Diary of a Saloon Owner: MAR/FEB/JAN2006


"The true life of an Emmy-winning TV producer who suddenly became a widow, a solo parent, and a saloon owner."

More photos at Photos Central
contact carol@nathansgeorgetown.com

It's the little things. Table #34 at Balthazar, where I enjoyed a meal with Black Op only a few weeks ago and yesterday afternoon settled in with my son for tiny, sweet Washington state oysters, a dozen of them, and the scrumptious house salad, a mound of heavenly crispy well done French fries, molten onion soup and perfectly cooked steak. A glass of chilled Pol Roger, too. It was such a swoon. The room packed with interesting characters out of central casting, essaying a range from frumpy women of the burbs, babes who could be models, to international men of mystery and straight up dudes in jacket and tie having a little lunch on the wild side. For us rubes from Washington it was as good as a Broadway show plus outstanding food. Didn't get into too much trouble shopping. Well, there were these shoes. Oh, my, what was I to do? They hypnotized me, and now my feet are owned by these silver and rhinstoned killers that will be useless in DC unless ANNA NICOLE SMITH comes to town for a Q&A at Nathans. I won't be the first person to point out I CANNOT afford myself. But I have fun trying. Wish black op had been here to be put under arrest.

Last night we did what every one who comes to NY should do. We had a grand dinner at the lucious Daniel on East 65th and Park, home base of the marvelous, darling and lucious chef
DANIEL BOULUD, who is just back from a holiday at Parrot Cay. He looked healthy and handsome. Good enough to have as at least an appetizer, but also dessert, and maybe some of him as carry out, too. He treated us to a palate seduction...that worked its way on our culinary intellect from small treats and delicacies to large tastes like roasted cod with morels and asparagus in a broth of green curry with jasmine rice. It was dream food. Spencer had pea soup that was spring in a bowl. He also had DB's signature slow cooked braised ribs. And what about the grapefruit tart. It would have been a flat out homage to ANDRE SOLTNER, except for Daniel making it his own. We hugged and talked after the meal, when he sat with us. I want him to open in Washington, but he says "not yet." For now, he's coming in June to do a charity dinner at the French Ambassador's residence and you can buy tickets for one for about $30,000. The objective is to drink only wines to which ROBERT PARKER has awarded 100 points. Fun. Expensive fun, but fun. He is a worthy charity.

We're out of here at dawn Friday. Places to go and people to see.

Surfacing for a brief moment to sing an ode to NYC, my urban spiritual heart, and to remind one and all that the Today show tomorrow will run its profile of DAVID HUME KENNERLY, whose photos hang in Nathans back room where part of the piece was shot. I'm happy for David, who deserves the attention; he'd be the first one to agree.

Though I lived downtown when I lived here, and I adore downtown, these days when I spend the night in NY I make my nest on the upper East Side. There are reasons: 1. Close to the park for a morning run round the reservoir. 2. Window shopping that transports me to the boulevards of Paris, Rome, London. 3. Museums and galleries in every direction. 4. World-class people watching behind very dark sunglasses.

The mornings are particularly sweet, with the supers out hosing down the sidewalks (why doesn't anyone do that in DC?), the children marching off to public and private schools, some ushered by nannies, some ushered by their very own actual parents. The sweetest sight of all, though, is the stream of New York men heading off to the office. My pleasure is watching them (again behind dark shades), and having an almost fetish rush from their smart clothes. My pulse boosts when a man's suit is cut properly, when the shoulders fit and the sleeve length is correct and the drape is elegant, and the cuffs are cut right and the break is good, with a pocket square folded neatly into the breast pocket. I love the way a light wool blend moves as he walks. Bring on the pin stripe, the chalk stripe, the Prince of Wales, the window pane and the nail head. Sigh. Outside of the major European cities, only New York and San Francisco serve up this feast. This morning's gorgeous spring weather brought out the best in all the New York men and I returned to the hotel almost wobbly.

Speaking of men who know how to wear a good suit, last night we had dinner with
WALTER CRONKITE and his friend, JOANNA SIMON, at the Water Club, with a table by the window and stunning views across the East River of Long Island, Queens and Brooklyn. Joanna, Walter, Spencer and I shared large steamed lobsters that were so fresh they seemed just off a Maine lobster boat. We told stories and laughed a lot. Walter is in fine shape. He looks good, sounds good and is happy. Earlier Spen and I had lunch at Cipriani Dolci in Grand Central Station. Talk about views. Our table gave us orchestra seats on the concourse. Had yummy utterly fresh pasta. Then we walked from 42nd street, across the park to 72nd to visit the legendary Dakota, walk the West Side, then back across the park. It seemed that every few blocks, and in the park as well, we passed movies being shot, models posing for magazine spreads and countless iconic vignettes of New York life. All that was missing was a pass by of WOODY ALLEN mentoring SOON YI. Today we head downtown.

Fashion alert: what I've noticed in NY is that stilettoes never ever have been higher. In all the windows and on lots of female feet are skyscraper shoes. Would I wear them? Not on your life. I live in Georgetown. To manage a stiletto on our brick sidewalks they would have to made with heels by Birkenstock. That's not hot.

TUESDAY, MARCH 28...For now, I don't know if I can handle one more yoga position or eat one more high-fiber, low cal meal, or... endure one more day without wine. Spencer's headphones are back on. Our bags are packed and we're ready for debauchery. But having said that, our time at Camp Fit, Peace and Wellness (aka Camp FPW) has been splendid. Despite all that fiber we've enjoyed these hours of exercise, fresh air, calm, reflection and time together without distractions. I know it's not the conventional family holiday, or even parent/child holiday, but it's one of the best getaways we've shared. I expected us to be in synch with acitivities like hiking, basketball, tennis, circuit training. The surprise was our being side by side at yoga, Tai Chi and meditation. And I didn't have to drag him in there. He'll probably deny it to his friends, but I think Spencer found the lowkey "exercises" to be as stimulating in their own way as the more aggressive pursuits. It made me realize schools should teach this stuff. Maybe the kids would come down off their TV/Vitamin Water/i-pod/X-box/G-unit high wires if they were taught how to inhale, exhale, stretch and look inward. For athletes it is a particular boost in conserving power. There's a reason why warriors of yore meditated before battle.

I guess that means I'm ready for battle.

BREAKING NEWS: The "Today" show profile of
DAVID HUME KENNERLY will air on Friday, March 31. That's THIS Friday. A good chunk of the piece, the interview part, was shot in Nathans back room among David's remarkable photographs. Set your dials, timers, calendars and Tivo's to catch this broadcast.

I may go underground for a few days. If there are no entries here, that's why. At least until the weekend. Debauchery is not sincerely wicked if I'm racing back to my laptop to file a report...now is it? But then again, if there is free wireless internet at my crib in sin city, you'll be the first to know. This is what I'm feeling right now: food with NO fiber.

I spend a lot of my time subsumed by depression, doubt, fear, insecurity and worry. One or all are part of every day. But here at Camp Fit and Wellness I've had none of that. My head is clear, my mind is positive, hope is at hand. Possibly that's because I'm cut off from everything that rules my typical day. And it would likely be the same for any normal human who was fortunate to get away from the routine for a spell. But gosh it feels good. And to share it with my son makes it better, much better. We have had many terrific hours together - up time and down time. The up time is for example yesterday when we hiked, or today when we played almost two hours of tennis, but also did yoga and meditation and ate really well. Lobster with pineapple sauce was our dinner. The down time is reading books and talking. There has been no fighting. The only disputes are when he pushes me to be as fit as a fourteen year old, which is not likely to happen. Or to keep up with him at basketball - definitely not likely to happen. I'm proud of him for being open to try new things. Tomorrow we will both do Tai Chi for the first time. I'm looking forward to that.

The sun comes up here at 5:30 a.m. There's first light even earlier. It's amazingly beautiful, even though nature is still hibernating. Sunset over the mountains this evening was glorious. I took a walk in the woods before dinner while Spencer played lacrosse. There were wild turkeys with their tail feathers fanned out. Quite a sight. I worried that the storied bobcat would find me, but it didn't, and all was well.

Can any of us last through the final four? Will we be able to keep our heads on as we howl and cheer for George Mason? The next game will destroy all the calm I'm achieving here at camp. It makes me want to run out and buy another flat panel for the bar. If only, if only. But then I'd get superstitious and worry it would be a jinx. So, okay, I won't do that. I bought the current new flat panel just before the Redskins final play-off game ... and look what happened!

SUNDAY, MARCH 26...Note: However you got to this website, please make double sure it is through our new, correct address: www.nathansgeorgetown.com, not nathanslunch, which is the old address and is about to be dropped. And if you submit an email for a reservation or to be on the mailing list, please make sure it is to the nathansgeorgetown addresses, or it might not be received. Thanks.

Maybe instead of the IRS and the Defense Department we need more yoga. Or maybe I've been brainwashed by an afternoon of good yoga. Regardless, in the middle of a long warrior pose it occurred to me that the federal government should provide yoga and meditation for everyone. Certainly funded time away from the maelstrom to reflect on life and goals and to re-calibrate habits that may slide off the rails sometimes. How else to cope out there unless we slide off the rails every now and then? A little madness to neutralize the other madness?

It's clear a day of clean living has made me bonkers. Clean living plus no newspapers or TV (well, the internet) or driving in traffic or breathing DC air...and see, I'm ready for a revolution.

I'm especially grateful to the many people who have written to me to ask to be put on the mailing list. This is the best possible result of the stories about the Q&A Cafe in The Georgetowner and Washingtonian. I'm proud and pleased and humbled and grateful. The mailing list is getting close to 450 people, and the numbers of "unique visitors" to the website has reached a constant 285-325, and some days it is as high as 400 and change. That's awesome. Keep it up. We'll do our best to entertain you, but maybe not quite with the pizzazz that
DIABLO CODY musters recounting her hear as a stripper in "Candy Girl." I'm enjoying the book A LOT.

Spencer, my partner in hiking and meditation and cycling, is reading
STEPHEN KING's "Cell." There's a lot about where we are that makes me think of Stephen King. Maybe that's because we're not far from his home territory.

Now I'm off to the inhalation room and then settling in for Tony et al. Will he still be in his parallel universe tonight? Hmmmm.

We're up in a corner of western New England, but I like it cause it's yankee territory, and even though it's still winter up here and may snow tonight, Spencer and I are just back from an after dinner one-on-one basketball game in which he beat me 23-9. I told him he represented George Mason and that's what they have to do to UConn. Whatever else most people are doing on this Saturday night, (date night, right?) I'm delighted to be here indulging our love of sports with my son. This "camp" makes it all so easy. We arrived at noon and after orientation and a light lunch got right into it with weight training. After that he did a cycling program while I practiced balancing on one of thos squishy half work-out balls. I loved it. Then together we did some focused muscle work and then yoga and meditation. Dinner revved us up for the basketball game. Now I hope to settle in with DIABLO CODY's "Candy Girl," about her year as a stripper. She's just the kind of person I would like to book for a Q&A Cafe appearance, though the season is essentially full.

Where will you watch the game Sunday night? May I recommend perching on ab barstool at Nathans, with three TV screens to choose from, with the special favorite being the new flat panel. I don't even want to think about how much I want George Mason to go the distance. It's going to make me crazy. I would have liked to have Georgetown in there, too, but isn't it sweet that the "Cinderella" team is still one of our own?

We got to listen to a lot of good New York radio driving up here. My favorite was the chat show host who was chortling about Vice President
DICK CHENEY's rock star rider for his hotel stays. You know the one? He has to have all the lights on, the temp at 68 and the TV on and tuned to Fox News. This man wondered why it didn't include a shotgun and buckshot. Ha ha ha. I thought that was very funny. Maybe the answer is that Cheney travels with his shotgun and ammo.

The Georgetowner newspaper has put up on its website the cover story about the Q&A Cafe. If you don't get the paper on your doorstep you now can read it here:

FRIDAY, MARCH 24...Note: However you got to this website, please make double sure it is through our new, correct address: www.nathansgeorgetown.com, not nathanslunch, which is the old address and is about to be dropped. And if you submit an email for a reservation or to be on the mailing list, please make sure it is to the nathansgeorgetown addresses, or it might not be received. Thanks.

We are in New Jersey, somewhere between Tony Soprano and Johnny Sack, an overnight on our way to points north. We're in a hotel off the highway but near a major league mall, and if Carmella and Tony had walked into the dining room I would not have been shocked. And the meal was such a surprise. Seriously, it was good risotto, creamy, with spring asparagus and fresh morels. After that a perfectly cooked halibut with lobster, mussels and shellfish broth. We finished with souffles, one chocolate and one Grand Marnier. Not bad. Vaguely, it reminded me of dinners of old at the Jockey Club, a Washington restaurant I mourn to this day.

While the meal was outstanding I was probably more enthralled with the starter Stoli on the rocks, because the drive was torture. Just outside Aberdeen we hit a 10 mile back up on 95 courtesy of "emergency road repair" on the Tydings Bridge over the Susquehana. I called AAA, who were useless. I called
JON MOSS at Nathans who gave me the 411 from traffic.com. There was no alternative route. Well, there was Route 40, but it was twice as backed up as 95. We've all been there. Proud of the early start out of town, fluffed up by getting through the tunnel without delay, cocky about the open road ahead, when suddenly it all comes to a brutal halt, and the only view ahead is of miles and miles of brake lights and the autos to which they are attached. It took us an hour to get from Aberdeen to Havre de Grace, a town that reminded me of the night spent there in 1970 in a ramshackle old house with H. RAP BROWN and his lawyer, WILLIAM KUNSTLER, when I was a baby reporter at UPI. Kunstler kept trying to feed me cereal while I kept trying to get a meaningful interview with Brown. Later that night two of Brown's pals (Featherstone?) blew themselves up in a car near the courthourse where Brown's trial was to happen. The details are vague but could be brought into focus with a little research.

The only thing that redeemed our drive was picking up groovy New York sports radio and lots of basketball preview, and then finally arriving at our hotel.
Given the wonderful outcome for George Mason, I can only hope Nathans is coming apart at the seams due to the frenzy of celebration. Now, let's have Georgetown do the same.

THURSDAY, MARCH 23...After an evening of bickering and kvetching it's difficult to color how much I'm looking forward to a week away with my son. Aw, it will be okay. We'll get out on the open road and the rough edges will disappear. But, dude, do we ever need to get away. It's like, please someone, induce in me a Prozac-like state of empty bliss. We're actually off to parent-child sports camp. We will hike, climb, canoe, swim, do circuit training, yoga, eat well and - God, I hope - sleep well. The only thing is, this being Spring, the weather forecast includes all of the options: rain, sleet, snow, a sunny day, temps ranging from 20s to 50s, and all in the space of a week, which means I get to pack for every possible climate change. This is a drag for someone who likes to travel with one small suitcase or, better still, a knapsack.

I hope to be able to post from the road, as with our other trips, and put up a pic of the day and all that good stuff. But, who knows? Maybe I'll be too worn to write. This trip was our second choice. The first choice was GPS roulette but I chickened out at the last minute. Do you ever play GPS roulette? It's simple. You each take turns closing your eyes, fiddling with the GPS and clicking on SOMEWHERE. That's where you go. We did a couple of test runs and came up with unknown (to us) towns that were, respectively, distances of 930 miles, 1,330 miles and 2,438 miles. That's when I invoked the law of the lily-livered and said, "nope, not this trip."

Above all I need to get away and think. Gotta make some decisions about the future. You know the kind? Those awful, potentially life-altering decisions that if you choose wrong means you're screwed for life. It's so unfair. I want to be irresponsible and go into freefall with a safety net.

BTW, if you come to this site through nathanslunch.com please change it to nathansgeorgetown.com, and if you write to me please write to carol@nathansgeorgetown.com. This evening I wandered into the mailbox for the old site, long since abandoned, and there were 124 email there, some of them from people who actually hoped to hear back from me and who I did answer ... but way late.

