DIARY OF A SALOON OWNER 2005
by CAROL JOYNT
Entries for April-May 2005Tuesday, May 31st...Now we know. Check Deep Throat off the list of great mysteries in American history. It's Mark Felt, a name not on everyone's short list. A name relatively unknown until today, but one that now will go down in all the books. It must have been kicking inside of the old man, the need to have it out there in his lifetime, and why not? Google Mark Felt and there's only a small amount of speculation. The media didn't go into a frenzy today. It was news, but it was not hair on fire news. Maybe it will take a day to sink in. Before Watergate broke, Bob Woodward and I used to occasionally be out on the street together covering stories, him for the Metro section of the Post and me for UPI. In fact, once upon a time he looked up to me as a big shot because I got to file stories on the national "A" wire while he was inside the paper. That was not to last long. We were pals and occasionally would get together late at some dive for Chinese and the bulldog edition of the paper. One night after Watergate broke and after I'd moved to New York to write for Time Magazine, we hooked up for one of those midnight bites at the China Inn. Bob said, "I've got to go." "Where?" I asked. "I've got to meet a guy in a parking lot in Georgetown." "Oh," I said, curious but knowing Bob well enough to know not to push for more. Soon enough there was a hot revelation on the front page of the Post under the Woodstein byline. The rendezvous point was a dank underground parking lot somewhere between Prospect and N Streets, I think. It's long torn down. Only twice did I ask Bob the identify of Deep Throat. Once was at a lunch I hosted with him as the guest for the Washington bureau staff of USA Today: The TV Show, when I was bureau chief. He politely declined. The second time was at Nathans 35th Anniversary dinner, where I interviewed him together with Ben Bradlee. I started off the dinner by saying, "Wouldn't it be a nice way to mark Nathan's 35th by using this occasion to reveal the identity of Deep Throat." (As if that joke hadn't been used on them about 999 times.) It was good for a laugh and we carried on from there. It will be interesting tonight on the tube and tomorrow and the next day in print to learn how this all came to pass, and more of the details of what went down between Woodward and Mr. Felt, and which talk show host will be first to get the hot "get" of Felt and Woodward and Bradlee and Carl Bernstein together. I never had a horse in this race. What I hoped was that when the identity was revealed it would be shocking. It's not. It's bureaucratically believable - an ambitious and potentially disgruntled #2 who apparently liked to leak. I'm sure the editors of The Washington Post hoped that when it broke it would be their scoop, not Vanity Fair's. Earlier...If you do just one thing today, make sure it is a stop by Johnny Rocket's in Georgetown. Twenty percent of today's sales will go to the Joe Pozell Memorial Fund. Moreover, at his Nathans Community Lunch, Anthony Lanier revealed that J.R.'s is struggling. It's been a good addition to M Street, the little kids (and the big kids, too) love it, so we should do what we can to support it. Remember, whenever you eat out, wherever you go, your choice of restaurant is a vote of support for that business and helps to keep it going. The votes add up and make a difference. Memorial Day passed softly, as it should. It was another lovely day. We've had a bunch of them this spring. President Bush visited Arlington. Garry Trudeau in Doonesbury and Ted Koppel on Nightline will recognize the last year's war dead. I never thought when it started that this far along I'd still be thinking and writing about young American soldiers dying in Iraq. Will it ever end? Dead people exist in Spen and my lives in a bigger than average way. All the grandparents are gone, his and mine. My aunts and uncles are gone. My parents are gone; he's down to one. I wear three gold rings on my right hand ring finger. I call them my "dead people" rings. There is one ring each with the initials of my mother, father and husband. Yesterday I re-read the clippings about my father, the ones with the headlines: "Pilot Richard Ross Dropped Normandy's First Warriors." Throughout his life, no matter what else he did, my father was proudest of his service during World War II. It defined him to his last days. My Romanian uncle Jon Papp, who became an American citizen, went to Canada so he could sign up long before the U.S. was in the war. He later married a Canadian woman, Nan, became a Canadian citizen, and died there after living most of his life on a remote island in the Georgia straits, where he hunted for his food. Saturday, May 28th...Charlie Manson, Charlie Rose and me. Debbie Nichols asked me to write about the interview and this seems like the right time. Also, rooting around in some old papers the other day, I came upon some of my letters from Manson and Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme. Interestingly, Fromme's letters were written to me from Alderson Prison in West Virginia, which was Martha Stewart's residence for five months. Manson wrote from San Quentin. The assignment to go after Manson was a surprise to me. It was early 1985 at the offices of CBS News Nightwatch on M Street, across from the network's 2020 studios. I had been promoted from associate producer to full producer and was enjoying the perks - my own private office at the end of the hall, a door that actually shut, book cases, a TV, file cabinets, a nice view, a big desk and a chair for a visitor. In network TV news, this was the lux life. My assignments up till then had been largely political, with a few diversions into cultural trends, features and the latest hot books. The executive producer, John Huddy, called me to his office for a meeting. He expansively told me about the time he and Roger Ailes produced a jailhouse interview with Manson for the old "Tomorrow" show with Tom Snyder. I remembered watching. It was great TV. "I want you to do that for us," he said. "Get us Manson." My reaction was not one of joy. First of all, this is one of the most reviled criminals in American history. Second, talk about a no-win booking. Why couldn't he ask me to go after Paul Newman? Why Manson? I sulked. But this is always the way I initially handle tough assignments. I'm positive I will fail so I pout in advance. Huddy didn't relent. "You can do it," he said. "If anyone here can do it, it's you." It was very smart to appeal to my ego. "Okay, I'll try," I said, and ambled out of his office and back to mine. At that point I'd been booking TV talk only a couple of years. Before that I'd been a writer and reporter. I'd done all kinds of journalism, but I'd never done a prison interview. A small, private part of me was excited with the challenge of the new. I'm a police reporter at heart. You can gloss me up with all kinds of sexy, globally-significant stories, but cut into my marrow and it's the cop beat. My method is plodding and basic and rooted in logic, and I always start with a phone call. In the case of Manson I asked my broadcast assistant, Angus Yates, first for some research AND then I made the phone call. I didn't even know what prison was currently holding Charlie Manson, and we didn't have the internet back then. When I learned it was San Quentin I made a call to the warden to find out the name of Manson's lawyer. "He doesn't have a lawyer right now," he told me. "You have to deal with him directly." You're kidding, I said. "How do I do that?" He told me, "write to him. He gets mail. It's up to him what he does in regard to interviews. He's permitted one interview a quarter, and it can be with a reporter or a book writer or a forensic psychologist or whatever, but only one, and it's up to him." This was interesting. "How often does he talk to anyone?" I asked. "Not often at all," the warden said. "It depends on his agenda. He has a parole hearing coming up, so he'll probably be more open to it." He gave me Manson's prison address, I said good bye, put down the phone and slipped a clean piece of paper into my electric typewriter. And then I just sat there. Usually my "beg" letters just poured right onto the paper, but this was different. How do you write a letter to Charlie Manson? My usual tactic was to be flattering and schmoozing and all of that, but you can't really write to Manson with words like, "I loved your last book," or, "here at Nightwatch we regard you as one of the best thinkers in the country." It took me most of an afternoon to craft that letter so the words were clear, impartial, convincing, but could never be turned against CBS News if the letter was made public. Nonetheless, my opening salutation was, "Dear Mr. Manson." As I went home that evening I slipped the envelope into the mail chute with an attitude of, "well, that's that." I did not expect to hear a response. I was able to tell Huddy I'd done what he asked me to do. Now I could move on to other stories that interested me. Months passed. I forgot about Charlie Manson. Charlie Rose and I worked on dozens of other stories. On the personal front, my mother's lung cancer took a turn for the worse and I was diverted by that. My routine kept me going. Feeling lost at sea by my mother's terminal illness, work was a life raft. One day in the mail there was a large yellow envelope. On the front my name was scrawled in pencil. It looked like the letters we'd occasionally get from the "fringe" viewers. Curiously, it said, "C.R. Joynt - Division, CBS Inc." above the address, which makes me think I probably didn't even sign my name as Carol. I probably signed C.R. Joynt, to be gender neutral. It was important to be as beige as possible in this process. I carried the yellow envelope, my valise and coffee and other mail back to my office. The return address was a P.O. box in California. Hmmmm. Opened it up and out came 4-5 pages of lined yellow legal paper that were covered with the same penciled scrawl on both sides. The script was large and loopy, and no sentence stayed on the lines of the paper. I jumped to the end and there was a name. It was from Manson. I sat at my desk in utter amazement. I called my husband, Howard, and said, "You won't believe this. I got a letter from Manson." I had to read it three times before it began to make even the slightest sense, but by the fourth reading it developed its own logic and order and I gathered we'd made contact. Much of it was a rant about the government and the prison system, with a glancing mention of Tom Snyder and the Tomorrow interview. The spelling was okay, and there was some punctuation, although the sentences ran on. The tone was polite and occasionally formal before it would dive back into the rant. I told Huddy about it. He was encouraged. I took it home and did some thinking before I composed a reply. My pitch was that if he'd written to me there must be some interest in an interview. I knew his parole hearing was imminent and we at CBS News had agreed we would not do any interview in advance of the hearing. We'd just be servicing him in that case. "But if you would like to do an interview after the hearing, we would come out there to talk with you." Or words to that effect. Manson and I became pen pals after that. More time passed. Letters went back and forth. The parole hearing happened and, of course, he was not paroled. Several weeks later I got a call from the warden. "Manson wants to do the interview," he said. "He can do it any time you want." I couldn't believe it. Just like that. It had been approximately a year since my first letter. It had never occurred to me this might actually happen, and now it was a "go." Huddy was delighted. My colleagues were impressed. No one could understand why I was not thrilled. It was simple. I'm scared of flying. What stood between me and the Manson interview was getting on an airplane. Alone. All the way to California. Instead of focusing on the interview, all I could think about was the moment of take-off. Hastily, I dashed about the Nightwatch offices, popping my head into other producers' sanctums, asking, "Do you want to go do Manson for me" My pal Steve McCarthy said, "Sure, but are you out of your mind? Why would you ever pass up this interview?" He made a deal with me. "Think about it overnight, and if you still don't want to do it, I'll take it," he said. "But you gotta do it." At home that evening I told Howard about my dilemma. He was accustomed to this kind of mania before every trip we took. "If it will make you go I'll go with you," he said. "You will?" He nodded. "Really?" He nodded. I jumped on him with a big kiss. "Thank you," I said. From that moment on I was excited about the interview. Charlie Rose was excited, too. For Nightwatch, which Huddy called, "the little engine that could," this was a big event. We were a middle of the night broadcast with a .9 rating. We were good television, we were fascinating, but we were small fry. For the next couple of weeks I prepared for the interview. Re-read Bugliosi's "Helter Skelter" and asked Charlie to do the same. Angus brought me every article written about Manson in the past decade. I interviewed prosecutors, who made a career of his case, and forensic psychologists, who specialized in the subject of Charlie Manson. For me, a child of the 60s, Manson was as familiar as the Beatles, Vietnam, Woodstock and Richard Nixon. I remember the exact moment I heard about the "Manson murders," standing in the newsroom at United Press International, sorting the mail as a lowly cub. It horrified everyone. It was a shock bigger than O.J. It was that in multiples. But I hadn't closely followed the case since Manson got sent away. I had to come up to speed. I asked CBS News for only two things - one, that Charlie Rose would have only this one assignment when we went to San Francisco. Typically, with our low budget show, if Charlie traveled anywhere we piled on as many "location" interviews as possible. He was left no time to breath, much less ponder and focus. There were trips to New York where we would knock off three long-form interviews in different parts of town BEFORE lunch. For this interview, I wanted him thinking only about Charlie Manson. Second, the choice of cameraman was critical. I had to have the best. I asked for Skip Brown, a stylish and seasoned veteran of wars and riots and the campaign trail. Again, typically, when Nightwatch traveled we were assigned a crew based on who was available out of the bureau where we were shooting. We were not permitted to pre-select. But I had to have Skip. He was freelancing at that time, and CBS was on a budget downhold, and I was told, "No outside crews." I went to Huddy. "I've got to have Skip Brown," I said. "He's the only one who can shoot this. He'll be good with both Charlies." Huddy pressed, the Washington bureau pressed, and I was granted Skip Brown. Then I asked that we be permitted to fly out the night before and have the whole day, so Charlie Rose would be rested. We got that, too. We flew to San Francisco in late February, 1986. My mother had died the month before and it was a welcomed trip. We flew out of a Washington covered in snow and landed in San Francisco in sunshine. I peered out the jet's window and saw ground crew in shirtsleeves. In the city there were flowers and green grass. I'd been told by the warden and the Manson experts that we would do the interview in the parole room at San Quentin. "You've got to remember, when he comes up, it will be the first time he's seen daylight in weeks. He's in solitary. He stays in solitary. Whenever his time in solitary is up, he does something to get back in solitary. He's afraid to be in the general prison population because he knows there are a whole bunch of guys who want to be the guy who killed Manson. So he stays in the hole and he never see's light." One psychologist advised me not to start the interview for at least 30 minutes. "Give him some time to look around," he said. "He'll be grateful." Charlie Rose and I hooked up with Skip Brown and his sound man after breakfast. It was great to see Skip but I was alarmed by one thing: he had a cast on his arm. "Skip, how are you gonna do this?" I asked. "Don't worry," he said with a reassuring purr. "I can do it." From Skip, that was enough. He wouldn't have taken the assignment if he couldn't shoot. Charlie Rose was in good form. He'd read all the many files I'd put together for him - several sharp articles, and an essay by me outlining where I thought the interview should go, and lots of possible questions. But on this one, Charlie didn't need the usual prep from me. Because he was not burdened with 4 or 5 interviews to do on this trip, he was focused and ready. When Charlie Rose is focused there's no better interviewer on the planet. I felt good. Eager. Ready to go. I dressed as gender neutral as possible. Gray trousers, white shirt, flats, no make-up, no adornment except for a stopwatch on a cord round my neck. The warden told me the prison had a "no hostage" policy, meaning that if there was a riot, and we were taken hostage, we were on our own. They would not make concessions for our release. Would my outfit make any difference in a prison riot? Most likely not. But I wanted to be as beige as possible, utterly in the background, of no obvious significance, simply camera, interviewer and guest from the sidelines. At San Quentin we went through three gates. At the last they asked us if we understood their hostage policy, and the guards at the gate recited it fully one last time. This sort of thing makes you swallow hard. You look up at that big, hard prison, and the locked gates behind you, and you settle, because this is one reason why you are in journalism: to go where others can't or won't or shouldn't. We said we understood and the four of us walked through the last gate and up to the main entrance, the parole hearing room off to the right. The warden greeted us in an affable way that belied the grim nature of his job. He showed us the room - big, high ceilings, windows along one wall, but otherwise nondescript. It could have been at the Agriculture Department, except for the view. Skip quickly got set up. Charlie, taking a seat at the large and long table in the middle of the room, composed himself with his notes. "We're ready," I announced. A discreet white door opened. Out came three 6' 5" guards, African Americans, who looked like they ate raw meat each morning, and between them was a chalk white, very small, very blank-faced, bearded but clean Charlie Manson. They stopped him in front of me, almost as if it was a handover. Manson and I were an arm's length apart. I was not scared. The top of his head came only to my nose. His build was slight. Also, there were the guards who towered over him, and he was in chains in three places. I remembered the forensic psychologist's advice. "You won't believe the color of his skin. It's never touched by daylight." He was right. It looked like tracing paper. I also remembered this: "Ask the guards to take off the shackles. That'll buy you some trust. If you ask the guards, they'll do it." It was an odd place to be, working for Charlie Manson's trust. "Would you please take off his shackles," I asked, making eye contact with Manson. The emptiness behind those dark eyes was not menacing. They were more sad than murderous. The swastika carved in his forehead was at odds with his demeanor. In repose he was almost lifeless, but showed relief as the guards unchained him at the wrists, the waist and the ankles. There was none of the usual shaking of hands that precedes typical interviews. We both stood with our arms at our sides. He walked away, heading directly for the big, ceiling high windows and their million dollar view of San Francisco Bay. It was a gorgeous, sunny day. The sky yellow with sunshine, the water bright blue. There were sailboats making their way on a reach. It was the world as the rest of us know it. A world Manson never really understood or occupied. We gave him some initial time alone, and then Charlie Rose and I walked over to discuss the interview with him, pointing out we would stop the interview only briefly to change tapes. We didn't say a lot, and then Charlie and I returned to the big table and the crew, leaving Manson at the window, where for 20 minutes he stared out at the world. Eventually I interrupted his trance with a soft but firm, "Shall we start?" Manson took a seat across from Charlie Rose at the long and wide parole hearing table, and we began. Charlie Rose that day conducted the single most important interview Manson ever gave by doing one simple thing: he talked to Manson like he understood what Manson was saying. He listened. He let Manson tell his story in a chronological way. Manson, as I learned in letter after letter, believed his story makes sense and that it explains who he is, why he is, and why he did everything he did. Not surprisingly, his view is of him as victim: of his prostitute mother, of living most of his life in prison, and of a group of misguided, middle-class, privileged young hangers on who thought his prison hardened oeuvre was cool in the Haight-Ashbury street culture of the 60s. It's all clear to him, though not at all to the rest of us. Charlie Rose allowed Manson to be as cogent and logical as he will ever be. My role was to simply let that keep happening for as long as the warden would let us roll tape. Skip, cast on his focus hand, changed tapes swiftly and silently so the flow was not interrupted. I couched there a few feet from the camera and Charlie and simply willed the interview to stay brilliantly aloft. It was Manson and it was us and all we had to do was get this moment on tape in a way that would make it as real for the home audience as it was for those of us in the room. With Charlie Rose on that day I felt like our brains were one and that everything that was in my head was in his head, too. It's probably what conductors feel like when it's clear the first violin doesn't need to be conducted. I'd done my work, now Charlie Rose was doing his. He listened compassionately, but when Manson veered off course he brought him back, and when Manson jived him he reigned him in. It was a masterful interview. We'd gone for an hour, but still I wanted another 30 minutes. The warden signaled that our time would soon be up. I remembered what the experts said. "When Manson realizes the interview is about to end he will start to go nuts. Just be prepared for that." Charlie Rose was prepared, and by the time I said, "this will be our last tape," the significant part of the interview was in the can. Now would be the theatrics. In those last few minutes, Manson rose from his seat and jumped around, windmilling his arms, wild eyed, preaching his "power of the pole," and gyrating his hips as if to be fornicating. It was a performance of crazed desperation, the Manson the public expects to see. Manson reared and heaved himself forward across the table at Charlie, firing up the "Maniacal Manson" face. The guards braced themselves, but Charlie Rose didn't flinch, and Manson backed down. He knew how far he could go. Charlie Rose was not impressed with the antics, but let them happen. Skip rolled on it. I held my breath. The moment Charlie Rose said, "thank you," and Skip stopped the camera, the guards had Manson back in his shackles and out the door. Here and gone, just like that. We shook hands with the prison officials, packed up, and got out of there. It was a relief to walk back through the three sets of gates and leave San Quentin behind us. Charlie recorded some stand-up opens outside the gates and our work there was done. In sharp contrast to my day, Howard took me to dinner that night at some swanky San Francisco gastronomic temple where I breathlessly recounted the experience, frame by frame. An overload of adrenaline was still in my blood. I returned to Washington with a large bag of tapes. We got a transcript made and then the editor and I sat in a dark edit booth for two days and two nights, putting it together. My goal was to keep the chronology in tact. In the end, we cut only for time, and the final edit was pretty much how it happened. Huddy gave us a full hour. It aired on March 7, 1986 to much fanfare and plaudits from our colleagues and bosses. The following year, at New York's Waldorf Astoria, Charlie and I won the National Emmy Award for "Best Interview." For a few months after the taping I received occasional letters from Manson, and one or two from Ms. Fromme, and then no more. Manson got moved from San Quentin a few years after our piece aired. He goes up for parole occasionally, but it's highly unlikely he'll ever be free. Friday, May 27th...Ah, summer is here. It feels like it, too. The radio said there was a mass exodus for the Memorial Day weekend, but it doesn't feel like it this evening. The streets of Georgetown are jammed with locals and visitors. It was a little slow at Nathans at first, but it's picking up. Lunch was good. Spen had his last lacrosse game of the season and that did make it feel like the school year is just about over. Exams and then ... the open road. Well, not immediately. Some lacrosse camp and then we're off. I'm trying to figure out how to blog from the trip. It would be so much fun to be in all these parts of America, sending up reports and photos to right here. I'm thinking of Ella Pozell tonight. Rev. Stuart Kenworthy said it best when someone asked him if Ella would be alone now. "She's not alone," he said, "she's now living with a big hairy beast called grief." That is so true. It doesn't really hit until after the last person goes out the door and she's alone in the home she shared with Joe. And then, what? Clean out his closets. Pack away his stuff. There will be all these little things that are just as he left them and it will tear her to pieces. So, if you are a friend, call her. On a personal note, I received an angry e-mail from a reader who thought I'd done a disservice to Joe by writing about other things here that do not have to do with him, his death, his funeral, or other ceremonies in his honor. He wrote: "I just felt that it would have been appropriate for one day to talk just about Joe and not the party or the A-list guests. However, it's obviously your blog and I know that everyone expresses grief differently. If
I offended you, I'm sorry. Why don't you channel your energy into making a contribution to getting involved in the community like Joe did." First of all, I like feedback. I welcome email. Second, this blog, like it or not, is a report of my life, basically. It's what it is, "Diary of a Mad Saloon Owner." I report on what's happening to me, around me, and so forth. Joe's death was covered in here for quite a few days, because he mattered to me and his death mattered. I gave it the prominence it deserves. Yes, I also wrote about some other things that have been going on. One of those other things was the party for an art opening at Debbie Dean's gallery. Mentioning the party was not meant as an act of disrespect to Joe, and I know Joe and Ella would recognize that. It's a big tent. There's room for all of us.
