5 common Washington myths

1. People in Washington don’t understand “Real America.” In reality, this is an area of people who used to live somewhere else, often in those places that love to refer to themselves “flyover county” because they think we do (I don’t think I’ve ever heard this phrase from a Washingtonian). People move here because this is where the work is — in tech, in journalism, in law, and yes, in politics. But if you live elsewhere and buy the whole “clueless Washington people” myth, ask yourself: Do you know anyone who lives here? I bet you do. In fact, I bet you know several folks who live here and moved here to pursue a career. I bet they’re doing pretty well.

2. People in Washington are lazy and privileged. In reality, people here work incredibly hard. This is an area overstuffed with Type A personalities — so much that I think it actually hurts the quality of life. Example: If you run into some minor issue at a grocery store here, probably 18 customers or so will try to take charge of the situation — and they often eventually turn on each other. And as far as privilege: Yes, this is one of best-paying places in the country. It’s also one of the most expensive. Those salaries don’t get you that far ahead when the median cost of a home here is over half a million bucks (and that is just the beginning). And jobs here are competitive — if you want to be lazy, someone is going to take your job.

3. People in Washington are all a bunch of liberals. Well, OK, most of ’em are Democrats, but people who spout this don’t make the distinction any more between “Democrats” and “liberals.” However, on this front, we’re not different than people in most of the largest metro areas of this country, including large metro areas in solidly red states. A lot of these metros feature high salaries, growing economies, diverse cultures, low crime (my home town of Jefferson City, Mo. has a crime rate 25% higher than the national average; my current home of Alexandria, Va. has a rate 28% lower than the national average, according to areavibes.com) and on and on and on. There’s probably not all that much that’s different about living here when compared to many successful big cities.

4. People in Washington don’t think about other people. Oh, yes, we do. We think about you all of the time. We wonder, for example, why so many of you reject demonstrable facts so readily these days. We wonder why you are paying so little attention to how your government actually functions. We also wonder why we continue to subsidize and support the people who insult and berate us the loudest, because they often are from areas that benefit the most from the money we pay.

5. “We need to drain the swamp.” Washington isn’t built on a swamp. Why would someone tell you this falsehood? Anyway, swamps are beautiful and help protect against flooding. Here’s a little reality check on this front, and how it relates to most people who work here.

…And a little more baseball

I was at the not-sold-out Nats Park for the opening of the 2017 baseball season, in which the Nats came from behind to win and looked good doing it. It’s one of the hundreds of games I’ve attended in my life, and I’ve been lucky enough to see some fantastic (if not always winning) baseball moments.

I’ve seen big-league games in 10 parks and minor-league games in five more. But here are the games that stood out the most:

1. Game 4 of the 2012 NLDS between the Nats and the Cardinals. This is the game in which Jayson Werth hit that game-winning homer after an epic at-bat. That was easily the most thrilling sports moment I’ve ever witnessed in person.

2. Game 1 of the 1982 World Series between the Cardinals and the then-American-League Milwaukee Brewers. I grew up in Missouri as a huge Cardinals fan and fell into these tickets unexpectedly at the last minute. The Cards were crushed, 10-0, but it didn’t matter because they won the Series anyway. It was their first Series win of my adult life; I’m old enough to remember the 1967 and 1968 teams as a kid, and those teams sealed my lifelong fandom with the game.

3. Stephen Strasburg’s first start.
Yes, it was all the way back in 2010 and he looked every bit like a future Hall of Famer, striking out 14 and electrifying the park in a way I’ve never seen during the regular season. By season’s end, he had blown out his elbow, starting the path that led to him being unavailable for that 2012 postseason. To this day, I wonder if that cost the Nats a World Series visit.

4. The end of ‘The Streak.’ Some friends invited us to Just Another O’s Game late in the 1998 season. The Nats didn’t exist yet and the O’s were playing out the string against the Yankees.

But Ripken didn’t come out for the game. He’d gone to his manager and asked to end The Streak — he had played in 2,632 consecutive games, a major league record by more than 500 games. I remember the Yankees all coming out of their dugout to tip their hats to Ripken, and I remember him circling outfield between innings late in the game to shake hands with fans. And just like that, The Streak was over.