Last night a friend and I decided to check out of reality and into a light-hearted, escapist, romantic comedy at the Loews (now AMC) Georgetown. Clunk. Instead what we got with "Failure to Launch" was a soulless piece of formulaic cinematic drivel. Unless MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY'S buff bod and brilliant choppers spike your temperature, likewise TERRY BRADSHAW's bare ass, avoid at all costs. There are some redeeming supporting players, but that's not enough. And SARAH JESSICA PARKER does the prototype Carrie Bradshaw for free every night on WB50. Why spend moolah to see a retread? Do you think JENNIFER ANISTON gets the scripts REESE WITHERSPOON rejects and that Parker gets the scripts Aniston rejects? Who gets what Parker doesn't want?

I'm humbly grateful to pubisher
SONYA BERNHARDT and her staff at The Georgetowner for giving cover play to the 100th Nathans Q&A interview. It will be arriving in your mail today. It's attention that everyone at Nathans appreciates and deserves because they all work hard to help me get the lunches up and running each week. Again, it was a pleasant exercise to be interviewed at Cafe Milano by VEENA TREHAN and BOB MADIGAN, who did a companion spot that ran several times on WTOP. I'm particularly grateful to the helping hand of BARBARA ZATCOFF, who did my make-up for the photo, and to CATHERINE BARTELS at Saks Fifth Avenue, who loaned the lovely Dolce and Gabbana shirt and the dangly gold Boho earrings. Most of all, casually serene photos don't happen by accident, and for that all credit goes to the maestro, DAVID HUME KENNERLY, who did the shoot, and as a favor.

Now, back to laundry, cleaning up the kitchen, de-lousing Ozzy's cage, straightening Spencer's demolition field of a room, and waiting for the guy to come to service the A/C.

BTW, until I get it up on the Soundtracks page, the ERICA JONG interview is available at this link: Erica Jong Interview.

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 22...Just back from an incredible meeting with Interface Media Group, who are putting together one of the city's first broadband tv networks. Fresh, energetic, idea-driven people who already run the top production house in the city. The juicy part is they want The Q&A Cafe as content, and this is my own vision coming to life. All the time people say to me, "You should be on TV. The lunches should be on TV. The interviews should be on TV." Well, I'm flattered, that's not the way I see it. TV to me is not the future, at least not conventional TV talk shows. What I dream about is being online, available right here on your computer, at the click of a link. IMG TV could make that happen. If you want to see a test run, go to http://www.IMG.TV/nathans. You can watch the SANFORD AIN interview. Soon they will have up the MARION BARRY interview and then the ERICA JONG interview. Enjoy it and get ready to invest in a piece of the future. The next interview they will shoot is NEIL LIVINGSTONE on April 5.

Otherwise woke up to a Costco morning. Put on my camouflage - track shoes, track pants, fleece, headband, sunglasses - and infiltrated the mecca of warehouse shopping. I was prepared for crowds and long lines but NO ONE WAS THERE. First time ever I've been able to check out without having to stand in a long line, or any line. There were NO lines. Wha hoppened? Is Costco no longer in favor? Do consumers no longer want to save money? Whatever it was I was in and out of there in 15 minutes. Score.

We are a city of parties, all kinds of parties, and I'm not referring to elephants and donkeys. I'm talking about A-list little soirees where it feels good to be included. Among my favorite Washington ritual parties are the farewell and the welcome. After all, we're always saying good-bye to someone who ran out of juice, screwed it up, got old or got wise. The next day we're welcoming the person who filled the vacancy. Within that group is the farewell for the person who really doesn't leave. They depart the official job only to become a part of the permanent community. Such was the party I went to tonight. It was for an ambassador and his wife. Lovely people. Very popular here. Sensible, social - all that good stuff.

A couple of weeks ago they had the official farewell party at their embassy residence. It was packed like sardines as we drank the last of the official wine and ate whatever was left in the kitchen cupboards. Already the bookcases and armoires were empty of personal knick knacks. The residence was ready for the new occupant. Tonight's groovy, elegant Georgetown fete was to celebrate the move to their new home -- in McLean or Potomac or the like -- and their new status as residents. The wife was relieved. "My son now has a home he knows is really his home," she said, smiling. The husband is on the job hunt, but he knows no matter what he will always be "Mr. Ambassador," because here you get to keep whatever was your last and highest title. Thus we are a city of many "Mr. Ambassadors." Don't even get me started on all the former congressional office holders who cling to their fading former titles. You can spell that l-o-b-b-y-i-s-t.

The party was warm and happy. There was the comfort of shared social status and tribal polliticial opiniions. Everyone glowed in the reflection of everyone else's glow. Good wine and good food, too. I was the first to depart, but then I always am.

ERICA JONG was such a treat. Of course she was riveting with her candor and had great anecdotes to share. I mean, we were talking blow jobs within the first 5 minutes. But what I liked best was interviewing a person who has made peace with her demons. This is a woman who has tried everything, learned what works for her, and has set her course based on those lessons. She is comfortable in her skin but not afraid of the path that got her to a state of wisdom. And she's funny. The good news for "Fear of Flying" fans is she's well into the sequel. She said the early part of writing a book is hard for her but when she gets to the middle it becomes fun. It is, indeed, like flying. She does not like the take-off or the landing. Otherwise, it's cool. I came away high with admiration and hoping there will be a chance to meet her again. Usually that doesn't happy, but I can hope.

Because the weather forecast of snow was such an unmitigated bust -- and cost us about 7 reservations -- I began the lunch by thanking the 60 people who showed up "for coming out in this awful blizzard." I don't think one forecast this winter has been correct. Not one. So much for space age technology.

This is one of the definite flaws of life in Washington. I know no other city - except maybe Los Angeles with rain - where weather makes such wusses out of people. I look out my window and see clouds, yes, but there's also blue sky and some sunshine. The forecast is for maybe a light dustingWith a dusting of snow we become a city of shut-ins. New York is not like this. New Yorkers see weather as a challenge to be overcome. New England the same. I'm so much a yankee and a westerner. I've never understood this city and weather and probably never will.

Yesterday I had a new discovery that's nothing new to most Georgetowners. While helping out at Antiques of Georgetown - today will be Myra's and my last day there for a while - I stopped in next door at The Georgetown Dinette to get sandwiches. What a delightful find.
EMMY and HARRY CHOI, who greets you at the counter, is bursting with humor and opinions and seems to remember every customer and what they like, even those who may not have been in the shop for a long while ... as I witnessed yesterday when she greeted a man who said, "You remember me and I haven't been here for two years." She gave him a stick of gum with his sandwich. And, let me emphasize, the menu and the food are terrific. Excellent egg salad, perfect BLT, and the burgers and fries looked just right. Also, you can buy a Powerball ticket. I bought two sandwiches, chips, drinks, which Myra and I shared at the shop before she got back to cleaning out the storage room and I polished silver. I loved polishing this big silver tray. It was some of the most rewarding work I've done in ages. Also, we had some customers and Myra landed a big sale. Score.

Today would have been my husband Howard's 66th birthday. I try to imagine what he would be like at that age. I'm always trying to imagine what he would be like, think like, if he walked back into life today. I know this: he would be deeply proud of Spencer and dismayed, seriously dismayed, that I was still owning Nathans. It's the last thing he would have wanted for us.

As I curl up in bed and read her book, it occurs that ERICA JONG is the ideal Q&A for tomorrow, our first full day of Spring. Here's hoping NO ONE succumbs to the potentially dreary weather. It will be sunny and warm at Nathans, no matter what's happening outside. The book is "Seducing the Demon: Writing For My Life," and I'm about half way through. These are some of the words and phrases I've jotted down in my notes as I read: Barnard, feminism (ebb and flow?), modern woman, Sylvia Plath, "living past your youth," "writing the truth," "without adultery is there no novel? without sex is there no poetry?", SEX in literature, writing sex scenes, computers, "open marriage is a crock," "why is lust so ...critical?", bisexuality, "sex is everywhere in media but ecstasy is absent"... Now I ask you, aren't these good subjects for a wintry mix? We have many reservations and I hope everyone does show up. For now, back to my reading and note-taking and the fervent hope Nathans does erupt in some dreadful way and distract me from the pleasurable side of my work.

If you've never attended a Q&A lunch but are curious to find out what goes on, an internet network, IMG, has begun to shoot the lunches to air online. They shot a test at the SANDY AIN lunch and the clips are available at this link: http://www.img.tv/nathans/ It's a little rough and raw, but you get the idea. Tomorrow they will shoot the Jong lunch with more lights and cameras.

SUNDAY, MARCH 19...Only one thing to think about today: that it's the anniversary of our misbegotten war in Iraq, and all the lost souls, lost opportunities and lost global respect.

Good day at the shop today, the shop being Antiques of Georgetown, where I worked with MYRA MOFFETT, who is running the place while owner BILL DONAHUE is on holiday. We were visited by many potential customers and some friends but the most showstopping visitor of the day was none other than the legendary MARTHA BARTLETT. Or, as she said to me, Mrs. CHARLES BARTLETT. Among people of taste and style she is known as one of the great collectors, particularly of American folk furniture and art. Years ago Howard and I were included at a dinner party at her home that was a gathering of the folk art collectors in Washington. We, mere pups in the field, were honored to be included in the group. So, when she walked in the store today looking formidable - a serious hat, a suede and fur vest, white lipstick - I said, "Hi, Martha." She gave me a cold shoulder and said, "It's Mrs. Charles Barlett...unless we've met before." When I told her we had met she melted into charm and warmth. But she's genuine old school and no doubt initially thought I was part of the modern casual culture who seem to think it's okay to call anyone and everyone by their first name. Oh, no, I don't believe in that kind of instant intimacy any more than she does. Martha is the kind of person I want to bottle and drink - in that I yearn to know what she knows. There is so much she knows. And if you are a Kennedy trivia fiend, I should point out she is a part of history, as she and her husband hosted the dinner party where JOHN F. KENNEDY first met JACQUELINE BOUVIER. You really only have to be a matchmaker once when that is your legacy. She lingered with Myra and me for a while, but the shop got crowded and she departed. We both wished she'd spent the day with us.

Myra ran the place while I assigned myself cleaning tasks. For example, polishing up a marvelous HEAVY metal box that would be perfect for buried treasure or someone's ashes. Also I cleaned the frames of a few handsome pictures, particularly a late 19th century map of Washington and Georgetown, from back when our 'hood was known as the "City of Georgetown." This framed map would be the perfect house-warming present for a new Georgetowner. Also, I dusted, washed and polished the stairs. This was rewarding work and reminded me of writing.

This evening I went to a party where among the terrific delicacies catered by Occasions was a chocolate fountain. They are popping up in lots of places and why not? What's not to like about a fountain of warm chocolate, especially when cake, fruit and other goodies are on hand for drenching in the dripping goo? But this is what occurred to me: someone should create a human scale chocolate fountain so that we can strip naked and get inside it ourselves. Wouldn't that be fun? I'd love to stand in a shower of warm chocolate and have it varnishing my skin. Oh, and then to be dessert. Just think of the possibilities? This concept would be a natural for Vegas.

If you are strolling around Georgetown tomorrow, please stop in at Antiques of Georgetown. You never know who might be there.

FRIDAY, MARCH 17...Happy St. Patrick's Day, and here's hoping the luck 'o the Irish is spreading itself around. I've certainly been trying to grab a little, and tonight it seems Nathans is getting a share. The place is not packed wild crazy the way it was 25 years ago when Georgetown was the only game in town, but it's having a good strong night. This brings a dose of joy to everyone on the staff. They deserve it after weeks of hard work, pulling their oars, not always certain their pay checks will clear (in January and February) but keeping their good attitudes just the same. That's the nature of working in a sole proprietor small business, which is a dying breed. Team work means everything.

Earlier today Nathans was the location for an episode of "The Dr. Rick Show," featuring Dr.
RICK LEVY, who appeared last year at the Q&A Cafe to hypnotize me into a past life journey. He's quite the fascinating person and his California crew spent the entire lunch visiting with patrons. When I know more about the show -- network, when it will air -- it will be listed here. I still have vivid memories of my sessions with Dr. Levy at his office in Gaithersburg. Most of all I found hypnosis to be relaxing. It was never scary. I cried some at the beginning as my defenses fell away and all the raw emotions -- always contained, always locked up -- gushed free from my aching heart. My favorite "regression" was when I was a dolphin, swimming in the sea with other dolphins, whirling, dashing back and forth, jumping and splashing. The exuberance was astounding.

Spencer was home sick today with strep throat. We kept it simple, with the main event a visit to the doctor's office. Also, I spent some time with
MYRA MOFFETT at Antiques of Georgetown, where she's helping out BILL DONOHUE, by running his shop while he's on holiday. She really has a touch and fills the store with the same warmth and southern charm we know from Billy. His friends stop by to say hello and stay for a chat. I stopped by today with a basket of Irish soda bread, some butter, and a bottle of champagne. Together we moved furniture around, arranged flowers, dusted things off. It's the kind of work I could do all day and not notice time passing. Almost as much fun as writing.

Odd rants and stuff. Today I got my teeth cleaned and it took three people to get the job done. Doesn't that seem excessive? First there was the woman, I suppose she's called a technician, who arrived in the room dressed as if I was a Hazmat case. She did a lot of painful stuff and tried to teach me, once again, how to floss and brush. It seems after all these years as a human on planet earth I still haven't mastered these remedial skills. Then another woman came in, still dressed to be protected from me but not quite as severely as the first woman, who polished my teeth. Then the doctor came in and poked around. He said, "looks good to me." After that I was free to go. Well, not exactly free. Free after forking over $150 and change. Maybe they split it three ways, though I doubt that. Most likely the man got the biggest cut.

My doctor's office is downtown, near the White House, and with a few minutes to burn off before the appointment I walked around Blair House and through Lafayette Park. Honestly, I'd not really spent time strolling there since 9/11. Why can't they do something with our old beloved Pennsylvania Avenue? It's still asphalt. It's still basically road surface, reminding residents like me that it was suddenly shut off to us. Fine if they want to shut it off, but why not make it look like something other than abandoned road surface. I wanted to call up MARION BARRY and say, "so, I guess this is what Ward 8 looks like?" He'd probably agree.

This evening I hung out with my core posse at Nathans, after a party nearby. Because we were ideally out of balance with one good looking straight man and four women we got to talking about the really important stuff like breast implants and what they feel like and whether they are worth it and whether normal men find them appealing. To KRIS ARNOLD's credit, he was like, "not for me." We each told our breast implant stories -- not about us, but about others -- and I told mine about the woman who went swimming with her new implants and was shocked to find out they were lighter than water and basically floated. It happened back when I was crew on a sailboat in the West Indies, and her husband had chartered the boat as a treat to celebrate her new breasts. (Only a man would do that!) But when she jumped in the water they floated up, oddly out of synch with her body, and she tried unsuccessfully to push them underwater. No kidding, the look of surprise on her face said it all. Like, "what are these things doing?"

Not random but true: tomorrow BLACK OP and I have a summit with my keepers. Anyone who cares about Nathans should do voodoo at 9 a.m. It all hangs in the balance here. Nine years of struggle brings us to this moment. I don't mean to be melodramatic, but you could probably go to Vegas and bet well on the hunch that Nathans won't be - simply won't be - a year from now. But who knows? Stay tuned.

Until then, we will be pulling a full St. Patrick's Day celebration this Friday. And Dr. RICK LEVY will be on hand at lunch time to do interviews with people for his new television show, "The Dr. Rick Show." Be there or be without a past life.

Former DC mayor MARION BARRY was the guest today at the Q&A Cafe, where he had the audience charmed with his candor, subtle humor and political observations. Of course he arrived late, on what his friends call "Marion Barry Time," but he got there and that was enough for me. He pulled up outside, driving himself, about 1 minute before the interview was to begin. He got out and JON MOSS jumped in, just like a valet, to park the Ward 8 city council member's car at the Riggs lot. I said, "There won't be time for you to eat." He said, "that's okay. I don't eat." He walked in and the room broke into applause. In 100 guests, that's the first time that has happened. Wouldn't it be interesting to have him and BILL CLINTON in a room together, talking to each other about their lives and times? That's a show you could put on Broadway. I would certainly welcome them together at Nathans.