Thursday, May 26th... A CORNER MOURNS This picture was taken today at the corner of Wisconsin and M. All the street signs are hung with black; an intersection in mourning. The picture is poignant, too, because it shows the beautiful Riggs bank, with its name as if erased, and PNC slapped on hastily and awkwardly. The two pictures below were also taken today and show the murals that adorn Nathans vestibule. They were painted by local artist Neal Oseroff. Neal has done a lot of work at Nathans, commissioned years ago by Howard. He painted the faux fronts for the fireplace (a blazing fire for the cold weather, a bowl of magnolia blossoms for the warm weather), and he did the faux marble trim and the faux wood columns in the back dining room. I commissioned this mural back in the winter. The scene - Georgetown's canal in the 19th century - was Neal's idea. He did the work for the cost of his supplies, which was extraordinarily generous of him. The next time you arrive at Nathans take the time to stop and look at the mural more closely. He's available for other painterly projects. Call "Erin" at Nathans (338.2000) and she'll provide his number. At the community lunch with David Brooks yesterday we discussed the lather the right is in over the soapy commercial Paris Hilton did for Carl's Jr. Some have asked for a link, and so here's my community service of the week: http://www.chrisapplebaum.com/carlsparis.html An elected official once asked me to get him the OTHER Paris Hilton video, and we dutifully obliged on that occasion, too. ...and while we're on politics. One of the radio blabbers was saying today that the American Idol vote was an affirmation of the Bush re-election. His theory: that the red state/Bush voters went for Carrie, while the blue state/Kerry voters went for Bo. That's why I love this country - free speech. A new newspaper gets tossed on my doorstep on random days of the week. It's called The Examiner. Nicholas Horrock is the M.E. It's pretty good. It has some stories the other papers don't have, and it reads local in a good way. Affectionately, it reminds me of the old Daily News. Same size, similar tone. This morning one particular story got me all fired up. It told how on baseball's opening day at RFK the beloved folks at parking enforcement had 20 individuals and 10 tow trucks ready to heap evil on the happy fans. Now, let's get one thing straight: parking enforcement doesn't operate in a vacuum. Their mandate comes from the mayor. What kind of mayor allows the first day of baseball -- an event he proudly brought to Washington -- to be a feast day for the ticket vultures? The city proudly handed out 812 tickets during the first three games alone, according to The Examiner. Even the people who live near RFK feel the tactics are overly aggressive. (Hello! Come to Georgetown if you want to see overly aggressive parking enforcement. We're the prototype for "no car goes unticketed.") This city will never be major league until it gets cool about parking enforcement. Cool is not shooting fish in a barrel. Cool is not targeting events that bring outsiders into our city. Cool is having a rational approach to this necessary process. Sure, the city makes a big dime off tickets, but think how much money is lost on the people who are P.O.'ed and don't come back. Shouldn't we be wooing outsiders, picking their pockets with kindness and service and a reputation for good will? Duh. Double duh. New feature on the website tonight: My Georgetown. I got a new camera and I intend to spend my summer using it. Meaning: I'm Georgetown's new paparazzo. Watch out. Wednesday, May 25th...Happy Birthday to my brother, Robert K. Ross. What was heartening today were the numbers of people who, after the lunch with David Brooks, stopped to say, "what a great way to end the season." Indeed. Mr. Brooks was smart, of course, and candid, thankfully, and amusing all the way through. He had everyone listening and nodding and laughing, and that includes the liberals. I would be quoting him right now except I'm just returned from the Tudor Place annual fundraiser and feel the need -- due to my recent intimate email relationship with some of the show's fans -- to watch the final episode of "American Idol." Both finalists sound alike, except one is blond and female and the other is bearded and male. So far, it's very loud. Tudor Place was a good party and it didn't rain, and there were women in fanciful hats and one man in a straw boater. I particularly enjoyed a talk with John Ireland, who I'd not met before, and John Richardson, who I see almost every day as he roams around Georgetown doing his contracting work. Mostly I hung out with Richard and Katherine Bull, and Myra Moffett. Myra and I arrived together, with Toby and Mary Moffett, and departed together, with only each other and couple of bouquets of beautiful roses. For some reason when I arrived I didn't feel like talking to anyone but then, after a little while, got over that and joined the party. Carrie Underwood just won "American Idol," which reminds me of something Brooks said today at lunch: don't discount the fat American middle. Meaning, what I've always believed and learned from the "Larry King Live" years, that the buzz may come from the coasts but the ratings come from the nation's middle. The long-haired "Bo" was the favored contestant, but if the votes were analyzed we'd probably learn Carrie Underwood owned the fat middle of the country. So the underdog won, which is the better story. Nonetheless, the result seemed to surprise a lot of people in the audience. No one seems to know whether Joe Pozell, as a reserve DC police officer, qualifies for death benefits. This is important. He was a volunteer reserve office who died in the line of duty. The city awarded him the Blue Shield and a burial with full honors. However, those who know Joe say he told the job offered no pay and no benefits. There is no precedent here for a reserve officer being killed in the line of duty. Therefore I propose the mayor set a precedent. Death benefits should be given to a reserve officer's family when that officer is killed in the line of duty. It would be an honorable thing to do, and would be an unequivocal sign of support for the reserve officer corps. One of my pet peeves is "no shows" at the community lunches. Because we don't make money on the lunches (we break even) we order and prepare the food based on the number of confirmed reservations. When 10-12 people don't show, as sometimes happens, it can hurt. Well, a restaurateur in Rome got hit even worse.
...It's now possible to make contributions
to a fund for Ella Pozell at PNC Bank (Riggs). This was set up by
branch manager Joseph Reamer with Ella's permission. All you have
to do is go to the bank and say you want to make a contribution to her account.
As they say, just do it.... Here is the link to the piece Channel
9's Dave Statter did about the friendship between Joe Pozell and
there, click on "related video."
...Terrific appearance by Anthony Lanier today at the Nathans Community Lunch. I feel confident the sold out crowd left knowing lots more than they did before about the art of real estate deals in Georgetown, and Washington, and the high wire act that is being a developer. My first question was, "where does the money come from?" and his short answer was "debt," and then he explained the path of funding from the pockets of George Soros to his current partners, a group of German investors. "And how much of it is yours?" I asked. "I don't really know," was his clever reply. He agrees Georgetown Park needs to be turned into something useful for people who live here, but first he has to get the mall out of the hands of AT&T, the current owners. He thinks the Whitehurst Freeway should be 86'd, and he still hopes the M Street sidewalks can be widened. "If they had been then Joe Pozell would be dead," he said.
Tonight I went to Anthony's new restaurant for dinner. Leopold's is the name and it's tucked down there on Cady's Alley. We sat outside by the fountain. My meal, if I were reviewing for Michelin, would get 1 star. It was that good. Incredible, really, beginning with the "cocktail" course of herbed pommes frites. I'm a French fry fiend. I'll go way out of my way for a good fry. These are perfect, crispy, little stick fries - dark brown and crunchy or golden and chewy in all the right places, and dusted with the lightest and tastiest herbs. My vodka cocktail was in a good looking rocks glass, too. Started with a salad of greens and shredded beets. For a main course it was the breaded veal - schnitzel - in a dreamy mustard sauce and topped with paper thin lemon slices that melded the right dose of bitter to the sweet. There were some greens, too. For dessert I had the made to order cheese strudel with vanilla sauce and stewed blueberries. Honestly, I was in Vienna ... helped along by an authentic Viennese coffee, served with a small glass of water on the side. Ellen Charles had the same salad, beautiful mussels in broth, and a baked chocolate mousse. For the two of us, with cocktails and wine added, it was $135. Expensive, but worth it. Given the ambience of the outdoor terrace, the assortment of neighbors at the other tables -- Mac and Celia Lovell, Judy Cochran and friends, Betsy Cooley and friends, Debbie Dean and family, as well as a table of 6 young men and another two tables with couples, it was a comfortable night out in the neighborhood. An elderly lady dined with a friend who later brought the car round to the alley to pick her up. She made baby steps from the restaurant to the car and just as she reached the door a man got up to open the door for her. It was a nice moment.
Earlier...Haunted during the night by memories of the first days after Howard died. Even though it feels like they had gone away to storage I suppose they're always fairly close, and can easily be resuscitated by events. Anybody who has lost someone knows what I'm writing about. Because Howard's death was sudden and unexpected I was mostly in a state of shock, a benevolent fog. He died on a Saturday morning and was buried on Thursday. The hours between morning and night were filled with activity, as there were so many plans to be made for the visitation and funeral. There was no down time. Family and friends surrounded me. My body rode a constant overload of adrenaline. But then at some point, and I can't remember whether it was the first or second night, and despite a bedtime Attivan, I was stirred from sleep by the stark awful reality, the certainty of it - he was gone. Gone completely. The aloneness caved in on me, there in the darkness in my big, empty bed. The feeling was a creeping hollowness that got filled in by horror and fear and despair. There was no one to take care of us, to look out for us. We were alone in the world, abandoned. Last night, all of that returned. I'll be a zombie all day.
Wednesday, May 18th...This e-mail arrived late tonight from a reader who wants to make an important point. Please keep in mind the police did not charge the woman who hit Joe Pozell. They said she was not doing anything wrong in her driving and that Joe stepped into her path, which is completely believable given the craziness of that intersection. This is the email to me from Lynette Warneke Gray, and the e-mail she received from a friend of the driver.
To:Lynette Subject: Thank You I am a friend of the driver of the car, and your (Lynette's) website is the first that I have seen that has asked for prayers for ALL involved in this tragedy, not just Officer Pozell and his family. I just want to thank you, because my friend is in desperate need of prayers as well right now. So, thank you.
Earlier - A sense of being back to business as usual today, but a layer beneath that sure-footed front is quiet sadness. Whatever else was going on in our lives on this breezy and buttery spring day, we were a community in mourning. I would guess Georgetowners have not felt this emotionally bonded since 9/11. Symbols mean a lot, and the most eloquent symbol today were the bouquets of flowers that Petra from the Benetton store taped to the lamp posts on the four corners of Wisconsin and M. Tacked up, too, were little hand scrawled notes like, "Joe Pozell, we miss you." The funeral service will be Monday at 10 a.m. at the Washington National Cathedral. On Saturday, 300 police reserve officers will gather in the intersection where Joe was hit to have a moment of silence at the time in the afternoon -- approximately 3:30 -- when the accident happened a week before. Ella Pozell, their son, Joe, and other family members will be there, too. Everyone is invited to come and participate. Joe's devoted partner, Greg Frank, said the organizers would like to use Nathans as a staging base. If you need to know details, call us. We'll try to answer your questions.
It's human nature to celebrate life, and there was a lot of that tonight at a terrific party Nancy Bagley hosted with Debbie Dean at Debbie's M Street antiques emporium, Gore Dean. It felt like everyone needed to at least try to shake off the blues. The decor, drinks and food were A-list and some of the guests were, too. Debbie and I go waaaaay back, to when I was first with Howard and she was tending bar at the family bistro, The Guards. Howard and I would show up there, but never before midnight. More than once a whole group of us partied together through the night and to the dawn. Oh, reckless youth. There are times now when I want to party all night, but I'm never able to completely get it done. Alas, tonight's party was this side of midnight. Anthony Lanier is ready for his community lunch tomorrow, even though he seemed worried about the Q&A. I've had dinner with Anthony (actually, Anthony and Carter Brown - imagine those two together), and he will be fascinating. He's got a great story to tell. David Deckelbaum was his usual charming self. Also in the charm column: Count Henry von Eichel. Henry and I used to go out a lot, but now he's married again and so, well, ah, we meet at parties. It's a bummer when a frequent companion goes off and gets hitched. Anna Marie Cox pulled herself away from her novel for a little while. She said she hates the writing but loves the after-writing. I think we both privately hoped Isikoff would walk in the door, but knew it was highly unlikely. A Washington party isn't quite the same with Isikoff on the low profile. Come to think of it, this party was conspicuously without hound dogs. Oh, there were some, but who play on the other team. Hmmmm. Maybe the fun boys were among the three blocks of people lined up for the six SOLD OUT midnight showings of the new Star Wars movie at the Loews. Speaking of ... later at Nathans, which was inching toward busy, I said hi to Richard Bernstein who was having dinner with a blonde at table 43. They had the window view but basically looked only at each other. She was visiting him from Florida, which means they've actually made it beyond just one date. Hooray. Peter Driscoll said hello. We had a catch up stop-n-chat. I met him through Tony and Margaret Parker, who I haven't seen in 75 years. Then, on the way home, stopped in Potomac Wine and Spirits for my you-know-what (made out of paper, not liquor) and bumped into Channel 9's Dave Statter, which was a happy coincidence.
At the Nancy Bagley party I did meet a neat guy named James Grayson Trulove. This is his rap sheet from Amazon: James Grayson Trulove is the author, publisher, and editor of dozens of books addressing the subjects of architecture, landscape architecture, and garden design. His most recent books include Sustainable Homes, The Smart Loft, and Private Towers. He resides in Washington, DC and New York. We had a good talk. He's one of Georgetown's little treasures. It was that kind of night.
