Break out your Working Assets credit cards! No less an authority than the Utne Reader has named the U Street NW corridor one of America’s 15 hippest neighborhoods. The magazine, the Reader’s Digest of the alternative press, has a thing for confusing progressive politics with opportunities for liberals to buy themselves a lifestyle. Witness its 1994 urban issue, where cities were deemed awesome because you could, like, buy ethnic handicrafts there. But act now, ’cause “the New U” won’t be new for long. Coming soon, says Utne, is nearby Mount Pleasant. The magazine tells us that Mount Pleasant “can’t support a full menu of hip commerce yet, but politically progressive kids are starting to frequent its Salvadorean restaurants.” And what does that make Salvadoreans who fled right-wing death squads to come to Washington and frequent those restaurants? Reactionaries? No—just not Utne Reader readers.

Neocon Job Amid widespread praise for Fred Siegel’s new book, The Future Once Happened Here: New York, D.C., LA., and the Fate of America’s Big Cities, the author has gotten some flack for flubbing his history—especially when talking about Washington. A Monday-night speech at the D.C. Jewish Community Center gave listeners reason to wonder about his first-person recollections as well. Discussing his last visit to D.C., Siegel noted that Dupont Circle was littered with “crack needles.” Say what? Putting aside that crack ordinarily comes in vials and heroin is sometimes ingested via needles, Dupont Circle has never been known as a center of crack activity. Of course, trifles like that don’t much matter in front of an audience that has paid over $10 a pop to hear you beat up on Washington, do they?

Johannesburg, D.C. “You just don’t see black people in the streets. You don’t see them in restaurants, cinema, or shops,” comments foreign correspondent John Carlin in a column describing northwest D.C. for The Sunday Independent of South Africa. The story, which appeared earlier this month and was flagged on dc.story (an online discussion group for local banter and bicker), declared racial segregation in Washington “more pronounced” than in Johannesburg, South Africa. “Race is what defines the town,” Carlin says. And in a parting blow he calls D.C. “not a very stylish place.” Sadly, his one plug for our city—”not

much crime”—is the one and only thing he gets dead wrong.

HFS Airball WHFS’s brilliant promo crew came up with a free Chumbawamba concert on a rooftop garage near the new MCI Center last Thursday, but 25 minutes into the show, the police pulled the plug. Seems the radio station had failed to get a permit from the city’s Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs. Three years ago, the Park Police shut down another free HFS show, this one on the Mall, also sans permit. This year, the station chose the private venue hoping to avoid such hassles. Mary Kay Lemay, promotions director for the station, admits, “We sort of expected it might happen…but everything turned out to be positive.” It’s just that kind of optimism, of course, that dooms history to repeat itself.

Not-so-good Bye Last week, embattled Alexis Roberson finally announced she’d step down as head of the Department of Employment Services (DOES). At long last, the D.C. control board had cut the cord on a flailing manager. Before cracking open the brut, though, remember this: By the time the control board acted, Roberson had already shepherded another batch of 34 poorly crafted contracts through DOES, virtually guaranteeing D.C. residents a yearlong wait for decent job-training programs. As usual, the board is laying down the law miles behind the curve.

Can’t Always Get What You Want The Rolling Stones rocked Raljon, Md., and surrounding subdivisions last week in the concert debut of Jack Kent Cooke Stadium. “Brand-new stadium. Never been here before,” said Mick Jagger to the packed triple-deck arena. “I guess it’s better than Cleveland.” But light up a Merit in the bleachers and there’s suddenly a red-coated usher at your side. “Excuse me, sir,” he says. “There’s smoking in the concourse only.” A Voodoo Lounge, it’s not.

Reporting by Sharada Chidambaram, Chris Peterson, Amanda Ripley, Michael Schaffer, and Tom Stabile.

Please send your City Desk tips to Amanda Ripley at or call 332-2100 and ask for my voice mail.