DIARY OF A MAD SALOON OWNER 2005
by CAROL JOYNT
Monday, June 27th...The run up to depart on any trip is 24 hours of madness, and then calm. It's not unlike when, as kids, my brothers and sister and I would press the backs of our hands against the door frame, pushing as hard as we could to a count of 100, then release them. Like helium balloons, our arms "floated" up, up, up. Or when the afterburners shut off on a supersonic jet. The sensation is being suddenly weightless. Right now I'm a supersonic human. A sensation of weightlessness is what I hope to have at this time tomorrow, enroute to Chicago. For now, it's 15 errands and mow the lawn and trim the rose bushes, and stitch loose buttons on trousers, and make sure the bird cage is clean and that the bird and dog have food, and fresh lightbulbs here and there, memos to everyone who is taking care of this, that and the other, stop the newspapers, and get the busted cellphone fixed (at t-mobile, a line of 3 people takes 45 minutes), get bills paid, get the reservation confirmation numbers in order, organize maps and travel books, burn music on to CD's. Thank goodness my roots are done.
We are totally psyched, and apart from how much we will miss Leo and Ozzy, we can't wait to get out of town.
Sunday, June 26th...Please don't think me cold hearted, but there are pro's and con's to having a dead husband. The pro's are watching whatever I want on TV at bedtime, being able to ask a stranger for directions without having to endure a marital debate beforehand, and if I want to buy myself an alluring dress there's no voice over my shoulder with, "you're not going out of the house in that, are you?" That's about it for the pro's. The con's are too numerous and wide-ranging to detail, but there's one in particular that stands out today. With his father around the house, Spencer wouldn't be able to drive me crazy about his hair. After the initial battle and drawing the line in the sand, I could go to Howard and say, "you handle the haircut war," and that would be that. I'm the granddaughter of a Hollywood hairdresser and I can cut hair. It must be a genetic thing. I cut Spencer's hair because it's easier than dragging him to a barber or hair salon and fighting the battle there in front of strangers. As a solo parent you learn to choose your fights, and long ago I decided the hair issue wasn't worth the yelling and screaming. Generally I do nothing until he asks for a trim, which is usually when his bangs are so long he can't see, or he's found an alien living in the crop covering his left ear. Today was one of those days, and it simply didn't go well. I cut off a quarter inch too much and it was like the War of the Worlds opened three days early and in our house. Rage, tears, tantrums. He actually looks okay. In fact, it's possible to see his face. He's visiting a buddy this evening. I said, "where will you go?" He said, "No where. We won't be able to leave his house because of my hair."
And I will be in a car with
him for three weeks.
Later....Al Long and I got together at Nathans tonight to pretend I was in Oregon uploading this diary from there.(the pic is on the front page)That was fun. I practiced writing the diary and putting it on the web. Then we got the big idea to go elsewhere on M Street to try uploading the blog from other "hot spots." You know the places, where you see the romantic poets folded over their laptops, a tall cup of coffee beside them, writing the mysteries of mankind. I wanted to be one of those wandering communicators. But guess what I found out: THEY CHARGE YOU A FEE TO GO ONLINE. WOW. That's not what I expected. All those people you see communing with their laptops are paying for the time. We stopped at Starbucks first. They were upfront about the fact you must have a T-Mobile account to get online. Then we went to Barnes and Noble. The woman at the inforamtion desk told us it was free. We went upstairs, bought our coffees, sat down, pushed the right buttons to go online and instantly got a message asking for payment of $3.95 for two hours. B&N won on that bait and switch, because we'd already bought the coffees. Then we visited the Four Seasons. Again, concierge Julie Saunders was frank about the fee to go wifi on the lobby - $10 for 24 hours. I returned to Nathans, realizing we offer the best deal there. It doesn't cost a customer anything to come in and get online. However, it's courteous to at least buy a drink.
It will be interesting as we drive cross country to find the spots where I can get this diary to the website.
Saturday, June 25th...Testing.
No, just kidding. This is the real deal. I
think. I hope so. Trying to pull together an almost 6,500 mile road trip
(that's a mile for every dollar Oprah spends on her Hermes handbags), and
convert computers and re-stage the website ahead of time, and pull away
from Nathans for a a short while, is a challenge that makes summer seem
a little less laid back. But we're getting there. The plotting and booking
is done for the trip. A few incidental restaurant fixes are now completed.
Little stuff, like where to have Sunday brunch in Louisville and will we
arrive in a timely fashion from St. Louis, and how to arrange to see Churchill
Downs on a Sunday. Stuff like that. Though today I focused on the really
important stuff: got my roots done. "Please make it so they last for
24 days," I whined. Also, visited Casa del Sol for a spritz of tan.
It's the silliest maneuver, getting undressed and twirling around in that
metal tank while brown goo sprays all over the body, but it does work. The
trick is to watch out for the feet, elbows and knees ... they can come out
a much darker brown. So, I'm tan and rootless. Ready for America. A few
more tasks to be done: Cliff is here right now fixing the kitchen drawer
that collapsed. My bathtub is in such bad shape the faucets have to be turned
with pliers, and that needs to be sorted out. Also, the drain doesn't close
and the water runs out during the bath. Between the time it takes to turn
the water on and off with the pliers, and get in and out of the tub before
the water drains, it doesn't leave much time for a relaxing bath. Clean,
yes; relaxed,no. Tomorrow the packing begins.
As I ran multiple errands today I parked on M Street a few times, using the new parking meters. They worked. The only negative was that my dashboard became cluttered with little white slips of paper - the receipts that show I've paid to park. My guess is people will simply start dropping them in the streets. We'll see. Another observation: difficult to get the money in the slot. Twice it popped away and landed on the street. That may just be me. I get a sense Parking Enforcement is laying off for a few days while we, as parkers, find our way. It would be courteous if the city gave us a grace period. Now, I will try to get this up on the website. Fingers crossed.
Friday, June 24...The
website conversion is almost done. In fact, it's possible to go to
and see the site in its entirety. We're operating both domains in
tandem at the moment, but eventually we'll cut nathanslunch loose. Last
night Apple ace Al Long and I worked till 3 a.m. on this project,
and I'm an exhausted mess today. He focused on construction while I re-entered
375 email addresses from the mailing list of the "nathanslunch"
site into the "nathansgeorgetown" address book. My eyes
burned and ached at the end of that marathon. We ate fresh camembert Jim
Spellman brought me from Paris, and grapes, and chocolate. But 3 a.m.
is waaaay past my bedtime, and perilously close to 6 a.m. wake-up.
But still got down to Nathans, signed payroll checks (though I can't cash
mine), pulled together a batch of CD's for Nancy Bagley at Washington
Life, and took them to her offices. She's thinking of running partial
transcripts from the Q&A lunches, which we always record. The
crew at Nathans - Erin, Vito - got the CD's made, and I'm grateful. Anyway...more
later. Now I must nap or or I'll never be able to drive Spen to evening
Later...Al is here again and we're back to round three of torturing ourselves in the greater grand cause of getting the website 100% as it should be before on head west. If the diary is not particularly profound tonight, please understand we're both operating on fumes, which have to be devoted to the work and what little humor we both have left. If you here about a double murder at Wisconsin and M, it may be us. (Just kidding). Back to work now.
Thursday, June 23...Is there anything more important right now than to get our troops out of Iraq? Once again, the daily war report is like a slam in the gut with a two by four, followed by deep dread and sadness, and then gloom. Simultaneously, at the White House President Bush meets with Vietnamese Prime Minister Phan Van Khai and they happily announce a Bush visit to Vietnam next year. That's terrific news and long overdue. BUT, and I repeat BUT, what about the war we have? The war that's on the verge of becoming like that other awful war. Maybe we should figure out a way to get to the peace pipe stage right now, rather than sticking our heads in the sand and wasting 30 years and the lives of hundreds of thousands of American soldiers and Iraqi civilians. It's up to us as citizens and voters to force the issue by letting Congress know we don't want more blood on our hands. Killing Iraqis is not catching Osama bin Laden, and how insulting is it to us to have the CIA director glibly pronounce he knows where bin Laden is hiding? Why not try nabbing him first and then boast about that?