Do you remember when Dr.
RICK LEVY appeared at the Q&A Cafe? He is a past life regression therapist, a specialist in using hypnosis for therapy, and an all-round interesting man. He has been given a TV show, called the "The Dr. Rick Show," and a crew from California will be at Nathans on Friday to shoot an episode. What he hopes to do is do on-camera chats/therapy with random guests - certainly only those patrons who wish to participate. Otherwise, you can just watch. But I think it will be clever. Try to come by. Given that this Friday is St. Patrick's Day, and with March Madness underway, the lunchtime scene at Nathans should be ripe for a hypnotherapist who takes people back to the many lives they lived before.

SUNDAY, MARCH 12...The media say it's a showdown tonight between "The Sopranos" and "Desperate Housewives," but in our household there is no contest: it's Sopranos, Sopranos, Sopranos. Not only that, all weekend I've been thinking about the menu for pre-show dinner. Do I go Italian? Do I go Sicilian/Italian? Do I go old school or new school? And is there some middle ground that will satisfy both schools? These thoughts weighed on me as I roamed markets, wishing of course that I was in Little Italy tasting provolones. The wine is a slam dunk: one of the great 2000 Barolos. We'll start with some tomato soup touched with oregano. Then pasta with vintage virgin olive oil, toasted garlic, and a littlle diced tomato. For the entree, tuna that has been marinating in olive oil, trufflele oil, eau de funghi, preserved lemons and some spices. We bought it yesterday at the Annapolis Seafood market. I'll flash saute it and serve with vegetables. Dessert is a complete unknown. Obviously I'd love some cannoli, but it's a gorgeous Saturday and I'm too much of a wimp to give up my parking space to drive to the Italian store in Arlington. But maybe I'll walk over to Dean and DeLuca and pick up some biscotti to have with cinnamon gelato I made the other day. A little cappucino to finish off and then it's time to turn on HBO. I don't know "Desperate Housewives" well, but can't imagine them inspiring a menu more exotic than steamed vegetables and chicken without the skin and a glass of California pinot gris, plus a few orange slices for dessert. I'm kidding. I could find a way to match a sexy menu to that show.

If you know anyone who is looking for a deal on a cool Georgetown townhouse with parking for two cars, move-in/mint condition, quality details, good location, please call realtor
MYRA MOFFETT this evening. She's with Long and Foster. We looked at the house today. It's on 34th Street. Two bedrooms with full baths en suite, a lovely deck and garden, a fully loaded kitchen, nice finished basement with full bath, and a main floor that has twin parlors with fireplaces...and all for not much more than $1.5. I know some people choke on Georgetown prices, but this is a deal. Call Myra: 202.944.8400.

It may be peculiar, but every now and then I let life go into free fall. At a certain point, after trying everything imaginable to make stuff work out, and when the pressure becomes its most fierce, I let go. Maybe I cry, maybe I mope, maybe I talk it to death with a friend, and then hope for the best. Well, the best is what I got yesterday evening. Good news came the same way sunlight breaks through a gloomy sky. Suffice it to say that I'm constantly captaining two sailing ships, and yesterday evening one of them, the most important one, found its wind. Relief is too small a word to describe the afterglow. Now, if only the same could happen for the other ship, which is more often in troubled waters than any other kind. And you know which ship that is, the one at Wisconsin and M. It's funny, because I've recently been presented a proposal that IF ONLY it were for the ship-at-Wisconsin-and-M, it would be the fresh breeze of all fresh breezes, the wind of my dreams, the big puff of good air that would propel me and my business into the good zone. But it's not. It has to do with something else. So, my work is not done. But for now, this lovely Saturday, I'm taking a break from stress and worry. But only for a day.

We drove out to sunny, breezy Annapolis and enjoyed the pleasures of walking the docks, admiring the boat flesh, inhaling the brine and chomping on some dockside fare. The town was packed with locals and tourists. Down on the boats the owners were pulling out stowed sails, dusting them off, sluicing the decks, and generally showing signs of early spring fever.

We stopped by marvelous Palate Pleaser's in Eastport to pick up some of their great frozen chicken pot pies, which can be a dinner save when pulled from the freezer on short notice. But we were too late arriving at the tasty Fractured Prune in Deale, which has the best home made donuts in the region. We got there at 2 and they'd closed at 1. As I said to my traveling companion, "Okay. That's an excuse to come back." Soon we'll be out that way to buy fresh soft shelled crabs from the fellows who sell them on the docks in Deale. So sweet, so good. Right now it's shad and shad roe season. The best way to have shad roe, a regional delicacy that once was on every Washington restaurant menu and now is difficult to find, is to saute in bacon, lemon and white wine. That's all you need. And some lemon wedges on the plate. A glass of icy cold Chablis and you are DONE. JUST DO IT.

In Howard's day he had shad roe on the menu at Nathans every spring and it sold out. Now we would be lucky if one order moved. Why is that? What's happened to people? What's happened to the well-rounded appreciation of our local bounty?

FRIDAY, MARCH 10....I'll be honest. I've been going through a bad patch, worse than most, and it's sucked all the air out of my ability to focus or write or do most anything but get through the day. It happens to all of us, a confluence of dodgy events and bad news that overtakes like a rogue wave, but in this case a lot of rogue waves. Some of it relates to the rigors of being the mother of a teenage son, some of it relates to being the owner of a rusty bucket of a business, and some of it relates to doing everything ...alone. But I've been down before and someone managed to bounce back and feel optimistic that will happen again. There are people who have it much worse. This was meant not as a sermon, only a rant.

On the bright side, I'm thrilled that
MAURY POVICH and CONNIE CHUNG have accepted an invitation to be the Q&A guests on April 26. It should be a sell out. Already we have a pile of reservations. Ditto for MARION BARRY next week. Really, try to join us as we celebrate the former mayor's 70th birthday. He has a story to tell. That's for sure. Wouldn't you like to hear it from the man himself?

And, gosh, could the weather be more gorgeous today? That's cheerful. In fact, I was about to dress in my usual black but ditched that for bright green and lots of bangly jewelry and a skirt that's devilish if the sun is on the other side of me. Another bright spot: having
VITO ZAPPALA back at Nathans at the door, greeting guests and looking out for their dining experience. And another bright spot: dinner last night with my friend AUBREY SARVIS at Rasika. We talked to the blues away.

During the years CHARLIE WEST, SANDY POLSTER and I wrote the CBS Evening News we were taught many lessons of responsibility regarding the scripting of the nation's most watched network news broadcast. One that's stuck with me was the admonition we should not randomly apply the word "tragedy" to otherwise sad, catastrophic, horrible or unimaginable events. My editor, the late JOHN MERRIMAN, used to say to me, "it's not up to us as journalists to decide whether it was a tragedy." That's a subjective decision, he would say. This is powerful stuff but made sense in the context of old-time journalism when the reporter's role was to report rather than to participate and emote. What this philosophy reminded me of was a book I read in grade school, "The Bridge of San Luis Rey." It won the author, THORNTON WILDER, a Pulitzer. It's about the collapse of a bridge in Peru in 1714. Five people die. It explores the meaning of their deaths and poses the question of whether it was tragedy or whether they'd been chosen. Because I'd read that book - and loved it - when I got to the CBS Evening News and was told we did not arbitrarily use the word "tragedy" I completely understood. So much so that in our contemporary moment of TV news, when "tragedy" is attached to every local crime report, I cringe. Am I right, wrong? That's not the point. It's my indoctrination as a journalist. In an old-school way, I'm rigid about a lot of words. You won't hear me call anything "very " unique.

The point of all this is that today, when I heard the news that
DANA REEVE had died, my first thoughts were, "what a tragedy." Had I been writing the story tonight for the CBS Evening News, I would have used those words. Or, at least I would have fought to use them. She died too young. She died of lung cancer without smoking. She'd been a valiant caregiver to her crippled husband, Christopher. She was making a go of it as a widow, raising their 13 year old son. From every angle I viewed this woman she was a symbol of doing the right thing, filling the void, and making an effort. She was a valuable member of society. Her death is a significant loss. Certainly to her son but, trust me, to the larger population as well, because she was committed to making a difference.

I met Dana and
CHRISTOPHER REEVE only once. We spent a day together at the CNN studios in New York, when Chris gave his first studio interview after the accident that broke his neck and robbed him of his body. LARRY KING was scheduled to do the interview at 10 AM, but due to heavy northeast fog, and Larry's being in Boston, it got complicated. Larry's plane was turned around at LaGuardia and returned to Logan. He hired a limo and driver and motored to NY. Chris arrived and had no choice but to wait. Dana and a nurse were with him. And with him and with him and with him. Dana never left his side. Never let frustration flag her good attitude. Never let her husband succumb to listlestness. I looked at her -- early in her role as wife of a challenged man -- and was impressed by her resolve. It was solid. It wasn't a front. I thought, "How is she going to do this? She's young, beatufiul, vital, talented." I saw them later at a Creative Coalition dinner at the Pierre Hotel and I got my answer. She knew her new role. It was to be there for her husband, no matter what. That's what she was handed and she made it work for her, and her family. Tonight my prayers are with her son.

Memo to GILBERT CATES, creative mastermind of the annual Academy Awards broadcast. This fall, director CHRISTOPHER GUEST will release his new film, a spoof of the Oscars and the award season leading up to your big show. Why not book Chris and his brilliant cast to host next year's effort. And memo to the Hollywood community: when ALL of you are mature, well-behaved, appropriately attired and tasteful it is not as entertaining as when there's a COURTNEY LOVE or BJORK or PAM ANDERSON in the mix. Last night's show could have been on NPR. Get rid of the stylists, who make you all look alike, and the jewelry hawkers, who make you into billboards. Return to the days of reckless peronsal fashion and streakers and lame attempts at political relevance.

But, thank goodness for "Crash" and for "It's Hard out Here for a Pimp." Too sweet wins. Ditto the Brokeback writing Oscar.

I'm telling myself this particular evening is exciting, because of the Oscars, but it's a piffle compared to next Sunday, when the Sopranos return to the air. This will get me by, though; it will be a fix. First of all, I've got some horses in this race. Here are my very amateur but movie-loving picks: Best Picture: Crash (or Munich); Best Director: PAUL HAGGIS for Crash or STEVEN SPIELBERG for Munich. Best Actor: HEATH LEDGER or TERRENCE HOWARD. Best Actress: FELICITY HUFFMAN. Best supporting actor: JAKE GYLLENHAAL. Best support actress: MICHELLE WILLIAMS. If nothiing else, I hope Paul Haggis wins best original screenplay, because that screenplay had to be a bitch to write and, I believe, he wrote it in a night. Or not much longer than a night. He said it was inspired, and it shows. For me, the missing persons in the nominee list are JOAN ALLEN and KEVIN COSTNER for The Upside of Anger. Both were remarkable in that film. I hope for Best Song the winner is "It's Hard out Here for Pimp." I can sing it almost all the way through without missing a word or skipping a beat.

If it's not tossed on your doorstep, do try to get your hands on a copy of the new Washington Life magazine. In it is an excerpt from the Nathans Q&A interview with former Corcoran Gallery of Art director
DAVD C. LEVY. Given that the Corcoran is currently imploding - firing curators and so forth - the interview is particularly timely. This will be the fifth Nathans Q&A to appear in the pages of Washington Life.

Make your reservations now for our 100th Q&A guest,
NEIL LIVINGSTONE, coming up this Thursday, March 9. He'll give us the lowdown on drumbeats of civil war in Iraq, and a report card, too, on the overall "war on terrorism."

Life as an adult. Life as a parent. Life as a small business owner in lease negotiations. Life as a widow. You know, life gets tough and the tough get going. My way of saying there may be no entry here Monday because of a chance I will play hooky. If I do, and if it's successful, there will be a full (well, full but discreet) report on Tuesday. Until then, call
JON MOSS and make your reservations for Thursday. 202.338.2000.

There are reports this evening that legendary columnist ART BUCHWALD is near death at a hospice here in Washington. He has refused dialysis and friends say it is only a matter of time. He has friends all over the city, and all over the world, who are thinking of him. We're thinking of him, too, at Nathans, where he was regular until only recently. He also did a Q&A lunch, and the audio is available on SOUNDTRACKS.

The only people eating as well as I am today will be the people who have lunch at Gerard's and dinner at Ray's the Steaks. Of course, these same people will be working out double hard tomorrow. That's my plan. Eating well is worth the struggle of a hard work-out. Did you see CONDELEEZA RICE do her work-out on NBC? It's gotta help to have an ex-Marine on hand to put you through your paces. Try balking in his face. Not a chance. I have to be my own Marine, as do most of us who aren't Secretary of State. I liked that she uses an elliptical. It is a wonderful machine, and especially good for replicating the workout from a good run. A combination of elliptical, free weights and stretching or yoga makes for an almost perfect routne.

Some very good news to report:
VITO ZAPPALA, on the mend after triple bypass surgery, will be returning to Nathans next week. We've crafted a new role for him that will use his strengths and not stress him out. He will be at the door and in the dining room on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights to begin, and then we'll see if he can add on another night and possibly also be on hand for the Q&A lunches. His role will be to greet dinner guests and to make sure everything about their Nathans experience is tip top. I'm very happy about this arrangement and I believe Vito is, too. The staff are happy, too. Please try to make a date to come in and see Vito next week. For dinner reservations phone JON MOSS at 338.2000.

Television's on my mind, especially because it's finally March 2006, which means only one thing: in eleven days The Sopranos will be back on the air. What a long wait we fans have had to endure. In our house, Tony is the boss. My son and I faithfully watch because it is top of the heap entertainment. But as a solo parent and a small business owner it has provided a vehicle to talk to my son about business; the way it's done and the way it's not done. That's only one of a half dozen discussions it spawns, discussions about family, marriage, loyalty, violence, greed, morality. We've watched every past episode at least twice and will settle in with glee before the magic tube on Sunday March 12. After all, we are the mother and son who had a "Sopranos" Christmas year before last, dining and so forth all the favorite mobster hangouts. It was a kind of bonding experience.

But before that we'll watch the Oscars, rooting for "Crash" but happy if "Brokeback Mountain" or "Munich" end up with the top honors. So many good movies this year. And perhaps the most amazing performance - wrapped in a charming film - was
FELICITY HUFFMAN in "Transamerica." I'm sure the subject, a man going through a sex change, puts off a lot of people. But it shouldn't. There's no reason to miss this film. It is sweet, amusing, moving, satisfying and, at the heart, packed with winning performances.

Another terrific performance to catch, and it is available on the small screen, is
ANNETTE BENING in "Mrs Harris" on HBO. This story is the opposite of charming, and Bening does not play for sympathy, nor does BEN KINGSLEY as the arrogant, sadistic diet doctor, HERMAN TARNOWER, who JEAN HARRIS was convicted of murdering after being his lover for many years. It's a rough ride, but worth it. I wonder where Jean Harris is today. How much would I like her to do a Q&A lunch? Way much.

Speaking of way. How happy am I to have booked
ERICA JONG for a Q&A March 21? Way, way, way. It's a cliche, I know, but she is a cultural icon and this will be a special lunch: inside the zipless f**k. It's about time we had some sex at the Nathans lunch.

You will note to the left that we have just booked author ERICA JONG for an appearance at the Q&A Cafe on Tuesday, March 21. Accepting reservations now.

I will remind myself not to interview lawyers too often. A good lawyer is a Q&A challenge.
SANFORD AIN was very interesting today. Smart, sharp, amusing, informative. But he is used to keeping what he knows close to the vest and that makes my job much harder. However, the audience contributed more questions than at any other lunch this season. The stack was about 25 cards thick. I could not get to all of them in the allotted time. I sat looking at him and thought how comforting he must be to clients. Certainly he makes them feel protected and that they've got a warrior on their side. I would not want to be his opponent. In fact, he has gone into partnership with the lawyer who was his fiercest opponent, RITA BANK. That answered the question about how he handles the competition.

