blog about wanting to be a Jewish wife with a rock on her hand. Reading that now makes her feel very exposed. Really, she says, she can't quite imagine a life of matrimonial bonds and monogamy.

"I think people are -- and this isn't something I came up with, I heard it somewhere -- people are as faithful as their options," she says. "If you think there's no chance of getting caught or something, you'll do it. I'm sure not everyone is like that. I know that I'm that way."
Isn't that Washington in a nutshell? She can't even comprehend the idea of caring about someone else. She cheated on her steady boyfriend, was seeing six men at once, accepted money for sex, and revealed all the sordid details of her escapades on the Internet. And now she's crying because none of those men really cared about her.

Is it really a giant mystery to her why that is? I guess so.

The story closes with a fabulous snapshot of D.C. club life:

Outside the nightclub, there is a line of people waiting to get in. Jessica, who is being followed by a photographer snapping her picture for this story, sweeps past the line and heads for the bar in the basement of the club.

She has friends there waiting for her in a coveted corner table. The table is a perk some deejay has arranged. He sits next to Jessica. The club is loud. The thumping music and flashing lights are jarring. Jessica looks self-conscious as the photographer snaps frame after frame of her.

Before long, a hostess gives Jessica, her friends and the deejay some bad news: They are being dumped from their corner table. "Somebody who is going to spend a lot of money wants it," Jessica says.

She shrugs. "I never had a table before." It was cool while it lasted.
Oops... 15 minutes of fame-for-D.C. over. As Nicole Richie would say... "Love it."

Runway hog

Forgot to mention that my flight into Vegas last Thursday was forced to circle before landing for 40 minutes due to the presence of one George W. Bush. Seems he was making a campaign stop and happened to land at McCarran airport exactly when we were supposed to land. The presence of Air Force One caused a complete "ground hold", which means nobody takes off or lands. That, combined with some street closings due to the visit, made for angry crowds and big lines.

Of course, there's a perfectly good Air Force base just northeast of the city where Bush could have landed. But I guess this way he can feel more important.

Can't escape those VIPs!

The Fourth Estate fails us

The good stuff always happens when I go on vacation. I go to Europe for a couple weeks, and the Washingtonienne thing breaks. And last week, as I opened the Post on my plane to Las Vegas, I was treated to Howard Kurtz' big article about the paper of record's perceived failings in covering doubts about Iraq WMDs in the run-up to the war.

I was wondering if they were ever going to get around to this, after the New York Times' self-flogging on the same issue a few months back. From the moment I read the first stories about Bush floating the possibility of war with Iraq, my reaction was the same: "Where did this come from?" The objections of the U.N. and our (former?) allies in Europe and elsewhere suggested that a bloody invasion was potentially not the best approach to Iraq. Bush and his crew had a number of possible ulterior motives for a war and for removing Saddam, but lacked real evidence of a threat. Rumors and falsehoods were floated in the front-page stories run by the Post... so that now, we have nobody to hold accountable for lying or exaggerating. The Post buried objections deep inside the paper, including stories by Walter Pincus focusing on WMD non-believers

I pretty much knew all that stuff already; the Post basically fellated the President and helped give him his war. For whatever reason, they chose to validate administration claims by focusing heavily on them and not detractors. But it's that quote from executive editor Leonard Downie at the very end of the story that infuriated me the most.

"People who were opposed to the war from the beginning and have been critical of the media's coverage in the period before the war have this belief that somehow the media should have crusaded against the war," [Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr.] said. "They have the mistaken impression that somehow if the media's coverage had been different, there wouldn't have been a war."
How do you know?

We're not just talking about the general "media" here. We're talking about the Washington Post; the political paper of record that famously brought down Nixon. Important, powerful people (with the obvious exception of the President) read it faithfully every day. People take it seriously, and rightfully so. That's why dropping the ball on WMDs is such a heartbreaker; it, essentially, helped enable an unnecessary war that has claimed untold thousands of lives and injured countless more. I'm glad he admits underplaying the detraction angle, but I think it's more serious than he seems to think it is. The Post is supposed to be our vanguard against exactly the kind of behavior we have seen out of the Bush administration: an unmitigated abuse of power.

I don't want the editors making excuses to me and suggesting that their coverage wouldn't have changed anything. I want them to lie awake at night, wondering if covering detraction better and asking more questions could have saved thousands of lives. I want them to feel the isolation and desperation I felt in 2002-03 as I watched Washington and the rest of the country buy into madness.