Okay. Now we need to exhale. Maybe a small laugh, too. Go to your New York Times, pull out the Thursday Style section, and read the piece about air travel fashion. It's all pretty much true. No one dresses up for air travel these days, and surely less is more when going through security checkpoints...however, what's the point of dressing well to get squished into a seat in a cramped airplane? I'm old enough to remember when we did dress to fly, and it seemed a little much even then. But, before de-regulation, there was room to breath on airplanes. Today it's more sensible (and fashionable) to blend in, to be beige, and not obvious in any way. Dress light, carry little, and move without rustling the air.
Local news - the new parking meters go into service today along M Street. Here's hoping they work.
Good local news - the folks who run Oak Hill Cemetery wisely gave Joe Pozell's job to his widow, Ella Pozell, who already was co-captain of that operation. That's good news for the business and for the community, because it means Ella has a reason to stay here.
Mostly, I can't wait to get on the open road, to see the country, to be out in the wide open spaces. In five days we're outta here. Westward Ho. Today Al Long and I will practice feeding the website from my laptop. We will test it through the weekend to make sure I know what I'm doing. Then I'll put up a link called "Road Trip" and ya'll can come along with us.
BTW, the clams casino, now on the menu at Nathans, are awesome. I've enjoyed them three days in a row and will probably make it a fourth today. Sweet, salty, chewy, briny, brothy, and great for finishing off with some chunks of crusty Bread Line bread.
Wednesday, June 22...Last night at Nathans the topic was the fountain of youth. Henry von Eichel was in for dinner with a group that included an adjunct Harvard professor whose specialty is, among other areas, the effects of flavenoids on and in humans. Dr. Mitsunori Ono, according to his bio, "is a world-renowned phytochemical expert who has authored 65 academic publications and holds over 49 U.S. patents and 21 U.S. patents pending. Formerly President of Synta Pharmaceuticals, Dr. Ono is a founder of Quercegen Pharma as well as a Senior Scientist with the Beth Israel Deaconness Medical Center. While serving as the President of Fuji ImmunoPharmaceuticals and Shionogi BioResearch, Dr. Ono successfully spearheaded medicinal chemistry teams in developing multiple products from hits to advanced clinical trials in therapeutic areas including HIV, cancer, and autoimmune diseases. Dr. Ono was trained in medicinal chemistry at ETH (Zurich), after receiving his Ph.D. at Hokkaido University." When an individual has a bio like that, I pay attention.
But back to flavenoids. They are good for keeping the arteries, among other parts of the body, vital and flexible. What's good for the arteries is generally also good for the face. Flavenoids come in a variety of foods, especially dark chocolate, strawberries, blueberries, cinnamon, pecans, walnuts, grapes, green tea and cabbage. (I keep walnuts in bowls around the house for snacks. Ditto almonds and grapes). One basis for Dr. Ono and Henry's relationship is that Henry is the czar of hops. His company, John I. Haas, distributes hops throughout the world. We think of hops as being only for beer. But it turns out that hops are rich with flavenoids, and the group of gentlemen at dinner want to find a way of getting the flavenoids out of the hops and into items for the marketplace. Dr. Ono and I skipped out of Nathans to visit the wondrous Chinese Tea Room, Ching Ching Cha, that is a few doors down on Wisconsin Avenue. He was in awe of the selection of teas and picked out a few packs of recently arrived Japanese green tea that he said I should drink "four to five times a day." I can't tell you their names because they are written in Japanese, but they are in silver packs and the tea house staff can help you find them. They are good, too. I'm drinking one as I write this. Ching Ching Cha is where I go to eat tofu. They make yummy tofu. Dr. Ono sang the praises of tofu, too, and all soybean products. He lamented that soybeans, which are rich in youthful nutrients, are not appreciated by Americans. Most of our huge soybean crop is exported or used as animal feed. He said it should be daily human feed. I have asked Dr. Mitsunori Ono to try to find time in his busy schedule to appear at a Q&A lunch in the fall.
Random stuff from the newspapers. In today's New York Times food section there is a story about the restaurant mogul Jeffrey Chodorow. He owns 24 restaurants and is famous for that preposterous TV show, "The Restaurant," that was on NBC last year. He's not my pin-up boy for industry inspiration, but Chodorow has the perfect resume for success in the restaurant business. He's a lawyer, a graduate of Wharton, has deep pockets and did time in prison.
In Monday's Washington Post, Howard Kurtz has a sharp profile of Fox TV anchor Shepard Smith. The piece is amusing if frightening. Amusing because Smith is famous for doing a newscast that is rapid fire and lightweight and for missteps like declaring the Pope dead a day before the fact. The frightening part is this line: "The man everyone calls Shep has a knack for getting himself into trouble, but Fox executives believe that only adds to his rebel image." Ah, okay. All I know about the man I learned from the Kurtz piece, but if Shepard Smith is a rebel then the 60s legacy of meaningful rebellion is surely dead and over, packed up and shot into outer space. Roger Ailes, Smith's boss, was a rebel once upon a time.
Tuesday, June 21...Summer's here. Today is one of the happiest days of the year because it is the day with the most daylight. Another happy day is December 22, when the days begin to get longer again ... though it is a long march from there to here. Try to find a moment to be alone today to commune with the sky, the sun and the moon. You'll be better for it. One week from today we take to the open road, rolling out through the Midwest cornfields, the Dakota badlands, Wyoming and other points west for the Pacific ocean. We hope to dip our toes in that great sea just west of Eugene, Or., then again in Santa Barbara and Santa Monica, CA., before heading back east through the desert, the baked canyon spaces of New Mexico, the sweeping plains of the Texas panhandle and Oklahoma, and on to Kansas, Missouri, Kentucky, West Virginia. But for now gotta get a lot of business done. Started my day at a quick breakfast with Judith Beerman, who is handling ad sales for the new Capitol File magazine. I do so want to see this lux glossy take off and thrive here. It is positioning itself to grab a larger audience that includes Potomac, Md., McLean, Va., and environs, which is just fine. There are lots of people in those areas who have bucks and style and a desire to get plugged in to what's going on with the larger city scene, and it doesn't seem that any publication has singularly targeted them as a viable audience. The big question before me and Nathans right now is whether we can afford an ad in the premiere issue. ???? That kind of expenditure is always tougher to endorse in the summer, when our cash flow is as low as a mountain stream after the winter run off. Oh, to be sitting on a big fat pile of cash to be pissed away as I please. For now, we're getting a new grill to replace the old one that was installed in 1978. It died a humble death.
After lunch at Nathans took Spencer to B&N to get books for the trip. For him I picked out some Louis L'Amour and Larry McMurtry, with special flavors of the old and new west, while he picked out for himself the autobiography of Marilyn Manson. For me I have the Sinatra book and the John Harris book on Clinton. I'll grab some fiction, too, but don't know what. To this day I still mourn the death of John D. MacDonald, because I loved his Travis McGhee books for salty summer reading.
Had a good phone chat with Cindy Pena from Channel 9 about the beautiful new face of Georgetown, with its bricked sidewalks, paved main thoroughfares and handsome street lamps billowing with pretty purple flowers. Also, we talked about the new parking meters that become effective on Thursday. Prepare yourself for these babies - they are unlike any other parking meter in DC. First of all, they are machines that service multiple spaces. You park your car, go to the machine, punch in your space number (assuming you know it), insert money or credit card, receive a receipt, and then return to your car and put the receipt on the dashboard. These are a lot of steps to take. And, if the machines break down (like many other parking meters in the city), there will be the issue of who's being charged what and how do you get that expense off your credit card. Ha ha ha ha ha ha. You know it will be, "go downtown and make your claim." But maybe they'll work. As a mercenary street parker, I hope they work. For now, it will be a comedy of confusion for several weeks.