5. The ‘Oh, God’ Game 5 of the 2012 NLDS. Being a Washington sports fan will break your heart. I stlil can’t discuss the details of this game. I can’t. I can’t. Read about it for yourself.

Some tips for Nats Park visitors

This is the reality of Nats Park: Tourists sometimes tie their DC visits to the time their home baseball team is visiting here, and many local fans who do come to the park are casual at best. As a result, you might be visiting there on a very irregular basis, or you’re coming to the park for the first time. I’m here to help.

Nats Park is a great place for the casual fan. It may have little of the “cathedral of baseball” feel that you get at Fenway or Wrigley, or even newer parks like PNC in Pittsburgh or AT&T in San Francisco,  but it does have its advantages. Sightlines are fantastic from most seats, tickets are generally easy to acquire, you probably won’t get any crap for showing up in your home team’s gear (everyone here is from somewhere else and people are nice), and ballpark food is decent, if not memorable. Here’s a few tips on coming to the park:

1. TAKE THE SUBWAY. Parking is poor and is obscenely expensive, traffic is often awful and you’re in an Eastern city with decent public transportation (despite Metro’s current woes). Take the subway and enjoy it. You’ll be able to chat up other fans — most Nats fans on the train will be happy to talk to you. And everyone here is accustomed to tourists, so don’t be afraid to ask questions. The walk from the Navy Yard Metro stop into Nats Park is one of the best things about the experience here. It’s a kind of a cattle chute of hawkers, scalpers, hot dog merchants and fans. You don’t see that sort of thing elsewhere.

2. WALK AROUND. Few parks have as many great standing room sightlines as Nats Park. In the last few games, I’ve bought tickets on the top 400 level along the baselines or behind home, then watched part of the games from my seat and part of the games from the many good standing room viewpoints around the park. Some of them include chest-level lean-to shelving that is the perfect place to put a hot dog and a beer and enjoy a couple of innings. There are great views of the Anacostia River from the long ramp that goes up the park on the third-base side, and there’s also a really good view of the Capitol if you head down the same side on the 300 level.

3. CHECK THIRD-PARTY TICKET SITES. Tickets often are sold *below* list here on third-party sites, especially early in the season. I use SeatGeek these days because you can set it to disclose any fees up front, it searches multiple sites and StubHub now throws on an absurd level of fees that aren’t disclosed until checkout. It’s not unusual to get a decent seat for less than $10 through May here if you buy it through a third-party site.

4. THERE NOW ARE GOOD RESTAURANTS AND HOTELS NEARBY. The construction of Nats Park was a key part of the redevelopment of the Southwest/Southeast waterfront, and when the park opened, the surrounding area was a wasteland of concrete plants, garbage truck parking and transmission shops. But there’s been a bunch of development in recent years, and there are good restaurants and hangout spots within easy distance of the park. (Still, the closest joint to the park is a Buffalo Wild Wings, so not everything is perfect.)

5. FOOD HERE IS OK, NOT GREAT. I’ve never been a fan of Ben’s Chili Bowl, but the Ben’s chili half smoke is the best-known “local” food at the park. My personal fave dish is the burnt-ends-and-mac-and-cheese dish you can get at Blue Smoke on the 200 level, but that varies a lot in quality from game to game and it is *very* heavy. There are also decent Virginia ham and chicken biscuits available at a couple of locations, a forgettable crabcake and some unusual options (Greek food or Pad Thai). The Taste of the Majors stands, which offer the favorites of other ballparks, often provide some of the best food in the park. There are some decent microbrews available and if you dig around, you can find a few other dishes that aren’t bad. The Nats Dogs are completely forgettable but also completely OK. The Curly W soft pretzels are fun but just like every other soft pretzel you’ve ever had except for the shape.

6. SOMETIMES YOU CAN MAKE IT A TWO-FER. Camden Yards in Baltimore is only about 45 miles away. It *is* a cathedral of baseball, with smarter/more dedicated fans and a tremendous setting. Not all of the seats are great — they all face directly ahead, so if you sit along the foul lines past first or third base, you spend the whole game twisted in your seat — but it has better food and the Inner Harbor, along with a spectacular setting that features the C&O Warehouse. It also has AL East baseball, so you can see the O’s play better teams overall than you may see roll through DC on a regular basis these days. If you’re a big baseball fan, definitely check it out if you can.