The full interview is available here, Sanford Ain Interview, or at SOUNDTRACKS.

It's Mardi (Tuesday) Gras (Fat) at Nathans and don't miss the fun. I started my day with a piping hot cup of chicory coffee. Today at the Q&A lunch we'll have gumbo and bread pudding. This evening we'll have New Orleans cocktails and more gumbo and pancakes. It's an all day party. What are you giving up for Lent? Don't give up Nathans, no matter what.

Everywhere I go this weekend people are, like, "I so want to come to your Sandy Ain lunch but I'm, like, gee, afraid what others would think if I'm there." Trust me. Don't. This is Washington. People aren't thinking about what you're doing. They are thinking about what they are doing. Anyway, celebrity divorce is much more interesting, and I'm sure Mr. Ain isn't attending with the expectation of walking out with a hand full of new clients. For the time being, please read this entry from divorcesupport.com:

Prenups and Celebrity Divorce

"As Jessica Simpson and husband Nick Lachey head to divorce court, the issue of prenuptial agreements takes the spotlight. Nick and Jessica didn't sign prenups. Who is going to be the biggest loser because they didn't?
Three years ago when the two singers got married, Nick was the one whose star was burning brightly and he was earning much more than his Barbie blonde girlfriend.

After marriage, their reality television show put the spotlight on Jessica and, as Nick's earning power started to slide, her bankability soared. By the time she hit the big screen as a Daisy Duke reincarnation, the singer-turned-actress had become a money magnet.

As their marriage ends, lack of a prenup means Nick won't walk away empty handed if he gets a 50% split of the marital income, which includes the $30 million Jessica earned in 2005. In California, a community property state, anything bought or earned after the couple marries is community property to be split equally at divorce.

Will Jessica get a raw deal if she has to part with so much money for such a short term marriage? It could just as easily been the other way around if Nick had continued to earn the bigger bucks."

This morning, a first: a drive-by reservation. I was headed up 30th street after a good, long run when a polished, handsome import slowed to cruising speed beside me. The window lowered. It was ED MATHIAS, one of the city's best "go to" guys, managing director of The Carlyle Group. "Hey, Carol," he said, "I see you have SANDY AIN on Tuesday. Sign me up." Wow. Sweet. Done.

It reminds me of a moment several years ago, another drive by. It was a spring morning and I was just finishing up another long run, and was enroute home. I was running in place at the intersection of Wisconsin and M, waiting for the light to change. In my hand was a tiny brown paper bag with a bagel in it. A man pulled up beside me on his bicycle, stopped, and said, "If that's a bathing suit in that bag we can leave for the islands right now." And then the light changed and he rode on. I was a new widow and mostly in a fog. That moment made me smile all day. It still makes me smile.

If I hadn't been binging on cholesterol for the past two nights I would go to Nathans for waffles or eggs benedict this morning. But, alas, I have to cool it. You, however, should not be deterred. Call Mehdi right now and make a reservation, and ask him to put the champagne on ice. 338.2000.

Last night I took my torment out on a good bottle of wine, and the wine won. My mistake wasn't the going out or the company but the choosing of one of those delicious but dangerous Aussie wines with the almost 20 percent alcohol by volume. Yikes. My half of the bottle was the equivalent of having a full bottle and a half all to myself. I should know better, but sometimes even wisdom isn't enough. The Furies of work, love and child-rearing can put a strangle on common sense - at any age.

Another hectic morning - here, there, everywhere, and then an important lunch meeting at Nathans. However, above all, I do want to confirm that former DC mayor and current council member
MARION BARRY will be the Q&A guest on March 14, when we will celebrate his 70th birthday and also do what we can for the 8th district constituent fund. Already we have 50 reservations, and it is certain this lunch will sell out. Best advice: book now. We will have a wait list, and people will come off the wait list, but we will stop the reservations at about 75. That's all the room can hold.

And while we're mentioning birthdays, a big hug to IZETTE FOLGER, who is turning 35 or 36. It will be a weekend of grand parties and lunches and teas and breakfasts. That's the only way to do it. The biggest party will be Saturday night at the National Gallery of Art - Izette and Cezanne - followed by a Sunday afternoon champagne party. I age a year just thinking about it.

THURSDAY, FEBURARY 23...Amazingly, too busy yesterday to have a quiet moment to collect my thoughts and write. It leaves me in a bad mood when I don't get time to write. It is one of the chief pleasures of my day. Which reminds me, when talking to the Georgetowner last Friday and, coincidentally in a meeting with JIM KIMSEY and BO BLAIR yesterday, the subject somehow wound it's way to what I most want to do. "Stay at home," was my simple and honest answer. It's why I'd like to resolve Nathans, win the lottery, have a steady and consistent income or - bottom line - financial security: SO I DON'T HAVE TO LEAVE MY HOUSE, except for the market and walking the dog or futzing in the garden. I am my happiest at home, alone or with Spencer or with a friend, writing, reading, cooking, napping. But no groups, no crowds, no parties, no malls, no traffic, etc, etc, etc. This is not dramatics or exaggeration, only truth. I am the first to admit I am shy, anti-social and a wannabe shut-in. But since that is not the life I was handed I make myself go out and when I do, especially when I'm with a man or a small group of friends, I have a good time. I have a good time at the Q&A lunches, too, especially when they are over. I love the interview, but I'm always nervous before and relieved when I've got through it. I'm looking forward to having a chat today with former Rumsfeld aide TORIE CLARKE.

Torie's book, "Lipstick on a Pig," is an interesting and easy read. It's timely, too. I have a lot of questions for her about some headline-making current events: Cheney, the Ports scandal, and her own blog.

That's if I can think straight this morning. Outside my window the city is jack-hammering and drilling into the side of my house to install new water pipes. Necessary due to the lead in the water, but an unholy racket just the same. AAARRRGGGGHHHH!!!

As I write this, Nathans back dining room is the site of a Today show shoot. There are three cameras, half a dozen techs, a producer, TAMMY FINE, and correspondent, JAIMIE GANGEL. The focus of all the activity is DAVID HUME KENNERLY, whose photographs adorn the walls and make our dining room look like no other in the city. Meaning, it looks like it is actually in Washington.

When I have an air date we will post it here. I do have an air date for the episode of America's Most Wanted featuring Washington actor
KRIS ARNOLD. It will be this coming Saturday night, Feb. 25. Fortunately, being that it's a show about crime and criminals, it does not feature Nathans or anything occurring at Nathans. But Kris is worth watching. Stay home and watch or Tivo.

Have you been paying attention to this growing story about the fact the Bush Administration wants to hand over control of some of our major ports to an Arab management company? I'm a fairly open-minded person and not given to irrational acts of Arab-bashing, so please don't take this that way. But this handover bothers me. It bothers me because while the company may be "friendly" at the moment, how can we know it will be friendly a year from now or that it won't easily be infiltrated by unfriendlies? It's a dangerous world and the bad guys are clever and, as they've demonstrated in the past, one of their great skills is finding their way into our most basic systems of operation. The ports are vulnerable even when managed by our own people. I'm quite opposed to this handover and hope louder voices than mine will effectively create opposition. A most disturbing element of the story today is the vocal support of the handover from Homeland Security chief
MICHAEL CHERTOFF. Does he have any idea how idiotic he sounds? Oh, wait. Why am I asking. Isn't he one of the Bushies responsible for Katrina? Talk about tone deaf.

Busy morning with time at Nathans facing the bad news of the books - thousands overdrawn and hoping to hold the deluge at bay. The only thing we had going for us today was the bank being closed, though we did good Sunday night and Monday day business. It's never enough. No matter what, it's never ever enough. This starts my week with something akin to having a carving knife shoved into my stomach. The agony starts there and by evening, like now, it is up to my head and feels like a vise grip around my skull. Whenever I can afford to have a massage the therapists who work on me say the same thing: "You must have a lot of stress! You have knots in your shoulders the size of big marbles." Ha Ha Ha. Those are the good, relatively uncomplicated days. Then off to a business meeting and some more work and then out to the sports stores to get necessary lacrosse gear for the beginning of the outdoor season. You see, there's gear needed for indoor lacrosse and then completely other gear needed for outdoor lacrosse. Kaching, kaching, kaching. I would like to own Warrior or Under Armour or STX or Brine.

All week long I've been meaning to write something about the Newsweek cover on baby boomer middle aged sex and the vagaries of dating and romance after death and divorce. Obviously it's a subject I know something about but not nearly as expertly as many of the individuals interviewed for the piece. It reminded me of a question posed during the interview with the Georgetowner on Friday. I was asked about the quality of life as a resident of Georgetown and Washington. I said what I always say, "It's a great place to raise a child." And it is, and I mean that. What I didn't say is that it is not a great place to be an unmarried widow. It's a company town and as with all company towns marriage is a highly prized component of the career path. So there are lots and lots of married people. For 20 years I was one of those married people and it was a great town in which to be married. But dating is not so great. The available men in my age group are few. Most invitations out to dinner come from married men, which is a no-go zone. The divorced men are sometimes damaged or, at the very least, angry or, more likely, already on the next lily pod (on which they had one foot before the divorce). The younger men are out there in abundance. Attractive, lively, ambitious, smart. Fun the night before but maybe not so applicable the morning after. I'm not sure. I'm not an expert.

There are many little silver linings to being unmarried again later in life, especially when it is not expected, and once you have a handle on grief. There is a rebirth of interest in the world and people. There is a lot of genuine thrill that comes with being kissed again by someone new, and having the fire in the heart of fresh romance. And it's true - new love is good and healthy and rejuvenating. All the things that made love good all those years ago make it good later in life, too, but maturity adds a layer of appreciation that is more satisfying and profound. Also, no more married sex.

Recently there have been some new restaurants opening in Washington scene. Gradually I've made it to a few of them, but have not been impressed. Until tonight. This evening we went to the Indian grill restaurant Rasika, at 6th and D Streets, jaunting distance from MCI and police headquarters. It comes to our fair city courtesy of ASHOK BAJAJ, who gave us the Bombay Club and 701. But it's something altogether different - younger, louder, more energetic. The moment we blew in the door from the bitter temps and wind outside I felt like I'd been plucked off a glacier and plunged into a saffron stew. The colors inside are that warm. It was packed with humanity in a white hot "of the moment" way but we'd decided in advance that we would go with the flow, therefore not minding service that was earnest if occasionally compromised.

The food more than made up for the challenges of being the restaurant everyone in Washington decided to go to this Saturday night. I can't tell you precisely the names of the dishes, but we started with a "savory" that was basically a variation on crispy fried spinach. Way good. We followed with the old-school Tandoori Chicken and a new school Black Cod. We let them choose our side dishes, which all were superb. We also let them choose our dessert, an Indian interpretation of Beignets with, I think, pistachios and other treats arrayed on top. I would have paid more attention to the details of our food but I was having too much fun talking and taking in the room. Next time I'll go back and seriously study the menu. Maybe. Or else I'll have two instead of one Pomegrante Cosmopolitan.

When I go back I'll ask for one of the tables with cloths rather than the hard tops, and I think I might wait a month to let it cool off a little...but it will be a long month because I'll be recalling the warm room, the verve of so many young, animated voices, the intense flavors and the groovy feeling of riding shotgun in a spice rack. Most of all I will make my reservation with ATUL NARAIN, as you should, too, at 202.637.1222.

While I love interviewing others, being at the answering end of questions makes me uncomfortable. Today the tables were turned and while the interviwers couldn't have been more accomodating it was still somewhat unnerving to be yak, yak, yakking about myself. It's what I reserve exclusively for the shrink's office. But as I said, the company was terrific: SONYA BERNHARDT, publisher of The Georgetowner, VEENA TREHAN, "Players" columnist for The Georgetowner, and BOB MADIGAN, WTOP news radio's one and only "Man about Town." The interview lasted for more than an hour with lots of good questions. Afterward I felt like, well, that's enough of me to last a very long time, which is likely a normal reaction to being interviewed. It will be interesting to read/hear what Veena and Bob pull from all my blather. I'm now very happy to get back to doing the interviewing myself, beginning with TORIE CLARKE on Thursday.

Things to do this weekend: get to the National Gallery of Art to see the Cezanne exhibition. Get over to Weschler's on Sunday to preview their next catalogue auction. Get to Bethesda travel team lacrosse try-outs Sunday at George Washington University. Try to catch "Transamerica" at the E Street theater. Try to get into the new Rasika restaurant. Snagging a reservation has been next to impossible, but I keep calling, hoping there will be a cancellation.

You never know who's waiting on your table at Nathans. One of them just might be a future pitcher for the Florida Marlins. In this case, AVI RASOWSKY, who heads down to Jupiter, Fl., next week to begin spring training with the Jamestown Jammers, the single A farm team of the Marlins. Avi, who's from Glenmont, NY, played his first season of single A ball last summer after graduation from George Washington University. He intends to go to graduate school and become a speech pathologist, but for now he's also working it on the mound as an up and coming pitcher. He has applied to the College of St. Rose in Albany, NY, and would start in the fall. That gives him a full summer to play ball, as he did for GWU for four years. Last summer he also played for the Jupiter Hammerheads, who are the highest level of single A. Avi's been a delightful presence around Nathans and we'll miss him. We also hope he'll come back to visit when he's pitching the Marlins against the Nats one of these days.

The morning after and the private dicks are counting their heavy take from yesterday's full day of work. Did you read The Washington Post story by PETULA DVORAK about the "cheating season"? It was delightful, and true. You can't own a bar and not know about the ways of those men and women who prefer a side order of someone other than their wife or husband. Just ask our clean-up crew about the wedding rings found in the morning detritus. You see, the guy's on the make, meets a honey, thinks he's slipping his ring into his pocket but, oops, he misses and it falls to the floor. Some call the next day, sheepishly, asking if it was found. Others don't know where it got lost.

I'm naieve and often surprised by the rate of extra-marital foolishness that goes on around me. I wonder, too, how married people keep their affairs secret from the spouse. I mean, there are so many, many giveaways that your better half is screwing around and may have lost his/her heart to another. The Post listed many of the key indicators. Cell phone calls, emails, new CDs, running more errands on weekends. Some others I might add: a renewed interest in sex and particularly more adventurous sex. (especially if he/she calls you by another name). Seemingly in love with the world. Suddenly dedicated to losing a few pounds. Alternately more distracted or more attentive in your company. Gets a wink from the maitre'd at a restaurant you've not recently visited together. Has a new favorite wine, book, area of interest.

Honestly, I think many people instinctively know when their spouse is screwing around and say nothing because 1) they don't care, 2) they don't want to rock the boat, 3) if they ignore it maybe it will go away, - and smartest choice, 4) they plan to wait, watch, collect evidence and consult a lawyer. Smart, too, to hire a private detective agency and have them review all the spouse's recent email and phone calls. Also, go to the family computer after he/she has used it and check the "history" of websites visited. If they pertain to restaurants, jewelry, lingerie, country inns, etc., that have not been discussed with you, well, be suspicious.

I think it's a wickedly fun subject and therefore eagerly anticipateTuesday, Feb. 28, when
SANFORD AIN will be the guest at the Q&A Cafe. He's ranked as Washington's top divorce lawyer. Can you imagine what he knows? This will be a fasten-your-seat-belts kind of lunch. Lots and lots of fun.