I enjoy talking to the local reporters, and try to make myself available to them. I respect what they do. Though most of my career was spent in network news, I did once work for Channel 4. It was 1975, after my gig with Cronkite, after returning from a season of crewing on a sailboat in the West Indies, after three months hanging out in the south of France. I arrived in DC where Joel Albert and David Nuell hired me to be a writer/reporter for WRC. The writer part was a natural fit, as I had done that for Cronkite for 4 years. The on air bit was more of a challenge. A local TV reporter has so much to do it's comparable to being assigned to simultaneously skip backward with five balls in the air AND spin around and do headstands, AND get the story, or stories, in on deadline. I didn't like it. I'm too much of a producer, too controlling by nature. I want to be calling all the shots, and TV reporters don't have that luxury. They have to arrive, interview, narrate, feed it to the studio and move on to the next story. There's also the hair and make-up issue.
In my brief time as a TV reporter, it was still film, and the film had to be processed. There was a huge lag in time between shooting and airing. Also, we didn't use satellite trucks back then. Film had to be shipped by courier back to the studio. I covered a murder trial in Fairfax (a fast food eatery was robbed and the suspects put the employees in the freezer and shot them; one survived to testify), but had to leave the trial at lunchtime to return to Nebraska Ave., to get the film processed, write and record a track...blah blah blah. I'd call the prosecutor, defense lawyers and print reporters to find out what happened in my absence. Frustrating and no fun. So I chose producing. Besides, the very first time a piece of mine aired I was so mortified about my face and voice on camera that I ran to David Brinkley's office and hid under his desk. (He was not there at the time). Now, with digital recording and instant feeds I'd probably enjoy reporting, except for the madness of hopping like a frog from story to story. Anyway, these local reporters arrive at the story and they just want to find someone who knows what's going on and and who can give them a credible and lively quote. I don't get to know any of them -- they're in and out THAT fast -- though Dave Statter, also from Channel 9, has been keeping in touch. He's from here, has rich family history in the community, and possesses an insider's grasp of how the city works (or doesn't).
Monday, June 20th...Ridiculous as I look, that's me signifying the liberation of Georgetown while talking to NBC/4 correspondent Tom Sherwood about the end of The Georgetown Project. Yes, he's very tall.
Tom did part of his report from Nathans rooftop, which has quite a view. It would be a neat location for a rooftop skybar or top deck cafe, especially on July 4th.
The views go forever in every direction. In this pic the view is toward the Kennedy Center, which is a sliver on the far horizon.
Sunday, June 19th...For Georgetown, this is a weekend of liberation. We are free, finally, of the three year long Georgetown Project, in which Wisconsin and M Streets, and many side streets, were torn up so the century old underground infrastructure could be uprooted and re-planted with today's technology. The saga began with a series of manhole cover explosions in the spring of 2001 and ended yesterday morning with the paving of Wisconsin Avenue. It's a significant landmark and it's unfortunate the local media have not cared more for the story. After all, how many times were they at the corner outside Nathans front door to report on the manhole explosions, the 10 pm street closings and all the cars that got towed, and other inconveniences, basically warning away patrons who would arrive by car? Sure enough, the customers went elsewhere. Okay. It's over now. It's safe to come back to Georgetown. There are no metal plates on the streets. It's possible to park on M street without getting your car towed at 9 pm. The sidewalks have bricks on them rather than slabs of plywood and tarpaper. It will take a while to win back the foot traffic and car traffic we had before October 2001, but we're ready to do our best. Remember, we got a one-two punch. First 9/11, and then a month later, The Georgetown Project. The night the work began Mayor Anthony Williams graciously came to dinner at Nathans, along with Dan Tangherlini, the head the DC Transportation Department, and Deputy Police Chief Peter Newsham, then head of the 2nd district, as well as the heads of Pepco, Verizon, Washington Gas, DC Water and Sewer and other city leaders and business owners. We were about 15 in all. Among many toasts I asked everyone to drink to "the hope we will all still be standing when the work ends." It seems we are. A little hobbled perhaps, but open for business.
Today is Father's Day. I underscore today because last Sunday I erroneously declared "today" is Father's Day. But it's this day and it's a lovely day and at Nathans we have lots of reservations on the books for families bringing Dad to brunch. It's a problematic day in our household. If we were to recognize the occasion in a typical fashion -- doing something for Dad and Grand-dad -- we would be in a graveyard all day. Instead, we step carefully around the edges of the sad, molten center. It's there, it's a fact, but we don't jump in. I may require dinner out tonight to acknowledge the half of me that is father. It will be the mother half taking out the father half, with Spen and his buddy, Brad Neal, along for the peculiar fun. On another day I'll write about my life as a father, complete with the catechism on male values and trust, how to talk sports, clothing, the joy of smelly feet and armpits, when and where to use foul language, understanding girls and social life and the significance of having "wood" in the morning.
Saturday, June 18th...My Democrat friends find little pleasure in our lunch at the White House yesterday. It's as if I betrayed all mankind. Dear me. This was not a partisan act. It was a gesture of friendship for all involved and, regardless, I think of the White House as a historic building, not the party headquarters. This is the tedious side of living in Washington - the all- about-politics part of it. The strategy side of politics is fun; the "who's side are you on" part is boring.
Moving on...Summer is one big picnic from Memorial Day to Labor Day. The foods are so gorgeous and simple and fresh and tempting. Who needs to prepare an elaborate meal when the farmers' markets have watermelons and tomatoes and rich green heads of lettuces and tender yellow squash and crisp green beans? A little butter, a little salt, and in some instances a little heat. It's all good. Last night I had a picnic outdoors with a friend, and tonight here at home we made chicken salad, corn salad, cole slaw, and put all of that on a cold plate with some prosciutto and sweet, glorious canteloupe melon. Cherries are terrific and plump right now, too, and I pop them down the hatch like pieces of candy all day long. For wine? Domaine Tempier Bandol rose. Always, Domaine Tempier rose, or Domaine Ott. They are wines of summer in the south of France.
A book to get and read and give as gifts, especially to friends who travel a lot to major cities in the US: Johnny Apple's "Apple's America." It's an unpretentious "insider" guide to what to see, where to stay and what to eat from one corner of this country to another. I'm using it as we plot our meals in cities like Chicago, Louisville, Santa Fe, Las Vegas, Kansas City. He prompted my memory of a culinary thrill at Arthur Bryant's Barbecue joint in Kansas City. We're talking long ago - the 1976 GOP Convention, and I think it was Hughes Rudd who lead me there, promising a meal like no other. I can't wait to take Spencer there for the same thing.
Wish we could get a spike in the June business at Nathans. Had an unplanned but pleasant breakfast with Anthony Lanier at Leopold's this morning and we talked about the drought of customers. There's prosperity again and when the bucks start adding up the native Washingtonians leave town, because they can. Fat bank accounts mean expensive holidays elsewhere. Tourists in Washington don't spend money. They don't have to. It's not an extravagant vacation. This is all well and good, because we love having tourists back in town, but we also need to put $$$$ in the bank. It's the same with the seasonal invasion of interns. There are hundreds of summer interns, but they are on beer and burger budgets, and most of them aren't over 21 and therefore not potential Nathans customers. With Nathans operating costs, we need customers on steak and wine budgets. Regardless - I love 'em all, wherever they come from, as long as they come. Anthony was, as he always is, an interesting piece of conversation. He was in a bit of a bum because there will be a less than fabulous Leopold's review in the Post tomorrow, but he also understands how to fix what's not working and move on. Leopold's will make it and thrive. Already yesterday and today I noticed improvement in the service. But a dour review is never ever ever a pleasant experience.
Had some drinks, chat and fun with Michael Isikoff last night. After the dust up a few weeks ago that I won't retread here, he found a couple of safe houses in Amsterdam and Paris, where he got off the radar for a spell. He's back now with his instincts and humor intact. He didn't mean to betray any trust's but he had me LOL as he recounted the endearing phone message he received from a famous and famously eccentric anchorman.
