By John Kelly
Friday, May 20, 2005
When I finally meet him in the flesh, The Man Who Hates D.C. is disappointingly normal.
His face is not red. His lips are not spittle-flecked. The veins in his neck do not throb. I did not examine his hands, but I have no reason to believe that had I done so I would have found the meat of his palms gouged from clenching his fists in rage.
In other words, The Man Who Hates D.C. does not look like a person consumed with hatred.
And yet he is The Man Who Hates D.C. He hates it so much that two years ago he started a blog to catalogue the loathing he feels for his adopted town. He calls it "Why I Hate D.C.," and its mission statement is "To mercilessly mock anything related to life in the Washington metro area, using as much profanity and sarcasm as possible."
(The URL is http://whyihatedc.blogspot.com , but be aware he's serious about that profanity part; every other word is "#$@%!" or "*&@$.")
When he says he hates D.C., he means that he hates the whole Washington metropolitan area.
He hates how high the crime rate is.
He hates how high the housing prices are.
He hates Dan Snyder . (Okay, I'll give him that one.)
When The Man Who Hates D.C. was at a Wizards game recently, a fight broke out in the stands near him, a little microburst of violence that didn't seem to bother anyone but him. It prompted this rumination on his blog:
"We have, somehow, created a city that encompasses everything bad about living in a city, with almost none of the good things. I thought I could be one of those people who sits around contentedly, ignoring how the people around me behave, trying to deny what I've observed. But that's like trying to get excited about eating at TGIFriday's. I can't do that. And I can't say it any more clearly than this: NORMAL PEOPLE DON'T BEHAVE THE WAY PEOPLE BEHAVE IN WASHINGTON."
So I invited The Man Who Hates D.C. to lunch. Naturally, we went to D.C. Coast. (He had the gumbo. I had the scallops. Because his employer doesn't know he does a blog, he asked that I not print his name.)
The Man Who Hates D.C. is in his late twenties. He was born in the Midwest, lived in Florida and attended college in Atlanta. He moved to Arlington four years ago, when his wife was accepted at graduate school here.
He remembers thinking: "I've been to Washington before. It's a big city. I'm sure it'll be fine."
But things were bad from the start. The moving company ripped him off. It took him months to find a job. Real estate costs were through the roof.
But what really bothered him was the me-first attitude he sensed all around him, the rudeness and the conceit. It wasn't just the people but the local governments, too, which were gripped in petty rivalries that interfered with everything from traffic planning to catching the sniper.
Plus, D.C. didn't have the stuff that big cities have: the energy, the friskiness. This was symbolized most recently during a trip The Man Who Hates D.C. took to Chicago. For breakfast he stumbled into a restaurant that served something called "frushi": fruit and rice made to look like sushi.
If there is a creative brain in Washington capable of inventing something as delightful as frushi, The Man Who Hates D.C. hasn't found it, and his anger and sadness are almost palpable.
"It all just sort of snowballed," said TMWHDC. "I thought, 'I have to stop just ranting to my friends about this.' " The final straw was the Iraq war, the most obvious manifestation of the loathsomeness that he thinks poisons Washington.
So in March 2003, he started his blog. Now some 800 people read it every day.
At about the time I was planning my lunch with The Man Who Hates D.C., I received an e-mail from a reader named Monika Jansen , aka The Woman Who Hates D.C.
"I moved here kicking and screaming from Boston nearly four years ago," Monika wrote. "My husband got a new job with his company, which forced us to relocate. I did not mind leaving behind the long, miserable winters of New England, but in the four years we've been here, I have been dreaming of the day we move."
Her gripes? The usual. Real estate prices. Traffic. Et cetera.
"All cities and metro areas have their problems, but the Washington area beats them all, as none of the above problems look like they are going to get better any time soon."
Monika admits that there are some neat neighborhoods in the area and some nice restaurants. "But after paying huge property tax bills and spending a considerable amount of time stuck in traffic, I bet many residents are too poor and tired to enjoy these fabulous attributes of the metro area."
I find myself mute in the face of complaints such as these. I wouldn't like to live the lives they've described to me. And no amount of satisfaction (let alone affection) that I feel for my home is going to sway the D.C.-haters.
The woman married to The Man Who Hates D.C. is almost done with graduate school. Her husband will get to pick the next city they will live in. He thinks Seattle might be nice.
"It's really got the personality I like," he said as we finished off our meal, he with sorbet and I with a rhubarb pistachio crisp.
And if that should turn out not to be the case, prepare for The Man Who Hates Seattle.
Come on, feel the hate. Visit my online chat at
1 p.m. today and trash D.C. or defend it. Go tohttp://www.washingtonpost.com/liveonline.