Tuesday, May 17th...Georgetowner, Oak Hill Cemetery manager and reserve DC Police officer Joe Pozell died this evening at George Washington University hospital. My thoughts are with Ella Pozell, young Joe, and big Joe's many brothers and sisters. We as a community should be thinking about what we can do for Ella. We're a resourceful group of people. While she needs us now, she'll need us even more two weeks, two months, six months on. For now, good bye, Joe. You will be missed. Other matters: they say a journey begins with the planning. If that's the case then I've been on a cross country road trip for more than a month now. Most of the plotting and booking is exciting and fun, (for example, a Segway tour of Chicago) but it's time consuming to factor every mile from here to the Oregon coast and back again. Most nights after my duties are done and it's quiet, I sit at the computer, jogging between Mapquest, AAA, Mobil, Fodors Talk, Yahoo satellites, various hotel websites, Roadfood.com, Trip Advisor and so forth. I keep a big map of the U.S. on the wall behind my desk and stand at it with a magnifying glass for minutes on end, tracing roads from this town to that town. After a lot of research I'll decide on a perfect town with an ideal indigenous hotel, call up, and find that their five rooms are booked. Sigh. Back to the books and websites. Just last night I confirmed us a night in an authentic native American tipi (one of two) at a B&B (or T&B) outside Pine Ridge, SD, near Wounded Knee. On the Fourth of July we'll be at a rodeo and stampede in Cody, Wy. When it's all plotted I'll outline the itinerary here, because it has been a labor of hard work and love. I find now that wherever I call I get into chats with the managers or owners about our trip, asking way too many questions but receiving a lot of patience, good advice and old-fashioned American hospitality. Talked to Michael Isikoff tonight. He was out to dinner, which is a good sign. After all, he shouldn't hide. His attitude is good. He's not taking any of this lightly but he is keeping an eye on the horizon. He won't do it, but I still think he should nail his source to a tree on the mall. Monday, May 16th...This evening ... It was easily one of the most memorable gatherings in the quarter century I've lived in Georgetown, and it's heartbreaking the occasion was so sad. In a cool, leafy setting under a golden red sunset, an elderly couple stood next to a woman in a pin striped business suit who was next to a teenager holding a skateboard who was next to a famous network anchorman who stood beside a merchant who was next to a uniformed Secret Service officer who was behind a family who had their dog on a leash who were beside a young woman who used her candle to help light the candle of a plainclothes detective who offered his candle to light the candle of a well known man about town who leaned down to light the candle of a child. All of them in Montrose Park this evening to hold candles high in the air in tribute to Joe Pozell. Ella Pozell, proud and strong, was the last to arrive and take a seat with her son in the center of a row that included Mayor Williams, Police Chief Charles Ramsey, Councilmember Jack Evans and other council members, ANC reps, community leaders, all of whom spoke to a large crowd that represented the community of Georgetown and beyond. Friends whispered one to another that the prognosis was not good for Joe to be able to pull through, and Ella Pozell confirmed her husband's condition is grave. "He was very, very critically injured," she said. We knew what that meant. Ella's strength helped all of us during the deeply emotional moment when Chief Ramsey presented her the Blue Shield for Joe - the police equivalent of a Purple Heart. She said she would take it to him at the hospital. Here is a picture I took at the vigil, during the singing of "Amazing Grace." There are other pictures from this evening's vigil at Joe Pozell Vigil. Earlier we learned that the Metropolitan Police, after investigating, have decided not to bring charges against the woman who hit Joe. Apparently the evidence shows he may have backed into her path and it was, in every way, an accident. --To my dear pal Michael Isikoff: Hang in there. You're a good reporter and you'll get through this, but out that "senior U.S. government official" who gave you the dangerously bum tip. You relied on this source and the source screwed you. If you're not comfortable revealing the name, then find another way to hang him/her out to dry. From Newsweek: "At NEWSWEEK, veteran investigative reporter Michael Isikoff's interest had been sparked by the release late last year of some internal FBI e-mails that painted a stark picture of prisoner abuse at Guantánamo. Isikoff knew that military investigators at Southern Command (which runs the Guantánamo prison) were looking into the allegations. So he called a longtime reliable source, a senior U.S. government official who was knowledgeable about the matter. The source told Isikoff that the report would include new details that were not in the FBI e-mails, including mention of flushing the Qur'an down a toilet.... On Saturday, Isikoff spoke to his original source, the senior government official, who said that he clearly recalled reading investigative reports about mishandling the Qur'an, including a toilet incident. But the official, still speaking anonymously, could no longer be sure that these concerns had surfaced in the SouthCom report." I'm stuck at home so far today, as B&B Air Conditioning is trying still to repair my new A/C they just installed. I can't leave because they might need to get inside. Right now they're up on the roof. This was the kind of at home duty Howard loved to do, and I would happily be off at work. There are a good half dozen projects I need to be doing elsewhere, but instead I'm cooling my jets here, doing laundry, cleaning the kitchen, working on the website, and going outside every 30 minutes to shout up toward the roof, "Any progress yet?" Sunday, May 15th...Guarded optimism. Those words are the message regarding Joe Pozell this evening. He made it through the night, he made it through the first 24 hours, which apparently is key with a brain injury. His doctors at George Washington University hospital are the best, and family and friends are there keeping watch. Mayor Anthony Williams visited more than once, and D.C. Police Chief Charles Ramsey remained at the hospital for a very long time, along with other police officials and regular cops from the beat. Ella, Joe's wife, and their son, and the son's fiancée, are together, spending hours at the hospital but also taking a break at home, which is good. Most of all, Ella's not alone. All that can be done right now is to wait as the swelling goes down on Joe's brain. Apparently, the doctors reduced the respirator and Joe was able to bat his eyes lightly. This was considered an optimistic sign. What we know is that his critical injury is the brain injury. He also has a broken leg from when the car hit him. The impact hurled him in the air and he landed on his head. There will be a candlelight vigil to honor Joe Pozell tomorrow evening at Montrose Park, in the vicinity where the park adjoins Oak Hill Cemetery. I believe it's being organized by D.C. councilmember Jack Evans. People will gather at 7:30 for the vigil, and it's open to everyone. If there are more details, I will include them in tomorrow's blog. I think Joe would like that, because a couple of months ago he told me he was a regular reader of this journal. It was close to the time when he asked me to photograph the cemetery for Oak Hill's website - a rewarding project I wrote about here. A while ago I photographed Joe directing traffic, too, and tonight I will hunt for those pics. Earlier this evening I talked to Jean Lange about Joe's volunteering to direct traffic at Wisconsin and M, and we both agreed he was brave to do that job. She remembered how he once stopped her, as a pedestrian, from crossing against a light, "but he did it in a way that wasn't mean," she said. That's the thing about Joe. He can be as gruff as an old grizzly bear - I mean, how else do you get nitwits to stop when they are supposed to - but there is an element of wry humor under the tough cop exterior. To direct traffic in an effective way is an art form, and an act of bravery, especially in DC, where we know drivers consider a yellow light merely a suggestion and speeding and red-light running are commonplace. Joe's very good friend is Lt. Pat Burke, head of traffic enforcement for DC Police. Pat knows all about the kinds of bad driving that leads to what happened to Joe. All we learned today regarding the woman who struck Joe is that "charges are pending." One more thing about Joe and his gruff exterior. When we buried Howard at Oak Hill in 1997 I broke the "no pets" rule and brought our little Bichon Frise dog, Teddy, to the funeral. Teddy was Howard's other baby and needed to be there. Joe started to sputter and rolled his eyes at the sight of the dog, but then he shrugged his shoulders and made a face as if to say, "if this is the way you want it then it's the way it should be." To completely change the subject, I had dinner last night with Dorothy McGhee at Buck's Fishing and Camping on Connecticut Ave. Our meal was prepared by co-owner James Alefantis and, from beginning to end, it was excellent. Chopped chicken livers on toast points, asparagus soup, grilled shrimp, steak, chocolate cake with whipped cream and fudge sauce. Whatever we asked for, they accommodated us. The entire experience - from beginning to end - A+++, including the almost biblical thunderstorm outside. The wine list was diverse and fun. Would have jumped into it except had to pickup boys from a birthday party in Chevy Chase and drive them home to Georgetown. Saturday, May 14th...The Georgetown intersection of Wisconsin and M Streets is one of the busiest intersections in the Washington, DC, area. It is congested with traffic and people, especially at weekday rush hour and mid-day on weekends. During these peak times, one man, and one man only, regularly volunteers to direct traffic in that intersection. It is Reserve Officer Joseph Pozell - the epitome of a dedicated public servant. Joe has a day job, running Oak Hill Cemetery. Risking his life in the middle of Wisconsin and M is what he does for the community. Today he was hit and critically injured by a 19 year old girl driving an S.U.V. As I write this at 11:30 pm, Joe is on a respirator at George Washington University hospital. Everyone in the community, and many of Nathans customers, are distraught about what happened and are hoping he'll pull through. After all, he is as much a fixture in the intersection as the gold dome on Riggs bank. Watching Joe direct traffic was an expected and often entertaining site in Georgetown. It was like watching a toreador, but instead of taking on one bull Joe took on dozens of them at a time. Trucks, cabs, cars, SUV's, motorcycles - all coming at him from four different directions. It was obviously a dangerous job, but that didn't keep Joe from getting it done. With the drivers and the pedestrians he was both stern and amiable, a benevolent dictator. Often, as I came and went from Nathans, crossing over to the bank or toward Banana, he would catch my eye and give me a wave from where he stood in the middle of the action. Tonight the local TV stations reported on what happened to Joe, underscoring his special brand of volunteerism. Hopefully tomorrow there will be better news about his condition. My thoughts are with his wife, Ella, and others in his family. Friday, May 13th...Sat down to dinner at La Chaumiere and within a few seconds of my first sip of the Stoli on the rocks with a splash of cranberry and a squish of fresh lime, my son asked, "Mom, have you had sex with anyone since Dad died?" Was I glad the vodka had made it all the way down. I'd taken him with me to a party at Katharine Weymouth's to celebrate Mary Jordan and Kevin Sullivan's book, "The Prison Angel," and while the party was packed with every highbrow and hot shot from The Washington Post, it wasn't exactly sexually charged. So where did this come from? But then, he's 13 and the hormones are exploding. As long as it took to write these last few sentences is as long as I paused before answering, though I know my eyes were blushing along with my cheeks. (Where to go? What to say? How to answer? Is this the moment to evade or be blunt? Use humor, I decided.) "Have you had sex with anyone since Dad died?" I asked. He laughed the cutest laugh. "Mom! No!" One option was to say, "it's none of your business," but in our unique mother-son journey, openness is key to survival, and it goes both ways. The choice was to be candid or coy, evasion wasn't going to work. "Well, yes, along the way, yes," I said. "I am a completely normal human being." (That was good. Use reassurance. Equate sex with eating, sleeping, going to the dentist.) "Anyone special?" he asked. "Special at the time," I said. Now, he was blushing. "My mom's had sex!" (Where's the waiter with the appetizers???) "How did I not know this?" he asked. "Spen," I said, in my most motherly tone, "I've tried to be careful and discreet." He said, "you weren't going to answer honestly at first, were you?" Hmmm. "It's not that," I said, "I was remembering the night a few years ago when you bounded down the steps and said, 'I just want you to know if you have sex with another man you will be cheating on Daddy so you better not. It won't be fair. You can't have sex with anyone but Daddy.' I was trying to decide if that was still your position." He said, "Mom, I was 8 or 9. I've changed since then." Then, the appetizers arrived and we got back to talking about lacrosse and exams. Sigh. P.S. Jane Stanton Hitchcock was at the Weymouth party, looking great and gleefully psyched about our gig at the Mandarin Oriental June 14th. At the very least, this night will be the most fun that's happened just off 12th Street in a long, long time. Earlier... Ever scream into a pillow? Sometimes, alone on the highway at 75 mph, I do a silent scream. Mouth open wide as possible, hands gripped to the wheel, hair in the wind, eyes flashing. Afterward, the face muscles relax. But when you scream into a pillow -- full volume -- the brain muscles relax. It's a good feeling. Screaming into a loud sea works the same way, too. It's been that kind of day, but mostly because of having to do too much. Virtually none of the stress has to do with Nathans. In fact, we're clicking along okay at the corner of Wisconsin and M. Business has been good. Cool evening weather is helping. Also, as I wrote on another day, it feels like people are back in town -- business, convention people -- in before 9/11 numbers. They don't spend like before, but they are in the streets, in the shops, in the bars and restaurants. Fridays are just generally a drag and anyone who resides in WidowWorld would understand. Fridays are unrelentingly the same in that the phone calls from girlfriends stop at 6 p.m., ditto the email, and do not resume until Monday morning. As a mother (and long time wife) most, if not all, of my girlfriends are mothers and wives, too. After Howard died I tried for a while to befriend single people, thinking they would be my new set. It was difficult. They go out to dinner at 9 o'clock, they're miffed by references to children and school, and find it hard to relate to words like, "gotta go let the babysitter go home," "gotta host a sleepover." Or, "gotta go to bed." Hey, I was unencumbered once and it was great and I'm sure my attitude toward married people with children was that they were from Mars. I believe I thought of them as people who watched TV and cooked dinner at home and, like, actually made plans. In my single 20s plans were something that were made five minutes ahead of time, if that. But when I said "I do" it all changed. I loved married life and planning Friday or Saturday dinners alone as a couple or with friends. I counted on the routine of it. The first time I got hit with the fact I was really no longer in the marrieds club happened in the first year of widowhood. Called a girlfriend on Friday at 6, and said, "Want to do something?" Silence and then a sigh. "Oh, Carol, wish I could but Harry wants to go to dinner, just the two of us." "Oh, okay. Let's talk Monday." Slammed down the phone and muttered, "bitch." (My shrink said, "that's a very healthy sign.") Another time, calling after 7, interrupted the start of a dinner party of my girlfriends and their husbands. You know, couples. Felt like the urchin out in the cold with face pressed against the window, looking inside at the happy people. After a dozen more times of similar Friday or Saturday awkwardness with different girlfriends I learned not to make that call. It's not horrible. It's an adjustment. You find other ways. You find people who can be available and who have some common ground. It involves some effort but it's worth it. Which is why, tomorrow night when Spen goes to a birthday party, I will go to dinner with my funny, cantankerous, wordly, smart and divorced friend Dorothy McGhee. Her children are older, but she remembers the teen years. We probably won't talk about kids or school at all, but when I say, "gotta go pickup Spen and his buddies," she'll relate. Thursday, May 12th...The community lunch today with Edie Schafer and Frida Burling was interesting, often amusing, and I hope fun for them. They are Georgetown's answer to Jennifer Lopez and Britney Spears (you decide who's who), and that's how they got introduced. Our two divas are strong-minded, caring, generous, tender when necessary, not when necessary, focused and utterly devoted to Georgetown. It's lunches like this one that remind me of why I started the Q&A back in October 2001 - to give back to the community for all the community has given to me. Some of the best lunches are those that focus on where we live. Speaking of where we live, and story to which every homeowner can relate: we turned on the new air conditioning last night, the new air conditioning that was installed last week for many many $$$$. At 3 a.m. the temp in our bedrooms was 80 degrees. So today, after school run, community lunch and the third lacrosse game this week, had to race home to meet the guys from B&B so they could go back up on the roof and "take a look." Seems something got busted during the installation. They will fix it next week. Let's hope the evening temps are cool until then. Oops, got to go. One of the kitchen drawers just collapsed and it must be put back together before I get bathed, dressed, and to the Rose Park Spring Benefit in 30 minutes. Earlier...Second day lead on the Cessna attack - we learn that while Veep Dick Cheney was whooshed out of the White House grounds in a caravan of armored vehicles, First Lady Laura Bush and former First Lady Nancy Reagan were taken to a room in the mansion itself. What's that about? In case of a direct hit, get the guys out but leave the women inside the target? I'm sure they will tell us it was a "secure" and "safe" room, but it's the message that matters, too. Also, we learned that DC Mayor Williams and the police were not notified of the fracas until AFTER the all clear. This underscores the dirty little secret about life in Washington, but Washington the residential city simply does not rank within the federal framework. They throw crumbs, and we scarf them up, we pay our taxes, but we're owned and operated by the Feds. They are the parents and we're the children. And we have to use our allowance to pay for our toys - as in the new baseball stadium. Big doings at Nathans today - our "diva" lunch with Edie Schafer and Frida Burling, and I use the word diva in the best sense. We're sold out. This will be a lot of fun and I'm excited. Can barely talk from bad case of pollen throat, and so will be croaking and squeaking through Q&A. Next week Anthony Lanier, then David Brooks the week after, then a brief respite and a wind up with Jane Stanton Hitchcock at the Mandarin Oriental. Please come to all. Wednesday, May 11th...There was a faux terrorist scare today. A small plane flew into restricted air space and the Capitol and White House were evacuated. Fighter jets swooped in over the rooftops to intercept the plane and "escort" it to a landing strip in Frederick, Md. The other option was to shoot it down. Then, it was over and everyone went back to work and to bite their nails. The authorities say the perps were simply inept pilots - a student and teacher off course on a flight to North Carolina. Being a skeptic, I wonder if this was a set-up on the part of Homeland Security, like a fire drill, to find out how a real event would be handled. (C+ according to most.) Then, in a darker moment, I wonder if the bad guys set it up, with several degrees of separation, for the same reason. After all, this is post 9/11 America; everyone knows not to fly over Washington. Went to a party this evening in Adams Morgan at a bar named Chloe. It was tossed by Capitol File publisher Jason Binn, Sens. Arlen Specter (R-Pa) and Tom Harkin (D-Ia) for the "Nanny," Fran Drescher, and her campaign to raise awareness of women's cancer issues. The subtext seemed to be unencumbered men-about-town on the prowl. The men were my age and the women were half that. The pack of A-list fun boys included Jim Kimsey, Joe Robert, Michael Isikoff, Richard Bernstein, Tom Quinn, Hani Masri. Gathered on an outdoor deck, surrounded by femme fans, it was hound dogs and implants, and, honestly, waaaaay intimidating for a middle aged matron. But being invisible at this kind of party is not all bad. Great opportunity to absorb the scene: hounds, foxes, photographers, martinis and amped up rave tracks. It was like visiting another planet, and fun. Meanwhile, at Nathans, we had a good night. Earlier...Okay, call me a sucker, but I pay the "poor man's tax" every now and then, which is street talk for those who buy lottery tickets. There are two reasons why: first, it gives me an excuse to pop in and flirt with Steve Feldman and his father and the staff at Potomac Wine and Spirits at 31st and M. I like Steve. In our jobs we both push gin but we don't fit the stereotypes. In other words, we're parents, we're hard working (he works harder), play by the rules, pay taxes and aren't drunks. We both own small businesses on M Street, a boulevard of dreams that is becoming less and less hospitable to the sole proprietor. Steve knows his customers, knows his neighborhood, and actually cares about the course of community politics. He'll also steer you straight, and probably give you a break, on a good bottle of wine. The other reason I fork over the $1.00 for a lottery ticket is that it's the cheapest "E" ticket around. (If