Friday, June 17th...We had a treat today: lunch at the White House. A friend who is an administration official invited us to Friday lunch at the fabled White House mess. The gentleman and I go way back and he has been with Bush since Texas, but because he thrives on discretion and anonymity I'm going to keep his name out of this. I had not been to the White House since 9/11, being a natural born paranoid and fearing God knows what. But in the past I'd been there many times, and for a while had a "hard" pass. As we arrived through the front doors of the Old Executive Office Building, and then walked from there over to the White House (we paused while Vice President Cheney went in before us) I recalled for Spencer my first time. It was in 1969, when I was a young cub at UPI, and I got sent over to retrieve some documents from Merriman Smith and Helen Thomas. This is when the press room was in the West Wing. You walked in the main doors to a large lobby that had leather sofas. These were big, weathered sofas, and, from my teen-age point of view, were the home base to a lot of old, lazy men who were just sitting around. The reporters were in a room to the right that had big windows looking out on the (then) EOB. There was no "old" about it yet. Adjacent to the room were some wooden telephone booths. It was not long after my first visit that the Nixon administration tore apart that press room and moved it to its present location, between the mansion and the West Wing, virtually on top of the indoor swimming pool that was built for FDR but that JFK made notorious. Before we walked out of the OEOB I showed Spencer the room that was "Nixon's Hideaway," an office just inside the side door where he would go to get away from the formality (and possibly the recording devices) of the Oval Office. The first time I ever met Richard Nixon was at a photo op in that room.
Our friend escorted us along the carpeted corridor, to a right turn, down a few steps, and to the Mess. It's all very hushed and quiet...none of the hustle and bustle typical to scenes in the tv show, "The West Wing." Directly across the hall from the door to the Mess is the door to the White House situation room. THAT gets your attention. In between the two is a bowl of M and M's. And some mints with the President's signature on them. Truly, the space here is compact and small. Ten people in that hallway would be a crowd. The Mess is intimate, too. It seats only about 45 people. Most of the tables are for four or two, with one that seats 8-10, which is a "communal" table for top White House staff who are dining alone. There is an adjacent smaller room, with 3-4 tables, for cabinet level staff who want more privacy. The principal room, where we dined, is decorated in a nautical motif with wood paneling, a ship's clock, nautical art, and is run by a staff who come to the White House from the Navy. The service if friendly, quiet and efficient. It's a land version of a shipboard Admiral's mess. The tables are dressed with white cloths, a sash of gold brocade across the top, a vase of fresh flowers, and white china embossed with the Presidential seal in gold. The flatware is silver. The lighting is bright and cheerful. The menu is dark Navy with a gold cord, decorated only with the seal of the United States on the cover. Inside the white insert says simply, "The White House," because when you can say that you don't need to say more. Spencer had the "West Wing Burger," though for a moment he considered the "Lone Star Cowboy" steak. He noted that the menu listed "French" fries rather than "Freedom" fries. I had Macaroni and Cheese with Smoked Ham, which turns out to be a recipe of Nancy Reagan's. Our friend had the Chicken Chinos Salad, which had a red "heart healthy" symbol beside it on the menu. There were "V" symbols for vegetarian offerings. This is a very contemporary menu, even if some of the recipes are traditional favorites, including another Nancy Reagan entry - the "Presidential" crab cakes. My friend and I told Spencer White House stories, as we could recall them, throughout the meal. He's worked for two Bush administrations and has lots of stories. Most of the other tables were filled with groups like ours - top White House staff sharing a perk with friends. Along the way, chief of staff Andrew Card breezed by.
Dessert was wonderful. They offer something I admire: a chocolate chip cookie. Just one cookie, with some whipped cream. All restaurants should have cookies. I've tried at Nathans and it's not as easy as it would seem. They get broken. They get eaten by the staff. They don't stay fresh. There are many challenges involved. But here at the White House they get it done. Good for the Navy. Spencer had the Chocolate "Freedom" dessert, a dense mound of warm chocolate cake with an oozing liquid center. One stab with the spoon or fork and the ooze is free to go. Our friend had frozen yogurt, and the kitchen sent out a sample of a new sorbet creation: "Cosmopolitan." An interesting concept. This is a Cosmopolitan martini without the booze. Cranberry, lime, a zest of orange, and really quite tart, good and refreshing. We joked about "where's the vodka," but there's strictly no alcohol at the White House Mess.
Later, after a walkabout, we ended up in the press room, which was quiet and empty with the President out of town. I wanted Spencer to see it because there's talk of a complete re-do. At lunch we told him all about the pool underneath. Our friend said, "there's a hatch, and a ladder down to the pool, but now they keep the hatch locked." As luck would have it, today the hatch was open, because people were down in the old pool area taking measurements. Spencer and I got to stick our heads down the hatch and look around at the wide gray/blue tiles of the old pool. It was dreary and dated. The pool, what we could see of it, was without charm, and the "romance" was obscured by banks of electronics and cables installed by the TV networks, and probably the CIA, too. I whispered to Spen, "this is where JFK used to swim nude with friendly young ladies." We both silently pondered that for a moment, then pulled our heads back up.
It was interesting to be at the White House today. It wasn't about politics. (If it had been I would have been wearing a t-shirt that said OUT OF IRAQ NOW!) It was about visiting an old friend and giving Spencer a rare treat and some history. Besides, we're both citizens and taxpayers and that house is ours, too. Our pal took this pic outside the entrance to the West Wing.taken with a Cybershot
Thursday, June 16th...Random stuff: first of all, the event at the Mandarin with Jane Stanton Hitchcock was a genuine hit, if I do say so myself. I figure a packed room -- we had 90 people -- and a great guest, which is what Jane was, and everyone departing with a positive attitude, is a hit. Important to point out we had no A/C - it was sweltering - but nobody walked out or asked for their money back. Eventually, when the new website is set up (more about that in a second), we will put up the video of the interview. I may be biting off more than I can handle, but we're going to try to do that. At the very least, we will try to start offering streaming audio from that interview and others. Many thanks to Alan Novak, who brought me to the Mandarin in the first place. It was his idea and I think he should be proud. Also thanks to marketing chief Spencer Yeo and general manager Darrell Sheaffer. Many of the people at the Mandarin were wonderful to work with. A couple need to listen to me next time. If we get some of the kinks out, we may do it again in the fall.
Later: Alan Novak phoned this evening before departing for Paris. He said, "when I return let's sit down and talk about the next one."
Jane revealed a lot of herself in the interview - as a woman who grew up among the privileged and paid attention to how they are different from you and me. She's not ga-ga about any of them. As a writer, she draws them with a clear pen dipped in just enough humor. I was particularly struck when, after I asked her if she prefers NY to Washington, she said, "Too many of the people in New York are on sedatives or something. You call them up and they're barely there." Or words close to that. I seconded what she said. The "Valley of the Dolls" is having a revival among women of a certain age in this era. It seems to me that pill popping is rampant. Set up an oxycontin and percocet concession on the sidelines of a soccer game and quite possibly there'd be a stampede. It's a kind of dull bliss. The high from these pills masks boredom, futility, frustration, yearnings. Pop one and whatever is hurting stops hurting. For the moment. Then there's the other side of that, the moms who sneak some of little Mary or Billy's ritalin every now and then - "just to get focused." Maybe it's that the baby boomers have been on drugs of one kind or another since the 60's.
In about ten days we will change the domain name for this website. It will change from www.nathanslunch.com to www.nathansgeorgetown.com. We hope this will be a smooth transition. The nathansgeorgetown name seems more appropriate, and big enough to cover everything we offer at Nathans. The lunches are the driving force of the website, but more and more often people are visiting to check out the menu and to make lunch, dinner and brunch reservations. I want them to feel welcome. My favorites are the people who write to me from outside the U.S., saying they are coming to Washington, found the site while doing their DC research, and book a table. That's cool.
