The New York Times Has No Idea What It's Talking About

The New York Times travel section has a feature called "36 Hours." The title kind of says it all. A writer spends approximately 36 hours in his/her tourist destination of choice and reports back to the NYT with little hidden nuggets on how to have a good time there. The column is dedicated towards the Times's more upscale readers and is basically Exhibit A on why I think the NYT is a horrible newspaper. Washington just got the 36 Hours treatment and the results are predictably hilarious.

For posterity's sake, I would like you to pay special attention to the first sentence of the column:
WASHINGTON, in many ways, is an unsurprising place to visit - an expanse of monuments, symbols and sites familiar to any American who watches the evening news (or, at least, "West Wing").

The writer, Adam Nagourney goes on to tell us that with some extra work, you can find the "real" DC. The real DC being, no joke, "a city of surprises and unfamiliar delights."

The first thing to do in the "real" DC is go to the roof of the Hotel Washington for some drinks and a terrific view of the White House. That's right. The first surprise and/or unfamiliar delight is, wait for it, the White House! Good work, Adam Nagourney.

Next on the itinerary is a stop at the 9:30 Club. Nagourney believes that the 9:30 is "arguably one of the best places in the country to see a show." Seriously? Adam Nagourney can probably afford $6 beers. Also, Adam Nagourney is an idiot. I'd put the 9:30 as 3rd best in the Metro area behind the Black Cat and the Filene Center at Wolf Trap.

What's the next surprise and/or unfamiliar delight on Nagourney's itinerary? Why, Georgetown of course!

If the weather is nice, explore Georgetown, a historic neighborhood of narrow tree-lined streets, some still with cobblestones, and historic homes and churches. And the best way to see Georgetown is to get lost there. Wander the streets randomly, notice the pleasing details of the Federal houses and, if the need arises, spot what passes for a celebrity in Washington. (Yes, that probably is the senator or television correspondent you think it is.)

Wow! Is that really Tim Russert??? It is!!! THAT JUST TOTALLY MADE MY VACATION!!!!

Nagourney goes on to suggest that a good way to kill time in Georgetown is to crash open houses. I can just imagine some poor real estate agent in the Carolyn Burnham mold dealing with some pretentious NYT reporter. It's good to know that Nagourney thinks that real estate agents are to be used for our petty amusement.

Once you're done house hunting, it's time to go to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Another "hidden" gem. I'll copy-and-paste the entire paragraph:

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Maya Lin's senior thesis project, looks best late in the day, when the sunlight doesn't shine as fiercely on the harsh, black granite. The memorial is hauntingly moving and easily overwhelming. And it should give solace to those who despair whether New York City planners will be able to agree on a fitting tribute on the grounds of the World Trade Center.

That last sentence is just so weird and out of place. I don't see how that gives any 9/11 mourner solace. The Vietnam Memorial is beautiful, thought-provoking, and literally awesome. It's an amazing thing. New Yorkers, especially with the political charge surrounding any potential 9/11 memorials, will never be able to duplicate the quiet power of the Vietnam Memorial's black granite. But, yeah, that paragraph really sucked the fun out of the travel section.

I do feel bad that New Yorkers are getting stuck with that proposed Freedom Tower. A 1,776-foot tall building...lamest symbolism ever. And at 408-feet taller than the WTC, it will be that much easier to hit with a plane. Just sayin'.

Well, anyways, back to Gerogetown!

Georgetown, is as much theater as food. It is a swirl of young and old, Georgetown and Capitol Hill, Europe and Washington, and the closest thing you'll get to a celebrity palace in Washington. (Was that really John Kerry having dinner on the patio? Why, yes!)

What is with the weird celebrity worship? Politicians in Washington? That's crazy!

And what better way to end the night than driving by the memorials. Remember that first paragraph? About the "real" DC? Yeah, it was total bullshit. And why drive around the memorials when you can walk through the Mall?

The city is not as safe as it once was, so if you decide to walk around here, which is tempting in the moonlight, keep an eye out around you.

Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God.

The next day Nagourney goes to the Spy Museum and blah, blah, blah.

So, here are Washington's surprises and unfamiliar delights that were exposed by the NYT:

1. Monuments
2. 9:30 Club
3. Georgetown
4. Crime

As for the parts that remain unfamiliar to a typical NYT travel section reader:

1. Any part with black people.
2. Except for a club in a gentrifying black neighborhood that features a mostly white clientele.

Thanks, New York Times, for helping me plan my weekend.


  1. Well I mean to be fair, NYC has it's share of hidden gems. They have this big square where there are millions of people milling around and going to shows on a street called Broadway. I think they call it Times Squares or something. Oh and they even, if you're brave enough to walk that far, have this gigantic park with fountains and street performers...Center park or something. Anyway.

  2. Great post, Rusty

  3. Bizarre that Nagourney would be a person to write an article on spending 36 hours in DC, considering that he is (or at least was) the paper's White House correspondent for so long.

  4. Awesome article. I read that NYTimes article and was thoroughly annoyed....

    Do I hear a hint of DC pride in your column, Rusty?

  5. Nagourney sounds like a fucking hill intern.

  6. Well, thank my father he didn't mention Ben's Chilly Bowl.

  7. Wait a minute. Let's take a step back here. If I read you carefully, at the end of your post, you state that:

    1) The NYT visited Georgetown


    2) The NYT did not visit anywhere with black people.

    Rusty, are you saying that it's unusual to see black people in Georgetwon?

    What a monumentally hypocritical gaffe.

  8. Formerly, everyone knows that Georgetown is a predominantely white area. That doesn't make blacks there "unusual" nor does it mean that blacks in Georgetown should be avoided or have the police called on them.

  9. Hahaha, when I read the article this morning I had a feeling you'd be all over it, Rusty. My personal favorites from the article are when he says that the 9:30 club is in a "dicey neighborhood" (if by "dicey" he means "gentrifi-licious!") and says eating in some trendy G-twon spot if "just like New York." (Really? Then why leave New York? Way to make all us NY-ers look like stereotypically self-centered snobs.)

  10. While I agree with most of what you said, I don't appreciate the 930 hating.

    They have the best sound system (unlike the Black Cat) and it’s the only place around here where you can see national acts in a club setting.

    The beers aren't any more expensive than anywhere else, but the selection more than makes up for it. Plus, you can always drink in the car before/during the show.

    Honestly, I think you're still salty about the Sleater Kinney (probably spelled wrong but they suck so..)concert, but don't let that sway your judgment.

    That reminds me of one of my friends who got kicked out of there the last 3 times we were there because he was too bent, and now he hates the place.

  11. 36 hours in DC? That's what people should be looking at.

    Seriously! The moment tourists start invading the parts of the city I enjoy, instead of the parts I already loathe (the Mall, the Metro, etc etc) then I have to move.

    Great article, Negoaugegokt!

  12. 16oz of PBR at Black Cat: $3.50
    16oz of Guiness at Black Cat: $5.50

    12oz of Yuengling at 9:30: $6
    16oz of Guiness at 9:30: $8

  13. The profession of journalism is in a state of peril when what Noam Chomsky calls arguably the world's most important newspaper gives such a great job to such a great assclown.

    The New York Times should be sending its readers to some of our finer parts of P.G County.

    I'm sure he was able to expense those $6 beers.

    There is a good place on 18th above Florida and below Columbia near the pool hall that attracts a big black clientel and has really cheap booze. The crowd is fun too. I guess our NYTimes friend didn't wind up there....

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  15. Couldn't this dude call someone from the NYT Washington bureau and have him or her show him around other places? I mean Cafe Milano, really, might as well call The Palm a "DC hotspot."

    Nice review, but I have stood for a bit more hating.