you're not old enough to know: Disney used to have classes of tickets, and E was the wowiest.) It's 12 hours of fantasy that costs only pocket change. Until the winner is drawn, I walk around day-dreaming about what to do with the money. That's fun, and certainly beats musing about the bank balance. For example, right now there's about $96 million in the pot. After taxes it would be about half that, certainly a fair return on a $1.00 investment. What to do with $45 million? I'd disappear. Seriously. First I'd set up my son, then pay off the landlords and give Nathans to my staff, then sit down with Spencer and say, "Okay. What do you want in school and community and where could we find that?" His answer would be two words: Santa Monica. We'd move. I'd find, or build, a manageable and comfortable home with water views. Gotta have the water views. I'd research smart people for someone to trust enough to help set up a foundation to support some charitable causes where my money would make a difference, and not get lost in the pile, and I'd roll up my sleeves and work with them. Most likely it would have to do with communications and media. I would try to be as anonymous as possible, but I would still write this blog, renamed "Diary of a Mad ex-Saloon Owner." Back when I first became a widow there were some "starter" dates. The very first was to be with a former MY Met's baseball player named Keith Hernandez, but he stood me up. Not only that, it was a double date with Larry King and his new bride, Shawn. Humiliation was the least of the critical emotions I experienced that night. When we did finally actually go out, after his hat-in-hand apology, and he learned I was a widow of several months, Keith said, "Wow. You have to be like Mount St. Helens." I wasn't. In fact, I felt lifeless inside, as dormant as a tree in winter. That lasted for quite a while, even on dates that seemed to be working out. The problem was, after two decades of solid and contented marriage, my dates made me lonelier than when I was home alone. Then there were the other men who came calling, who I'd stop at the door, reminding them they had wives at home...often my girlfriends. Besides, I was not single. Living with and raising a child is not being single. One date said, "You've got to put yourself out there in traffic. You have to get someone to watch your kid and get yourself out there and be available." Guess what? To me that wasn't an option. The "kid" gets the first helpings of my time - always. So dating was not appealing. It seemed sensible simply not to date. Instead, my social life was about going out with mixed packs of friends. Now, my son is older and has a social life of his own, giving me more free time, and I feel the stirrings of that volcano Keith talked about all those years ago. Well, maybe not exactly a volcano, but something akin to spring. It's not crazy making, it's just there, and I'm sure other widows/widowers know of what I speak. My natural calling is to be a partner, a collaborator, a mate, and as with all animals, instincts rise to the fore. It's likely this all has to do with today being my wedding anniversary. Tuesday, May 10th...Tough to decide which was more difficult today - trying to format the new dinner, lunch, brunch menus and wine list for the website, or to find a B&B in the Sioux City, Iowa. Failed at both, though the website failure was more disappointing. The menus are up, but they aren't a pretty picture. The facts are there -- items, prices -- but the script and spacing all over the place. Took a long, long, long time, as did trying to find the B&B of my dreams in Iowa. I use many sources for research: Mobil Travel Guide, AAA, Fodors Talk, Trip Advisor, Google and Yahoo, Eyewitness Travel Guides, Michelin. I am an encyclopedia when it comes to travel. Part of it is pure wanderlust, and part is a need to be prepared. When Howard was alive I was far more devil may care in travel. I'd check in almost anywhere, because he was with me. As a woman alone with a kid in the great big OUT THERE, I'm more conservative in my choices ... though we have stayed in a room outside Palm Springs where the door had been kicked in a few too many times, and one occasion on Bannister's Wharf in Newport where the tap water was black. I just don't leave quite as much to chance as I used to. On the other hand, I will spend hours and hours trying NOT to stay in a chain hotel made out of cinder blocks with rooms and decor stamped out of a corporate cookie cutter. But that's me. (A warning is when the website advertises "meeting rooms.") I have only so many nights as a human on planet earth and I want as many as possible to be meaningful, especially when traveling. Tonight for dinner cooked up the most delicious duck leg confit. Got it at Dean and DeLuca. It comes shrink wrapped from D'Artagnan, already cooked. All I had to do was heat it for 15 minutes at 350, and there you go. This was delicious. Great for an impromptu meal, but would be also great on a picnic ... with a good bottle of pinot noir. Noting Renee Zellweger's big day. Upon hearing the news of her marriage to country singer Kenny Chesney couldn't help but recall Julia Robert's barefoot wedding to country singer Lyle Lovett. I wondered if Renee went barefoot, too. I hope the marriage lasts longer. That's an interesting path, from Jack White to Kenny Chesney. Monday, May 9th...Big thanks, hugs and kisses to all the many families who brought their mothers to Nathans for brunch or dinner yesterday. We had a huge day. Way bigger than it would have been without the special occasion, because the weather was spectacular. On a normal Sunday in May with 3-star weather EVERYONE would be at the waterfront, as they are on this equally lovely Monday. We're doing okay but it's a long way from packed. I don't blame anyone for being outside today or on any day when the weather is like this. Very soon the bugs will be out and the humidity at full tilt and EVERYONE will be back inside. That's Washington. Plotting a cross country road trip is quite a production. I do a week on a week off with the mapping and inquiring and booking. I stored up energy and set aside this morning to tackle Hertz. We will use rental cars for most of the trip. It's easier. It would be impractical to be in a situation where I might have to head home mid-trip and leave my car in the northwest somewhere. Rental cars can be dropped off almost anywhere. Also, if there's a mechanical problem, we can get a replacement. If it's my own car, we would have to wait for it to be repaired. Anyway. Hertz is done. My brain is in knots, but Hertz is done. Amtrak is done, too. Also, most of the hotels we had to book in advance, such as in Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon. All that's remaining to be researched and plotted are Idaho, Oregon, Kentucky and West Virginia. Sunday, May 8th...Happy Mother's Day. Motherhood brought many new dimensions to my life, but the standout is the other mothers I've met along the way. Before Spen, I didn't know any mothers. (I'm sure at work there were mothers, but at work that part of a woman's life is kept quiet). After Spen, most of my close friends are mothers. We start out with that one shared experience and then find so much more common ground. We rely on each other for comfort, advice, gossip and a good laugh. I'm what's known as an "older" mother. I was 41 when Spen was born. Looking back, that seems young. When he was conceived, everything in my life changed for the better. I remember the moment I knew I was pregnant. Since so much of Howard's and my life together was about eating out, we were sitting in a window booth at the Occidental Restaurant having Saturday lunch. The feeling was new but unmistakable, as decipherable as the first flush of a fever or the onset of a sore throat. But this wasn't a bad feeling. It was good, and I said to Howard, "I'm pregnant." He said, "How can it be that fast?" All mothers know the answer to that question. Ten days later the drug store test was positive. From the bathroom to the den, where Howard was watching the news, I ran singing, "Look, look, look," His expression was a mix of delight and fear. The next day a blood test confirmed the good news. Nothing was ever the same again after that. After giving birth, I wanted to give birth again and again. After holding him in my arms, I wanted more babies. We were in that mode when Howard died. Watching Spen grow from baby to boy to young man, guiding him through life, I wish my Mom were alive so I could express my awe that she raised four of us. I see me in Spencer, I see her in me. It's the circle of life. Now, when I return to the Occidental for a meal, my eyes wander to that booth and rest there for a moment, savoring the memory. Not to revisit the now molding White House Correspondents Dinner for the umpteenth time, but Frank Rich has a sharp piece in today's NYTimes "Week in Review." The dinner is only the springboard for larger thoughts. One fact he cites is this: "A Pew Research Center poll shows that Americans now trust the press less than every other major institution, from government to medicine to banks." It was the opposite in 1972, when I first began to write for Walter Cronkite at CBS News. He was the "most trusted man in America." The media went about their work in a different way then. The pace was slower. There was less competition. The stakes weren't so high. Media companies were owned by communications visionaries, not umbrella corporations looking for a profit. But not everything was done right. There were flaws. Overall, though, the standard was higher, and reporters were not celebrities and they didn't have dinners that revolved around, as Rich puts it, "a pageant of obsequiousness and TV land glitz." My blood still comes from printer's ink, and I hope American journalism can get its cred back. Saturday, May 7th...Even with the long drive, even with the all-day diet of teen cuisine, even with the 2 hour wait for the delayed school bus from Washington in the parking lot of the high school outside Hershey, Pa., where the band competition was held, even with all of that, when Spen and his classmates sat down and played their first notes nothing else mattered; everything that had been difficult or frustrating melted away, replaced by the earnest music of children. I was in awe of our middle school string orchestra. They were amazing. I closed my eyes and they were way older than teenagers. And the band, in which Spen plays oboe, was enchanting. The other part of the day that stood out was driving through the western Pennsylvania farm country, with deep, wide and lush fields, big barns and sky high silos. We surfed talk radio and laughed a lot at what we found. In Hershey, we stopped at the Hotel Hershey to check it out. Gorgeous gardens. Handsome lobby that looks transplanted from a California mission. Bought giant size chocolate bars to give to friends. Drove by the factory and, yes, we could smell the chocolate. After the competition we headed home, while his classmates went to the amusement park. We had that option, but he was tired. We'll return another day. He wanted to drive through Gettysburg. We've been to the battlefield twice before and it draws us back. Part of that is the history, but part is that it's in Spencer's blood. His father was a serous Civil War aficionado, and Spen is named after an ancestor who was a Union officer: John Dunn Richardson Spencer. We have his sword, sash, epaulets and discharge papers. And while 300 miles seems like a lot of time on the road, it's good training for what's coming up at the end of June - our cross country road trip. From here to the Pacific and back again. I've been plotting and mapping and organizing and even making a few reservations, but not too many. The pioneer spirit is alive in us. I want my son to see how big (and varied) this country is, and I want the clock to become fat and slow for a little while. As we roll along, awe and wonder and pride (and lots of conversation) hopefully will define our days. Needless to say, no time for Nathans today. Worked it from the phone. Brunch was okay. Streets were busy, but it was almost too nice to go inside to eat. I'm sure the waterfront was slammed. However, we're fully booked for Mother's Day brunch, which is the way it is year after year. It's the biggest day of business in the restaurant industry. It makes an owner (and a mother) wish the occasion could be turned into a full week. Friday, May 6th...TGIF. I'm spent. Between a morning at Spen's school, which was fun and interesting but time consuming and cold, and a mid-day of shuttling between the Washington National Cathedral's "Flower Mart," because one 13 yr old couldn't decide whether to stay or go -- utterly guided by the presence of girls -- and in and out of Nathans to actually try to do some work, and then more time spent searching for 13 yr old and friend who'd gone off skateboarding and then didn't answer cell phones because they decided to stop by a buddy's and play video games, and then try to get them home in time for when friend's mother came by for pickup, and then walk dog and organize dinner and still do some work...I repeat: I'm spent. But on the lighter side. AOL today had feature where subscribers could vote on who had the worst week. I loved this. This is something I do on my own every week, and it was a cool moment to see it on AOL - my own way of dealing with life brought to the mainstream. They offered vignettes on who had the worst week, and they were all the major players from the headlines. This is how it breaks down:
Jeff Van Gundy
It says everything about the here and now and AOL's subscribers that Paula Abdul came in first. But then, John Mason and Lynndie England have second chances. Jennifer Wilbanks will have a book and movie deal. Joe Torre always has another season. Michael Jackson is a freak; yes, this time I mean it. Corey Clark is over. And who exactly is Jeff Van Gundy? Man, o, man, if I was still in the game, I would immediately put into production a weekly Friday night TV show called "Worst Week," and it would be all about that - who had the worst week. Wonderful opportunities to recap events and splash the pics of household names all over the screen. Ratings, ratings, ratings. While we're talking about instant fantasies, I would also like to own a coffee shop that served peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, egg and olive sandwiches, and several kinds of clubs. Janet Bruce is back from Santa Monica and she basically kissed me with thanks for keying her into Cora's Coffee Shop. She got it, and now completely understands where I would like to be and why. Tomorrow we drive to Hershey, Pa., for a school band concert. Happy trails...Thursday, May 5th...The cable channels are suffering from Schiavo deprivation, and it's not safe to go near them, at least not if you're looking for news. Jackson-RunawayBride-Jackson-RunawayBride-Jackson-RunawayBride, ad nauseam. If it's relevant, important news like Iraq, the economy, the price of oil, crookery on Capitol Hill, it's only out there during the daytime hours. Once prime time hits, it's back to Jackson-RunawayBride-Jackson-RunawayBride. Anyway, happy Cinco de Mayo. No margaritas for me tonight, but we did have a special on them at Nathans. Put 130 miles on the car today with some errands waaaay out in Virginia, and then banking business. We're shifting a loan from one bank to another, and it's a lot of paperwork. Everyone knows this drill, at least everyone over the age of consent who has ever needed money. Nathans has its debts, and then it has its outstanding loan debts, and these are what I'm trying to get organized. I'm told this is part of the playing field of business, but I'm never comfortable with debt. Never ever. Or loans, for that matter. I don't want to have anything that's not mine. After school Spen went to play lax and I walked the dog, and then did a drop by at Herb and Patrice Miller's to help raise funds for the Georgetown Senior Center. The Miller's house on the hill is a nice place to be on a luscious spring evening, with sweeping views of the nation's capital. Then to Smith Point for a chatty, friendly, interesting dinner with Pam Moore, who is the commissioner to the Advisory Neighborhood Council for the quadrant of Georgetown that includes my business and my home. It was an opportunity for us to catch up with each other, talk about Georgetown and where its going, and for her to meet the owners of Smith Point, Bo Blair and (new father, awesome chef) David Scribner. Pam and I both love to see new businesses opening in Georgetown (we've had about 6 in the last month), but we'd like to see as many sole proprietor small businesses as there are chain outlets. Georgetown has to be careful it doesn't become an outdoor mall. It's flattering the chains want to come here, but we can't let them own us. What happens when they decide to pull out. The owners don't live there. There's no stake in it for them. It's all shifting budgets and creative bottom lines. I suggested the city find a way to give "Ma and Pa" entrepreneurs a break, providing an incentive to open in Georgetown. I don't know what the break is, but taxes would likely be a good place to begin. Mac Lovell, at the Millers, asked me: "Carol, when are you going to run for Mayor?" Loud laughter. Then, I said, "Mayor of Georgetown, Mac, but only if we secede." Occasionally people approach me to run for city council, but I have goose-egg interest. I have appreciation for the people who do that kind of work, and I'm not qualified in the slightest. Wednesday, May 4th...Here's something to make for Mom on Mother's Day (or yourself any old time). It's one of my favorite recipes and comes from pro skateboarder Morgan Stone in "Extreme Cuisine," one of my favorite cookbooks. It's a sort of baked souffle crepe with fruit and tastes great as breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, snack. It's easy and doesn't take long. You need: 3 eggs 1/2 cup milk 1/2 cup flour 1 teaspoon lemon juice 2 sticks butter Powdered sugar Fresh mixed berries Whipping cream Preheat oven to a hot 475. Mix the batter of eggs, milk, flour and lemon juice. Use a whisk for best results. Then take a 12 x 8 pan, or similar. I use a glass baking dish about that size. Melt a stick of butter in the pan. When it's fully melted, pour in the batter. Bake for 20 minutes. It will come out looking like a bunch of moguls in the snow, but made out of crepe batter; high brown peaks and low creamy valleys. Melt the other stick of butter (I do half), pour it on top, spoon fresh berries on top of that, whip up the whipping cream and scoop that on top, and then eat the whole thing with a spoon. Yum Yum Yum. It's also possible to cut it into quarters, put on plates, and then plop on the dollops of whipped cream. It is amazingly good. A revelation hit me tonight somewhere between the intersection of 31st and Q streets and home. I'd been to a small, lovely cocktail party welcoming new neighbors to the neighborhood. I didn't know a lot of people, and the people I knew introduced me to others. Every time, it went this way: "This is Carol. She owns Nathans." For years, I've cringed at those words. I figured people would think less of me, owning a bar. They'd figure all I could talk about was drunks, theft and the price of tomatoes. To me, when my friends introduced me that way I took it as them inadvertently putting me down. But tonight it occurred to me that maybe when my friends mention I own Nathans it's because they think it's a good thing, that maybe to them it rocks. Nonetheless, it makes me uncomfortable, self-conscious. Maybe I got it from Howard. He would never tell anyone what he did, only "businessman." On visas and applications, etc., he'd put down "philanthropist." ??? He was shy and didn't like attention, except he wore perfectly tailored suits and drove hot 12 cylinder XK-E jaguars. The best ever was the year I worked as a deckhand on a sailing yacht, and in the West Indies and the South of France I was introduced only as "Carol, of America." Debbie Nichols asked me to talk about Charles Manson, which I will do, but not tonight. Jim Arsenault, who is doctoring Nathans wine list (in the best sense), said he likes the blog but "it can be depressing." I'm sorry. Remember, this blog is like the spouse I come home to and occasionally dump everything. While it may be depressing to read, after it's written I feel a lot better. Generally good day, anyway. Got the spring menu pulled together. The e-mail from Constantine's fans got down to a manageable six. I think they've moved on. We had a strong night last night at the bar, and in the dining room, too, and we're looking for the same tonight. It's good to be called an "A-list eatery." The Belgian Army is having a dinner at Nathans tonight. Last night the Air Traffic Controllers, tonight the Army. Who, tomorrow night? It will be Cinco de Mayo and we'll have a special entree and, of course, great margaritas. Learned tonight that the Washington Post's Anne Schroeder will be the editor of the new Capitol File magazine. Jason Binn was very smart to hire her. She knows the players, the playing fields, the rules and how to break them, who's desperate and who's not, and who gives good buzz. Come fall, should be an interesting time in the local glossies. Tuesday, May 3...Looking forward to a less strident day... ...which did NOT happen. Even though the day began sweet enough with a brisk morning walk with Myra Moffett and a brief sidewalk encounter with an ex whatever, it tumbled into wackiness after that. Constantine Maroulis has passionate fans and they have been letting me know how much they love him and, by contrast, despise me. Pecked to bits by more than a hundred angry e-mail. I answered as many of them as I could - dozens, and many fans wrote back in a friendly way -("I am so sorry to have jumped to conclusions. I was very rude to you, and I apologize. I'm very protective of connie.") - and to advise me the angrier e-mails were from "old women in their 30's who have nothing going on but loving Constantine." Okay. Is "30's" considered old? Not by me. It seems the campaign is waged on "message boards." I checked out one, which was headlined "That b**tch in Washington." (The asterisks are mine.) A friend in NYC, who rides the hump of the pop zeitgeist, and who is well plugged into the Fox heirarchy, consoled me with: "you're lucky it was constantine and not clay aiken. those folks are even worse!" Will they come to Paula Abdul's defense after the ABC expose? One woman's email stood out, a Maroulis fan from Oklahoma, who wrote of the other fans, "Ignore all of them." I'll try, and again: so many lessons learned on this one, and I'm not smug about it either. I regret the episode. Enough said.