Reservations are rolling in for Father's Day, which I now know is this coming weekend. It used to be Father's Day was a slow day, but that seems to be changing. Why not take Dad out for brunch, and is there a better brunch place than Nathans? No.
Tuesday, June 14th...It's naive of people to think Michael Jackson can't find a profitable job in the entertainment industry in America, and that he'll be forced to go to Europe and Japan to make the kind of money he once could count on. Hey, folks, this is the land of "American Idol" and "Fear Factor" and "Bachelorette," and the U.S. Congress. There are no limits. My suggestions:
1. He replaces Paula Abdul on American Idol. She hasn't yet been cleared of claims she molested a boy. Michael has.
2. Mark Burnett gives him his own reality show, "Best Boy," in which we get to ride on Michael's shoulder cam as he chooses his next victim.
3. CBS can scale the ratings peaks with a remake of "All In the Family." In this version it will be Michael and his new predator family, with guest appearances by his own veiled children, the hired and paid mothers, and maybe even Lisa Marie Presley and Elizabeth Taylor. Unsure whether Michael fills the Archie or Edith role. Definite guest slot for brother Jermaine's son, Jermajesty.
4. He replaces Roy Horn in the Siegfried and Roy wild animal act in Vegas, but rather than appearing on stage with lions and tigers Michael would perform feats of derring-do with 8 and 9 year old boys. Then, bring on the tigers.
5. Lastly, there's one job opportunity where he'll feel completely at home: the Catholic priesthood.
Monday, June 13th...I made a huge mistake yesterday, thinking it was Father's Day. Don't have any idea where that came from, except perhaps advertising. I did think it was odd we weren't so terribly busy at brunch, and I kept saying, "slow Father's Day," but no one corrected me. Typically, Father's Day is not a huge restaurant day. Certainly not like Mother's Day. Anyway, it turns out it was Gay Pride Day. It's not for me to say whether one connects to the other. Anyway, Father's Day is still a week away. There's time to go get the Dads a new tie or a Lamborghini. My brain is off the hook right now as I focus on computers and re-reading Jane Stanton Hitchcock's "Social Crimes," which I like even more now that I've read "One Dangerous Lady." Tonight I will start putting together questions. There's so much to talk to her about, particularly the recent stories in the New York Times defining the new rich, the so-called "super rich," and the widening divide between them and us, and how they stack up next to her fictional New York high society, which are a mix of old, new and faux rich.
All my other sentiments expressed yesterday still stand, however.
Later...the Michael Jackson verdict is in. He's a free freak. Should anyone be surprised by the verdict? Not really. Is it celebrity justice? Probably. Did the prosecutor have a weak case? Yes. Is there another desperate family waiting in the wings, ready and willing to offer MJ their son? Of course. By the end of the week, possibly even by the end of tomorrow, no one will be talking about it anymore, and he'll be free to do as he pleases. Regardless, it's a sad day for the victims of pedophiles.
Sunday, June 12th...Happy Father's Day to all you dads out there, and grand-dads and soon-to-be Dads. I'm thinking today of my husband and how I sometimes visibly wince with yearning for him to be able to see his Spencer. There are these snapshot moments, like yesterday watching him walk down the street with his buddy, Charlie. I try to wish Howard into my head and to be seeing with my eyes. If he could come back for just one day, I'd want that whole day to be about only the two of them. I had my 20 years with Howard. Spencer had only five, and the memories are distant for him, and a little vague, like a well-known film on a drive-in movie screen glimpsed from the road. They both would be in awe of each other, and the best of friends, and I'd adore watching that. On a sadder note, I'm also thinking of friends, another father, and mother, who buried their 3 month old baby this week. The baby died at a day care center in Alexandria, Va. The autopsy said the cause was Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Whatever the cause, it's the worst thing in the world. The father arrived at the Day Care and carried his dead child to the hospital. Ella Pozell arranged the funeral, which means the parents were in the strong, loving hands of a woman who's own new grief could help to support theirs. Also, other SIDS parents have come to give them counsel and comfort. They are probably the only people who understand, and how remarkable of them to use the experience of their own tragic loss and recovery to help my friends.
Friday-Saturday, June 10-11th...For the saloon at the corner of Wisconsin and M these are near dog days, though not yet out and out dog days. We don't cater to college kids as customers. Our base tends to be more among the post-grad age group and on up, beginning with those in their mid-to-late 20s. As a customer base they are ideal, but the very factors that make them great customers -- professional lives, income -- also means they tend to flee the city on the weekends. What this means is that one hour we're slow, the next hour we're packed; one night we're slow, the next night we're not, and so forth. It's not predictable. It's rough on us, because everyone involved with Nathans, the front staff, the kitchen staff, the office staff, and the customers, thrive on a full house. When the weather is as stifling as it has been these past several days, the drain on business feels more pronounced. Add the Booz Allen Golf Classic, the Belmont in NY, a home game with the powerhouse Nats, and a Mike Tyson fight, and wow, you get the picture. Re the heat, I can't imagine what it must have been like for saloons here in the days before A/C. Yee Gads! For a while today we escaped to the Loews Georgetown to see "Mr. and Mrs. Smith," which is everything everyone says it is, the good, the bad and the in between. A lot of bang bang and kaboom, and two very attractive humans in many, many close-ups. For my money I would rather have had more sex and intrigue and fewer explosions. Add to that, almost every one of the 12-15 previews BEFORE the movie began were packed with bang bangs and kabooms.
The computer conversion continues in fits and starts. The website is half on one computer and half on the other. Sometimes it is accessible, and other times not. Stick with us, though. One goal is to be able to keep the diary going from the road as Spencer and I drive across the USA later this month. To the Pacific and back. The states we will visit include Illinois, Iowa, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Oregon, California, Nevada, Arizona, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Kentucky, West Virginia and back home. Even if we can't fit you in our Hertz rental cars, we can include you just the same. We hope to put up diary and photos.
NATHANS LOVES THE BOOZ ALLEN. I really want to say, Booze Allen, given the business we're in. Genl Manager Vito Zappala sent this report to the diary: "Tom Lehman, after shooting a 68 on Friday and making the cut at the Boo Allen Golf Classic, came to Nathans for a late afternoon hot dog and a beer. Lehman, captain of the 2006 American Ryder Cup team, and who in past years during the tournament often came to dinner at Nathans with his wife, was with local PGA professional Jim Hiskey of Annapolis.
I don't mind begging on this score, because I know the pay off is a guarantee. Please try to join us Tuesday night at the Mandarin for the dinner Q&A with Jane Stanton Hitchcock. Jane wrote "Social Crimes" and her new book, "One Dangerous Lady," will be released, well, at our dinner and nationwide the next day. There are seats available because we had the usual load of last-minute cancellations. So, grab a friend (or two or three) and come on down. There will be Asian delicacies to dine on, great people, an entertaining show, and an awesome view of the city. All this for $40 per person.
Thursday, June 9th...Into day two of the big computer change over, and my office looks like a computer work shop, with tandem screens, tandem processors, cables snaking everywhere, software CD's stacked up, reference pamphlets one on top of the other. The new system is just about up. The only part of the old system that still exists is the ability to get into the website. That will be the last to go because the entire website may have to be reformatted for the new system, and I'm saving that for the weekend. All in all, when this project is completed the website should be fresher and better than before. That's the goal. Also, we hope to add streaming audio from past community lunch Q's and A's. (Just the same, the changeover process is maddening, time-consuming, fraught with trial and error, confusing and exhausting.)
On another front, we're winding up for the big event Tuesday evening at the Mandarin Oriental. Reservations at last count were at about 57-65, somewhere in there. The Mandarin is calling everyone on the list for reconfirmation, but you can call Nathans, also, to reconfirm or make a new reservation at 338.2000. Whatever you've heard, it is easy to get to the Mandarin. If you can get to Independence Avenue, you can get to the Mandarin. Take Independence across 14th and past the Agriculture Department. Turn right at 12th Street and go down about two blocks or so until you see the hotel -- you can't miss it -- and turn right and go straight to the circular drive, pull up to the front door, and relinquish your car to the nice carhop. Voila, you're there. It's not difficult, really.