  16. Great read of a lame article. BUT, I gree with the anonymous commenter who prefers 930 to Black Cat. Not only is the sound system at 930 way better, so are the sight lines; at 930 you can actuall SEE the band, from anywhere in the house. Black Cat is low-ceilinged claustrophic space, and unless you're 6'4" or 15' from the stage you can't see jack shit. And so what if the beer costs more. Get drunk at home (that's waaaay cheaper than either place) and then go to the venue where you can actually see/hear your favorite band.

  17. V,

    You're right. I mean, the chamber of commerce isn't going to be promoting minority neighborhoods for rich vacationers in ANY American city, but the fact is that, like New Orleans, this is a "chocalate city" and Georgetown and the White House aren't really represetative.

    I know newspapers are closing "foreign" bureaus like crazy, but they should have a more established presence in the most powerful city in the world. Some journalist. Couldn't get the hookup.

    The masquerading as a house-buyer thing belongs in an Augusten Burroughs non-fiction book.

  18. In response to anonymous,

    DC is the original "chocolate city" as a phrase.We're not like New Orleans,New Orleans is like us.

  19. Jesus of Austin said that,but yeah.

  20. Gotcha. This city was really my first socialization toward blacks. I remember walking down the street, as a pretty good-sized man, and feeling my heart start to race as an elderly black woman came toward me. She was using a cane. I guess I was afraid she'd whack me over the head w/ it!

    But you're right. D.C. is the quintessential African American homeland, as important culturally as Harlem, no doubt.

    Heard a great line in a movie. "But these vanillas keep droppin' in."

  21. Princess51 is so proud of your knowledge of beer prices!! How much is the Chardonnay?

  22. where would you go if you had to give a 36-hour tour of d.c. rusty?

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  24. Rusty, your entire rational of saying the Black Cat is better than the 9:30 is that the beer is $2 cheaper? So I'm guessing you only go to clubs to drink, not to listen to music?

  25. I've gotta say, I've never been to the Black Cat, but if you're my height (a towering 5'2" you get stuck not being able to see anything at the 9:30 club a lot...and usually it's because some 6 foot tall jackass won't let you step in front of him, even though he wouldn't even notice your midget-like presence.

  26. Rusty!! This is your best work yet. Hilarious.

  27. Mons Venus,

    I go to any club for the band, and the band only. I have no problem going to the 9:30 Club to see a band I really like. Of course, I would prefer to see the band where the drinks are cheaper...who wouldn't?

    As for needing to be tall to enjoy The Black Cat...I'm 6'2" so no problem.

  28. Speaking of drinks at local music venues, a few years ago I was at Merriweather for a show. The sign at the concession stand said the following:

    Microbrews: $8.00
    Beer: $8.00

    Couldn't they just have the sign that says "Beer: $8.00"?

    And not to mention the fact that the beer was EIGHT DOLLARS.

  29. Fishman,

    That reminds me of a photo I saw of a sign posted outside of an auto mechanic garage:

    Monday-Saturday: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
    Sunday: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.


    You have to learn from the black man: sneak in small bottles of Jack to pour in your $5 cokes.

  30. think i can use Nag's comment about the 'dicey' neighborhood I live in to get a rent reduction? no? shame.

  31. You're right. Adam really is an idiot. But I knew that before he wrote this idiotic piece.

  32. You're a punta!

  33. If we're gonna talk hidden gems, why not mention Eastern Market, Roosevelt Island, Dumbarton Oaks, or Great Falls...

    Perhaps Nagourney liked the 930 Club so much because Justin Timberlake was there this past Friday?? Ahh, now it's exposed: he obviously is sleeping with the former N-Sync lead singer. Well, there's another N-Sync hottie out of the closet!!

    Great post btw.


  34. has anyone bothered to address the demographic towards which the piece o'crap in question was geared? as in; what kind of moron vacations in the goddamn district of columbia??? probably a totally different kind of asshole than summer-frequents the cape. i'm just saying. they'd probably be Captivated by History's sweet Romance n shit after following mr nagourney's insightful tour guide. narf.