At the bar tonight were a large group of air traffic controllers from out of town. I stood back and gave them their space, but as a white-knuckle flyer I so wanted to ask them a hundred questions about air safety. They didn't come to Nathans for that. And, no, they weren't doing shooters and standing on their heads. They were gently sipping glasses of red wine.
Lastly, Nightline - my old home - called this afternoon to ask if they could use one of my photos on tonight's show. It's the photo of Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame that's on this website. Of course, I said. Honestly, when they called my first thought, and dread, was that it had to do with Constantine!
How dare you write what you did about Constantine Maroulis. That was totally uncalled for and in the worst taste I have ever seen. You have royally pissed off a huge amount of people as your comments are being spead through his message boards and website. I still can't believe I read what you wrote. What were you thinking?
I watcheD the DC dinner and it appeared to me he was the only class act that showed up judging from the reaction.
You should not say things about people that are not true, do you even know him? You called him a low life! I could spit blood I am so mad right now.
But, let me leave you with this MS. KNOW IT ALL JOYNT........................
KARMA IS A BITCH. GGGGGRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR"
What's with the right wing and the runaway bride? I know very few details of her story except she got cold feet, cut her hair, went to Vegas, called the police from a 7/11 and flew home first class. Since I spend half my day in a car I surf a lot of radio and today landed on some enraged fellow named Judge Positano or Ferragamo or Neopolitan, or something like that, who invoked the name of Fox TV while screaming "prosecute! prosecute!" Someone said Fox were on a tear about her. Did they unearth her voting records? Find out she voted for Kerry? Wasn't having to prepare for a wedding with 14 bridesmaids and 600 guests punishment enough? Now, if she still goes through with the marriage, she'll get everything she ran away from plus cable TV and the paparazzi. Roger Ailes can throw rotten eggs instead of rice. Lucky bride.Sunday, May 1...It's May Day. No jokes or pranks from me. Between church and Nathans and afternoon lacrosse went walkabout to see who's doing business and who's not. Anyone with alfresco seating was hot, anyone without was not. At Nathans we don't have the outdoor thing but we've got BIG windows on the hot intersection. That's something. Along the way stopped into some open houses. Nancy Bubes has the sweetest little 2 bedroom Federal on 33rd, ready to move in. The public rooms are smallish, but the bedrooms are big and airy, which is good, and the perfect Georgetown bricked garden. It's at 1546 33rd Street, if you're ready to take the plunge on that safe house for you and your lover. check it out at www.ataylorhouse.com. Finished Jane Fonda's book today. It's remarkable because it's not ghostwritten. It is Jane Fonda -- whatever you think of her -- on every page. I wish she'd written more about the process of acting and making movies, and building up her Workout empire, and less about finding herself, but that was her choice. Her willingness to meld into the personalities of her men is tedious, and her discovery of same is tedious, too, but her willingness to lay it bare is refreshing. Those are small issues. Overall it's a good read. Long, long ago, when she and Tom Hayden launched the Indochina Peace Campaign in the last months of the Nixon re-election, Time Magazine had me travel with them for a few days in upstate New York. Fonda and Hayden couldn't have been more accommodating toward me. The image of a reporter traveling around with celebrities is always played as being cozy and glamorous, but it's not necessarily so. Mostly it's awkward. If you're lucky ya'll get along -- as I did with Fonda and Hayden and their small entourage -- but still, even with all the terms spelled out, you are invading their private space. For a reporter that's nirvana, but it's work, and you have to step carefully. What I remember most about Jane was she was brash and fragile at the same time. She welcomed me, but she also was wary of me. After an appearance at Syracuse we went to the home of the people who once upon a time harbored Daniel Ellsberg. It was a festive gathering of about a dozen of us - lunch or early supper. Fonda stayed very close to Hayden, practically in his lap. Then, suddenly, she got frantic, not sharing why with me -- and disappeared into a back bedroom. I asked, "what's this about" and someone said, "it's a phone call from her little daughter Vanessa. They haven't talked in a long while. She's been waiting for this call." When she emerged from the back room she was in tears, and huddled with Hayden. Suddenly, the loud-mouth activist became, to me, the fragile, caring but needy mother -- a part of Jane Fonda that was revealed to the public in later years and is captured eloquently in her book. I saw it then and remembered the moment, though I never included those details in my file to Time about her campus swing. There was no place to fit it in, because I was writing to the image of the brash antiwar activist. Last night at the WHCA dinner I wanted to find her and tell her how much I've enjoyed the book, but it didn't happen. Saturday, April 30...in the spirit of "I Heart Nathans," (see below) tonight I discussed the bar's virtues with Salman Rushdie. It was at the packed and almost airless but still A-list Newsweek cocktail party before the dinner of the White House Correspondents Association, Washington's only media fete that stirs even the slightest erection in the tabloid press....this because people from Hollywood come to town. "Oh, I've been to Nathans," Mr. R told me. "It was during a book tour. I remember it well." That was the starting point of our conversation. Bob Barnett zoomed by with body language that shouted, "No Stop and Chats tonight!", at least not with B-list people. Hmmmm. I didn't even try. Lloyd Grove was torn between the Newsweek party and the party of his boss, Mort Zuckerman. Off he went. Michael Isikoff and I soon were nose to nose with Dennis Hopper and his wife, Victoria Duffy. "Now, Michael, don't act like a groupie," I whispered in his ear. "Hopper's gonna think it's cool to meet YOU." The first thing out of Misikoff's mouth was, "Hey, easy rider!" Hopper told us he's working on a TV series that will be the West Wing of the Pentagon. Gosh, I hope he's playing Rummy, and works in elements of his character from "Blue Velvet." Next came Rich Leiby, who is about to ankle his job writing the Reliable Source column for the Post. Since he began the gig we've talked about having lunch together. "As soon as I finish the column we can have lunch," he said. That would be good timing. I looked around the room and watched so many of the men mostly talk to other men while the women in their good make-up and pretty evening dresses kept their poise on the periphery. To me, these kinds of Washington political/media brawls are so gay, and not in a homosexual way. Men in Washington mostly like to hang out with other men, be in courts of men, attend to men; it's the cult of the man. After all, men come here to work for other men. Women, no matter how high the rank or lofty the title, still serve as acolytes. The jobs are grace and favor and ditto their roles at these large soirees, except for the women with the $$$$, like Lally Weymouth, thin as a bean and warmly elegant as she greeted guests at the door. She counts because she doesn't need the men. They need her. The men lean into each other, oblivious to the women, except when an outsize stroke of female sexpottery like Patricia Duff slinks by in patches of royal blue satin. Then the guys get all google-eyed. I adored watching John McLaughlin, John Negroponte and Ron Silver struggle to fit into the same photo op with her. That made the cocktail hour, and I headed home. The security outside the Washington Hilton was stunning - with the phalanx of human beef, the bomb-sniffing dogs, the jumpsuit dudes with Uzies, the flashing cop cars and the sideshow of protestors and nuts dressed up like Rush Limbaugh, it could have been the set of an over-the-top Hollywood blockbuster. Earlier...last night, at a party celebrating his wife's new decade, and only moments after my arrival, good friend Alan Bubes came right up and blasted me. "Stop complaining about Nathans," he said. "Stop telling everybody you don't like the bar business, and that you hate owning it. Everyone knows now how you feel, so you can stop saying it. Maybe if you start saying how much you like it, you would start to like it." My expression was a stunned gape. In a room of 50 jabbering people, I was silent. The first rush was defensiveness, but my instinct was to set aside the kneejerk reaction. Instead, I absorbed what he said. "You're right, Alan. That is what I do, and I should try to stop. I hope you're right. I hope it changes everything." A few hours later, after the cocktail party, and a dinner party at another home, when we were enjoying desserts and dancing at a third home, Alan and I were alone together again. "You know I'm always there for you," he said. "If there's ever anything you need, just ask me." I thanked him. "I am going to try what you suggested," I said, "I mean it. But there's one thing I want you to understand. It's all about protecting myself. I've resisted investing myself emotionally in Nathans because, with my precarious lease situation, I could lose it at anytime. I'm not sure I could handle another heartbreak." Alan, a long-time business owner, understood. And so I enjoyed a pink cupcake, a slice of coconut cake, a slice of chocolate fudge cake - the dessert table looked like Wayne Thibaut's "Cakes" - washed down with Veuve Cliquot, and then danced a few dances with David Deckelbaum, who is about to celebrate a new decade of his own. The theme of the evening was the 50s, with drinks in Tiki glasses with paper parasols, deviled eggs, meatloaf, iceburg lettuce salad, jello & cool whip molds, and there were a lot of poodle skirts and neck scarves and sneakers, and some men in jeans and white t-shirt and others in James Bond era black tie. I wore a Norman Norell party coat that once belonged to my mother-in-law, over a little black dress, hair in a French twist...an mix of Mamie meets Audrey, but minus the mile long cigarette holder. Nancy and her friend Abby wore fetching strapless pink party frocks, winning them the prize for Georgetown's answer to the Hilton sisters. Abby is married to House majority whip Roy Blunt. We three sat together at dinner and shared lighthearted chat. I resolved not to talk politics because, socially, it's the road of no return. Doubt I could demure with Bill Frist, though. Friday, April 29...There are many topics that would be good writing subjects today, but I'd rather draw attention to only one: a story on the front page of today's Wall Street Journal about Ted Fink and his family in Lanark, Ill. This story is similar, if less celebrated, than the story of Christopher Reeve. It's about the aftermath of a horrific accident, about being at the crossroads of whether to live or die, and whether to live under extraordinarily challenging circumstances, and choosing to live. The choice was made by Rhoda Fink, Mr. Fink's wife, after he was burned over more than 90% of his body in a farming accident in 1999. She was the one who, in the first hours after the accident, gave doctors permission to try a new treatment that involved artificial skin, a 7-month induced coma, multiple surgeries, high risk, lasting disability and a completely new orbit for the Fink family. But he's alive, and home now, and Ted and Rhoda Fink, and their adult sons, are making a go of it. A while back, when he was first doing interviews, I spent part of a day with Christopher and Dana Reeve. They came to the CNN studios in New York for him to appear on Larry King Live - for what would be his first studio interview. While many of us were involved, I was more or less the on-site handler/producer for the interview. Dana and Christopher, with a small entourage of assistants, arrived around 9 a.m. for the 10 a.m. taping. Larry King was flying down from Boston with our line producer, Mary Gregory. LaGuardia was fogged in and Larry's plane was sent back to Boston. He and Mary hired a limo to bring them to NY. It meant Christopher would have to wait, and wait, and wait. We gave him an office to himself. Dana was with him. Periodically the nurses cleaned his breathing tube. It was evident to me the experience was stressful for him. But all he did was ask for some food, and a phone with a speaker device, and to be given updates on Larry's progress. He never pitched what would have been a completely understandable fit, nor did his terrific publicist, Lisa Kasteler. Dana was charming, helpful, encouraging, and never complained. Eventually Larry arrived, with much fanfare and many apologies. We rolled tape about 5 hours later than planned, and the hour interview was excellent. My sense about Christopher Reeve was that every day he woke up and made a choice to live, and his wife and son were there to support him. When you see them now you can tell they are at peace. I find it uplifting. I don't know how Mr. and Mrs. Fink do it, but I admire them. So, if you can, get your hands on today's WSJ. Thursday, April 28...This evening I assembled a hammock in our back garden. I love it. Why didn't I get one earlier? Looking up at the sky is about possibilities in a way that isn't always available with looking straight ahead. (And certainly not with looking down.) The blue sky, the birds, the green leaves. Five minutes looking up and the brain felt lighter. Spen tried it out and declared, "this will be great for reading books." Pulled out the old rusty mini-mower and cut the grass, too - all 700 square feet of it...if there's that much. Yard work is not my thing. Howard had the green thumb, and more than one. He procured, landscaped, planted, tended, watered, and for every season. His favorite annual project was to spend an autumn day planting hundreds of daffodil bulbs for the spring. When he died I got my hands on every daffodil in Washington (in February) and had them arrayed in the room at Gawler's for the visitation. Daffodils and a photo of his sailboat. Unlike the pharaohs with their pyramids of loot, that's all Howard needed for the afterlife. A simply terrific lunch today with American Red Cross President Marsha J. Evans. Tall, attractive, unassuming but forceful. At the beginning I said something like, "A rear admiral in the Navy ... head of the Girl Scouts ... President of the Red Cross ... any one of these jobs would be career enough in most of our lifetimes. Marty Evans has done all three, and since she's still so young, this is not a finished resume. One has to wonder if she will follow in the footsteps of a predecessor, who is a Senator and on the short list of possible GOP presidential candidates." (Elizabeth Dole, of course). At the end of the lunch I returned to that point, and asked if she has political ambitions. Absolutely, she said. "Throughout my career I've been apolitical, by necessity because of my jobs. I've worked for Presidents of both parties. But after this job, I would like to - not run for office - but work on a campaign." She's politically savvy enough to craft an artful answer. She has all the credentials for elected office. We have three lunches remaining and then the season is over until after Labor Day. May 12 is Edie Schafer and Frida Burling (fully booked with a wait list), May 19 is developer Anthony Lanier (almost fully booked), and our closer, May 25 with New York Times columnist David Brooks (fully booked with a wait list). It feels like that last slope - the joyous downhill after a good run. And then the encore - Jane Stanton Hitchcock at the Mandarin Oriental on June 14th. Now I'm headed back to Nathans to check out the new light in the vestibule, giving the proper illumination to Neal Oseroff's gorgeous mural of Georgetown in the early 19th century. Wine to recommend: Dr. Loosen's Riesling from Germany. Elegantly sweet, meaning sweet start but tart finish. Works on the coldest and hottest days. Added bonus: only about 9% alcohol by volume. Good with ice. Good as a spritzer. Wednesday, April 27...Some mornings it takes all my will power not to cry. This is one of those mornings. It makes for a drastic contrast with the beautiful sunlight and sparkling air outside. It's a pretty day, and I'm feeling hopeless. The tears are just behind my eyeballs but I won't let them out, because as the captain of this ship, if I'm weak who will be strong? It's important to stay focused, stay positive and to keep moving forward, always hopeful, always believing there will be a break in the storm. I don't write about it much here, but the constant long march of my current existence is to get Nathans (and therefore our) future figured out. The lease is up in three years and change and then, if it's not renewed, I will be without a job, an income, health insurance, the whole ball of wax. Spencer will be in his junior year of high school. As a solo mother there is nothing scarier than the prospect of being unable to provide for my son. I gave up my career for Nathans, and our savings, and so we sail in the shallows. For three years my landlords and I have been trying to negotiate a new lease, simply to secure the future for all of us. There have been letters, many letters, and meetings, and more letters, and more meetings, but there is no progress. Over the past few years I've met with the city's top landlords, and developers, and business owners, and successful caring individuals, and elected officials and community leaders, in an effort to learn how to do this right. They give me good advice. Some of it is so tough I don't have the guts to follow through. The advice I can live with I put into play, and still I'm nowhere. I am never ever inert, but we hit endless walls. My landlords are good people, and they've been good to me. They consider Nathans' building home, because it once was their home. But all the time I ask myself, "What am I doing wrong? Why can't I make this happen? Why am I failing?" This morning one of my lawyers gave me more dreary news along the same lines. I'm bewildered. Everyone thinks losing Howard was the hard part for me. No question it was hard. Shatteringly hard. But trying to save Nathans, and my son and myself, has been harder. Later...Well, got myself together and upright and charged into the day, leaving the morose feelings behind me. Also, took it upon myself to phone the landlords and we had a good chat. Sometimes that's the best way to go; set aside the lawyers and simply talk to each other. Somehow, someway, we'll get this worked out. Also, a big help was to make myself a peanut butter and banana sandwich on whole wheat bread, with the crusts sliced off, and to have it with potato chips and a glass of milk, followed by a fudgesicle. At Nathans got organized for tomorrow's lunch with Marsha Evans of the American Red Cross. We have a lot of reservations and I'm eager to meet her. Also, sent the Mandarin Oriental press release to lots of friends and contacts, hoping those who can will make use of it. Sent a blast e-mail about tomorrow's lunch out to the list, hoping to snag one or two more bookings for tomorrow. It actually worked - got about 5! Did an interview with John Darman at Newsweek about the relative lifelessness of gossip in Washington. Regardless of what