Summer is upon us with a vengeance. Temps in the 90s with humidity to match. Relief is available at Nathans. We have good A/C, a menu chock with summer treats like gazpacho, and of course our new drink - the Cool Relief, of pineapple, blue curacao and vodka. The sounds are cool, too, as I just mixed and burned four new CD's of summer music. Take a break from the heat, come in and have an Arnold Palmer, or something stronger, and a hot dog.
Tuesday, June 7th...The sigh that's landing like a dew all over Georgetown is mine. For this brief moment I'm hitting the high of life, the top of the Ferris wheel ride, up where the view is exhilarating. No doubt I'm inflating the results of a hard day turned brighter, but it feels good. Moments ago, soaking in a welcomed evening bath, the phone rang. It was a young man from Verizon DSL, who provide my high speed internet service. "I'm responding to your ticket about some problems you reported with your DSL," he said. I was clueless. "There's nothing I can think of," I said. "When did I make this complaint?" He paused to read through the report. "It says here, ah, 2003." Of course I laughed. "You're calling me about something I reported in 2003? Do you realize it's 2005?" He was equally dumbfounded. "I don't know," he said. "This just came up." He tried to figure it out. "Could there be a problem?" he asked. "None that I know of," I said, dragging my fingers across the water, enjoying the juxtaposition of a relaxing bath and an internet issue. "Well, if you wanted to report something I could make a ticket and get it started," he said. "Oh, okay," I replied. "And I'll hear back from you in 2007?" Fortunately, he laughed.
Earlier at Nathans we needed to come up with a drink special for the blackboard. They had up "Deep Throat" but I thought that was five days ago and asked them to take it down. "We have to come up with something to do with the heat." Matt the bartender pulled out the book and looked up drinks that begin with the word "Cool." He found the "Cool Blue," a mix of Peppermint Schnapps, Blue Curacao, and Lemon/Lime Soda. It had a pretty color but we spit it out the moment it touched our tongues. Pure mouthwash. Yech. "But we're on to something with the color," I said. "What about trying the blue Curacao with pineapple?" Matt mixed it up in a rocks glass and slid it my way across the bartop. It was the aquamarine color of the sea off the shallow beaches of Antigua and Barbuda. It was better than the mouthwash, but lacked complexity, austerity, bite. It needed to be de-sweetened. "Put in some vodka," I suggested. Matt obliged. He added some ice, too, and a sliver of lemon. With one sip I knew we had a winner. Dennis tasted it and agreed. Ditto Vito, Matt and Brian. "Let's put it up on the board," I said, "And call it Cool Relief." Matt looked at Brian, "$6.50?" Brian nodded. Matt handed me the pack of chalk and the board and I attempted to render an attractive pitch, something like, "Cool Relief in a glass, $6.50." For those who shake their heads and think my life is feeble, let me point out we are embarking on the slowest months of the Georgetown saloon season, when we try anything that might work.
We made www.Huffingtonpost.com today. They picked up the diary entry I wrote about Jeb Magruder and Warren Beatty, courtesy of Harry Shearer and his "Eat the Press." That's pretty cool. Makes me feel like the real thing, an 18-year-old blogger.
WARNING: Tonight I change over from one computer to another, and who knows what will happen. I'm converting from PC to Apple, because all the internet smarties I trust advise Apple is better for websites. Plus, I got a good deal. So, optimistically this website will be up and running tomorrow, but if it takes a couple of days please be patient. We'll be back ASAP. The project will be in the good and able hands of Georgetown's Apple "Wiz," Al Long, with me on the sidelines as student. Stay tuned.
Monday, June 5th...In the 80s we had the first post-war era of the super rich. They were defined by pouf skirts from Lacroix and outrageous Park Avenue apartments and the celebrity press gargled with the fantasy of their greenmailing, their buy outs, their jets and yachts and over the top parties. This was the era when the only Mrs. Trump we knew was Ivana. It was when names like Kravis, Steinberg, Bass, and Gutfreund first went boldface. The fully evolved 80s "Master of the Universe" was Michael Douglas' fictional Gordon Gekko in the film "Wall Street." In the real world, no one paid serious attention to these people, but after the end of the Vietnam war and the disco inferno of the late 70s and early 80s, their antics were an amusing diversion. Ronald and Nancy Reagan were their King and Queen. Their idolmaker was Robin Leach, with his "lifestyles of the rich and famous." The spoiler was Graydon Carter in his funny magazine "Spy" - ironic, since now, in this new era of outrageous wealth, he is one of their sycophants and chroniclers in "Vanity Fair." In the 90s there was another burst of new wealth, the silicon and dot.com rich, and the media and the culture became intrigued with their underwhelming dockers chic. They were the no-pouf rich. The New York Times in the past several days has put to rest any doubt over whether today's rich are like the rich of the 80s or 90s. They're not. They're way richer. In a couple of brilliant and frightening pieces they define wealth at the beginning of this new century. The big money of today are human Wall Marts, who Bigfoot their way into wherever and whatever, because they have an unfathomable wealth that knows no barriers. The shocking part is to read about a blissful island like Nantucket, whose chief charm was that it steadfastly represented an America of 50 years ago, before chains, before malls, before niche marketing, before flash. Recently, 15 acres of beachfront land sold for $15 million. The Times says the little island has become dominated by the "hyper-rich," comparing them to the nouveau riche of the late 19th century Gilded Age. "...they tend to be brash, confident and unapologetic," as they tear down humble homes to build McMansions, overrun pristine harbors with stinkpot mega-yachts, jockey their Gulfstreams for a prime airport parking space. If the Times has it right, they may walk among us with their regular guy veneers, but they don't play by our rules or our laws or pay the same taxes. "The Bush Administration tax cuts stand to widen the gap between the hyper-rich and the rest of America...(the very wealthiest) find ways, legal and illegal, to shelter a lot of income from taxes." Here's the link: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/05/national/class/HYPER-FINAL.html?
I know I'll get rapped for being mean to the rich. After all, some of them are good people. And, just like the poor, they have to go somewhere. Maybe the blame isn't so much with the rich and their mountains of expendable income, as it is with the towns and communities that roll over for them, and let them build and redefine as they wish. The Times mentions the Gilded Age. Please note with caution the town of Newport, RI, the Nantucket of the 1890s. It's a museum of excess.
If it's any comfort, the numbers of rich may be growing, but there will always be more who have less, and the majority have the power. Don't they?
I wonder sometimes if I envy the rich. I mean, for 20 years with Howard I experienced what it was like not to have to worry about what things cost. I'm not sentimental about back then, though I certainly miss the comfort of financial security, of knowing that the costs of living -- roof over the head, heat and hot water, doctors -- were guaranteed. The perks and extras were fun - the stuff. But then I achieve clarity, recalling what Spen and I went through when we lost it all after Howard died, and the IRS investigation, and I think none of the perks and extras were worth a price that high. Right or wrong, my husband was tried to keep up and it did him in.
Sunday, June 4th..."You and the other parents and all your 60s dance styles," was how Spencer needled me about parental behavior at a family rock and roll party last night at The Barking Dog in Bethesda. Oh yeah, all us baby boomers, in our easy fit jeans, comfort zone shoes, and graying hair, set down the bifocals long enough to get it on to some ripping Stones and Motown courtesy of a remarkably tight band, "Beat's Working." At least Spencer didn't emphasize the graying moustaches, balding pates and expert dye jobs. It was such a fun party, open to the public, and a complete surprise to me. Spen and I were guests of our friends Terry Birkel and Ann Brown, their son Charlie and daughter, Maggie, who know the band's drummer (doesn't that sound like the olden days?) The musicians have secret day jobs as lawyers, and the saxophonist, Tony Snow, is a well known conservative commentator. The singer seemed like a ringer to me, though. He was good and on. They performed three hours of solid rock. The parents danced, in their silly 60s styles, and the teenagers jumped and twirled in ever shape shifting pods of boys and girls. We were in a large upstairs room decorated with a border of Christmas lights. There was a bar and TV's and lots of room to dance on an seasoned and smooth wooden dance floor. Also, I had the best burger outside of Nathans. It had some special spices that gave it an irresistible zing. On the way home I said from the back seat, "I would get married just to have them play at the party."
