Well, the secret’s out.
Stuck in DC is no longer stuck in DC. We found a better gig and moved to New York City, New York, which we admit is a little too on the nose. It looks like we got out just in time, too. So as a dark new era descends on the District, we’ll use our final post to say goodbye and finally reveal the true story of Stuck in DC’s spectacular rise and fall.
We launched in the summer of 2015 with a few listicles and hot takes, a $59 WordPress template, a sticker, and a dream. That was a simpler time, when the city’s standing water stood unranked and its metallic surfaces bore no indication of whether one was or wasn’t in New York. With hot content in our hearts and a glint in our eyes, Stuck in DC’s three anonymous writers–Brio, Walter, and xavier_from_new_york–started making outlandish, hyperlocal blog material that Washington hadn’t realized it needed.
When we started, we weren’t sure anyone would even notice. This is a PoPville town, they all said. The conventional wisdom held that unfounded restaurant scuttlebutt and photos of transoms were all people wanted from a DC blog. They didn’t have time to read about the city’s cockroaches or imagine what it would be like to hang out with the women in local paintings. But like so many PoPville reports, the conventional wisdom turned out to be bullshit.
In September 2015, Walter’s state-shaped cutting board listicle, xavier_from_new_york’s polarizing Thrive Bar essay, and Brio’s Tinderization of the dudes in the National Gallery announced our arrival. No one knew who we were or why we were writing all this weird shit for free, but suddenly people were following us on Twitter, sharing our posts on Facebook, and taking to the comments sections of xavier_from_new_york’s articles to tell us we fucking sucked. All of which was very encouraging! We had some fans and haters, an incredible feeling.
Stuck really took off in October, when Walter published his iconic ranking of Washington’s standing water by potability. Later that month, he assessed the state of the field of PoPville criticism and got us blocked on Twitter by Dan Silverman himself, a rite of passage for any worthwhile Washington writer. In December, xavier_from_new_york’s ranking of the city’s most ubiquitous street stickers made the name Stuck in DC more recognizable than Gare Voyer. And Brio’s satirical paean to Jessica Sidman’s Fig & Olive reporting secured our status as the darlings of the City Paper newsroom.
We were having the time of our lives, getting together after work to make puns and think of pieces, pushing one another to be better writers. Those last few months of 2015 were the golden age of Stuck in DC, when our hearts were in the right place and everything was fun. But it didn’t last long. Like everything else in this country, Stuck in DC fell apart in 2016.
We learned the hard way that internet popularity changes people. It was supposed to be about the content, but all the pageviews, all the clicks, all the sweet, sweet social media shares and new followers, they were intoxicating! Our heads swelled. It didn’t help that people started emailing us to pitch their shitty articles about interns, the streetcar, and Metro; rejecting them, we realized that people didn’t just want to read us, they wanted to be us. For the first time, we were somebodies in this town, and like every other somebody in this town, we were insufferable. Where previously we had relished our anonymous underdog status, we were now eagerly outing ourselves to any attractive strangers who would listen. “You know all those this is not new york stickers around town?” we’d ask people we’d just met. “That was me.”
xavier_from_new_york was the worst. He had never been a hard worker, but in February, after DC’s college kids, ranked blew up, he really phoned it in, writing at most an article per month and not even bothering to sticker anymore. His ego was almost as big as Trebek’s. As he liked to point out, he was at once Washington’s most popular and widely reviled contrarian take author and the city’s most provocative street artist. He got this is not new york tattooed down the right side of his back, moved to North End Shaw, and started hanging out at thrive bars. He was dying to sell out.
“It’s time to monetize Stuck,” he told Walter in March. He wanted to start selling ad space to local developers and start publishing sponsored content from top brands. Walter was horrified and refused. “C’mon,” said xavier_from_new_york, “we’ll do it ironically and then just keep the dough.” Still, Walter refused and they got into a big fight only Brio could settle. But she was too busy hanging out with all her new friends.
When she started Stucking in early 2015, Brio was a bookish introvert looking for an unlikely platform to publish her light verse about not having friends. But in 2016, with critically-acclaimed hits like A look inside the proposed McMillan Development and DC’s #1 rankings, ranked to her name, she became one of the most sought after young women in Washington, booked solid, with little time for silly poems and lists.