comes of the interview, it was fun and easy to talk to him. The phone keeps going out at Nathans - the phone we use to process credit cards -- and this is a pain. The phone company has determined the problem is not on the inside of Nathans, which is a relief, but they have not found the problem. Now that the evening argument with the 13 yr old has run its course, and the dinner dishes are put away and the kitchen cleaned, all I want to do is get in bed with Jane Fonda's book, which is remarkably good. I never thought I'd be reading it or saying that, but it's true. Tuesday, April 26...One thing I've learned through the trials and tribulations of the past eight years is that if you let the tide turn - it will. Just wait; try not to give up. And so, good news arrived last night from one troubled front. Very good news. Now this hot zone is cooled and the lawyer I retained was told, "Thank you very much and good bye for now." After driving Spen to school this morning, returned to Georgetown and celebrated with a breakfast at Furin's of a full stack of pancakes, dry and crispy bacon, orange juice and coffee, and two newspapers. This is luxury. I nixed my usual hour of weights and treadmill, but soon my friend Adam Mahr and I will take a long, long walk. Much of the day was spent zooming from one project to the next. That must burn some calories. After many email back and forth, the Mandarin is getting out the press release about the June 14th event with Jane Stanton Hitchcock. More details are coming into focus. It will cost $40 per person, all inclusive, which is a good deal. Parking will be subsidized, though not fully comped. There will be wine (included) and a fork and plate dinner (which I think is hotel talk for food that can be cut with a fork) and a dessert buffet. We will sell the book, and Jane will hang around to sign. I'm excited. Nervous but excited. I have to get 60 people for the Mandarin to consider it a success. Please come. Gorgeous day, and now it's a breezy spring evening. Sunny enough to draw people out, cool enough that maybe they won't hang out at the waterfront all evening. We lose lots of business to the waterfront this time of year. And who can blame the customers? I certainly don't. Sunlight, breeze, water, views. Monday, April 25...Fortunately, I see the shrink today. First the shrink, then the lawyers - that's my motto. And all the while the meter runs. My friend Melissa Overmyer is having a party Friday and wants to serve "cocktails from the 1930s." She asked for help. At first all I could come up with was an "Old Fashioned." I am not deeply versed in cocktails being not much of a spirits drinker, preferring wine. Stoli and Mt. Gay and Campari are the extent of my range in spirits. So I did some research for her. There is a nifty website - www.cocktailrecipeguide.com - that has pages and pages of information about cocktails, and an entire section on cocktails from the 1930s. Not only does it have recipes, but it has sections on glassware, tools, condiments, syrups and juices needed to make the drinks authentic. Isn't that wonderful? I'm a fiend for glassware. A drink's not worth drinking if it's not in the right glass. The website said, "in the 1930's the base ingredients of the most common cocktails were usually rum, gin or whiskey," using dozens of different bases. It said it is possible to make classic cocktails exactly as it was done in the 1930's, with the exception of one important and popular ingredient - Absinthe - which is banned from sale in the U.S. For Melissa I downloaded a dozen or so drinks, including three types of martini (dry, medium, sweet), something called a "Pink Whiskers," and the "Knickerbocker Special," which sounds so Scott Fitzgerald. Today I have to commit to installing new air-conditioning in my house. Ugh. Already did a new roof in the fall. Replaced the back windows and doors, too. The back steps are rotting and need work, which may have to be put off ... but can I? Gotta do something, too, about the lawn that won't grow. By mid-July my lawn has a comb over because there are so many bald spots. Home ownership is grand, but it's not unlike running a boat (which I've done), and the whole thing with a boat is that basically it just wants to sink, and the daily routine is all about keeping it from sinking. I'm not sure what my house wants to do. If only I could take it to the shrink with me. Later..."While you hold we have some self help tips that might aid you..." has been repeated for the 10th time as I sit here waiting to talk to a human in tech support at Verizon DSL. I'm ready to take the phone and flush it down the toilet, but if I do that then the terrorists have won. The "hold" recordings have become as intrusive as the faux deejay patter/music/ad hustle at the movies. Friday at Loews it was broken and we sat in "olde-tyme" silence before the flick, with some of us actually having conversations with each other.///At lunchtime today the computers were down and we couldn't process customer checks. Vito was up and down the stairs trying to get it sorted out.///Great news on the job front. I posted a job for an administrative assistant on www.Monster.com and today Erin Simon, said she will take the job. She will come in Wednesday, and begin soon, and I'm looking forward to having her there. Jen has done a great job but I'm told she wants to be a cop in New York City. If you want to be a cop, NYC is the place to do it.///Very unappealing to see President Bush hosting the Saudi equivalent of Tony Soprano at the Texas White House in Crawford. It's so important to become independent of Saudi oil. It's imperative. We can't have the U.S. Prez, whether he's left, right or center, sucking up to the Arab "roil" families. One day there will be a revolution in Saudi Arabia and we need to cut the cord before that happens.///Good visit with the shrink, like a slow release of gas from a hot air balloon. He asked if I'd gone to the Corcoran Ball on Friday night - a country club prom where many of my friends had tables. He reminded me of 1985, when I wore a fresh from Paris Nina Ricci ball gown of billowing black and white polka dotted silk taffeta, and danced cheek to cheek with my dashing husband. O, how times change. Instead, Friday night I was in knots over angry neighbors, insane storage facilities, distant problems, lawyers, and -- at 9:30 pm - rather than sipping champagne with the hoi polloi, I stood on Wisconsin Avenue in rain and cold, wearing a parka, corduroy and boots, withstanding a heated barrage from an enraged 13 year old, who accused me of many crimes, especially being simply the worst possible mom. The ball and the ballgown were fun and special, but all in all, I'm okay with where I am.
Sunday, April 24...As predicted, I'm not ticked off at Nathans anymore but, geez, running a business can be such a trial. It's all about people. People, people, people. You count on them. You depend on them. You're on the level with them and you assume they are on the level with you. And then I walk into another restaurant yesterday morning and see one of my manager's going through orientation to be one of their managers. It's bad enough that it's happening, but it's even worse that I'm the dumb one in the equation; the last to know. The jive quotient in the bar business outpaces every other biz except maybe boxing, gambling and strip clubs. This is why Howard was so good at owning Nathans. First off, although he was the seminal haute preppie he had a criminal mind. More important, he didn't take any **** from anybody, and when something like this happened he responded in the same fashion as a speeding bowling ball making a direct hit on a full rack. BOOM! Those were the times I reassuringly said, "I'm so glad I have nothing to do with that place." I'm Howard's opposite. I'm a writer, not a saloon-meister, and I'm a Cancer and therefore a crab and I go at everything sideways, or I stay in my shell and wait for the full moon. There was a little item in the Post yesterday about the June 14 Q and A dinner at the Mandarin Oriental with Jane Stanton Hitchcock. I hope we get a bounce out of that. Last night at Anderson House some people asked how to make reservations, and this morning my neighbors, Cliff and Barbara Brody, said they want to book two seats. Tomorrow the hotel will put out a press release. I'm excited about this, and nervous too, but trying to focus on the excitement. I'm finished reading Jane's book and miss it, because it was a lot of fun. She does a delightful job of taking readers into the duplex apartments and super yachts and beach villas of the rich and richer. The people in her book actually exist, in some form, and she has perfect pitch in capturing their wildly compromised lives. Saturday, April 23...A visit to the 18th century tonight at one of the better Washington museum houses. The top of the heap is the White House, but there are others - like where I was tonight, Anderson House. It's always, for me, been cool to be invited to the White House for a private party, for all the obvious reasons. But what I really like, apart from the receiving line with the Prez and First Lady, and the good food, is I get to sit on sofas and chairs in the Green Room and the Red Room, and look out of the windows of the Blue Room to the view of the Washington Monument, enjoy the intimacy of the State Dining Room under the somber gaze of Lincoln, and dance on the polished floor of the East Room, just like I lived there. I get up close with the art, and as I stand there staring deeply into the petrified oil paint I wonder whose eyes have been there before mine. To me, this is the true joy of "access" in Washington. So back to tonight. It was the 50th wedding anniversary party of Jeanne and Gerry Livingston at Anderson House, which is headquarters of the Society of the Cincinnati, a private "club" whose membership are the descendents of the continental officers of the Revolutionary War. (The city of Cincinnati is named after the society, not the other way round). The members are all men. (Yay for men, but boo for keeping out the sisters.) Anderson House is a resplendent Massachusetts Avenue mansion built in 1902 for the heiress to a shipping fortune (Weld/Boston). She and her husband, Larz Anderson, a country hopping diplomat, considered it their "winter" home. This mansion is a feast of marble and tapestry and old mahogany. I sat in a parlor and gaped at the detail. The furnishings may not be strictly 18th century, but the spirit of the place is decidedly so. The other guests ranged from toddlers and teens to blue-haired and wobbly, but all were game to be out on a Saturday night, celebrating. They knew each other. It was a very Waspy reunion, on this of all Passover nights. Cocktails, canapes, a dance combo in the ballroom. Who has a ballroom anymore? There is no gossip to report from this party, because these are people who still believe that moldy notion one should appear in print only upon birth, marriage and death. That's no fun. Slipped back to Georgetown to meet my neighbor Ellen Charles (coincidentally, the head of another museum house, Hillwood) for a late dinner at Smith Point of steak and 1997 Opus One. OMG. This wine was the payoff for the week just passed. A mouthful of heaven. David Scribner's steak was heavenly, too. After dinner we meshed with a loud, bawdy group having a "Dukes of Hazzard" party. How-dee. Studly men in cowboy hats and the women who hang on their buff arms. I was ready for a two-step. Then home. Why haven't I written about Nathans today? Because I'm ticked off at Nathans. I'll be over it by dawn. Friday, April 22...First, it's important to point out it is quarter to eleven and there is a crowd at Nathans having a helluva good time. The bar is 4-5 deep, the dining room is filled, and the noise level is ear-splitting. We snuck away for a while to see the new film, "The Interpreter," and returned to find the place busier. So, maybe we can get some of the January-February bills paid. BTW, what kind of Botox is Nicole Kidman using? It's amazing. Her face is a miracle of creaselessness, smoothness, and flawlessness. Not even a hint of a wrinkle. Not one. Nowhere. It's actually distracting and disconcerting. In one scene, where she's in an intimate (not sexy) two-shot with Sean Penn, her skin's exquisite porcelain finish looked ready to burst, as if the flesh could be stretched not one squeak more. In the film, talking about death, Kidman's character says it's important for survivors to move on, not to linger with death or mourning. A good point. Owning Howard's business, as much as I care about it, makes it difficult. Nathans was never my place or our place, it was his place. I had nothing to do with it. It still is his place. And when I'm there, except for the community lunches, it is always his place. It's a sea anchor on moving on. This is not a rant or a whine, just a fact. I guess growing up means having to sue someone. That's not written as lightly as it reads. The events of yesterday with the storage facility indicate the possibility of my filing a lawsuit. It's not what I want to do. Then today, something else popped up, on a separate track, that may require the same response. My mood is dark and my stomach is in knots. How did I, in one week, go from no wailing legal issues to the possibility of having to file two lawsuits at the same time? Ugh. A great big UGH. A third party to the second situation, well-meaning for sure, said, "He's mad at a lot of people, but he's doing this to you because he can; you're a widow and he thinks you are vulnerable." My favorite part was when the lawyer I called asked, "Are you sure you can pay me?" This is a true story: note in the manager's book from last night said two women called up after closing to say, "we left a bag at the bar. Will you hold it for us? And please, please don't look inside." The closing manager already had found the bag and put it down in the office, and for purposes of i.d'ing it had looked inside: it was filled with shiny new vibrators from The Pleasure Place. We all got a big laugh out of that. Maybe they found the real thing at Nathans. EARLIER ... It's earth day. Remember when earth day was EARTH DAY? Is the relative quiet because we've achieved a lot of the goals set up back when it started in the 70s, or is it that we don't care any more, or a combination of both? Probably that. Some goals achieved, others set aside, and some still so important we musn't forget them. My democrat friends would say Bush won't acknowledge the goals, my republican friends would say they've been met. Life in Washington. This is unsettling, but have you noticed that the "new" normal seems to have passed and life is becoming similar to the "old" normal, before September 11th? It showed in a bustling New York a couple of weeks ago and it's the same thing around springtime Washington. There is a sense of exuberance, of ease, and even a little prosperity (though not necessarily in the vicinity of the stock market). Tourists appear to be back in DC in large numbers. The hotels are booked up. My neighbors are more worried about getting Nationals tickets than the fact the stadium is in the shadow of the Capitol building, a presumed terrorist target. Our "ready boxes" gather dust in basements and back closets. Zacarias Moussaoui admitted today that Osama bin Laden personally instructed him to fly a hijacked jetliner into the White House. This was part of the guilty plea he signed in connection with the September 11th terrorist attacks. It's chilling front page news, but people aren't riveted by it. We take it in stride. This is good. In fact, it's great. But that's what is unsettling. Are we about to be complacent again? Thursday, April 21...All my stars must be crashing into each other. Somewhere there has to be a horoscope advising me to have stayed in bed today. Fortunately, none of it involves Nathans. In fact, I just asked Vito, "has the roof fallen in, because the way my day is going it wouldn't be a surprise." But it hasn't and all is well at the corner of Wisconsin and M. Today I'm taking the lightning personally. A. Found out this morning I need to get new air conditioning for my house. It's busted flat with no repair possibilities. This is not the kind of news one wants a week after paying taxes. B. The storage facility I contracted in 1997 to store Howard's lovely suits, which I'm saving for Spen, informed me several weeks ago that one of the boxes of suits got infested with moths and bugs and the suits were damaged beyond being wearable. They asked me to submit a claim. The tailors who made the suits provided replacement costs, which I submitted to the facility and they said a check would come from the insurance company. This afternoon the owner of the facility contacted me to say he bought the company in 2002 and is not responsible for items stored before he owned the place. He said Howard's suits were farmed out to another storage facility, but that company does not have insurance to cover moth and bug infestation. "But you have to take it up with them," he said. "You have to work out a deal with that guy." What? I mean, excuse me? I mean, doesn't the person who bought the company assume responsibility for the possessions of mine I pay them to protect? He never sent me a letter saying, "Hey, I own the place now but I'm taking no responsibility for what was here before me." C. Then a neighbor got into my face about something, and this is a neighbor with whom I get along and, well, all I could say was, "I don't think we should talk any longer right now because we have a good relationship and I don't want us to fight." But still, it upset me. A lot. D. All this plus usual school stuff, visit to bird vet w/ Ozzy, grocery shopping, other errands and trying to repair leaky faucet in bathroom. I'm taking deep breaths and trying to think of ways to make lemonade out of all these lemons. Bottom line: got very little work done. Day just swamped by issues. Nathans was quiet at lunch, due to gray skies and rain, but now the sky is clear and we hope the evening will compensate. We have a 6:30 reservation for 20. Also, we're making progress on the new wine list, which will be trimmer and hipper. Later...concluded the evening at Nathans with drinks and a light dinner at the bar with a friend who is a PR executive, talking about ways to kick the community lunches up a notch. We need a national story. Just one. The dining room was PACKED. A derriere in every seat. Sound asleep by 11p. Wednesday, April 20...Okay, so who wants to spank me? The Georgetowner newspaper, out today, has an Editor's Note that serves as a correction for their misreporting that Nathans is closing. (Remember? The April Fool's joke?) They set the record straight - "Carol Joynt has assured us she has not sold Nathans and has no plan to sell Nathans." Shockingly, they end the item with this, from parking lot mogul Brad Altman: "Carol should be spanked!" So, we've become that kind of newspaper, have we? Hmmmm. I'll get out my skimpy rubber French maid's outfit and the patent leather stilettos. I do thank Dave Roffman for the correction. From porn to pious. This evening we had an early dinner at Nathans and then went to the home of our neighbors, Jean and John Lange, for an "at home" Eucharist. This was new to me and we didn't know what to expect. It turned out to be quite intimate and moving. It was, basically, Sunday morning services transported to a family dining room, with all the stations of the service and communion. The service was conducted by the Rector of Christ Episcopal Church, Father Stuart Kenworthy. His family was there and a few other families. After the service the Lange's