Sarah Holder is a staff writer at CityLab covering local policy, housing, labor, and technology.
Last night, the Washington Nationals won the World Series for the first time in franchise history. And today it’s Halloween. That, plus another spooky incident, inspired the following scary story by CityLab’s Kriston Capps:
“The World Series of the Damned,” or;
“Welcome to the City That Never Was!!”
Casey slammed down his empty pint glass and looked for the bartender. It wasn’t quite closing time at his neighborhood local, but it was later than he wanted to say.
“What’ll I owe you, Chaz?” The bartender slipped him his bill, along with a nip of Jamo for good measure. The place was still packed. Everyone was celebrating tonight.
It was Halloween Eve and Casey’s baseball team, the Washington Nationals, had done the unthinkable. They’d won the World Series! Nobody believed this team could do it. And so soon after the Mystics won the finals. Casey was here for it. He slipped out of the bar and joined a chorus with total strangers.
“N-A-T-S, Nats, Nats, Nats, woo!”
Casey thought about heading down to Navy Yard where the city would be blasting go-go all night. But he thought better of it. Save it for the parade on Saturday. Maybe in the morning, he would stop by the breakfast-taco place, the one where Houston Astros fans watched the Series. Buy all of the migas with a grin and a Nats cap—that’d stick it to ‘em.
All of a sudden, Casey noticed a creepy glow. Fog rolled in. The streetcar faded from view. A woman appeared, shimmering phantasmagorically on the sidewalk. She was gray—a gray lady.
“In the Nation’s Capital, a Fan Base Rises,” the Gray Lady said, addressing no one in particular.
Casey stepped back. He couldn’t make out her features. She was spooky. Was she wearing a Mets cap? That couldn’t be right. Not tonight of all nights, Casey thought. “The Mets haven’t won since like the ‘80s,” Casey said to himself.
“Restaurants in D.C. Are Moving Into Residential Neighborhoods,” she said, aloofly. “Cozy neighborhoods with names like K Street and the Capitol are popping up everywhere, and these places have restaurants.”
She continued on, in listicle format, naming a Laotian restaurant and a Filipino place that has won several restaurant awards—just like the awards they have in New York.
“In this town of power-lunchers, where members of Congress meet with other members of Congress in wood-paneled steakhouses only, influence means more than clout on social media,” the Gray Lady intoned spookily. “In Washington, power is a higher calling.”
Was Casey hallucinating? The apparition before him shifted her sleeves, and Casey could make out a faint tremor. Were her hands just a pair of Mr. Mets bobble-heads?
“Thirty-Six Hours in Washington,” the Gray Lady said. “The TikTok Pop Ballad That Defines Washington,” she added.
Casey started to wonder just how many shots of whiskey he’d ordered from Chaz. Suddenly, the Gray Lady appeared to notice him. But it was weird. It was like she observed him, but didn’t see him. He felt unseen.
“No One Is From Here,” the Gray Lady declared, looming closer. “Try Sausage Half-Smoked in the Nation’s Capital.”
“Sure, Meats & Foods is that way,” Casey said, taking a step back. He started to say something about the politics of erasing the local population in a working-class, majority-minority city—
“No One Is From Here,” the Gray Lady intoned. Her words somehow sounded bolder and larger. “Pizza? In Washington, They Eat It By the ‘Giant’ Slice.”
“It’s not even called that. W-what are you doing?” Casey stammered. “N-no, stop—!”
“NO ONE IS FROM HERE,” the Gray Lady said, as she swallowed Casey whole.
No one ever saw Casey again. He disappeared, just like that—only blocks from the White House.
What we’re writing:
There’s a child-killer on the loose this Halloween, and it is a car. ¤ The tyranny of the homemade Halloween costume. ¤ Architects dressed up as buildings—what else!?—at this 1931 costume ball. ¤ “When I say I’m a musician from Washington, D.C., people think I’m a badass. And I agree.” ¤ Fires and blackouts and sprawl: California’s terrible trifecta. ¤ Airplane maps used to be cool. ¤ Madrid is murdering its invasive parakeets!
What we’re taking in:
Airbnb scam alert! (Vice) ¤ How riding the bus with ADHD strains and stimulates the brain (Streets) ¤ Remembering the rise and fall of great Eastern Mediterranean cities (Al Jazeera) ¤ The eerily quiet satellite towns of Iran’s satellite cities (The New Yorker) ¤ Why are so many San Francisco homes going gray? (San Francisco Chronicle) ¤ Orthodox Jews selling products on Amazon are keeping “one foot in modernity and one foot out.” (BuzzFeed) ¤ Halloween, by the numbers: According to the Census Bureau, there were 122.4 million “potential stops for trick-or-treaters to occupied housing units for the 2nd quarter of 2019.” (Census.gov)
Views from the ground:
This week, I’m including scenes from California’s PG&E power outage, which left millions without electricity and turned a few North Coast cities into ghost towns. Downtowns were empty. Coffee shops were shuttered. Theaters weren’t operating. The outages were meant to avoid a worse situation—preventing power lines from sparking and catching trees on fire—but the darkness is dangerous, too, especially for those with medical conditions.
I was thankfully able to enjoy it, a bit: At night, without light to haze them out, the stars shone brighter than ever.