  35. This was a fun piece of criticism, but I still want to know Rusty's 36 hour tour. Bike out the towpath? Fried fish sandwich at Horace and Dickie's? Flyer to Springfield for a show at Jax? Communing with the Moonies in the Arboretum? C'mon Rusty, anyone can slag off on AdNags. The challenge is a solid alternative of your own.

  36. If I were to legitimately try to create an alternative 36 hours, it would come out way too pro-DC. I agree it's easier just to hate on something, but I'm content in my laziness.

  37. Rusty's tour of D.C. would invariably involve a stop off at McDonald's... Low budget, you know?

    New York Times readers be like, what the f? What a panyhero!

  38. Ok, yes, I'm a DC-hater, but from a larger point of view, as much as I hate G-town, it is aesthetically beautiful...The houses are gorgeous. I don't like the fratty aspect of it; I don't like the traffic; I don't like the whole politician spotting (more like, I could give two shits). But at the end of the day, it is a beautiful neighborhood, and I'm not saying that there aren't any other beautiful neighborhoods in DC either. In regards to the monuments, well, if any tourist comes to DC, of course he/she is going to see all the monuments 'cos they're also free! Going to some of the monuments/attractions in NYC can cost a lot of money. Oh and about 9:30 Club, yeah, the beers are somewhat pricey, but you know what? I'd rather pay a few extra dollars for a beer, than pay $15 in ticketbastard fees and see a big act at the f*cking Patriot Center, Verizon, or Nissan. And I don't go to those venues, unless one of my favorite bands/musicians is performing. So I am very happy when I can see my favorite band peform at 9:30 than those other monstrosities. Regarding crime, I never felt unsafe when I was living in NYC (and no, I didn't live in a prodominately white neighborhood and I'm not white either). I lived in very diverse neighborhood w/projects nearby and never felt worried. Here in DC, I've walked down some streets, and it's felt unsafe. And it doesn't have to do with the race of the people who live there...it's the lack of police who patrol these neighborhoods.

  39. Po-lice are a bunch of bandaneros....

  40. rusty: don't be lazy. you can have visitors hating d.c. in 36 hours (as easily as you could have them liking it). how about, in three days, walking up and down broken escalators, getting stuck in an endless driving loop around iwo jima, getting mugged on the mall, going to potomac mills (which draws more visitors than air and space), and lunch at sign of the whale. maybe fishing the anacostia and getting beaten at a go-go club too.

    i expect more from d.c.'s unofficial hate site.

  41. Reminds me of the French couple honeymooning in New York City who inadvertantly, and tragically, got mixed up in the Peurto Rican Day parade. They had no idea what they were in for!

    I would hope that people who visit this city have a good time. I remember running past this German couple the other day and one says to the other, "This is a strange country."

  42. I'll take the Filene Center at Wolf Trap over all the venues mentioned in the comments above because I CAN BRING MY OWN BEER!

  43. Journey + Wolf Trap + BYOB = Heaven on Earth.

  44. I think you had to go to Nissan to see Journey this summer, unfortunately. Hopefully they'll be back at "The Trap" next summer. Not only is it BYOB at Wolf Trap, but it's about half the distance from DC as Nissan.

  45. sexy back

  46. Alright shit swirlers, I'm back. and I'd like to say that this is a fine post Rusty.

  47. As for the parts that remain unfamiliar to a typical NYT travel section reader:

    1. Any part with black people.

    shit, I love you.

  48. After 36 hours in DC, it begins to be COUNTREEE! NYT left that out.

  49. Oh my god, finally, somebody said it!

    I hate this area so much, the only reason I stay is for the money! Satan's got a clutch on my soul right now and greed it here to stay - for awhile!

    Thank you for pointing out the obvious (to me, anyway) because no one seems to understand why I a) vacation all the time and b) am perpetually fucking bored! I mean, Jesus H Christ, in San Fran, I couldn't do enough in a week - there was ALWAYS something to do.

    Sigh - maybe can kidnap someone else's soul and barter for mine back. Thanks for the post.