served a feast of desserts, with the home made brownies and the crumbly apple pie being the stand outs. The children talked about school while the parents debated the controversial new Pope, Benedict the 16th. The stand-out item: that he blames the media for overplaying the Catholic child molestation scandal. Oh, yeah. He'll get far with that point of view. It is summer in April (90 degrees today) and I'm almost ready to put Gazpacho on the menu, but the weather forecasters tell us cool temperatures will return in 48 hours. The heat has been pleasant, and not yet humid and sultry. On an edible note: last night Harry Shearer and I shared a bottled of Marquis Philips "Integrity," the 2003 vintage, an awesome Australian Shiraz. We had it with spring lamb, gnocchi, duck, salad, apples, Italian triple cream cheese, chocolate. It's expensive, but worth it if you can find the rare bottle. The wine has so much texture it tastes like food. Tuesday, April 19...Back in the fall, at a party for Jonathan Tisch at the home of Juleanna Glover Weiss, I noticed a young and pretty blond girl talking to Spencer. I'd dragged him along because it was enroute to our dinner with another family, and it appeased my guilt that he was hanging out with someone close to his age. I joined them and the three of us began to talk. She said her name was Marla Ruzicka. She was as effervescent as a freshly cracked bottle of Perrier, but her words were about the serious side of life. She had just returned from Iraq, and had earlier been in Afghanistan, and her singular and meaningful message was her personally waged campaign for the rights of the victims of these two awful wars. "I'll be on Capitol Hill tomorrow," she boasted. The ingénue look and the war conversant resume didn't compute, which made her all the more compelling. A few weeks later we saw Marla at another party, a family birthday at the Maccoby's, and again she hung out with Spencer. She was unbelievably cute and perky and, still, like bubble water. We talked a little about Nathans and she verbally booked a seat at an upcoming community lunch. I never saw Marla again, or knew another thing about her, until yesterday, when I picked up The Washington Post and there, on the front page of the Style section, was her obituary. She was blown up by a suicide bomber in Iraq on Saturday. It doesn't compute any more now than it did when I first met her. She's as compelling in death as she was in life. The "appreciation," by Pamela Constable, is wonderful, but there's still so much of the story to be told. Nonetheless, her death, like so many over there, is tragic. Here's the link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A64144-2005Apr18.html. Monday, April 18...If you got to here you probably started at the home page and you saw where I've changed the name of the Nathans Community Lunch to The Q and A Cafe. This is something I've wanted to do for a while, and it will be phased in over the next several months. When we start the new season next autumn it will be official or established or the real deal, depending on which language you speak. Also, I hope to begin more evening events, as well as lunchtime. There are a lot of people who tell me they'd like to participate if only it happened in the evening. This is one reason we will be trying it out at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel on June 14th with Jane Stanton Hitchcock IN THE EVENING. I so want this to work because it is a wonderful opportunity for everyone involved: them, her, you and me (not in order of importance). Besides, my lease is up in 3 years and change and, as most newspaper readers know, the landlords have so far not agreed to re-up with me. So, we gotta lay tracks for the future. I want a future, and I don't want it to be about me as a homeless ex-saloon owner.///I got into journalism because I had a passion for truth and trust at a very early age. That part of me has not changed. Interestingly, in the 8 years I've had to be a grown up and own a business and be on the front lines of my life, so to speak, I've had to face too many instances of untruth and distrust. I wonder sometimes if it's because I'm a widow, and perceived as dumb and vulnerable, or if it's because I now live my life as an adult and adulthood could well be about disappointment. Oh, what of it? It's a beautiful spring evening, the fourth day of lacrosse in a row, a fairly good lunch at Nathans, a salad with Jim Arsenault to talk about Nathans wine list, some encouraging bank business, the eve of a Q and A Cafe with Tony Tavares, team President of the Washington Nationals, and onward to a Rose Park board meeting. Smack! Sunday, April 17...There's a scary story in the paper this morning. The headline reads: "RESTAURATEUR CHARGED WITH LARGEST TAX FRAUD IN DC HISTORY." The part that made my blood run cold was where it says, "such crimes are believed to be widespread in the restaurant industry." Does anyone wonder why this business gives me the creeps? If I could, I'd jump back into my real career in a heartbeat. In my 30+ years in journalism, colleagues went to jail, but it was for not revealing sources, not for not paying taxes. This, of course, is a familiar subject to me because my husband was involved in tax shenanigans, and I didn't learn about them until after he died and I inherited the case. He always told me the saloon business was "the worst at their worst" and that success required a "criminal mind." I was like, "well, God I'm glad you own it and not me." To this day I am scared to death to deal with the money at Nathans, largely because the more than year long experience in the crosshairs of the IRS and the DC Office of Tax Revenue left me traumatized about the perils of owning a cash business. My lawyers say, "you have to, you have to, you have to," and I know they are right, and I stick my nose in everything and poke around and ask questions, but I'm a person who can write a sentence but who has to add and subtract with her fingers. To accommodate my failings I have checks and balances twice over, and I'm obsessed with paying taxes, but still it's a scary business and the scariest part is the money. I do not know of the owner or the restaurants involved in this tax case reported on today, but it says he could go to the slammer for between 6 and 9 years. The part that I will emphasize to my staff comes in the last paragraph, quoting an official of the DC Tax office, Daniel Black, Jr.: "Strong and targeted enforcement is the cornerstone of effective tax compliance in the District. OTR will actively seek to halt any fraudulent behavior and due to stepped up compliance efforts, we are aggressively pursuing all types of tax evasion, fraud and misrepresentation, no matter what the amount of tax owed." Hell hath no fury like a tax man scorned.
Now off to an all day Lacrosse tournament on the Mall. Saturday, April 16...Presumably, most of us have paid our taxes by now and are prepared to go out and begin spending money (what we have left) again. My hope is that the outgoing and incoming checks arrive when they're supposed to and don't cross at the wrong time. It's a balancing act. There's a phrase I've learned since owning a bar: cash flow. I've learned what it means. Another word I learned was "float." It seems dicey to me, but I sort of get it. It's all about the high wire and owning a small business requires enormous skill in the art of acrobatics. Well, as they say, the checks are in the mail. Personally, I don't spend any money that isn't in the bank. ///I have an unedited affection for mothers who are on their own and getting it done. Until you've walked in those shoes you don't have a clue. I met another one today and it was, for me, like, "hooray for you." Widowed or divorced, we're in a similar club. Widows have a 24/7 burden, because we are absolutely on our own and there's the burden of so many people viewing us as pathetic and pitiful. Divorced women have a different burden. They have a sometimes deranged ex and are themselves viewed as damaged and desperate. But consider this: maybe none of us are any of that. To me it's all about the getting it done. My married friends with husbands complain and I want to bop them on the head. Even the ones who have a perfect love match complain. (I had a perfect love match and I complained sometimes, too, never knowing...) It's this simple: if he's a loser, he's still around. Even if he's a lout, you have somewhere to vent. And even if he's the most boring dude on planet earth, he's a warm body. My married friends mostly take their husbands for granted. They are lucky to have him, because if all else goes south, you can look at him and say, "catch." When they groan I want to say, "hey, come live in my life." So I'm with the women who have no one but themselves to figure out the new property tax, to figure out how to fix the toilet that explodes on Saturday night, to console the child who doesn't make the team, to make the Christmas tree seem as bountiful as ever, to provision, cook and clean up after all three meals, to pay all the bills and keep gas in the car and the roof from leaking and the dog and cat happy and the lawn mowed, and the birthday party a success, and the weeds pulled and the boiler from cracking and the parking tickets covered and the school placated and the dinner guests entertained and every stop made and every errand completed and every child delivered to every athletic event, lesson and doctor's appointment with her - the only parent - always on hand...and who has to pick up the flashlight and tiptoe through the house when, asleep in an empty bed, something mysterious goes bump in the night. Brunch and dinner at Nathans were quite boffo, especially dinner. The bar was packed with couples and families and at least half the room had one eye trained on the TV's airing the Nats game. The spirit of baseball is energizing the city. Two toddlers spun around in the bar with balloons, adding to the good vibe. We ate every meal out today: breakfast at Furin's, brunch and dinner at Nathans. Friday, April 15...Scrumptious spring day. Actually got to Nathans too early this morning. Wanted to do payroll but the checks hadn't arrived. The office was dark and empty and I rattled around. A little while later at home, working on the website and tasting some of Loredonna's new Strawberry Shortcake -- and swooning for it -- Vito called to say Lore was convulsed in pain and needed to get to the emergency room and, "can you drive her?" Sure enough. Swooped by the kitchen door and there she stood, hunched over, tears in her eyes, telling me she had hot, sharp pains that began in her shoulder and ran through her body to her stomach. We headed for Sibley. She winced with every bump in the road, which are unavoidable on DC roads. "Maybe it's a pinched nerve," I said. "You'll be okay. We're almost there. Maybe they'll give you some Valium." The doctors checked her up and down and in and out and fortunately there was nothing urgently wrong. They diagnosed muscle spasms and gave her a shot to induce relaxation. (Valium maybe?) Later she returned to Nathans and worked for a while. I headed to school to pickup Spencer and then to a 4 o'clock lacrosse game in Huntingtown, Md., at the Calverton School. The beltway was a parking lot and the drive took 90 minutes. We, and the other members of Spen's team, got there at 4:30 ... and we won. Then back home, with a yummy pit stop on Route 4 at Piggy Wiggy's barbecue, where Spen and I had North Carolina style minced pork sandwiches and his friend, Patrick Belaga, had shredded pork. Home by 7:30, with ten minutes to get the boys to "Sin City." A reviewer called the film "a must-see for its generation." These boys are its generation. Hung out at Nathans while they were at the film. Every seat was filled and the bar was 3 deep. John Cochran of ABC News was dining with friends, and Andrew Kohut, President of the Pew Research Center, were in booth #26 (the Seinfeld booth) with his wife and neighbors. At the bar I talked to two men who hadn't been to Nathans in years and came in because of the Newsweek article. "You're so much younger than I expected," one of them said to me. "I thought you'd be an old woman." Ha ha ha. If they only knew what hair dye and a little make-up can accomplish. If age were based on experience I'd be 1,000 years old.
Anyway, Spen and Patrick gave "Sin City" four thumbs up, multiple stars and the highest ranking of all, "the coolest movie ever." I'm going to curl up now with Jane Stanton Hitchcock's hot new page-turner, "One Dangerous Lady." I'm loving it, but if I were Mercedes Bass I'd probably call my lawyer.
Thursday, April 14...The Nats won tonight, and it was fantastic! It felt quite grown up, as overnight we became a major league city. RFK Stadium looked good. I remembered the last time I was there for baseball, the night of the final Senators game. UPI, my employer, sent me over to interview Ted Williams. He barked at me - "no women in here" - and tossed me out of the dug out. It was like that back then. Go Nationals! So many Washingtonians want this to work out, but we don't want to sink the city taxpayer to make it happen. Sheldon Cohen, at today's Nathans Community lunch, said that if the billionaires don't step up to the plate and make the new stadium happen it will fall to the residents of Washington to foot the bill. Fair to say we all love baseball, but we're taxed within an inch of our sanity as it is. This city has the second highest tax rate in the nation, and -- truth be told -- we don't have as much as other cities to show for it. And please don't think our taxes end with what we send the city tomorrow. Oh, no. We have a parking enforcement assault team that have one mandate: make as many $$$ off the parking meters as is technically possible. For example, I got a ticket last week for parking in a street sweeper zone AFTER the street sweeper swept through. Then I got a hearing notice for an earlier ticket even though I paid promptly and the city CASHED my check. Anybody who has ever parked at a meter in DC has a story to tell. The city knows few of us will fight the tickets because the fight consumes more real time than the average work week. Mark Plotkin -- please note.
Wednesday, April 13...An important story in the New York Times this morning, and it's not one about John Negroponte, Donald Rumsfeld or Tom DeLay. It's the one on the front page of the food section about the aggressive way in which California wine makers jack up the alcohol content of red and white wine. Unless the drinker is a drunk, or drinks only to get drunk, there is not much reason to drink wine with an alcohol content greater than 13.5% (and that's high), but increasingly California wines are showing up with 14, 15, 16 and even 17% alcohol. Really, what's the point, other than inebriation? Might as well drink 151 proof rum with food. Wine with this much alcohol is comparable to having a fully loaded cocktail, and that much alcohol gets in the way of tasting food. It has an impact on sobriety, which has an impact on behavior, and can produce a wicket hangover, and so forth. Now, most drinkers are adults (or should be) and they have a right to choose their poison, but I wonder how many people who order wine know the alcohol content. It's time to start checking, and it's also time for restaurants to list alcohol content on their wine lists. My personal solution is to pretty much stick to sane French wines, which almost always come in at 12.5% alcohol. In the meantime, check out the Times' story: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/04/13/dining/13alcohol.html?
They also have a chart that shows the relative wine alcohol content to blood alcohol ratio: http://www.nytimes.com/imagepages/2005/04/12/dining/20050413_ALCO_CHART.html
Later...Part of my job is to come up with ways to get people in the door of Nathans. It's a 24/7 challenge. I work especially hard to get people into the Community Lunches. Sheldon Cohen appears tomorrow and so far the reservations have been lackluster. This is not a reflection on Sheldon's Q&A. He will be brilliant. But I learned today he appeared a week ago at the Rotary, and several of the Community Lunch patrons saw him there and so cancelled us. Oh, well. Them's the breaks. Also, some people cancelled because, "I have to do my taxes." Couldn't it wait until after hearing Sheldon's wisdom? Oh, well. Stuff happens. So this is what I did? I drove over to RFK Stadium and begged to buy two hot tickets for tomorrow night's first home game of the Washington Nationals. Two seats, second row, right field. Everyone who comes to the lunch tomorrow will get a raffle ticket and then at the end of lunch we will draw a winner! So, come on down. Doors open at noon.
Tuesday, April 12...Personally, I think a woman should be exempt, from all at the same time, owning a bar, suffering deep debt and rearing a teenager. I'd like my focus to be singularly on that last item. The other two just get in the way of what really matters, but since survival is the goal all three are on my plate all the time. I remember going to Disney eons ago and riding on a people mover that traveled past live-action dioramas that displayed family life of the future. I imagine my life as one of those rides, with the people mover snaking from one boiling cauldron of live-action dramedy to the next, part house of horrors, part three ring circus, part opera. And then, periodically, a detour into pastoral, peaceful, well-ordered calm. Right now I'm going through a bad patch - the circus gig where the guy's spinning plates on top of sticks and racing from one stick to the next to keep all those fragile discs from crashing to the ground. It will pass, but I'm in the deep end right now.
Beside me on my desk is a stack of completed tax returns. Oye gevalt! One of tomorrow's projects. First got to get money moved around so the checks won't bounce. But listen - the smartest person in taxes will be at Nathans on Thursday: Sheldon Cohen. In 1997, after Howard died, when I learned that as his heir I was now the defendant in a multi-million federal tax fraud case, it was Sheldon Cohen, and his colleague Miriam Fisher, who took my hand and lead me out of big bad dark abyss. It's impossible to off-handedly describe what it's like to have everything you thought was one way turn out to be the opposite. Also, to go in flash from feeling secure and safe to the high wire with no net, and not being able to find security again -- at least not yet. I keep hoping it's just around the corner. A miracle. The lottery. A call from the landlords saying they'll give me a new lease. Pennies from heaven. Something!
Business to do today that I can't write about here. (I can't write about everything. Even in my life there are some areas of discretion.) Put 200 miles on the car between 7 a.m. and noon. Then came home and cleaned out my closets of almost everything. It was what I had to do. Carted an SUV-full of clothes and shoes off to consignment. It's spring and I'm molting.
The way it works typically is that when my home life is in full tilt turmoil, Nathans tends to be in its groove on autopilot. So far, so good. At 7 o'clock this evening the dining room and bar were packed. That's a sweet sight. We started the dinner shift with one party of 30 and another party of 20. That's the best kind of beginning. What we need to make this week complete are another 10 reservations for Sheldon Cohen on Thursday. The reason we're getting cancellations? "I have to get ready for the baseball game that night." Puh-leeze! It's possible to have lunch at noon and in the evening go to a first Washington home game in umpteen years. I must hustle.
