City Desk

The Other Washington

It's only March, but we now know the prism through which the Washington Post plans to explain the 2012 election to its readers: other towns named Washington!

Today's paper features a front-page story by Eli Saslow on Washington, Okla., "a grid of single-story houses surrounded by wheat fields and flood plains" where "the cotton gin and feed mill still frame Main Street, and decades-old graffiti still cover the water tower." It's got 600 residents, and—not surprisingly—it's a pretty conservative place:

A few dozen men still gather each morning at the American Legion to play dominos, crack peanuts and spit tobacco juice on the floor. The same “In God We Trust” posters still hang at the public high school, which serves the same pizza pockets on Mondays and throws the same Christmas party that is never called a holiday party, and where no extracurricular events are scheduled on Wednesdays or Sundays because those days are reserved for church.

And the residents of Washington, Okla., aren't too happy with the big-city slickers in our neck of the woods: "Now more than ever, they want a politician in that Washington who will safeguard the culture of this one."

If that sounds familiar, it may be because you read Saslow's November feature on Washington, Ga., a somewhat larger town but still one small enough to be gawked at at some length in a big metro daily paper: "It is a Washington tradition after elections to come to the courthouse, where officials tally the votes upstairs and announce the winner on the steps. Some people waited in their pickup trucks with the windows down and hummed along to revival music. Others smoked vanilla-scented cigars under a statue of a Confederate soldier while watching the clock." How quaint! In that story, the smaller Washington served as a cautionary tale—partisan politics and racial divisions can happen in tiny towns, too, if we let them get too carried away here inside the Beltway.

There should be plenty more where that came from; as the Post noted months ago, there are more than 90 cities and towns across the country named Washington. But what if the paper used the same gimmick to analyze local news, too? After all, plenty of other places share names with suburbs and neighborhoods here in the D.C. area. We look forward to seeing the following lines typed out by the paper's Metro staff:

  • "Here in Georgetown, Del., the fancy shops and boutiques of the other Georgetown feel like they're miles away. Because they are. In this Georgetown, the worries of the other Georgetown—parking spots, nightlife, and undergraduates—just seem like concerns for the liberal elites who drive past on their way to the beaches."
  • "Unlike the other Alexandria, here in Alexandria, La., residents don't work on national political campaigns or dash through the Pentagon's power corridors. In this Alexandria, they like to hunt deer in the woods, with dogs. They drive pickup trucks, not hybrids. But when the Red River floods, just like when the Potomac River floods, they still wind up with water in their basements."
  • "The Petworth in the English countryside isn't like the other Petworth. There's no Caribbean carnival in June, no Walmart, no future NFL stars, no George Pelecanos novels set here. Here in this Petworth, they have houses. Old ones. Lots of them. And the lessons they've learned about how to maintain them over the years could come in handy for the homeowners in D.C.'s Petworth in the upkeep of their own century-old rowhomes."
  • The sachertortes and schnitzels of this Vienna don't seem to have much in common with Fairfax County. What the people in this Vienna want from the other Vienna isn't entirely clear. Because this Vienna is a world capital, while the other Vienna, D.C.'s Vienna, is a bedroom community on the Orange Line."

What other too-pat comparisons between this Washington and some other Washington will we see next in the Post? Leave your own examples in the comments!

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