Later...Just back from a fix of Thomas Sweet ice cream. It's the best. I had vanilla custard soft serve (like last night, reminding me of my youth) and Spen tried the new cookie monster. We carry TS at Nathans exclusively. In fact, every few days a member of the staff treks up the hill to the Thomas Sweet shop to pickup a few gallons of fresh ice cream. This allows us to promote another Georgetown business and also to serve the best ice cream in the city. For a while I got creative with the flavors, choosing them on whim, but my whims didn't seem to appeal to the larger customer base - you know, banana, blackberry, peach. So now we stick to the classics: chocolate, vanilla and strawberry, but they are the best versions of these flavors. The next time you're in have one of our Thomas Sweet ice cream sundaes. At home, I make ice cream often with a White Mountain ice cream maker. Our home faves are cinnamon, mint and vanilla bean. The only problem with making ice cream at home is that I then eat nothing else. When we're out of homemade ice cream, I have a daily fudgesicle. This is one of the best treats on the planet, especially if it is dessert to a meal of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with chips and tall glass of milk. But it's ideal after any meal, PB&J or toast points and a few ounces of oscetra.
Friday, June 3rd...Rain, rain go away, come again another day - like another day next month. Enough already. At a certain point the rain is not good for any of us, and since the week after Memorial Day is typically slow, why compound it with discouraging weather? Ordinarily I might welcome a rainy Friday, because it drives people away from the waterfront and back up to the restaurants on M Street. But three days of rain drives people into their homes. Having said that, we did a good lunch today. Our base are at the beach. Poor them, though when the weather turns pretty they'll be looking at the Atlantic ocean. Tourists aren't here yet in large numbers because schools aren't out. It's a between time, but still we need to make hay. We make hay until July 4th, and then we close our eyes, hold our breath, and pray for Labor Day.
Last night went to a book party where the guests were from the high intellectual end of the political media, meaning more print than broadcasting, and any TV types were more PBS than Fox, and uniformly of a certain age. It was a serious-minded but good party (after all, this is Washington) and the food was a brave mix of Vietnamese and Tex Mex. It didn't rain and the garden filled and the hum of conversation was up there at a near roar. So, here's what's remarkable: I drifted from pod to pod, conversation to conversation, common denominator to common denominator - AND NOT ONE PERSON MENTIONED DEEP THROAT!!! So, there you go. Does it mean the story's over? Not really. For the moment perhaps here, or at least until Woodward gets his book out in a month or so, or someone else has a new angle. Felt is addled and can't contribute to the conversation beyond the Vanity Fair piece, which is out there, and, really, what else is there to say? It had to be a fun week for Bob and Carl and Ben and Sally to relive the heady days of yore, but for many people it was a conclusion to something from which they'd already moved on. Nonetheless, at Nathans we have a drink in honor of Mr. Deep Throat, which is a concoction of rum and cranberry and other stuff. Hmmm. But will it sell?
I'm in a bum because my drama with the facility that stored my late husband's suits, and that got them chewed up by moths, and that now claims innocence, is tacking into storm tossed waters. They say that since they bought the place two years ago, they are not responsible for anything stored there under the previous owners. However, they didn't let customers know ownership changed hands. Also, they farmed out my stuff to another facility, where the moth damage happened, but didn't tell me they were doing the "farming out." Bottom line to me is that I hired them to preserve and protect these precious possessions, which were good as new when I handed them over, and now they are destroyed and it happened on their watch. They have lawyers who wrote me some abrasive and insulting letters and offered me a paltry compensation. Where does a widow go to get justice?
Thursday, June 2nd...All this kicking up of dust regarding Deep Throat got me to reflecting on Watergate. It was a big part of my life, not only as an American, but as a journalist and a private citizen. Some of the historical characters were friends, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, for example, but through my reporting I knew some of the other characters, too. In particular one time Nixon soldier Jeb Magruder. It's an interesting small sidebar to the greater epic. Jeb and I met when I was covering the antiwar movement for UPI. The details are blurry, but I did an interview with him at his White House office for a story on how the Nixon Administration was reaching out to young people who opposed the Vietnam war. He was deputy communications director and had a large corner office at the OEOB adjacent to the White House. When we met I was struck by his ramrod deportment, the banker's pin-striped suit, the sharp trim of his hair and the color photo on the wall of himself, the wife and kiddies with Nixon. He had boy scout good looks. I'd never before met a White House official. I was a young reporter who covered the streets and who was accustomed to interviewing "revolutionaries" with beards and moustaches in jeans and t-shirts. Everything about Jeb was in contrast to the funky protest culture I knew. He was young himself, but to me he seemed like a stiff, an authority figure, a parent. Nonetheless, he was affable and eager to cooperate. After that interview we stayed in touch with occasional phone calls. At one point, he offered to get me a "date" with Henry Kissinger if I would arrange for him a casual "off the record" gathering with a group of SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) leaders who were friends of mine. It's interesting, isn't it, that a date with Kissinger would be regarded as a prize by White House staff. I vaguely remember bringing up the proposed get together with the head of SDS, who was marginally interested, but it never went anywhere. The protest movement felt no need to reach out to the White House.
On another occasion Jeb and I had dinner. Again, at age 21 and covering the streets, if I broke bread with any sources it was usually on the floor of some sparsely furnished crash pad and the meal was bread, an apple or grapes, cheap wine, and maybe some weed. As a generation we hadn't become foodies yet. But looking back, Jeb Magruder's choice of restaurant was a bizarre choice for a reporter/source meal. He took me to The Old Anglers Inn, a remote and romantic hideaway several miles outside of Washington. It's stone facade is rustic and tree-shrouded. It was a weeknight, late, the place was quiet. We were escorted up a spiral staircase to a second floor table for two with a white tablecloth and candlelight. It made me nervous, because the atmosphere was more conducive to romance than business. The other customers, six or eight of them, were all couples. But Jeb was a perfect gentleman. He set down on the table what was probably the prototype for the first Nextel pager. It was a big black contraption, almost the size of a brick, that he explained, "I'm required to carry with me. It's connected to the White House switchboard." Throughout our dinner of filet mignon and red wine, the damned thing kept blaring. There would be a few loud beeps and then a woman's voice would say, "Mr. Magruder, please call the White House. Mr. Magruder, please call the White House." Every time it happened it stopped ours and every other conversation in the small, upstairs room. With each call Jeb excused himself from the table, went to the pay phone, and then returned to resume our dinner. Before dessert, he said, "I've got to get back." As we drove Canal Road to DC, our headlights caught a naked man walking on the roadside. He was young, bearded, slender. "Must be one of your friends," he said. It was such a Nixon thing to say.
Soon enough Jeb quit the White House to go to work for the infamous Committee to Re-Elect the President, where he was deputy director of the campaign. I quit UPI to move to New York to work for Time. We kept in touch. As far as I was concerned, he remained a good source. In the summer of 1972, Warren Beatty staged a lollapalooza fundraiser for democratic presidential nominee George McGovern at Madison Square Garden. I was assigned to cover it. After the event there was a celebrity-crammed party at the Four Seasons Restaurant. The party is memorable to me for many reasons. One was the once in a lifetime moment in which a flirtatious Jack Nicholson, coming face to face with me in a hallway between the Grill and the Pool room, said, "Are you looking for me?" to which I replied to Jack Nicholson, "No, I'm looking for Warren Beatty," and walked away. Oblivious to anything but my job, I wanted Beatty to tell me how much money had been raised. "Call me in the morning at the Carlyle," he said when I found him. "But not before noon."