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 14...This is what makes Washington, and the Nathans Q&A Cafe, like nothing else in the world. This was the scene at today's lunch with CRAIG CRAWFORD: I'm asking him about the incident of Vice President DICK CHENEY shooting another quail hunter, and mention what a timely diversion this is from former Cheney aid SCOOTER LIBBY'S revelation that possibly the order to out CIA operative VALERIE PLAME came from Cheney, and Valerie is in the audience, with her husband, Amb. JOSEPH WILSON. Where else in the world does that happen? Valerie and Joe look refreshed, happy and like they've both been on the South Beach diet, though Valerie wears it a touch better than Joe. I wanted to feed him, because he looked so thin. They told me they are unemployed and, for the moment, enjoying that status, though Valerie will likely write a book. I told her she must, if for no other reason than the fact she can, that publishers will hand her whatever she wants. It's so difficult to get a book contract today. I feel anyone who can do it should it. I tried so hard to get my memoir published and each time the book company's said, "Love the writing, love the story, but who is she? If she had a name we'd go to press." I knew that if I beat up my son before the cameras in a Walmart parking lot I'd have an instant book contract, but there are limits to one's ambitions. But go for it Valerie. Besides, she has one helluva story to tell.

Craig was, as I predicted, informative, interesting and entertaining. He gave us the latest Cheney jokes but also provided insight into how this accident became a political nightmare and how the Veep might get to higher ground. He also used the incident to illustrate the message of his book, "Attack the Messenger, " and the ways the Bush Administration - more than others - have successully painted the media as the enemy, and how the media have, more or less, rolled over and let that happen.

The full CRAIG CRAWFORD interview is availabe on SOUNDTRACKS.

There is nothing more to say about Vice President DICK CHENEY, but who knew he had the capacity to make us laugh and for an entire day? There are lots of valid questions about how the White House handled this mishap, but I'm going to let the pros handle the necessary commentary, meaning JAY LENO, DAVID LETTERMAN and JON STEWART...and CRAIG CRAWFORD tomorrow at Nathans.

Have you made your arrangements for Valentine's Day? Please consider joining us for the Q&A lunch with Mr. Crawford. The timing couldn't be better. He'll bring information, intelligence and humor to the mid-day meal. We have seats available. Call JON MOSS at 338.2000. You can also call Jon to make reservations for Valentine's dinner. We have a lovely special menu along with our regular menu. We'll have wine and champagne specials, too.

My Valentine and I have not yet figured out our plans, but I wouldn't be at all put out if we simply caught a movie and returned home for dinner by the fire. Even though I have one special Valentine, I have many other Valentines on my list: Robert, David R., Graham, Dale, Henry, Aubrey, Chris, Vijay, Greg, Jim, Leon, Tom, Paolo, Daniel, Mike, Richard, Adam, Zal, David D., Aaron, Michael, Alan, Nelson, Fred and, of course, Black Op. And Valentine's, too, for my girlfriends: Myra, Izette, Ellen, Janet, Eda, Rachel, Dorothy, Sahm, Mary, Susan, Martha, Holly, Jeannie, Sally, Jean, Nora, Beverly...and all my terrific staff at Nathans, and the many dedicated patrons of the Q&A lunches. Big smooches and hugs all around.

I'm not sure exactly what Valentine's means, apart from the Hallmark concept, but there's nothing wrong with spreading around the love, especially in the depths of winter.

Gorgeous, fluffy, yummy snow. After posting this I'm off to shovel. The shovel acton will do me good because got to bed late after a visit to Smith Point. However, Smith Point does me good, too, because the deejay is excellent. After clearing the sidewalk then it's off to brunch at Nathans. That's what everyone should do today. Shovel and eat, but eat at Nathans. Mouth-watering waffles, the city's best eggs benedict, perfect steak and eggs, grits, pancakes, omelettes and zippy Bloody Mary's. And with the feast there is the marvelous flat panel TV with the Olympics in high definition. Book at table with Mehdi at 338.2000. See you there! Bring your sled.

It did eventually snow but at a different time and rate than we'd been told by the pro's. Do we care? Hmmm. Killed the restaurant business tonight. Killed the beauty industry today. All over town people cancelled their hair appointments, manicures and facials (Heaven forbid ) to instead go stand in line at Safeway or Giant to stock up on milk, bread, water and toilet paper...because, as we know, when it snows in an urban environment it is impossible to get those items.

But I had a good time. The secret op and I went to the Jefferson for drinks and then a retro Asian downtown for Peking Duck and Firecracker Lobster. It was a briliant choice of restaurant because it was so alternative. I liked that. It was his suggestion so he gets the A+ for a clever idea.

...After a long day and a longer argument with my son and all the frenzy that goes with preparing for a snow storm that either will or won't amount to much, I have only this to say: Thank God It's Friday!

Also, I'm delighted to have added TORIE CLARKE to the line-up for February. Hey, here's a chance to get inside Rummy's head. She'll be with us Feb. 23, and Olsson's will sell her new book, "Lipstick on a Pig," which is rich with anecdotes of her life and times in the power lane here.

The CRAIG CRAWFORD lunch is filling up fast. It will be Valentine's Day and we're - naturally - preparing a special menu. I say bring your lover or a friend or both. Craig is smart, plugged in and has a sense of humor - what more can you ask for from a lunch date?

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 9... Fascinating Q&A lunch today with LINDA FAIRSTEIN. The turn out could have been bigger but that didn't make it any less interesting. Linda talked about her life as a successful crime writer as well as her three decades running the sex crimes united of the NY district attorney's office. Some of her cases include the Steinberg child abuse case, the "Preppie" murder, and the Central Park jogger. For a change we were off Washington politics, but we'll return to that subject next week with CRAIG CRAWFORD. Make your reservations now. Feb. 14. What a great Valentine's lunch.

Met an interesting fellow tonight at a birthday party at a home on Massachusetts Avenue. His name is KRIS ARNOLD and he's a Washington actor. This week he is shooting an episode of "America's Most Wanted," in which he portrays the victim of child rape who as an adult is recalling what happened to him. The perps were three men. Two have been caught. The purpose of the episode is to try to catch the third. They will shoot this week and Kris said he will let me know when the episode will air. He expects soon. Anyway, it was engrossing to talk to Kris and learn about the method of recreating criminals and victims in the drama portions of "AMW." He's appeared in other Washington-Baltimore based dramas, like "The West Wing" and "Homicide." He also wrote, directed and produced the film "Two-Minute Heist." For this shoot he's working on now he had to add hair extensions and with them and his bandana tonight we thought he had a good AXL ROSE thing going on, though Kris is genuinely handsome and is able to complete a full sentence. But then if you can sing "Sweet Child 'O Mine" do you really need to be able to complete a sentence?

Earlier - The interview with
DAVID C. LEVY, former director of the Corcoran Gallery of Art, is now available on SOUNDTRACKS. Give it a listen. He had a lot to get off his mind and unload he did.

If you like TV shows like "Law and Order" and all its offspring, you will want to join us for the Q&A Cafe tomorrow with best selling author LINDA FAIRSTEIN. We have lots of seats available, which surprises me, because how often do we get to talk to a writer who has the #4 fiction book in the country and that's only this week. By next week it could well be #1.

During afternoon drive time, when we're on the afternoon school run, "free" radio is sort of a conservative screamers wasteland except for the "Don and Mike" show on WJFK. Today MIKE SORCE, who plays "Don," was taking a moment to be particularly personal and talk about his late wife, Frida, who was killed in a car accident this summer. It's only been 7 months since he lost her. His grief is still in its infancy. He's been "managing," but today he had one of those days when it comes back and hits like a tsunami. It was all so familiar. What triggered it for him was finding a couple of notes that had been left for him by Frida back in the day, not meaning to be found this way, but all the more shattering because they were. Little nothings. Her handwriting. All of it bringing her back. Did he think she was speaking to him from heaven? Oh, no. He's more in the real world than that. But these kinds of moments unleash what's been held in check - the yearning, the loneliness, the pain, particularly the pain.

I always want to reach out to people who are new to the path I've long traveled, but I know even with a helping hand it is important for each of them to find their own way. I learned the more you let pain happen, the more you let the tsunamis hit and wash over you, the healing becomes more effective. Mike Sorce said that today he felt so bad he didn't want to go to work. Oh, yeah. Been there. He'll be there again, too.

I have no horse in this race but nonetheless dearly love a good spat among United States Senators, and this week the fellas sending us the Valentine are venerable character JOHN MCCAIN of Arizona and newly-minted political rock star BARACK OBAMA of Illinois. It has to do with the lobbying reform legislation that McCain has championed on Capitol Hill. Below is some of the letter as it appears on McCain's website. As you'll note after, it seems more unfair than ever to stereotype women as the masters of the cat fight.

Dear Senator Obama:

I would like to apologize to you for assuming that your private assurances to me regarding your desire to cooperate in our efforts to negotiate bipartisan lobbying reform legislation were sincere. When you approached me and insisted that despite your leadership’s preference to use the issue to gain a political advantage in the 2006 elections, you were personally committed to achieving a result that would reflect credit on the entire Senate and offer the country a better example of political leadership, I concluded your professed concern for the institution and the public interest was genuine and admirable. Thank you for disabusing me of such notions with your letter to me dated February 2, 2006, which explained your decision to withdraw from our bipartisan discussions. I’m embarrassed to admit that after all these years in politics I failed to interpret your previous assurances as typical rhetorical gloss routinely used in politics to make self-interested partisan posturing appear more noble. Again, sorry for the confusion, but please be assured I won’t make the same mistake again. ...
As I noted, I initially believed you shared that goal. But I understand how important the opportunity to lead your party’s effort to exploit this issue must seem to a freshman Senator, and I hold no hard feelings over your earlier disingenuousness. Again, I have been around long enough to appreciate that in politics the public interest isn’t always a priority for every one of us. Good luck to you, Senator.
John McCain
United States Senate

Read all of it at:

Later today Obama said he was "puzzled" by McCain's letter. Puzzled? Doesn't he know what a spanking feels like? He should be rubbing his ego while crying "ouch." Regardless, they'll be hugging it out soon enough.

MONDAY, FEBRUARY 6...Because it is in the New York Times today I feel I can write about the death last week of RONALD HECTOR. As the song says in "Brokeback Mountain," he was a friend of mine. "Mr. Hector," and we never called him anything else, was the kind of person -- and we all have them -- who I never could imagine losing. I'm not sure exactly what his title was, but to me, my husband and my son, and countless others, he was the man who ran The Carlyle hotel, and who for 30+ years has looked out for us there. I can't imagine The Carlyle without him. I can't imagine New York City without him. He's the kind of New Yorker who makes that town world class, unique and proud. The kindnesses he showed to Spencer and me after Howard died will be remembered forever. They weren't expected or required, but they brought light to our grief and made us always, ALWAYS, feel we had a home away from home in New York. Some of the kindnesses were simple - trading stories, good gossip, keeping in touch, letting me know when there were rate breaks, sending extra treats to the room - and some were just plain fun. Like the time when he needed our room to complete a suite for some difficult customer, and he promised a "good" upgrade if we would agree to move. First of all, I was delighted to help him out. But the joke was on us. He gave us an upgrade alright - to the massive, towering suite that was always used by PRINCESS DIANA, and is still frequented by the likes of JACK NICHOLSON and MICK JAGGER, when they are in residence. When we returned to the lobby after being shown to the room he asked in his best deadpan, "Will it do?"

I miss him just writing about him. Please read this obit which I include here in full:

Ronald Hector, Face of the Carlyle Hotel, Is Dead at 66

Ronald Hector, the silver-haired fellow in the morning suit behind the front desk of the Carlyle hotel whose aplomb in juggling room preferences and protecting the privacy of princesses, prime ministers and pretenders was the stuff of lobby legend, died on Jan. 29 at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan. He was 66.

The cause was pancreatic cancer, said his friend Martin Sonkin.

Mr. Hector's welcome was among the first for guests, whom he termed friends. He would remember room preferences and special requests, including whether a particular guest needed one of the 23 suites with baby grand pianos, each tuned twice a week.

Mr. Hector was known to take cabs to Kennedy International Airport to deliver forgotten luggage. His soft-spoken polish prompted GQ magazine last year to say that he could "out-Jeeves an entire library of P. G. Wodehouse novels."

In a city that is now home to more than a handful of luxury hotels, the Carlyle, at 76th Street and Madison Avenue, has cultivated a reputation for lush comfort since 1930. There are two staff members for each guest, but Mr. Hector stood out. A regular visitor from Massachusetts, after learning of his death, sent a letter calling Mr. Hector "the face" of the hotel.

Indeed, after 40 years in the lobby, he seemed as much a fixture as the Louis XV chests. He delighted in seeing the grown children of couples he met on their honeymoons.

That is not to say that his many "friends" received unlimited chumminess; Mr. Hector politely turned down invitations to tea to maintain "professional distance."

He could keep a secret in a palace of secrets. The Carlyle was the New York residence of Diana, Princess of Wales. Mr. Hector personally helped her scurry unnoticed through a flower shop to her room.

In general, he would tell stories about celebrities only after they were dead. One involved the time Audrey Hepburn was sitting on a couch and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis plopped down next to her. They talked for a half an hour, he said, and he thought they both looked beautiful.

So did Grace Kelly and Sophia Loren. Mr. Hector somehow managed to ask Princess Grace if she had enjoyed her lunch. When she smiled and said yes, he was so thrilled he broke his own rule and told everybody. He remembered beasts as well as beauties, recalling how Jackie Gleason dropped his cigarette butts on the floor at exactly the spot he claimed to remember an ashtray.

Then there was the time, many years ago, when a woman who said her name was "Whoopee" asked to see a particularly secretive guest. Mr. Hector was at a loss as to what to do. With angst and trepidation, he called the guest, who hurried down to greet Whoopi Goldberg.

Ronald David Hector was born in Brattleboro, Vt., on Nov. 7, 1939. His father was a butcher, and his own first job, at 16, was at a local hotel. He graduated from the University of Vermont, where he met Mr. Sonkin in a freshman math class. The two owned houses in Kew Gardens Hills, Queens, and Berlin, N.Y.

Mr. Hector left no other immediate survivors.

He worked at several Manhattan hotels, and started in the Carlyle as a room clerk on April 13, 1965. Michael O'Connell, a bellman at the Carlyle for 55 years, was pretty sure his friend was nervous at first, if only because every new employee is, often with reason. President Harry S. Truman was the first person Mr. O'Connell greeted.

Mr. Hector had various titles at the hotel, the last being executive assistant manager. He developed immense and uncanny expertise at manipulating the board on which names and rooms were juggled until the puzzle was at least temporarily solved. He adapted the system to computers only reluctantly.

If every day in the hotel business is a crisis, some were worse than others. Mr. Hector stood behind the front desk during the 1977 blackout; on a day when the hotel, with about 180 rooms, was 38 rooms overbooked; and on Sept. 11, after the World Trade Center towers fell and air traffic was halted.

"Most of the checkouts? Can't. Most of the arrivals? Can't," he said in an interview with The New York Times in 2001. "You had the not-leavings, and the not-comings."

Mr. Hector, again, kept things together. Sherri Nelson of Los Angeles, who handles the travel arrangements of movie stars and others she won't name, remembered his favorite phrase.

"Let me play with it for a while and see what I can work out," he would say.



The Monday morning quaterbacks say the big game was just okay (and do the Steelers fans care?) and that the Stones' performance was flawed. Hello? Just try mounting a full scale rock-n-roll performance in a stadium that's been wired for a football game. Add to it that you have to get on and off stage in shotgun fashion and have about 10 minutes to perform three songs. On the last one it was easy to see the stage hand giving them the "time's running out" signal. Did they seem a little rushed? Yes. Did they fall apart? No. Fall apart is what my team, the Seahawks, did in the last 3 minutes of the game. Utterly and hilariously so. Think of it this way: everyone involved, players, coaches, officials, media, and the Stones, are richer this morning. And every fan who bought a new flat panel high definition plasma TV has a big fat credit card bill enroute.

The football game is well into the second half and this is what's on my mind: the Rolling Stones got it done. For the first time in recent memory, the Super Bowl half time show wasn't creepy and weird and some strange merge of Disney and Vegas. Instead, it broadcast like a live Stones concert that happened to have a football game as a wraparound. Even in its aging ancient way it felt like rock-n-roll.