I want them to question what the administration says. I want them to ignore conservative critics who consider any factual coverage that happens to be contrary to the will of the Bush administration to be a liberal bias. (This series appears to be a step in the right direction.) I want them to remember that they work for the American people, and not just for those who happen to be super-powerful.

I want them to question whether they have blood on their hands.

Then, I want them to get back to work.


ABC: Always Be Citing

Falls Church police are, on average, required to write three tickets or make three arrests during a 12-hour shift.

Outsiders should understand that if all the communities in the Washington area put together were equal to the size of this blog, Falls Church would be the size of this asterisk: *. Thus, cops there will sometimes write multiple tickets in one traffic stop in order to meet their quotas.

Devious. Does the number of criminals in Falls Church stay constant every day? I suppose it would, if you're following the Hasselhoff Theorem of Criminal Activity.

Stupid growth

Why are we so willing to build office space for workers, but unwilling to have those workers as neighbors? This Montgomery County planned development will hold 40,000 workers but only 15,000 residents.

Be sure to check out the rest of the Post's three-part series on "smart" growth and super-commuters.


Sic semper tyrannus, BITCH

The Franconia roller skating rink is the target of a WeirdCurves boycott, and rightfully so, for making the author cry on her birthday.

On top of that, said blog turns up evidence of discrimination, by said rink, against gay couples. Lovely.


INS1PID: Personalized Virginia license plates I have hated (part 13 in a series)

On a van: VAN DZL
On a minivan: IN2-SOCR

Bad-luck beltway

The Beltway is not a good place to be today. Lots of flipping over, injuries and fatalities, and closed lanes. And Friday the 13th isn't even until next week.

Washington plays the part of Brigadoon

Welcome to Narcolespy-town. Population: these guys.

First, an Anne Arundel County 911 operator fell asleep while talking to a caller, and could be heard comically snoring on the line.

Then, in Alexandria, police responded to a 911 call from a senior living facility to find all three caregivers were fast asleep.

Ladies and gentlemens, I'm please to present a why.i.hate.dc EXCLUSIVE: I have obtained a photograph of the three employees responsible.


Metro's winning streak continues

Sluggish service on the busiest line since flooding caused an electrical failure several days ago. Train operators who mysteriously vanish, leaving the train to idle at a station for several minutes.

Plus, they're really, really serious about enforcing the no-food-or-drink policy:

"Ma'am, I'm going to have to ask you to drop the Payday now."


"Maybe it just sags like a heavy load"

OK, you guys know I don't usually do the normal blog and tell y'all about my day, or what I ate for lunch, or what kind of, I don't know, Jello pudding pops I like the best. But a personal experience of mine must be shared. In this... my 600th post spectacular.

This concerns a dream I had early this morning. As dreams go, it actually wasn't completely nonsensical; and, oddly enough, it's actually a follow-up dream. Ever had one of those? A few weeks ago, I dreamt about wandering through a building near Metro Center, while (for some reason) trying to cut over to the Red Line, and encountering a job fair. I hazily recall giving out a few resumes and talking with some besuited young white guy lower-management types.

So in this dream last night, I'm walking through the same building on my way to an Orioles game. I'm trying to cut over to the Red Line again, which, for some reason, in my dream, goes all the way to Camden Yards.

But this time, the exits are all locked; they're closed off and have police tape all over the handles. (Clearly the heightened security has cut off my illicit short-cut.) I'm about to try to back out undetected when a security guard spots me. He follows me and tells me to come with him to talk to the CEO of the company. I try to back away, figuring that if I don't come with him, they don't know who I am and I can't get in trouble. But eventually he somehow convinces me to come with him. He leads me into the elevator and we head to the top floor, where I meet the CEO, who looks and talks kind of like an older Barack Obama. His office has a view of the Red Line train (which looks like a bullet train with a red stripe on it).

The amiable CEO chats with me for a while, and it becomes evident that he's seen my resume (from the previous dream) and is interested in hiring me at his firm, which creates and designs advertising. The CEO talks about how they want someone creative who's a good writer and has an eye for design.

There's a pneumatic tube in his office, like the ones you see at a bank drive-through. Whoosh, in comes a canister. Surprisingly, it contains a job offer to work at the company, with a specific dollar figure attached (I remember it: $85,623), a significant raise over what I make now.

So, I walk around the office, which is colorful and bright. I meet some interesting people who currently work there. I made a note in my notebook to ask them about vacation time, and whether they would be flexible. I had some reservations about going into advertising, so I resolved in my mind to consider the offer for a couple days. That way I could consult with my wife, and also see if I could get my current company to match or beat the offer. Either way, this was a win-win situation.