My call at 12:01 the next day must have woke him because he was groggy. "Ah, what time is it? Geez. Look, I don't have the numbers yet. Can you come over here? By the time you get here I'll know something." I'd been up till near dawn fending off a tipsy David Frost. It was a writing day. I had on blue jeans and a work shirt. Was this any way to arrive for a hotel room assignation with Warren Beatty? Here's my moment and I'm a wreck. It didn't matter anyway. When I arrived at Mr. Beatty's door, and was let in by his publicist, John Springer, in the background I caught a glimpse of Julie Christie as she flitted from the bedroom to the bathroom in a diaphanous flowered voile robe. Springer was very warm, as was his way. Beatty, in his "Shampoo" mode, was barefoot in jeans and a loose-hanging white collared shirt. Preppy mixed with Malibu stud. Utterly adorable. He was tired and a little mussed up, only adding to the appeal. A room service waiter brought a tray of green bottles. Perrier. Something new to me. Springer said, "Warren has to talk to one local reporter and then he wants to spend some time with you. Is that okay?" I nodded. Warren talked in muffled tones to the woman who was with him in the suite's living room, and then he thanked her, zeroed in on her with those eyes, shook her hand, put his hand on her shoulder and walked her past me. Her face was frozen in a blissed out daze. Would that soon be me?
In a whirlwind, John Springer departed. Julie Christie emerged from the back bedroom in jeans, t-shirt and suede jacket and looked like $5 million bucks. Her hair was a beguiling mop of blond and caramel curls. Her voice was British honey. She plopped herself on the sofa next to me and said sweetly, "Time Magazine, eh? I've read Time." Christie had the kind of cool that makes you wish it could be bottled and sold over the counter. The front door swung open and in swarmed Art Garfunkel, Nicholson and Goldie Hawn. They were a charge of kinetic energy, slapping hands, talking a mile a minute, greeting Beatty and Christie with hugs and kisses. Christie got up. "We're off to eat. Poor Warren has to work." I felt like a slug among the butterflies, but a slug happy to be where she was. They charged out the door and took all their noise and glamour and energy with them, leaving Warren Beatty behind and alone with me. It was quiet. Sunshine streamed in the window and onto the coffee table. I remained on the sofa and he sat in the chair beside me and for the next 45 minutes he did not make one pass at me. Once he learned I'd just moved to NY from DC he talked nonstop politics, Washington and Nixon. He offered me food, beverages. He was delighted to learn we went to neighboring high schools. "I was a football player," he said with pride. "Remember the Hot Shoppes?" I nodded. "What did you eat there?" he asked. "The steak and cheese with an orange freeze," I said. He flashed a smile of recognition like a kid who learned we share a love for the same toys. The phone rang, and he ignored it. It rang again, and he ignored it. It rang again and he got up with a frustrated sigh and answered it. His face turned confused. "Oh, okay. Yeah, she's here," he said. He aimed the receiver at me. "It's for you."
I approached the phone with curiosity and uncertainty. Who would be calling me here? "Carol? It's Jeb," he said. "Jeb? How did you find me here?" "Oh," he said, "I've got my ways." This was so strange. Warren Beatty stood off to the side, waiting to resume our political chat. Jeb was emphatic: "I'm in New York. Can we get together? I've got to talk to you." Watergate was upon us. CREEP was under fire. Jeb was in one of the eyes of one of the many storms. His name was in the news. I said I could meet him for breakfast. "Okay," he said. "Come to the Westbury Hotel at 8:30 a.m. I'll be waiting." Beatty was mildly amused when I later explained the interruption to him. It seemed he believed everyone connected with Washington lived lives of intrigue. I was eager to talk more, but the phone rang again. It was Julie Christie. She wanted Warren to stop to come join her and the others at a restaurant. He gave me a look of apology, and he gave me those eyes, too. When I walked out of the Carlyle I'm sure my face was frozen in a blissed out gaze. A couple years later, sitting next to NYTimes reporter Judy Klemesrud at a party, I recounted my Warren Beatty story. "You mean he didn't chase you around?" she asked, shocked but laughing. "Carol, he chases every woman reporter around the room. He chased me around his suite at the Beverly Wilshire. My GOD! What did you do wrong?" Dejected, I said, "I hope it's cause he just got out of bed with Julie Christie."
The next morning I rose early, got in a cab and arrived at The Westbury just before 8:30. The man at reception raised his eyebrows when I asked for Jeb Magruder. "Ah, Mr. Magruder," he said. "I'm afraid he's long gone." What? "We have a breakfast appointment." The man was consoling. "That may be, Miss, but Mr. Magruder checked out at 5 o'clock this morning in quite a rush." Later that day, Jeb called me. "I'm in Connecticut," he said. "I can't talk. I'll call you later." It was quite a while later when I heard from him. Many months later. By then his world was falling apart and I had started work as a writer for Walter Cronkite at CBS News. He called one day out of the blue. His neck was under the guillotine and it looked like he would be charged and would probably face prison (he did spend 7 months in prison for a perjury and obstruction of justice conviction). He was morose. "By the way, Jeb," I said, "I'm still curious. What happened to you that morning when we were supposed to have breakfast and you fled town before dawn?" He gave a morbid little laugh. "Oh, yeah. That. Liddy was chasing me," he said. "I was afraid he wanted to kill me. I had to hide."
Here's a link to an update on Jeb Magruder: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wpsrv/onpolitics/watergate/jeb.html
Wednesday, June 1st...Visited the Mandarin Oriental today to do a technical rehearsal with the staff there. The June 14th dinner event is coming together nicely. The "living room" is an enticing venue. It won't be anything like Nathans in terms of the setting - given we'll have a sweeping view of the city - but the event will be intimate and unique, the way it is at Nathans. I'm seeing to that, and the people at the Mandarin, having been to a couple of the lunches, are committed to keeping intact the spirit of what we do in Georgetown. What they want, their true goal here, is to attract Washington residents to the Mandarin. They want people who actually live here to come hang out at the hotel (meaning YOU), and they seem to think I'm the vehicle to make that happen. Talk about having a burden on one's shoulders. I'm not so sure I'm a draw, but I'm confident Jane Stanton Hitchcock is a draw. She's good. She's funny. She's lived an interesting life, knows everybody, is skeptical about everything that's a little too shiny, and she pours all of that into her clever books. If you haven't already, please try to join us. We'll start at 6:30 p.m., it costs $40, all inclusive, and you call Nathans for a reservation: 202.338.2000.
Received the sweetest e-mail today from Ilana Marcus Drimmer. She is the producer who bags the big gets for "This Week" at ABC News, starring George Stephanopoulos. Ilana and I worked together in the same capacity at Larry King Live. She is a featured character in my memoir, "Innocent Spouse." She wrote to say, "I was surfing around on the internet and came across your beautifully written and very poignant memoir. I wish I had known, or had the maturity to understand, what you were going through at the time. " She wrote more, but that would give away her character's faux name. Her note hit me right in the heart and I wrote back to tell her so. At the warp speed of my life, LKL is a million light years ago, and yet there are some happy memories of working with people like Ilana, even though it was very tough for me in the last several months after Howard died. I don't pull too many punches as I write about it in the memoir, including references to Ilana, and it was gracious of her to first of all read it and second to write to me. Since then some former colleagues don't speak to me, like Larry and Wendy. It's unfortunate but I understand. We've all changed and grown since then. It was a hot house and we high strung flowers. Now Ilana is in the vineyards of the global conversation, and she's happily married and she's expecting her first child. This is where the internet and a website and a blog are a treasure. Again, thank you, Ilana.
Couldn't sleep last night. Surfed TV for a while and landed on the Travel Channel and a piece about Hawaiian "Shave Ice." Since then my mouth is watering for this Pacific version of a snow cone. It was enough to make me want to cash in some chips and get a ticket for Honolulu. Here's the link: http://travel.discovery.com/fansites/taste/food/shaveice.html
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