Walter responded to Stuck’s success and the growing disinterest of his friends and co-contributors by spiraling into depression and addiction, which xavier_from_new_york dubbed “so cliche.” Haunted by the fear that he’d peaked with Potability and filled with attendant self-hatred, Walter took out his pain on a shitty local web series. He needed more and more amphetamines and booze just to be able to post a new article, saying there was no way he could write comedy sober. And yet, the hits kept coming. Everything you need to know about marijuana in DC in February, I’m a cherry blossom tourist tourist in March, and Jumbo Slice is so gross not even birds and squirrels will eat it in April. It was unsustainable. With Walter on the verge of destruction and Brio and xavier_from_new_york increasingly checked out, Stuck would have imploded sooner or later. But the process was expedited in May, when a sudden flurry of fawning press coverage transformed us from recognizable local writers into celebrities.
Curiously, after we’d already been around for a year, the DC media decided to write about us in the same week. It started with Rachel Sadon’s excellent profile in DCist. Then, just two days later, the Washington Fucking Post came out with a profile of their own. People all across the country–even the world–were reading about the stars of Stuck in DC. The next morning, we were in Express. Soon after, Washingtonian Magazine awarded us the coveted title of Washington, DC’s Best Curmudgeons. To say we bought into our own hype would be an understatement.
Brio quit her job, buzzed and dyed her hair, got a cool new musician boyfriend, then dumped him for an even cooler new musician girlfriend in New York. xavier_from_new_york was a dick to begin with, but his newfound notoriety turned him into a monster. He was banned from just about every bar on U Street for picking fights with GW students and alums, once going so far as to slap a this is not new york sticker on a guy’s face after knocking him unconscious in the bathroom of The Codmother. Walter, meanwhile, couldn’t bear to leave his room, his newfound fame too incongruous with his contorted view of himself.
Stuck didn’t publish much after that. Like a once-alternative band that rocketed to fame with an unexpected platinum record, there just wasn’t any urgency to get back in the studio. We had made it–we didn’t need to be artists anymore. In the wake of the Post article, we even tried to farm out our content operation out to a bunch of unpaid interns. The writing was right-justified on a black sticker on the wall: Stuck was over.
Brio was the first to split. In June, she published her last piece, a Clickhole-style opus that put the whole genre on notice. After that she was fielding calls from Clickhole themselves, in addition to Reductress, Broad City, Saturday Night Live, New York Magazine, and who knows how many others. Her star had risen far beyond the humble pages of a little local comedic blog. She moved to Brooklyn; no one in DC has heard from her since.
Slate offered xavier_from_new_york a column, but he was done writing contrarian clicktakes. He fleeced Vox Media into buying his third of Stuck in DC and used the money to buy an apartment on the Lower East Side; the rest, we’re told, went straight up his nose.
That left only poor, tortured Walter, who tried in vain to keep the site going by himself. Struggling to find anything funny, he reached way down into the content pit in July, but could only pull out a pointless personal anecdote and a piece of esoteric feminist satire unrelated to DC. He didn’t intend for those to be his last posts, but in early August his life was thrown into further disarray when he was fired from his nonprofit copywriting job–for working on Stuck. After a vindictive co-worker sent the Post piece to Walter’s boss, HR confiscated his work computer. A cursory search of his browsing history–almost all gmail, the Stuck in DC WordPress, and Twitter–was damning.
Out of a job and his two best friends, Walter retreated deep within himself in August and was shocked by what he found there: nothing. Without Stuck in DC, he had no identity. Now that Stuck was over, he felt he had no future, that there was no point in going on. He was right. Always too self-aware for his own good, Walter had finally stumbled upon Stuck’s big secret. He realized his life won’t amount to more than Stuck because, like Brio and xavier_from_new_york, he’s a character, a heteronym. Stuck had been real, but Walter discovered he had not, that he was merely the creation of a writer in DC, a guy moving to New York to take a job he got thanks to Stuck. And now that that guy is unstuck from DC, DC isn’t stuck with Stuck in DC anymore.
So long, Stuckers.