When half time began we had just finished chowing down on a modified Super Bowl feast: fresh roasted garlic chicken, slathered with clarified butter so the skin got nicely browned and crisped, plus a salad of tossed "live" romaine and butter lettuce, topped with warm sauteed mushrooms and pink grapefruit in a creamy vinaigrette. Bread was a baquette from Bonaparte French Bakery of Savage, Md. We started with chilled shrimps that had been boiled in a broth of lemon rinds, onions and peppercorns. Dessert was warm, fresh baked dense chocolate brownies topped with Haagen Dazs vanilla ice cream. I mention the "live" romaine because that's how it was sold at the Dupont Circle farmers market this morning. Maybe it's because the heads of lettuce came with their root balls. Whatever - they tasted fresh and good. No chili? Ha ha. Earlier we'd been to Ben's Chili Bowl for a fix of their sublime chili dogs.

This afternoon we caught "The Squid and The Whale" at the renovated E Street Cinema. It's right around the corner from Ford's Theater and the Hard Rock Cafe. This movie house was a treat and worth visiting again and again. The theater has been renovated lovingly. It's a comfortable and cozy and even elegant home for Indie films, which often show in tattered art houses. This "multiplex" has all the modern bells and whistles, but it feels urban in a polished way. I love our Georgetown Loews, but they don't always show as many Indie films as would be desired.

IMPORTANT NOTE: This weekend we added several interviews to Soundtracks, including

Maybe it happens to you. This morning I ran hard for as long and as fast as I could manage, all the while listening on my i-pod shuffle to the loudest possible head-banging music. Louder-faster, louder-faster, louder-faster. If I'd been a jet I might have launched into outer space. It was like that until I was run out - dripping, panting, spent. The experience mirrored what life has been like lately. Sort of the way "Munich" made me feel. But no matter how fast and how loud, I can't escape. The bonds on me aren't slippery. They are made of steel. But hey, it happens. Sometimes I wish I could play the same music at Nathans - loud, louder, loudest. But we get complaints whenever I play my preferred soundtrack.

The nation's newly minted "enviro babe," the one and only
NORA MACCOBY, came over this afternoon for olives, almonds, Barolo, asparagus, carrots, pizza, brownies and to watch the DVD of her appearance this morning on C-SPAN. She hit it out of the beltway. She repeated the same specific message she whispered into the ear of Defense Secretary DONALD RUMSFELD, which he then possibly shouted into the ear of POTUS GEORGE BUSH, which then showed up in this week's State of the Union speech. It's not rocket science. It's very simple: we as a nation have to get over our oil addiction - Mideast and elsewhere. Nora doesn't just preach that message. She comes prepared with a list of alternative fuel sources and how they can be funded and morphed from policy blather to consumer ready on the shelves of your local Home Depot. Will some smartie at the New York Times please give this woman some column inches on the op ed page?

Today Georgetown said good-bye to a vital member of the community who died an untimely death. The Reverend
MARGARET MCDOWELL GRAHAM was remembered in a "celebration" of her life that included the Episcopal hierarchy of Washington: Bishop JOHN BRYSON CHANE, Bishop (ret.) JANE HOLMES DIXON, the Dean of the Washington National Cathedral, Rev. SAMUEL T. LLOYD, III, and many others. I did not know Rev. Graham, but she was a patron of the Nathans Q&A lunches. Many people I know adored her, though, and were shocked by her death. I'm told it was pneumonia and very similar to Howard's losing battle with the virus nine years ago. Coincidentally she was born one month before Howard on Feb. 16, 1939. Rest in peace and please look out for all of us left behind.

BTW, tonight we added several interviews to the audio tracks on SOUNDTRACKS, including
DAVID GREGORY, and some oldies but goodies, like TINA BROWN, ART BUCHWALD, C. DAVID HEYMANN. Click on SOUNDTRACKS to go there.

When this velvety weather goes away, as it surely will, it will be dearly missed. Not only does it feel like early Spring, but people are behaving as if they have early Spring fever. I love that. It means they go out and spend a little money at night, have a good time, move their thoughts off the track of the mundane and dreary. We've even been doing some good business at Nathans, not great but good, at a time of year that's usually in the dumps. Here's hoping that when the mercury goes down, or the digital temp gauge, that it doesn't go too far down. Don't know if I could take numbers in the teens now.

Needed a nap all day after hijinx last night with my Mommy Mafia -
MYRA MOFFETT and IZETTE FOLGER et al. We thought we would dine at Nathans and then hit a party for the younger set at Dumbarton House, but by 9 pm we were past our curfew and ready for bed, except for Izette. She never runs out of steam. Myra and I actually sat in the car outside the party and watched young women arrive as if to a cotillion or prom. We looked at each other and shook our heads. We would look like chaperones. And the reports I got from my same-age friends inside backed up that instinct. Younger friends said it was a good party, especially the dancing until the wee hours at Smith Point. Someday maybe, but not last night, not on a school night.

My weekend assignment is to read
LINDA FAIRSTEIN'S "Death Dance," in preparation for her Q&A this coming Thursday. I've read the first chapter and I'm hooked. I want to talk to her about the book and writing, but also explore her experiences as a New York sex crimes prosecutor. She uses her background in her writing, giving the stories grit and authenticity.

BTW, I'm thrilled about adding
NEIL LIVINGSTONE to the line-up. He's been on my wish list from the beginning. I've got a couple others in the works who I hope to announce this coming week.

I am so ready for a weekend!

When this velvety weather goes away, as it surely will, it will be dearly missed. Not only does it feel like early Spring, but people are behaving as if they have early Spring fever. I love that. It means they go out and spend a little money at night, have a good time, move their thoughts off the track of the mundane and dreary. We've even been doing some good business at Nathans, not great but good, at a time of year that's usually in the dumps. Here's hoping that when the mercury goes down, or the digital temp gauge, that it doesn't go too far down. Don't know if I could take numbers in the teens now.

Needed a nap all day after hijinx last night with my Mommy Mafia -
MYRA MOFFETT and IZETTE FOLGER et al. We thought we would dine at Nathans and then hit a party for the younger set at Dumbarton House, but by 9 pm we were past our curfew and ready for bed, except for Izette. She never runs out of steam. Myra and I actually sat in the car outside the party and watched young women arrive as if to a cotillion or prom. We looked at each other and shook our heads. We would look like chaperones. And the reports I got from my same-age friends inside backed up that instinct. Younger friends said it was a good party, especially the dancing until the wee hours at Smith Point. Someday maybe, but not last night, not on a school night.

My weekend assignment is to read
LINDA FAIRSTEIN'S "Death Dance," in preparation for her Q&A this coming Thursday. I've read the first chapter and I'm hooked. I want to talk to her about the book and writing, but also explore her experiences as a New York sex crimes prosecutor. She uses her background in her writing, giving the stories grit and authenticity.

BTW, I'm thrilled about adding
NEIL LIVINGSTONE to the line-up. He's been on my wish list from the beginning. I've got a couple others in the works who I hope to announce this coming week.

I am so ready for a weekend!

Today we launched into our tenth year owning Nathans, and with three years remaining on the lease. I pointed this out at the beginning of today's Q&A Cafe, reminding the patrons to "come in and enjoy this place while you can, because who knows what the future holds." Indeed. I live those words every day.

Trying to keep my mind on work these days but much greater priorities have been distracting, mainly having to do with being a solo parent raising a teenage son. The stereotype is that any boy who doesn't have a father is going to have problems, but I don't buy into that. I don't buy into the widow stereotype for myself, either. You know? Man crazy. Dating wildly to try to find a replacement for the departed husband. Neither stereotype fits Spencer or me. We may have flaws and we may not always know what we're doing, where we're going or how we're going to get there, but we are our own people, with our own independent ways of seeing the world. It's not always the way others want us to be, and this is where the problems arise. I'm old enough, and been through enough, to know that in order to get away with what you want to get away with it is often essential to play by the rules. If you play by the rules (the big ones) and stay below the radar, then a whole host of freedoms become available. And some power, too.

But stray off the path, break the big rules, get on the radar, and life is hell. Teenagers have to learn these lessons in their own painful ways and schools, unfortunately, aren't always equipped to teach these lessons, or to give meaningful, life-enhancing guidance when the bumps in the road do happen. This is one reason why I never yearn for lost youth. I'd rather have wisdom -- any day -- than youth. But I want my son to have the best possible and most enriching youth I can help to provide, and a safe harbor, too, when the winds and the currents conflict and become confusing.

And adults can be such a giant pain in the ass.

We had a terrific Q&A lunch today with
DAVID C. LEVY, former head of the Corcoran Gallery of Art, who came to open up and shed light on his years at the Gallery and why he suddenly resigned when the board of trustees decided to shelve a planned museum addition designed by FRANK GEHRY. David did come prepared to answer the tough questions and it was an altogether eye-opening discussion. And we had a great turnout. We had 40 or so people on the books and 65 showed up, meaning one fanny for every seat.

Today is the 9th anniversary of when Howard died and my becoming the owner of Nathans. Someone asked me if it feels like a long time. It feels like it happened yesterday and many lifetimes ago. Personally I have gone through many changes. But we keep marching forward and Nathans is still open. Everything I have to say about the day we lost him is said in Chapters 1-3 of "Innocent Spouse." Here it is (about 15 pages) with the hope that you'll take a look and think a good thought:

"Innocent Spouse"

more chapters 1-3

TUESDAY, JANUARY 31...From Page Six this morning:


IF President Bush unveils strong environmentally conscious initiatives in tonight's State of the Union speech, credit (or blame) goes to Nora Maccoby. At the end of the year, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was seen at a holiday party in Georgetown genially locking horns with the enviro-babe and screenwriter. After a half-hour of Maccoby lecturing Rummy that energy independence through renewable clean sources should be the heart of a national security strategy, a grinning Rumsfeld bleated to those nearby, "I can't believe this - this girl's kicking my ass, and she's right." Then to Maccoby, "Call the Secretary of Energy. You can use my name. By the way, how old are you?" Maccoby: "Why?" Rumsfeld: "I have a son, actually." Rumsfeld then sent out a "snowflake" - a memo to friends and associates with ideas he believes will "snowball." Meanwhile, Maccoby has just delivered "The Believer," a feature script about controversial Iraq figure Ahmad Chalabi and his young right-hand, Francis Brook, a former Rumsfeld employee and the only American member of the Iraqi National Congress. Word is her derived-from-the-record depictions of post-9/11 national security cabinet debates are as grimly funny as the war room scenes in "Dr. Strangelove."

MONDAY, JANUARY 30...Food as martini mania is getting out of control. Nonetheless I enjoyed one of the trend's last gasps as the Mandarin Oriental celebrated Chinese New Year, "The Year of the Dog," this evening. What the MO offered up were glasses of sashimi (tuna, sea urchin, salmon) laced with vodka and studded with bits of lettuce and crunch. Way more appealing than what was offered the other evening at a downtown soiree: mashed potatoes in a martini glass. Good but odd. Would BOBBY DARIN and DEAN MARTIN want mashed potatoes in their martini glass? The thing is - while pretty and clever, food in a martini glass is not easy to manage as a cocktail party item, especially if you have an actual martini in the other hand. Washington cocktail food is such a challenge. Oh hell, why doesn't some caterer simply cut to the chase and offer one long trough?

The party at the Mandarin was a good diversion on a spring-like Monday. In addition. to many buffet tables of Asian treats, there was a red chiffon tent where guests could go for a massage. Shouldn't every cocktail party offer massage?

Got to talk to the Mayor, who expressed some regret about the anti-smoking bill. I said, "don't worry about me. I was against the bill as written to begin with. I wanted a total ban." You did? he asked. "Most of your colleagues were against the bill." Then he shrugged his shoulders and lamented, "but it's done."

I invited him to make an appearance at the Q&A Cafe this spring. He gave me the green light to set it up with his staff.

Earlier - Does anyone honestly think OPRAH matters for any other reason than that she gets good ratings? If she didn't have the ratings, she would be a ho hum, just like everybody else who's on TV who doesn't have hot ratings. Ratings equal clout. But I'm weary of her drama, whether it's getting locked out of Hermes or feeling betrayed by one of her pet authors.

Much more important, and disturbing, are the numbers of reporters who have been killed covering the war in Iraq, and the weekend wounding of
BOB WOODRUFF and DOUG VOGT amplifies the issue. The Committee to Protect Journalists lists 61 working media killed by hostile action in Iraq, far outnumbering the media death toll for the entire Vietnam war. Here's my idea: wouldn't it be interesting if the media -- all of them -- boycotted covering this misguided war. Just pull out altogether. I wonder how the administration would react to that? You say they wouldn't care, but I'm not sure. Coverage cuts both ways. It wouldn't be fair to the soldiers, but I'm at the point of supporting any kind of boycott that helps to bring an early end to whatever it is we're doing over there.

SUNDAY, JANUARY 29...The local area talent pool has the resources to surprise and impress, and that's what happened for me last night at a concert of the band Fatally Yours. They played mostly their own list of music, much of it from their recent CD, and the performance was tight and exciting. As with any rock conert, there were screaming fans, a mosh pit, dim lights, and ear-numbing volume. I didn't mind becauset the scene was exciting. It reminded me of a boutique size version of the Green Day concert at George Mason last year, minus the pyrotechnics. But Fatally Yours and Green Day, as well as other contemporary bands, share the gift for owning the stage, whether by running, leaping, thrusting themselves into the audience or all three.

The band members are
NICK HOSTA on lead guitar and vocals, ALEX HARRIS on rhythm guitar and vocals, PAT BEER on bass, and BRITTANY HORKAN on drums. I should add the boys are each 14 years old and Brittany is 12. They are students at the Highland School in Warrenton, Va., and the Hill School in Middleburg. They practice for two hours three days of the week and perform whenever they can get a gig. The parents are the roadies, and are as dedicated as the band members. What they need now are some bookings near to or in the city. (Are you listening 9:30 Club?) We are long-time friends of the Hosta family, and stayed overnight at their Unison, Va., home after the concert, partying with the band and their friends over Chinese food. Spencer and the other boys played X-Box 360 until the wee hours. If people joke about Blackberrys and call them Crackberrys, it's apt then to call this electronic toy a Crackbox 360.

We got to the Middleburg area at lunchtime and wandered the village and drove the back roads for a few hours before showing up at the Hosta home. Our visit began with lunch at the venerable Coach Stop, where Spencer had a burger and I had a pulled pork barbecue with cole slaw. We started, naturally, with a plate of their sinful onion rings. For ten years Howard and I lived in Upperville, while for more than 20 years my family lived in Warrenton, Va., when my father ran the Airlie Foundation. The so-called "hunt country" is familiar terrain for me, though I don't do horses. I like the atmosphere of old stone buildings, vast fields, grazing animals, and many dirt roads. Also, I like equestrian shops like the Tack Box to buy inexpensive but sturdy winter gloves and durable breeches, and I like the peanut soup at the Red Fox Tavern, and if the Upper Crust Bakery were any nearer I would weigh 300 pounds because their cookies are irresistible. I took Spencer to see the Middleburg Training Track, where the thoroughbreds are put through their paces, and to Foxcroft, where rich girls go to school with their horses, and to Millwood to see the lovely old mill, and along a dozen back roads that twisted here and there.

I wouldn't want to live out there again - in my case, ferns grew where my brain had been - but it is interesting for a visit. Most of all I was delighted to see old friends and experience a new band.

SATURDAY, JANUARY 28...Thank you to the readers who let me know the site was down. It was definitely down. My skills as a web administrator are rather limited but this morning I pushed and prodded until something worked and now, voila, it seems we're back up.