And the best part was: somebody actually was excited about hiring me for my creativity. They had recognized my talent and intelligence, sought me out specifically, and made me an incredible offer. This offer gave me the chance to escape the repressive yoke of my current job, where I dwell in a lonely, quiet cube, nobody talks to anybody, and management essentially makes up reasons to give us below-average raises.

It gave me this incredible, unusual (for me) feeling of euphoria and self-worth, which even lasted a good five seconds after I woke up. At which point I realized that I was lying in bed, and that none of that had actually happened. There was no great offer at a fun workplace; there was no chance to make more money; there was no chance to escape the job I found to be dull and without recognition. It was 5:10 a.m. I would still have to drive out to motherfucking Reston in a few hours for a meeting with a sneering co-worker.

I was so angry/sad I couldn't get back to sleep. They were showing Canadian Bacon on cable, so I watched that for a hour or so to cheer myself up. Sometimes it's a mystery to me where a dream springs from in our sub-conscious. But I immediately knew exactly what this one was about.

A few weeks ago I had been combing through the classifieds looking for a new job. I was looking for something that would get me closer to home, but also that would get me away from working on a military contract, which I still have some qualms about. People like lobbyists and politicians come to Washington all the time to work for causes they believe in; why couldn't I? Unfortunately, a vast majority of the jobs listed were for military contracts or required security clearances. Nothing inspired me to think the grass would be greener at any of those jobs.

But then, one particular technical job caught my eye. It was essentially a position as a Web Technician for a "non-profit conservation organization" called NatureServe. It seemed to have everything I was looking for. I don't talk about it much, but environmental causes are important to me (Bush lost me right away in early 2001 when he pulled out of the Kyoto protocol). And although it's not my full-time job, I've done enough website work part-time on the side that I could certainly see myself crossing over to doing that full-time (and whatever I didn't know, I could learn). Best of all, the job was on Wilson Blvd. in Rosslyn; if I wanted to, I could even ride my bike there from my Fort Strong apartment.

So I spent some time re-crafting a custom resume and drafting a special cover letter to let them know I really wanted the job, and that I could bring special skills to the table: design, writing, and a strong techincal background. I e-mailed and snail-mailed the package just to be sure they got it. And, like so many times before, heard nothing. Not even an acknowledgement they received it.

It would have been nice to at least talk to them, and see if I was a fit, I thought. I mentioned to my wife my disappointment that they hadn't contacted me, and she asked a very good question:

"They're not affiliate with the Nature Conservancy, are they?"

Uhh, I don't think so, I said. But I wasn't sure. I went back to the website and checked, and sure enough... they are. I couldn't believe that hadn't even occured to me. My supposed "dream job" would have been with the same crooked organization the Post exposed over a year ago as aiding in a series of improper land grabs and loans. I even posted about them!

My heart sank when I found that out. Even if they had called me back, upon learning that little piece of information, I don't think I would have been able to accept a position there.

That revelation seemed to sap my will to look for a job. My efforts to use my talents to help the world rather than harm it had fallen by the wayside. If my only hope for working for a cause in which I believe was with a corrupt organization, what hope was there of doing any good in Washington? I was, once again, powerless to do anything to help, in the Most Powerful City in the World.

After getting a couple more hours of sleep, I woke myself up for the meeting, came into work tired and grouchy, and found out the co-worker had decided to postpone it to 4 p.m. this afternoon. I meet with him in three minutes. And so life goes on.

John F. Kennedy once said he wanted to be an idealist with no illusions.

At this point, I'd settle for illusion.

Put the Chevy to the levy

The Live on Penn street concert series was a great idea. On Saturday nights during the summer, the organizers cordoned off a section of Pennsylvania Avenue, and erected a stage with the Capitol in the background. You could get in for $7 at the gate and drink $5 beers, so a decent enough price. If you were really a cheapskate, you could hang around just oustide the fence and still hear the band.

I had a lot of fun at the Live on Penn concert I went to; I got to see They Might Be Giants play, drink some beers, and even meet Captain Morgan (really!).

So, naturally, in the grand tradition of Things James Likes, Live on Penn has been completely and utterly cancelled. According to the organizers, "the series is no longer viable."

No longer viable? What kinds of crowds were they expecting to get? The first-string lineup consisted primarily of alterna-rock has-beens who haven't had a hit in five-plus years: Eve 6, Tonic, Sister Hazel, Cowboy Mouth. Plus, every weekend it's either rained or been on the verge of rain. That may have kept some people away.

