Thanks for visiting, Cindy Adams, and good riddance

February 1, 2013

The gossip columnist Cindy Adams is still alive, apparently, and still churning out arthritic prose for The New York Post. Proof:

“I now know what D.C. stands for: District of Crapola,” Adams writes of her visit to the capital, in Friday’s column headlined “Nation’s crap-ital.” “We’re talking a war zone. The approach to historic Washington, D.C., is filth. If the area were a building, it would be condemned.”

Buildings are condemned when structural deficiencies wrought by the ravages of time make them unsafe to engage.

Might I suggest we condemn Cindy Adams?

Too harsh? Deepest apologies, dear reader, but I’ll be fighting fire with fire.

“The area’s a sewer,” Adams writes of the capital. She goes on to take an inventory of the metropolitan area’s “wall-to-wall degradation” (my notes in brackets):

“gutters [gutters!], roadways [ROADWAYS!], open deserted lots … discarded soda cans, graffiti, syringes, rotted junk, rubber tires, strewn paper [strewn??], chalk marks, cigarette butts, dog poop, empty bottles, thrown out plastic bags, open garbage [but at least no closed garbage, thank you], drug paraphernalia, abandoned needles, filthy rags, needles [needles EVERYWHERE!], junky clothes, broken plumbing facilities [what does this even mean?], backyards and front yards filled with detritus.”

None of these items, of course, are to be found in the post-Giuliani, Bloombergian utopia in which Adams cocoons herself. It’s not like I spent an afternoon last November reporting from a housing project on the Lower East Side whose Third-World normalcy was rendered post-apocalyptic by Hurricane Sandy. It’s not like I watched a gentleman urinate down an escalator at Penn Station in December. It’s not like Manhattan in the summer smells like the final chapter of a Cormac McCarthy novel.

Oh, but you’re pleased with the High Line?

Good for you.

It really tickles me when someone tries to criticize Washington in light of New York, as if a metropolis of 8 million and a city of 600,000 should be considered in the same breath. Such debates are borne of insecurity, regardless of one’s place of residence. To me there is only one practical difference between the two: One city sags under a crush of humanity, the other does not. The capital, like any major urban area, has its share of garbage and filth, but Adams’s manner of writing about the District is pickled in vintage vinegar, circa 1986: “Socialites, to whom a photo op is headier than a sex act and remain as needy for attention as their charities are, hold galas every 10 minutes for something.”

Another out-of-towner deploys the trope of denigrating official Washington at the expense of real Washington, which is far larger and grander and more eclectic and bejeweled. Give me Swann Street NW in the spring over the National Mall — or Park Avenue — any day. Give me Eastern Market, panhandlers and all, over the Taft Memorial — or the clot of Union Square. Give me a mid-size city whose industry is ideas and ideals — military-industrial complex aside — over a metropolis that attracts people who merely want to idealize themselves.

Do I unfairly generalize? Perhaps I do, dear reader, but as I said: Fire with fire.

With Liz Smith out of the way, Adams is the preeminent voice of the octogenarian Manhattan socialite whose occasional descents from penthouse heights result in a kind of altitude sickness whose symptoms include anachronistic harangues. The Washington City Paper has dutifully pointed out that Washington’s median income and population are up while its homicide rates are down; these are not necessarily indicators of urban grandeur, but they do show that Cindy Adams is visiting a Washington of the past, or of the imagination.

But this is a woman who must spend too much time ensconced in sconces. This is a woman who, while being interviewed by Washington Post reporter Hank Stuever 10 years ago, chewed up a gourmet dog treat and spit it out onto hotel-room china for her Yorki named Jazzy.

So what, then, to do with Cindy Adams, that dusty antique vase in the parlor of journalism? Do we invite her back and offer to show her the real Washington — the eminently livable and infinitely customizable city of handsome cobblestone and fragrant greenery?

If we don’t invite her back, what do we do with her? Where do we keep her?

How ’bout only in New York.

A previous version of this post incorrectly stated that Adams writes specifically for Page Six.

Dan Zak is a feature writer and general assignment reporter based in the Style section. He joined the Post in 2005, after stints as an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a city-desk reporter and obituary writer at The Buffalo News.
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