Sunday, April 10...It can be difficult to leave New York City - we feel so at home there - especially after a weekend that included a reunion with Harry Shearer and Judith Owen; lunch of curried chicken at Harry Cipriani, where we learned they may close in two weeks due to a union dispute. Also, we learned the rats are departing the Plaza Hotel (literally), and have been invading the other buildings at the corner of 59th and Fifth. They must know the Plaza is closing, though speculation is the owners have ceased exterminating. Friday evening a cocktail party at Dunhill where we met an assortment of people, including the photographer Diana Walker (I asked her to do a community lunch), Jamie Leigh Curtis, Baird Jones, Lisa Birnbach (remember the "Preppie Handbook"?), Anthony Haden Guest, and others, and got re-acquainted with Michael McKean and Christopher Guest. Diana and Jamie were photographing each other for a new book in the "Day in the Life" series; dinner at Tribeca Grill with Lloyd Grove, cousin Zal Kumar and a group of friends, (lovely lobster with asparagus, but a fruit and honey dessert that cemented my teeth together); Saturday lunch at Park Avenue Cafe with Walter Cronkite, Harry, Judith and Spencer, a private tour of the Museum of Modern Art (breathtaking); an evening performance by Harry, Michael and Christopher of their Spinal Tap and A Mighty Wind compositions, with them performing as themselves rather than in costume as their characters, followed by a Q&A conducted by Bob Balaban. The talk part rolled along for almost two hours, interspersed with film clips, and their touching and funny recollections. They kept everyone in the audience laughing. It had to be the best show in NYC last night. Then, about 50 of us were invited to a nearby Italian restaurant, Il Gattopardo, for a late supper of risotto, sea bass and warm chocolate cake, plus lots of champagne and wine. Bob Balaban said he would do a community lunch. Christopher Guest and Michael McKean met Walter Cronkite. How much would I like to interview Christopher, Michael and Harry together? Let me count the ways. I'll made it a goal. Spencer and I departed at 11:30, but the party continued until 1 a.m. The headline news of the evening is that Christopher plans to begin shooting his next film in October. Since it takes him as much as a year to edit a film, it seems we will have to wait a while for this new production to hit theaters. But at least we know there will be a new Christopher Guest film. Of course, Harry and Michael (and most of the other actors from Guffman-Show-Wind) will be in it. Today we walked a lot, had oysters, champagne and shoe string potatoes at Michael's, and caught the 3 p.m. train home. We rode in the quiet car. On the way up we were in a normal car, and there was too much noise, most of it coming from people's cell phones; a dozen variety of "ringers" all going off at once. Now, I'm fat, exhausted and hoarse and not at all ready for the week ahead.
Friday, April 8...http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A35841-2005Apr7.html
NAMES & FACES
Noted . . .
Contrary to popular belief, Carol Joynt has not sold her hot G-town restaurant Nathans. It was an April Fool's joke when she wrote in her blog last Friday that she had sold it to a Kinko's competitor with the fictitious name Compress. So no need to book farewell dinners. Y'all got punk'd! . .
Couldn't have said it better myself.
Thursday, April 7...The lunch today with Georgetown University President John DeGioia was timely and compelling. He answered questions about what it's been like on campus this week -- at the nation's first Catholic university -- as the students thought about, talked about, prayed for and honored Pope John Paul II, who will be buried tomorrow. He said there are many students who will gather at 3:30 a.m. to watch the live coverage from Vatican City. He talked about the few times he'd met the Pope. Dr. DeGioia is not a Jesuit, but he comes from a deeply religious family and upbringing. He teaches Philosophy, when he's not running the school, and his favorite subject is human rights. In fact, it was some of his philosophy students, employing his views on human rights, who held a hunger strike to win better wages for G.U.'s service staff. I asked him about college, as in "how do we get our children into college." Interestingly, he said that on a level playing field, where a group of high school seniors have the the same everything going for them, it can be a record of community service that makes a difference. Also, "how the student is thought of at their school by classmates and teachers." Some 16,000 high schoolers applied for admission to Georgetown for next fall, and (I think) he said 20% made it.
Next up: Former IRS Commissioner, and tax lawyer extraordinaire, Sheldon Cohen, April 14th, the eve of tax day, appropriately.
Shortly I'm hosting a dinner for Swedish Ambassador Jan Eliasson, who is departing DC to become President of the U.N. General Assembly. He's been one of Nathans most loyal patrons, coming in for lunches and dinners with family, friends and royalty. Then we're out of here for a few days, headed up to New York for a reunion of the company of actors who appeared in This is Spinal Tap, Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show, and A Mighty Wind. It's part of a weekend-long tribute to director/actor Christopher Guest at the Museum of Modern Art. We're guests of Harry Shearer, who was Derek Smalls in Tap and a tranny Folkesman in Wind. Cannot wait for an injection of Manhattan.
Later...Eliasson: At a certain point mid-dinner, in the glow of candlelight and conversation, it occurred to me that this was an exceptional evening. Not just because it was going so well at our table of 8, but because as I looked around the dining room I could see it was going well at all the other tables, too. There was rhythm and balance to the food and the mood. It felt like we were already in New York. Our meal was amazing. It began with a course of sliced Scottish smoked salmon with garnishes, followed by Harry Cipriani's curried chicken, and then the showstopper - Leopold's chocolate mousse cake. It was such a dense, rich dose of chocolate it will be possible to dream on it all night. Of course, like all other trackers, I'll be up at 3 a.m. to watch the Pope's funeral.
Wednesday, April 6...It was a virtual summer's day, with all the attendant silliness. Breezy, bright, hot. Twice today Vito came down to the basement office to say, 1) "Carol, there's a man upstairs who wants to meet you. Said he read the Newsweek piece. I told him I'd ask you to come up. He's at (table) 43 with his daughter." I put my head on the desk and groaned, "Oh, no. Do I have to? Why would he want to meet me?" I was in no format to meet anyone, wearing a casual black tank top and a pair of too-large Williams College gray sweat pants. My rear looked double wide. No face, no hair. I hemmed and hawed and by the time I got upstairs table #43 was empty. 2), "Carol, there's a man at the bar who wants to meet you. A British gentleman. Nice guy. Good customer." Put my head down on my desk, groaned. "Oh, no. Twice in one day? What am I supposed to do? You know I'm no good with meeting people." Vito smiled at me. "He's a nice guy. If you don't want to, okay." I lifted myself up. "No. I should do it. I'll pull it together somehow and do it." Climbed the stairs and made the long walk to the center of the bar where the man sat, finishing lunch and a beer. Came around him from behind and then, mustering calm and resolve and a smile, introduced myself. Much to my surprise it was not an awful experience, in fact it was easy-going, but inside my nerves were like high tension wires. From our brief chat, and his artful answers to some of my questions, it seemed he'd been a British spy. Spooks and secret agents and international men of mystery like to hang out at Nathans. It's the big broad windows that give view to everything happening on all four corners of the intersection. Plus, throughout the day all kinds of people come in the front door, providing myriad opportunities for profiling practice, a pastime that goes well with martinis. Not a bad place for a drop, too.
If you ever see the Linens of the Week truck parked outside a business, and a smiling African-American man hauling large plastic-wrapped packs of linens, look to see if his name is Baldwin and then say, "hello, Baldwin." Baldwin has been delivering for Linens of the Week for years and he's one of the most cheerful presences in Georgetown. He always has a smile and a happy salutation. And he's good at his job, too.///Tomorrow is John DeGioia. I'm looking forward to the lunch. However, today we got a half dozen cancellations. It's got to be the weather. Growl. Please, if you're free tomorrow, come to lunch.///No. 1 bar patron Dennis Dunbar just e'd me a photo of himself from the Radio & Television Correspondents Association annual dinner at the Hilton. He did not appear to be having fun, but I could see VP Cheney in the background. DD wanted to know if I planned to show up. Ha! No way. Even though I earned a ton of money in T.V., I'm a shallow snob and prefer the White House Correspondents Dinner, but don't even go to that anymore due to bad case of Washington Hilton ballroom claustrophobia. Actually, what I liked was Graydon Carter's Vanity Fair after party.
Tuesday, April 5...A lustfully beautiful day, finally. A quick look around Georgetown and what did one see: tops down, sandals on, a literal spring to the step. By mid-day the temp was in the low 70's. The way this works in DC in April is that the humans are drawn outside, seduced by warmth and daylight savings time, and seemingly to stay until the first frost of autumn. So at lunch we were slower, and happy hour was lazy. Everyone was in a park at noontime or at the waterfront at cocktail hour. But when the sun sets it will cool quickly and then Nathans will take off. That's what happened last night, especially with the Nationals-Philly game. Also, in another few weeks, when the humidity arrives, the humans will be drawn back inside, seduced by air conditioning and buglessness. This morning sent out a blast e-mail reminding patrons of the DeGioia lunch on Thursday. Bagged a half dozen more reservations, but also got a couple of cancellations. Worked on another project, still semi-secret, that will be announced -- I hope -- next week. So I'm excited. And worked with lawyers on yet another project that may take several months but is WAAAAY exciting.///Visited Oak Hill Cemetary. That's where Howard is buried. As I headed for the exit gate, the cemetary manager, Joe Pozell, flagged me down. "You're a photographer, aren't you?" he asked. "Sort of," I said. "Would you take some pictures of the cemetary for our website?" he asked. "Consider it done," I said. Went home, got my camera, and was quickly back at Oak Hill, happily lost in my viewfinder, capturing images of sun sprayed spring flowers and shadowed gravestones. It was a very pleasant experience. Do you think that's odd? Maybe a cemetary is more peaceful for widows and such, who have passed through the horrors of death. I honestly felt the ghosts welcomed my flitting about, crouching on a path to get this angle, climbing up a hillside for another angle, sprawling on my belly for yet another. The tulip and star magnolias were at their peak.///After lunch when I departed Nathans, my cheerful mood was brought to a sudden end when the dog that belongs to our neighbors at Georgetown Tobacco got out in the street and was hit and killed by a car. I've been heartbroken ever since. Can't even walk M Street. Took the alley instead. All of us at Nathans are sad about this.
Later...Made an notable stop this evening. A little bit of Austria has elegantly and deliciously arrived at Cady's Alley. It's Leopold's, the cafe and "konditorei" opened by developer (and Austrian) Anthony Lanier. This is Anthony's giving back to Georgetown what we lost when Didier Pastier closed on Grace Street. Anthony and his family were regulars there. We were, too. There's been a need for that kind of European cafe, where it's always going (open from 7:30 am to midnight), and always good. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, after dinner, tea time...whatever. Do get in and check it out. 3315 Cady's Alley, NW. Phone number 202.256.3600. Website: firstname.lastname@example.org. If you call for a res, ask for genl manager Albrecht (Alby) Clary. And, yes, bring the children, bring the baby strollers, bring the whole family, and friends, and lovers. It has a high style look that benefits from the warmth and fizz of people.
Monday, April 4...Very satisfying piece in the NYTimes Business section today about Bob Schieffer and his tenure as temp anchor of the CBS Evening News. It seems the bosses, Les Moonves and Andrew Heyward, have settled into the notion that maybe Bob's gig can run longer than planned. Let's hope so, because he's a breath of wise air. This is about the best thing CBS News can do for itself after recent events, and perhaps by going slowly, when they do re-invent the evening news broadcast, they'll come up with something genuinely innovative rather than a trend sodden quick fix. Bob's moment is a good example of ending well. Maybe it's age, or the events of my own life, but there's a lot of appeal to having the last act be your best act. After all, why should experience and age lead to decline? The later years, rather than being about retirement, should be when the years of experience lift us up to the ultimate flourish. Simply put, it's better to end well. more later, the computer maintenance man has arrived.
Later...Got two hours of spring cleaning done to the computer. Makes a huge difference. This is necessary because I run everything from mission control here at home, and mission control is my computer. Chiefly administering the website, but lots and lots of e-mail regarding community lunches, etc. I have a computer at Nathans, too, but it's a laptop and it's not rigged to do the big jobs. Another reason for the clean-up is that twice now I've lost everything to spyware and adware saturation, and learned my lesson. I try to be pre-emptive.
It will be a timely lunch with Georgetown University President John DeGioia on Thursday. The reservations are coming in. On the eve of the funeral of Pope John Paul there is even more to talk about with the head of the nation's oldest Catholic and Jesuit university. Please do come, and bring a friend. We're serving Harry Cipriani's chicken curry, which Chef Loredonna interprets brilliantly.
Coming off a rough weekend with Spencer mad at me for 75% of it. Any solo parent of a teenager can relate. It's not that he's wrong or I'm wrong, it's just that there's two of us and I'm the only adult. Also, Ozzy is molting, which means his hormones are raging, as well. Only Leo, who doesn't have that problem, is pleased to be in my company all the time. This morning at school drop-off, Spencer said, "I'm not giving you a kiss good-bye." He got out of the car. "Okay," I said after him, "but I love you." His shoulders relaxed just enough for me to notice.
The photographer Kyle Samperton sent an e-mail: "I was out and Nathans came up in conversation, when someone popped up w/Hey, what is up at Nathan's - it's the hot place to go... everyone is going there." I loved reading that. Thank you, Kyle. Of course, today I heard many many people are calling to book their "last meal at Nathans" because they heard the rumor borne from my April Fool's joke. Guess I'm the fool. What can we do next April 1?
Saturday, April 3...Goodness gracious! I repeat, it was an April Fool's joke. An old-fashioned prank. Whatever happened to our senses of humor? Today customers at Nathans say The Georgetowner has an item that Nathans was sold and will close at the end of the month, based on this blog. I have not seen the paper, nor did anyone at The Georgetowner contact me. But it's not so. Read below. Nathans is not sold, not closing, not becoming a competitor to Kinko's; we are as open for business as we have been these last many decades, as a saloon and restaurant, seven days of the week, from lunch time to late time. Allow me a little fun. Ya'll got punk'ed.
At brunch today was the charming Martin Miller and his beguiling wife, Ioana, with a half dozen of their friends. They were at Nathans for brunch yesterday, too. They are visiting from London, where they own the wonderful Miller's Residence, one of the chicest places to reside while there. Check out their website: www.millersuk.com. Also, Martin has introduced a high-end, connoisseur's gin, Miller's Gin, which we plan to offer at Nathans. In fact, Martin and I talked about having a "Mad Englishman's" night at Nathans, where we'll feature the Miller's Gin and my proud dispensing of original Schweppes bitter lemon, and we could come up with a lot of other nifty Brit stuff to make for a great "drinks" party. After I spent some time with the Miller's, poor Mady pulled me aside and said, "I have to speak to you privately." I thought, "Oh, no. What's happened? What fresh hell is about to consume me?" He took me outside the front door to the sidewalk, and leaned in close. "Customers are saying Nathans has been sold. Is this true?" I laughed. "No, Mady. No. It's not true. It's an April Fool's joke." He looked at me curiously and then smiled, relief in his eyes.
Saturday, April 2...Yes, that was an April Fool's joke. J.A. got it, that smart man. Believe me, if I sold Nathans I would handle it a bit differently than a simple line here. And, besides, I don't want to sell it. I'd like to get a new lease and a smart young partner (are you reading, Ashton Kutcher?), pump new energy into the place and watch it sail on for another 36 years. But if I'm not going to get a new lease, and thus be on the unemployment line in 4 years, it would probably be smarter to get out, or move to a new location. For now, Nathans is as clamped on my ankle as that house arrest anklet worn by Martha Stewart. For better or worse, we're joined.
But, seriously, this day is all about the Pope, who died only hours ago at home in his own bed. For me this week was a lesson in how to die. There's the Schiavo debacle, which is how NOT to die. That was the Hatfields and the McCoys playing tug of war with the life and death of poor, pathetic Terri, who seems to never have had control over her own destiny. And then there was the profound and even beautiful death of the Pope. The serenity he sought seemed to teleport from his deathbed to the world. Those close to him said he was going the way he wanted to go, without extreme measures, in the company of people he loved and who loved him. If there is such a thing, he had a good death. I'm not a Catholic, but as I listened to news reports today there were moments when I envied the purity of his faith, and the comfort his followers had in believing, even rejoicing, that he had joined God in heaven. He showed us how to die.
This is the most incidental kind of sidebar, but when I was booking big game for Larry King, the executive producer, Wendy Whitworth, gave me a short list of people she most wanted me to book. The top three were 1. the Pope, 2. the Queen, 3. Frank Sinatra. I never got close, of course. But I did try with the Pope, because Wendy believed there just might be a chance. I wrote letters and talked to people at the Vatican and even managed to get a private meeting with Cardinal O'Connor in New York. It was a friendly meeting of about 45 minutes. We talked about several ideas for shows that would focus on the Catholic church in America, but then I got to the point. "Would the Pope do an interview?" Cardinal O'Connor gave me a big smile and a polite laugh and said, in so many words, never never never ever. Some people simply don't need to do interviews. The Pope was one of them.
Friday, April 1...As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, I promised big news was afoot. Well, now it can be told because the signatures were put on paper yesterday: I have sold Nathans! At long last! This should be shouted from rooftops. We will be closing the doors at the end of April and, after a brief renovation, a new concept in business centers will occupy the strategic corner of Wisconsin and M. In competition with Kinko's, this new company, ComPress (for Communications Express), will offer copying, binding, printing, shipping and so forth. I believe they will turn the back room into a sort of day-time computer base, where people can do their publishing work. (Bring your own Starbucks, because the kitchen will be gone). I could not sleep all night. Instead I cried with relief, thankfulness and exhaustion, as if just completing an 8 year non-stop marathon. It wasn't my first choice. I would have liked to get a partner and keep Nathans going. But with no certainty of a new lease, and needing some kind of fix on the future, checking out now was the only option. We should spend this month celebrating Nathans good, long 36 years of making it happen at the most important corner of the most powerful city in the world!!!
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