Hopefully, this helps. Enjoy your time at Nats Park. It may not make a massive impression but it’s still a good place to see a game.

The search

I’ve been looking for a new job since I resigned as editor-in-chief of Industry Dive in January. It’s been a grind — more so than I expected.

A large part of this feeling comes because I’ve never had this experience. I’ve had no significant gap in employment in my entire decades-long journalism career, and regularly have been recruited for one effort or another over the years. I learned of jobs through colleagues for many years, and some of the nation’s best-known news sites reached out to me when they needed a new editor or manager.

But that obviously isn’t the case this time. My network has been terrific as always (some of them seem way angrier than I am about this situation), but it’s starting to be clear to me that, well, this time is different. I’ve actually been rather surprised by the non-response for some positions for which I feel incredibly qualified.

Still, I have options. One of the most likely is to take on one or two part-time gigs. With my wife still working a full-time job and able to provide benefits, this seems like the most likely alternative scenario. I also have far more financial flexibility than a lot of people who have walked this path.

Still, given my track record and experience, I’m surprised it’s come to this. I’m still hopeful things will come together. I don’t think I have much of an ego, but I feel my record speaks for itself (as will any number of journalists who have worked with me over the years). I’m also very self-driven and I know I have another act in me.

So hire me. I believe you’ll be glad you did.

Listen to the lyrics!

My blood pressure shot north when I heard there is going to be a Margaritaville development for seniors in Florida. That’s because nobody ever listens to the lyrics of songs. If “Margaritaville” the development matched “Margaritaville” the song, everyone living there would be heartbroken, broke, drunk, hopeless, injured, shoeless and have a tattoo of unknown origin. After the false advertising of the first verse, “Margaritaville” is not a happy song.

But nobody ever listens to the lyrics. They hear those jaunty steel drums and think, “Party time!” Well, like the song says, they haven’t a clue.

This happens all of the time in popular music. Sunday, I went to Hexagon, an annual satirical skit show that raises money for charity. One of the skits in the show featured a DJ taking requests for romantic song dedications. The first request was for “I Will Always Love You,” which the DJ angrily pointed out is a breakup song. Another caller requested “Every Breath You Take,” which the DJ even-more-angrily pointed out was a song about a stalker.

People never listen to the lyrics. This has gone on forever. When Bill Haley and the Comets covered Big Joe Turner’s “Shake, Rattle and Roll” way back in the 1950s, the censors picked up on the verse about old dresses and changed it, but they missed the one about the one-eyed cat peeping in a seafood store. So did most of White America, for whom the song had been sanitized. But that verse, as they say, contains a euphemism.

When I was 14, the No. 2 single for the entire year was Terry Jacks’ “Seasons in the Sun,” which sounds like a bittersweet end-of-relationship song until you actually listen to the lyrics. It’s actually a look back from someone who is about to die. It also sold more than 10 million copies. And until freakin’ 1997, my current residence of Virginia had an official state song that mentioned “darkies” and “massas.”

Even admittedly terrible songs fall prey to this. My personal choice for Worst Song of the Pop Era, “The Night Chicago Died,” starts with this line: “Daddy was a cop on the East Side of Chicago.” Um, buddy, the East Side of Chicago is better known as Lake Michigan.

Lyrics that don’t match up to the music are common. A well-known example is Foster the People’s “Pumped Up Kicks,” which has a an upbeat, breezy melody as the song’s subject warns that the kids who hate him had better run faster than his bullet. And in late-season American Idol, I always enjoyed watching Harry Connick yell at adolescents singing Grace Potter’s “Paris.” The kids dug Potter’s voice and the overall power of the song. However, in that song, Potter pops off a whole bunch of pretty straightforward sexual pledges that perhaps you don’t want to hear from a 15-year-old.

Listen to the lyrics, people. Somebody put a lot of work into them.