City Desk

Hip To Be Square

Local fashion mavens Rachel Cothran and Svetlana Legetic criticize Helene Cooper, author of Sunday's New York Times T Magazine piece on D.C., for not reporting on the actual trends that might prove her story, i.e., that it's a cool place these days. There's a lot to complain about. Did Cooper expect to find the pulse of the city on the presidential yacht, where se spent an evening partying? Her insights from the 14th, H Street, and U Street corridors in NW all sound cribbed from a year-old Not For Tourists guide. Sure, if she'd confined herself to the bars, boutiques, galleries, and restaurants that are so visibly linked with gentrification, she'd have a limited take on the city. But ostensibly her audience has a greater interest in reading about the places they can, you know, visit, which for most doesn't include the deck of the Sequoia.

And anything is preferable to Cooper's kidding on the square about how everyone in D.C. is a wonk and that they'd be cute for it if they weren't in fact pathetic. It's a paradoxical take on the city: one that plays up the laziest stereotypes that exist about D.C. but also require some work to prove out. In my experience, locals don't gab exclusively about, say, the conservative right's new love affair with Nicholas Sarkozy when they're shopping—they talk about shopping, or work, or their personal lives, or whatever else. But it's a company town, and for some people dinner is just an extension of the office place. If you go to restaurants very near such offices, you will overhear office-place conversation. Next week: Cooper dines at The Ivy; is shocked, shocked!, to overhear Hollywood gossip.

Speaking of dining and gossip, doesn't Cooper's bit about Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) sound as though she's insinuating that the senator is gay? "Maine's all-female Republican Senate delegation" just means that both senators are women. I can't make heads or tails of Cooper's writeup of Collins's dinner conversation with Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), but it reads as breathless to me: "Snippets of their conversation reveal extensive breadth, to say the least." And it has nothing to do with cool whatsoever.

As for slanted depictions, the less said about the accompanying photo spread, the better.

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