What have we missed? Well, Thursday night to celebrate the successful
DAVID GREGORY lunch a friend and I went to check out the new Acadiana restaurant on New York Avenue at 9th Street. Be warned, actually getting to the place is slightly challenging with various one way streets not helping out, but if you can get yourselves to the old DC Convention Center site you will be practically there. When we gave our names to the reception desk a hostess grabbed some menus and started to take us to Siberia but I stamped my little Nine West heels and said, "Can't we please sit here in the main room where the action is?" After all, I wanted to see the restaurant. There were some conferences up at the main desk but then it was agreed that we could sit at a better table. Hey, I'm a location Queen. I admit it. The manager asked my friend to remove his hat, "we don't allow that here," but we noticed he did not ask that of the man at the next table. Hmmm.

I started with a great drink called a Hurricane and I recommend it. A couple of rums and a lot of fresh juice. For an app I had fried green tomatoes, which were excellent, and for an entree the crawfish bisque, which was dense and spicy and loaded with little crawfish. It came with a plate of warm, chewy hush puppies. My friend had duck breast. While I don't recall the exact preparation it was delicious. I love it when duck is on the menu. It's on menus too rarely. We were full on our entrees and declined dessert, but with the check they brought us two fudge brownies that satisfied the urge for sweets. I love a little sweet after spice. The meal was good. The only objection, if any, is the room. My friend said it looks and feels like a mid-price chain hotel lobby. It has nothing distinctive that shouts out New Orleans. Go on a cold winter night. The food will warm you. Go with someone you want to shag and you won't notice the room.

Lunch yesterday at the Hay Adams with Black Op to do some strategerizing re lease negotiations. I had the most delicious lobster/corn soup. Nice texture from the corn, thick glops of lobster meat. Of course, in the whole wide city, in a nearly empty dining room, seated next to us were two very famous Georgetowners who I'm sure listened in carefully to our private conversation. But had the tables (heh heh) been turned I would have listened to every word of their conversation.

Last night I behaved completely out of character and I don't know why and it doesn't really matter because I didn't pillage a village and I had a good time. It had been a rough, as in ROUGH, day, and I was in need of relief. Spencer was hanging with some buddies for a while so I met my youthful posse at the Jefferson for martinis. Again, I love this bar. Rich red walls, nooks and crannies, a fireplace, no TV, mysterious characters who've walked off the pages of Washington spy novels. I wore black and pearls and leather. Whenever you see me like that, fasten your seat belts. We were a few tables full of mixed nuts - men, women, young, older, worked on, not worked on, sane, not sane, a variety of sexual appetites. Me? I just wanted to laugh and shake off the stress. I cannot give out identities because most of them are working deep cover, but one of the group is a member of the Georgetown Club. Do you know the Georgetown Club? It was founded by
TUNGSEN PARK and WYATT DICKERSON and is the most marvelous time warp of 70's era Washington. Honest, when I'm in there I think the Watergate hearings are still going on, and Nixon is roaming the halls of the White House talking to paintings, and Kissinger is trying to get JILL ST. JOHN out of her hairpiece and mini-dress. This club should be packed up, lock, stock and bev naps, and put in the Smithsonian next to Fonzie's leather jacket. Moreover, this club is a hub for lobbyists, which is why it is so swanky. Only the lobbyists (and some lawyers who don't go before juries) can afford true swank in this town.

Anyway, the youngest and friskiest of us prevailed upon this GTC member to haul us all over there for some disco dancing in the bar. We stormed the place, walking in on a private party for
BENAZIR BHUTTO. That notorious hound dog JIM KIMSEY asked, "What are you doing here?" I said, "I thought we had a date?" He gasped, but then he laughed. No laughs, or smile, from the saucy brunette on his arm. The private party went upstairs and we took over the disco, rifling through the many CD's (one labeled "high energy," another labeled "medium energy") until we found the mother lode: "greatest disco hits from the 70s." From then on it was impossible to sit down. Great dance floor, swirling colored lights, cocktail tables, the men channeling their inner HALSTON and JOHN TRAVOLTA, the women doing a mean CHERYL TIEGS in her PETER BEARD era, with a little MARISA BERENSON at 5 a.m. at STUDIO 54 for added fun.

So that's how it was until
IZETTE FOLGER and I looked at our watches and the mothers in us said, "we're outta here." We kissed her kid sister, NORA MACCOBY, farewell and Iz drove me home. We left the others in a dance funk group grope. I was tucked in bed by 11 pm, the day's stress happily danced away. Dancing is so wonderfully therapeutic. Why don't more of us do it more often?

We had a packed, and I mean SRO, house for DAVID GREGORY's Q&A at Nathans today. It was our first lunch of 2006 and what a wonderful way to begin. Close to 80 people wedged into a room that comfortably seats 70. David, NBC's senior White House correspondent, was a hit - from his first show-stopping impression of President GEORGE BUSH to his last words as TOM BROKAW. And in between he provided a colorful behind the scenes of the life of a White House correspondent, and occasional fillin host of Today, Meet the Press, Nightly News, and regular contributor to Imus in the Morning. He told interesting and entertaining stories and provided some early insight into the State of the Union speech scheduled for next Tuesday night.

What I liked particularly was the timeliness of his appearance, coming as he did straight from the President's news conference this morning, where he reacted to the Hamas landslide victory in the Palestianian elections. By this evening we will have the Q&A up on the Soundtracks link. If you're looking for some laughs and some news, it's worth a try.

I did ask David whether he's "the next
MATT LAUER." It was a laugh line, but he did cleverly make it clear he's open to new adventures. So, thanks to DOROTHY MCGHEE, I asked, "who do you want to be your co-host?" He let that one be.

The hot rumor swirling through the room is that
BRAD PITT and ANGELINA JOLIE have rented a house at 29th and N Streets, NW, here in Georgetown. Hmmm. Is it true? Who knows? I'm sure where Brangelina are concerned there are 50 false rumors to every one that is true. But real estate people have told me they did look at Georgetown houses during their last visit to Washington. Would we like to have them in Georgetown? Sure, why not. Would they last? About as long as ELIZABETH TAYLOR.

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 25...Anybody who reads this diary knows I'm candid about virtually everything (except my sex life), and I'm amazed that anybody reads it at all. But I'm grateful, because any writer - even though we typically write for outselves - hopes for an audience. Lately, according to the numbers, the site has been receiving between 4,000 to 6,000 hits a day with an average of about 350 "unique visitors" reading the diary. On some days the readership is as high as 425, and on others - Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's Day, it has been down to a low of 177. The demograhic breakdown tells me there are dedicated readers in the Washington area (duh), California, Seattle, Maine, Connecticut, Hawaii, Latin America, China, Europe, the Netherlands, Africa and Australia. Who they are and why they read is an intrigue for me, but most of all I am impressed. I'm not alone out here. Each and every one of you matters to me, and though I am the poster girl for self-involved blogging, it is all of you who inspire me. I do it for me because it is fun to do it for you. Interestingly, the most popular pages are the diary, photos, the history of the lunches, soundtracks is wildly popular, particularly in the U.K., the hype page, and to some extent the menus for the restaurant. I even recieve online reservations, which I love. I have Jon Moss print out the res and I tell the door manager I want anybody who has booked with me on line to be treated extra specially well.

I'm nervous about the lunch tomorrow with
DAVID GREGORY. Not because he won't be great, because he will be boffo. But because I have to get back into the character of that woman who doesn't mind talking in front of a crowd. She's a tough role to play. I have to inhabit that character and it is a performance from start to finish. I will be over the moon to see the faces as people arrive. I love that moment of greeting. I'm calm then. It's when I have to start talking off the cuff that I get moist. The interview is where I find my greatest peace and calm, because I'm allowed to let my curiosity run wild, with the help of groovy questions from the patrons. DG will be good because he's smart, talented, fun and is comfortable in his skin. He does not need to look over his shoulder for permission to talk. He can think on his feet, calibrate, and if that fails him he can talk in French and I'll be happy.

At lunch today I went to Leopold's because
ANTHONY LANIER now has a clairvoyant there, available for a fee to tell you what's ahead in your life - short term and long term. She will also do your cards. I learned a lot. The headline was that in the spring I will hook up with a younger man who has dark hair, something to do with Italy, Switzerland, Latin America, import/export, leather, and Homeland Security. We will fall in love. She see's a wedding ring coming on and off my finger. I said, "So you see a CIA agent who wears a leather jacket, meets contacts in Latin America and Italy, and who banks his money in a numbered account in Switzerland. That's okay with me. She said I would meet him at a social event that has to do with art and that I would be holding something plastic in my hand.

At awesome Ray's the Steaks tonight I looked at genius
MICHAEL "RAY" LANDRUM and thought, "he's got all of it going on." He understands the business he's in and how to do it both to please the customers and himself. Soon he will be opening a second Ray's in Silver Spring near the AFI. I'm impressed with his work ethic. I asked him if he is married. He said, "no." I said, "Good, then you can come have dinner with me without pissing off a wife." I've already pissed off one wife this week and that's enough, and I am innocent.

We haven't finalized it quite yet but the Valentine's menu is coming together. Planning menus is one of the fun jobs in the restaurant business. It's one of the few opportunities that tap into creativity. Here's the lovers' menu, so far:

Pasta: Red Tomato Ravioli stuffed with shitake mushrooms, garlic, shallots, and herbs with a cream sauce.

Salad: Arugula and Radicchio with a raspberry vinaigrette

Entree #1: Lobster stuffed with lobster and crabmeat, served with spinach and mushrooms

Entree #2: Beef Wellington with mashed potatoes and asparagus in a cabernet sauce.

Dessert: Heart shaped chocolate mousse cake.

We will have two prix fix prices. One with a bottle of champagne included and the other that will not include wine and will allow couples to order the wine of their choice. We will have some wine specials. We will also offer our regular menu with the popular twin filets, the lobster fettucini and so on. And lots of romantic cheek-to-cheek music on the sound system. And if you really want a rockin' Valentine's Day, remember that at lunchtime the featured guest will be CRAIG CRAWFORD, one of the most entertaining and popular politic reporters/commentators in this city and country. Really, he's not to be missed. Bring your lover to lunch and your spouse to dinner or the other way round, but don't miss Nathans on Valentine's Day.

For reservations for Valentine's lunch or dinner please phone
JON MOSS at 202.338.2000. He will take care of you.

I've fallen in love with the game of squash thanks to my sister-in-law
DR. MARTHA JOYNT KUMAR, who has introduced me to the sport. Talk about an opportunity to channel aggression. The only problem is finding a place to play, particularly one where it doesn't cost a fortune to become a member. I particularly the love moment when you first whack the ball against the wall, and every subsequent hard whack thereafter. A little bit of a good shoot-em-up movie and an hour or two of squash and I'm mellow.

It has been a dreary Monday indeed. Not all bad, but what's been bad has been bold face caps bad. Like
September, January is a wretched month in small business ownership, certainly at the corner of Wisconsin and M. People aren't in the mood to go out. The weather, while temperate, is sort of blah. We're still paying for holiday purchases and trips and the spirit of taxes looms on the spring horizon. Home and hearth are welcoming and affordable. Some of us are on diets. Some have given up spirits. We're all trying to be good, in one form or another. As everyone knows, bars are not in the business of good. Good fun, perhaps, but good fun spawned by the devil.

Therefore it should come as no surprise that we face a week of bounced checks and worse. This gives me the feeling of anvils falling on my head, of being beaten into a fetal position by the unrelenting bad news. I don't know what to do. I've turned my personal pockets inside out over the years and there's nothing left to contribute. Nathans has my son's entire college fund. Where do you go after that? I asked the bookkeeper, "What do other restaurants do at a time like this?" and she said, "they use their overdraft." Ha. Our overdraft was overdrafted months and months ago.

So what did I do? After the bookkeeper and the bank and much hand-wringing, I escaped to the Loews to see "Munich," which turned out to be much better than the advance billing. For one thing, ERIC BANA can do no wrong. And here's what I learned about myself: I felt much better about everything after two hours of violent bloodletting. I lost my own woes in a fast-paced celluloid wonderland of secret agents, artful gunplay, bombs and vengeance.

Before I owned a bar I liked months to play out slowly. I wanted time to take all the time it could. Now, I hold my breath and try to will August/September and January/February to move at warp speed. I lose sleep worrying about the tax man and the liquor companies and the rent and dozens of vendors. It's agony like no other, because I have no clever solution. A lot of us give up our pay and it's still not a solution. We cut back and hunker down, and still we're behind.

Washingtonian has come out with their new issue and the cover story is pets. It's impossible to miss with pets. Apparently they have a list of who owns what and I'm listed as a bird owner. That's true, sort of. It's actually Spencer's bird, the mitred conure parrot Ozzy, but I'm happy to take some credit. We're dog owners, too, and Leo the bichon frise has equal power in this household ... though we all know Ozzy is the smartest living thing under our roof.

Many have asked about the progress of VITO ZAPPALA'S recovery from heart surgery. I'm happy to report he is improving daily. We talked and his voice sounds strong. He hopes soon to move form his sister's home back into his own home, which is a good sign. As I have more information it will be reported here.

Not to be melodramatic (though I easily get that way) but the bloom may be off the rose of the Q&A lunches. Apart from DAVID GREGORY next Thursday we have virtually no reservations for the upcoming lunches and - further - almost everyone I've tried to book to appear has rejected my invitation. I'm not a happy camper. Are the low reservation numbers because we raised the fee to $30? Honestly, that's not a lot of money. Our food costs have gone way up since I set the $25 fee three years ago. We make no money on these lunches, but I do try to break even. Is it because the patrons are used to a steady diet of mega watt celebrities and don't get engage by the simply interesting? That's silly, I hope. My intent is that people just trust us to put on a good lunch and an interesting interview. I believe every single individual has a good interview in them. We're all interesting in some way. Or could it be that I've just run through all the people I know and now I'm up against inviting people I don't know -- PAUL BREMER, for example -- whose gatekeepers are like, "What, appear in a saloon? Are you kidding?" Even though I go on and on and on about how unique these lunches are and to not be put off by the fact they are in a saloon and, hey, anyway, why do all interviews have to take place in TV studios or in hotel ballrooms or on the stages of auditoriums? So we came up with something new and different. Open your minds, gatekeepers!

Well, suffice it to say - a thoroughly depressing day of hitting walls. Maybe I have to consider shelving this program for a while, because I certainly don't want to invite great guests who show up to an empty room. I need to find a way to have the patrons trust me to put on a good show - regardless of the guest. Nonetheless, I have been calling a long list of heavy-hitters who would each pull a good crowd. I will keep begging. Begging is what I know how to do. I talked to one hot shot today - would not let him hang-up even after he said "no" twice - who said, "you've got a rap like one of those bookers from the talk shows." Duh.

Parking meters. Why can't someone invent parking meters that work? Or, why can't the transportation departments of the Washington area, particularly the District of Columbia, buy the kind that work? Maybe I'm just going through a bad patch this week, but it's been one busted meter after another, and yesterday it cost me a $25 ticket. I'm particularly bugged by that ticket because even though someone had taped a "meter broken" message on the meter I still slipped in a quarter to be sure, because we all know sometimes those little taped messages are a scam of their own. Anyway, I put in the quarter and a flashing "fail, fail" message came up on one side and a red "out of order" on the other. Okay. So be it. Returned 45 minutes later to find the "meter broken" message gone and a ticket on my windshield. Give me a break! Effing city. Today in Arlington I had one of those meters where you put in a dollar's worth of quarters to run it up to an hour and then - BANG - it loses it and registers "15 minutes." Add two more quarters and it goes to "10". Give me a break. Effing Arlington. The other day in Bethesda I had one that was simply jammed with coins. It registered nothing. Effing Bethesda. Please, someone, buy parking meters that work!

Do you pay attention to the
JACK ABRAMOFF scandal? I do, but deep down I know that any hope of it prompting significant reforms is wasted. There will be a lot of steam and hot air expended, and some careers might hit the skids, but lobbyists will continue to do what they do. The perks, the trips, the gifts, the pay-offs, they have survived previous similar scandals and will survive future scandals. What they do is, alas, part of the Washington firmament. No doubt a reform bill will be passed, but it will be about as comprehensive and revolutionary as the DC smoking ban.

