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:
5) TIME TO REMEMBER
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:
2. 9:30 Club
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.