Notes from Underground: 18th Street

[ed note: One of my college editors is known to complain about aspects of the city from time to time. Whenever her diatribe gets dangerously close to "rant" status, I tell her to write a post for me. With her writing talents, it would be an absolute waste to air her complaints to an audience of one. She clearly deserves an audience of dozens. You can find her previous rant right here. Take it away, Jen.]

So, seeing as how my first guest spot on Rusty's blog went so swimmingly, he asked me to make a semi-triumphant return. I guess the man actively avoiding booze for a set number of days has turned the creative part of his brain into sober, sober mush [ed note: I quit drinking for Lent Holy Week]. That's fine, hopefully the man will be able to recall at least parts of his college education.

I was pondering what on earth I could possibly write about in regards to hating D.C. that wouldn't be abundantly trite or overdone. I've moved out of Ward 3 and into, uh, Ward 1. Mount Pleasant, to be exact. My immediate access to liquor stores and good tamales increased thirtyfold. My reason for moving stemmed not from escaping the throes of Tenleytown (although I may never fully be able to accept that I don't live a stone's throw from Mayflower [ed note: really crappy Tenleytown Chinese restaurant] anymore) but more because I wanted to be in a new part of the city, closer to friends and... ugh... my job. Right off the bat I should note that I didn't want this to be nearly as bitter as it turned out, perhaps including some more anecdotal snarkiness and mischief, but alas. Here we are.

Moving to be closer to work is a pretty classic switch. It makes total sense to want to be closer to the building that showers (or in my case, lightly mists) you with money. But when that job is on 18th Street, the soul-selling factors seem a little bit nastier. I had the same garden variety complaints about 18th Street that everyone has: Watching anorexic sorority girls scarf down jumbo slice is depressing, dudes in vertical-striped button downs talking about getting tanked at Nolan's is heartbreaking and the feeding frenzy atmosphere from 9 pm to 4 am Friday and Saturday nights is enough to keep anyone who haunts the strip on a weekday miles and miles away. It's sort of like the difference between people who hang out in Manhattan on a Friday versus a Tuesday. Everybody knows that Friday nights are reserved for people from New Jersey. My place of employment opens really early, so there would be some mornings where I would roll in at 6 a.m. and see stranded Maryland residents lovingly smearing the remnants of their pizza all over their faces in an attempt to hit the mouth.

Yes, 18th Street is kind of unsightly but it sort of started to grow on me until I came to my senses. I made fun of it relentlessly before I started working at one of its tried and true establishments but I had no idea what was in store. It is a hub for incestuous work relationships that are unprofessional anywhere else, for drunken debauchery at 1 or 2 pm because that's when the morning shifts end, and for a strange form of coming-of-age that makes it start to seem like a giant episode of The Real World, starring a cast of the same 20 bartenders and 60 servers picked to work on a street, get free food and alcohol and pretend like it isn't high school. The real show actually held a casting call at Felix, about a block from my work, and it was a stunning sight to behold.

18th contains a lot of misery, from the people behind the bars and counters to the people in front of them. Even in college, I never encountered so much wasted potential. The neighborhood is a bermuda triangle that takes bright, enthusiastic, driven young folks and turns them into bitter misanthropes. That's par for the course when you spend 7 hours a day catering to yuppie pricks trying to impress their dates by mispronouncing "Rioja." There's something about it that eats away slowly enough to not recognize it until you've actually considered slapping someone for asking for another glass of water. Emerging from your workplace onto a street where, depending on the time of day, there is an actual zoo parading down the street can be harrowing.

Yeah, I've spent too much time in this bermuda triangle that tentatively stretches from Mount Pleasant to Adams Morgan and up to southwestern Columbia Heights. My lease is up on May 1 and I've already secured housing on 11th and Spring, a location that seems safely poised at a distance from The Real World casting call. But given its quaintness and retardedly low rent, I have a feeling legions of briefcase toting interns will be dawning upon me soon, swallowing their fear of Georgia Avenue and excited to go "slumming," upon which I can commence my campaign to make Tom Tom ironic enough to move back down to 18th Street.


  1. the only good thing about 18th St. is the asylum.

  2. I used to work in the hospitality industry in the French Quater in New Orleans during college.

    Same scenario, different city.

    But much better food.

  3. I used to live there in Adams Morgan and it WAS a zoo.

    All I can say is viva Virginia.

  4. Yeah, but... it's so close to Pepito's.

  5. 18th Street is the only place that I feel bad for the cabbies. They have tons of potential passengers, but it must be challenging to determine which ones are most likely to puke all over the seats.


    P.S. Hurray beer!

  6. You really didn't know things would be that bad? I've only been to Adams Morgan a handful of times and I wouldn't live there if those types of people and situations bothered me unless there was an incredible deal on a nice place. If that's the case let me know because I need to move.

  7. mmmmmmm jumbo slice

  8. From: IHateYuppies

    Good post. Thank God I live in Silver Spring.

  9. Ugh, come on Rusty.

    I'm sure your friend is very nice, but her waxing "eloquent" crap about adams morgan just isn't hateful enough to qualify as a rant. an elegy, maybe, but it needs more dc.hate.

  10. I second the above comment. Psuedo-respectfully.