Meanwhile, a short stagger down the street at the Reagan building, a relatively new outdoor club called Air operates during the summer. Apparently, it had managed to crack the segregation of D.C.'s club scene, thanks in part to "black Web-based promoter Flow Entertainment Group, which helped the crowd tilt slightly toward black professionals on Fridays." The musical lineup those nights featured a range of genres with wide, multiracial appeal: "calypso, soca, salsa -- blended with the hottest R&B, hip-hop, Chicago house."

Wait a minute... multi-racial appeal? At the Reagan building? Clearly, that had to stop. And so it did, as Air suddenly laideth the smack down and sacked Flow, choosing instead to play just house and techno on Fridays. Uh-oh, you know what that means... Whites Only! As one patron said:

"I was ticked," says Sy Penn, a 29-year-old advertising executive who wrote Flow to say she would no longer patronize Air. "To be honest with you, it's quite obvious. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that we are being bused to the other part of town. Slowly but surely, they are just moving us out."
OUCH. I have to say, this would never happen at Club One-Tweazy.

Meanwhile, the man in charge of Air is... G. Giles Beeker? Vice President of Trade Center Management Associates? Oh yeah, I'll bet he's really up on the local R&B and club scene. That Trade Center Management Associates has just truckloads of street cred. Trade Center Management Associates rep-ruh-SENT! Guuhhhh.

Anyway... once again, those pesky, enigmatic "economic reasons" mess up a good thing:

Giles Beeker, a vice president at Trade Center Management Associates, says the changes had nothing to do with racism. "Nothing could be further from the truth," he says, explaining that the new format was instituted mostly for economic reasons. While Friday and Saturday nights drew the same number of people, the bar and food receipts generated by the Friday crowd were less than those on Saturday, he says. He declined to provide exact figures, saying Trade Center Management Associates is a private company.
Which makes this other statement all the more odd:

Diversity, Beeker says, is part of the mandate coming from the federal government, which owns the property and agreed to allow the Air parties, and a now-defunct concert series [I believe that would be Live on Penn], as part of a push to breathe new life into downtown.
So the federal government has been mandating diversity downtown, but it's up to the ultra-hip, totally with-it Trade Center Management Associates to decide what that means?

Oh well. That effort to "breathe new life into downtown" seems to have been a total failure; no more concert series and no more multi-ethnic demographic at Air, now that they've been shooed away. Pennsylvania Ave. can now revert to its traditional Saturday night status as "ghost town." Status quo... maintained.


We have a love/hate relationship with freedom

First St. NE has been closed "indefinitely" between Constitution and D.

Why stop there? Why not just erect a giant brick wall around the Capitol? Coming soon: John Carpenter's Escape from D.C.


It's quasi-apology time

All [sic], of course.

When I passed along an observation sent to me from one of our members a few weeks ago, it appears it was taken offensively by one or more of our members. For this, I am completely sorry. The intent was to only share a members observation and that observation, in no way, reflects the thoughts of this office or the members of the association. This is a country built on individual freedoms and I understand if someone has an obeservation to share, they should have the opportunity. However, I can no longer justify sending any such statements or observations if they may do harm to the quality and professional standings of this association.
Although our emails are intended soley for the eyes of the members of the [association] [editor's note: ooooops], I must understand that not everyone in this association has the same beliefs or views. I do not promote any agenda, nor do I as an individual try to use my position as commissioner, to promote any personal ideals or beliefs. As stated above, if the statement which was sent out on July 16, was offensive to you then please accept my humble apologies. There was no intent to harm or show a lack of respect to any one person, nationality, sect or denomination.
So, when he sent along a message that said "This idea of America being a multicultural community has served only to dilute our sovereignty," and "If 'God' offends you, then I suggest you consider another part of the world as your new home," there was no intent to show a lack of respect? I guess that's just a nasty side effect, then, of telling people who don't follow a certain political, religious and cultural ideology that they should leave the country.

Whatever, it's the usual non-apology apology... "I'm sorry if anyone was offended, but I'm not sorry about what I said," or in this case, "any damage I've done to the association's image." Jeremy Shockey gave a similar "apology" after he called Bill Parcells a "homo." Maybe he and the commish should hang out together.

c.f. The original message.

Terror alert status for D.C. upgraded to Ernie

Al Queda has been targeting the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank?

But... they've both always been so popular with everyone! Inconceivable!

(So glad we invaded Iraq. "The American people are safer!")

Status anxiety

Someone who commented recently said it was hard to put your finger on exactly what was "off" about living in Washington. This article from the Post's Style section on "status anxiety" potentially provides some insight.

Could this be the source of our animosity toward each other? Have we been too focused on career to build a livable city?