BTW, some of my nearest and dearest are card-carrying, highly-paid lobbyists. Ditto members of Congress.

But on the plus side for the city, kudos to
MAYOR ANTHONY WILLIAMS for demanding a special panel investigate the city's bungled emergency response to DAVID ROSENBAUM's fatal mugging. I hope the panel investigates this shameful incident as well as exposing other times delayed response has harmed citizens who don't live in northwest, and who aren't famous New York Times reporters. How many of these cases don't make it into the pages of The Washington Post or become the lead of the local TV news? Maybe city residents should have tattoos that say: "In case of Emergency take me to Medstar!!"

My friend MYRA MOFFETT, the realtor and antiques dealer, took me with her to Weschler's today to see the regular Tuesday auction. What a trove of opportunities. The deals are stunning and it makes one wonder why more people don't show up -- it's open to the public -- and bid on items that could be a prized possession or certainly useful in any home or business. They auctioned everything under the sun, from lovely cut crystal glasses and charming clocks and pretty lamps to worthy Queen Anne dining room chairs and a drop leaf table and perfectly fine Perisan rugs and runners, as well as a small freezer in good condition and an almost complete period bamboo Florida-style sun room set. And then art and cupboards and writing desks and chests of drawers and on and on.

What was of particular interest were all the various fixtures from the now-closed but once iconic Blackie's House of Beef, which opened up shop in West End long before West End was cool or habitable.
BLACKIE AUGER himself was something of a fixture, too. I never met the man but many veteran locals paid respects when he died last year. The end of an era, they said. And I felt that deeply as I looked at the remnants from his restaurant. Will that be the end of the sentence for Nathans one day, too? Maybe, except Nathans doesn't have anything to sell that has any value. (The Kennerly photos do not belong to us). We have canibalized every morsel we can to keep it chugging along now. When it closes it will just close and what's inside will turn to dust.

The Golden Globes last night were as much of a mindless pleasure as I hoped they would be, with particular amusement provided by the fashion parade. Oh to earn the money of the stylists who tell all those entertainers what to wear and how to wear it. Talk about having fun with other people's money. In this household there was a calm bravo when
MARY LOUISE PARKER beat out the Desperate Housewives for best actress in a series. This was for her work in "Weeds," the new Showtime noir comedy. It is so good. People sometimes ask me if I identify with her character, and probably because she's a widow with children. She's also a drug dealer, selling "weed" to her friends in the TV version of Chevy Chase or McLean. No, I don't identify with the character. She's having way more fun.

MONDAY, JANUARY 16...It surprised me to learn today that MARTIN LUTHER KING would have been only 77 had he lived. He seemed already old to me when he died, but he was only 39. Of course, to a young teenager that is old. But 77 no longer seems very old, and it's more heartbreaking to think of the contributions he would still be making. I know several 77+ year olds who are vital. At 89 and hard of hearing, WALTER CRONKITE does not slow up for a minute and made his way to Vienna for New Year's Eve and this weekend to Pasadena, CA., where he boldly declared the U.S. should get out of Iraq. My friend, retired Rep. DON EDWARDS, well beyond the 70s, is one of the hippest people I know. Ditto WESTON HATFIELD, who keeps up with family and friends who are half his age.

Also, regarding King, I learned he was only
5' 6". That surprised me. He always seemed taller. But then that's stature.

I received a helpful email from Channel 9's
DAVE STATTER, a loyal reader of this diary. He was following up on the item last week about burglaries in Georgetown, and how a man arrested for hitting some local homes told police his method: he'd reach inside the mailslot, because many people leave their keys in the lock, and he'd unlock the lock. Here's Dave's thoughts:

"...this former firefighter feels the need to sound the alarm. Yes, the police will tell you to have a deadbolt with the key removed. The fire department will tell you the opposite and I am with them.

Everyone thinks they will able to find the key and get it in the lock when smoke is banking down to the floor and the heat is licking at their back. Trust me. It won't happen that way. You will likely get disoriented from the carbon monoxide and then pass out from smoke inhalation. The firefighters will find you collapsed in front of the door when they break in. At my house we keep the key in the lock and turn on the security system.

Schools often run into the same dilemma. In the name of security they chain the exit doors so outsiders can't get into the school. With luck the fire department catches the problem before there is a fire and they find bodies piled up inside the door."

Soon the red carpet arrivals will begin at the Golden Globes. This movie fan has enough serious stuff on her mind ALL THE TIME, and so looks forward to a night like this, when I can put on my socks and flannel pj's, pop some popcorn, prepare a spread of cold cuts and condiments, light a fire, curl up on the sofa and ogle the the really bad dresses and the good dresses, admire the hair, teeth, make-up, giggle at the idiotic commentary and hope that some favorite actors get recognition. This year I like all the frontrunners equally: Capote, Good Night and Good Luck, Brokeback Mountain. Matchpoint is a provcative movie, and The History of Violence, while way too graphic for me, was compelling. And I'm relieved that for a change NICOLE KIDMAN is not in the running. But that's me. I know everybody else loves her to pieces.

SATURDAY, JANUARY 14...What I'm grateful for today as a Redskin's fan: that JOE GIBBS got us to the play-offs. However it goes today in Seattle what will matter most is that he got us into the first round of the finals. It had been a long time coming and it took Gibbs kind of management to make it happen. Washington loses all sense of balance when the only thing this town is about is ugly, business as usual politics. That's the way it's been for too long. The Nats helped to divert our focus, but while baseball is a great game it doesn't offer the kind of raw meat, mano-a-mano, head-butting thrill the citizenry here require to match the tone of a day at the office. In lieu of lions and Christians and gladiators they get it from football. So, hat's off to Joe and his assistant coaches and the team he pulled together, who are terrific now and will be even more terrific in the fall. Message to DAN SNYDER: don't mess it up.

This is amusing. There is a new houndog on the scene here who has promise as a rising star. He's got job cred, looks, money, and women are quite ga ga for him. However, last night, when he was scheduled to be at a dinner party with one woman, but begged off last minute saying he had to go out of town on family business, he appeared instead with another attractive woman at a restaurant only blocks away from the dinner party. That's an interesting version of "out of town." Didn't he know that under these circumstances Capitol Hill is the better option? And may I suggest Montmartre as the perfect destination.

Great fun to stand outside Nathans this evening to check out how glam the new flat panel TV looks from the street. Like the HILLARY CLINTON photo over Table #27 in the back room, the new TV in the bar cannot be ignored. Plus it's cable and high definition. Some people think bar candy is a woman who looks like PAMELA ANDERSON's younger twin, but trust me on this - large flat panel TV's are today's true bar candy. Even though having three TV's - which is what we now have - makes the front room look vaguely like an airport bar, it is what people want, and this business i'm in is about giving people what they want. A project like installing a falt panel TV in an old building does not get done as smoothly and quickly as it was without the hard work of a good team, so I gladly give a big thank you to JIM MARSHALL, HOCKLEY WALSH and JON MOSS, who handled the bulk of the work, especially Jim, who did all the wiring and connecting, etc.

Good meeting downtown today with Black Op and other interested parties who want to help build a bridge to my survival, but even with their support it was clear what I'm up against does not have any immediate solution. What I must do is march on, stay alert and hope for a break.

Caught "Casanova" tonight at the Loews. It's a sweet, funny and romantic romp. Not quite "Shakespeare in Love," but it has some of the same kind of contemporary humor wrapped in yards of good silk and brocade. Plus, it has Venice. I can never have too much Venice. At first I didn't recognize SIENNA MILLER or MICHELE WILLIAMS, but HEATH LEDGER is undeniably himself and JEREMY IRONS is predictably over the top. A friend and I then stopped by Nathans to have cocktails and admire the new TV and then strolled M Street to La Chaumiere for the warmth of the fire (barely needed) and delicious Provencal fish soup, Dover sole, Pinot Noir and conversation.

Lunch today with the publisher and top editorial staff of Washington Life. They run excerpts from the Q&A Cafe in each issue - an arrangement that makes me very happy. We sat at a beautifully set large round table, ate three courses, sipped good white wine and brainstormed all kinds of ways to get this city's attention.

Are you superstitious about Friday the 13th? I can't decide whether it matters. Since I have an important meeting with Black Op tomorrow I'm electing to make it a non-threatening bit of voodoo. Maybe it can be good voodoo. First meeting in a long time and here's hoping the pasta sticks to the walls, for a change. And maybe a black cat with cross our path.

It's restaurant week and will you pardon me while I basically piss on the whole concept. This is why: As a regular customer it is a complete pain in the ass. Take this evening, for example. Friends invited me to dinner at a restaurant where they are regulars. Not only regulars, but good customers. They spend good money there. They are the kinds of customers an owner coddles. So we arrived at the restaurant on Wisconsin Ave. and were told by the owners that the only place available for us to be seated was at the bar. There were tables empty, but the owner said, "Oh, we are holding them for reservations for people from restaurant week," as if this group will be some kind of holy grail of restaurant patronage. In fact, most of the restaurant week patrons are one-time shoppers, kicking the tires, who will not return. They will have had their one cheap meal in your bistro, tipped lightly and gone on, not to be seen again. Meanwhile, at the bar are your regular customers, getting screwed by restaurant week.

As a business owner I think it's a lot of bother. We don't do it at Nathans. Doing it would anger our regulars who just want Nathans to be Nathans. The staff get swamped with people who tend to complain a lot. It's their right, of course, because they are paying, but the one-nighters complain about your very existence. "Why are your walls dark blue? Why aren't they red?" "Why do you have bread from Bonaparte? Why isn't Uptown?" "You serve your steak with bearnaise. Why don't you serve it with A-1?" "You don't have my favorite wine on your wine list." "Your beer is too expensive, why don't you charge less?" "Your decor is not very modern? I like cutting edge." And on and on until the staff are ready to march down to Key Bridge and jump. Not productive and so we don't do it.

I don't want to say this with absolute certainty, but there's good reason to believe that by this time tomorrow Nathans will have a big flat panel high definition TV hanging over the bar. So, please, if it's an option, watch the Redskins game with us. We would have had it up today but Best Buy, big surprise, told us we had to use a particular mount for this Phillips TV and so that it was what bought and, naturally, it turned out to be the wrong mount, and so I drove to Myer Emco to get the right mount and the man we're paying to install will now have to return tomorrow morning. But it's only money, right? Money for a good cause? Money for TV. Gotta have TV. Gotta have TV and lots and lots TV. And gotta have big flat panel TV's with high definition. If only I could also have just lots and lots of burgers and beer and TV, well, it's simple. Then I would be a rich woman.

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 11...Most Georgetown residents know for the past several months we have been experiencing a crime wave in the form of burglaries (muggings, too). Today I received this interesting email from AlertDC. If you already subscribe, you got it, too, but if not ... here it is:

This crime safety advisory being sent at the request of MPD District II to the email accounts for the communities of Georgetown, Burleith and Hillandale.

This is an update on a walk through by a Georgetown Burglary Suspect pending trial. A community resident who was victimized assisted detective's in discovering how he made entry to her home.

PLEASE NOTE: The suspect took thirty (30) SECONDS to send his arm through the door of the MAIL SLOT and either turn the keys that were still in the door or turn the lock on the door to GAIN ENTRY! Many of the older Georgetown homes have mail slots which are very close to their door locks and needed changes should be considered in this identification of vulnerability. Additionally, let's suggest that our citizens become in the practice of removing their keys from their doors and taking them into their bedrooms at night. Those citizens who may leave their extra keys in the door upon departing their homes should cease this practice for the security of their homes. Additionally we may consider suggesting deadbolt locks which need a key since this Burglary defendant also informed the detectives that he can just reach through the slots and turn the deadbolt locks.

After I read it I took a brief walkabout in the neighborhood and spotted door after door that fits this kind of set-up. Spooky. Another thing I learned from the police a while ago, is that many burglaries happen at homes where the alarm is not turned on. In other words, if you have an alarm use it. Also, the police told me many people keep their back doors unlocked when they are at home and this is another way burglars commonly enter a Georgetown residence. You are especially vulnerable if you live on an alley. Not to be an alarmist, but while our streets appear serene and safe that can be an illusion. Just ask the Rosenbaum family of Gramercy Street, NW.

Last night I went to a party hosted by NANCY BAGLEY and the staff of Washington Life Magazine at the new Mate restaurant on K Street. It's a looker of a Japanese restaurant that is hard by the Loews Cinema Georgetown, right on the corner of K and 31st. It was my first party in about a month and I enjoyed myself - maybe too much (is that possible?) But the martinis did flow, and sushi can never quite soak up much alcohol. Thus the party kicked into gear rather fast. There were pols, party girls, socialites, men about town, club kids, heiresses, freeloaders, hounddogs and media people in the mix. There was a busy photographer circulating and I'm afraid IZETTE FOLGER and I went berzerk in front of his lens, but what's a good party if someone doesn't be the fool? We also made him take lots of pics of HENRY VON EICHEL, looking handsome and happily married, in repose between two beautiful women on a red banquette. KEITH LIPPERT was there, trying to put on a brave face despite the recent bad fire in his smart Pennsylvania Ave. jewelry store.

Nine years ago today I returned to Washington from a whirlwind trip to New York with LARRY KING, where, on behalf of CNN's Larry King Live, we had dinner with AL PACINO, made moves to book WOODY ALLEN, and had lunch with JOHN F. KENNEDY'S JR'S., publisher at the 21 Club. It was a three-day trip, the longest I was away from home since marrying, and the only time I was away since Spencer, then 5, was born. When I left, Howard was under the weather and seemed to have the flu. Mid-trip he told me he'd been to the doctor and was put on antibiotics and was feeling better. The day I got home, it was a Friday, I found him flat on his back in bed, short of breath, pale, weak. It turned out he'd not been to the doctor. There were no antibiotics. I drove him to the emergency room at Sibley, where they diagnosed "bad pneumonia," put him in intensive care and on a respirator and told me his condition was "critical." He never regained consciousness. The next night he was flown by Medevac helicopter to the Washington Hospital Center, where amazing doctors made heroic efforts to save him. For three weeks they worked round the clock, but Howard's underlying leukemia cancelled out any gains. On February 1 he died, with his hand in mine, at 10 o'clock in the morning.

I thought I would take a week off to recover and comfort Spencer and then return to my career, which would be my solid ground as I found my way as a widow. But then I was told Nathans was now mine, along with a surprise multi-million dollar tax fraud case, and a bad lease, and that's, as they say, the hand I was dealt. I'm still waiting for
PAUL HARVEY to say, "And now, for the rest of the story." There are many negatives in this epic, but the significant positives are all the terrific people I've come to know over the last nine years, especially in my neighborhood of Georgetown. People I would never have met as I went from home to work in another part of town. Before I inherited Nathans, Georgetown was just where I spent the night, but now it's where I live, and where I know many people I pass on the street, and know the businesses and the other business owners and the community leaders and even some of the legends. While I'm batting at cliches, I can submit: God shuts a door but opens a window. It seems to be the case. Or, If you've got lemons you make lemonade. Natch. And, try to turn chicken s**t into chicken salad. Yes, sir. They all apply. And what about the silver lining? Every day I see the silver lining. It's our home and my time with my son.

Speaking of the neighborhood, I slipped down to Bluemercury for a facial today because - drum roll - the terrific
LANCE ETCHISON is back there working his magic after too long away at the Dupont Circle shop. If your skin matters to you, and it should, treat it to an hour with Lance. The phone number is 202.965.1300. I spent most of my hour yammering to him about how much Georgetown needs a deluxe day spa, where a person can check in for the day and have expert services all under one roof: facial, manicure, pedicure, massage, waxing, hair treatments, wraps, detox, tanning, lite lunch, steam, sauna, quiet room - all of it. He said, "Why don't you do it?" I said, "Just what I need. Another business. Nope. I want to be the consultant and the customer."

Momentous day for Nathans. No, we didn't land a new lease, but we did get a flat panel TV for the bar. This is a purchase I have resisted for a few years, because I am anti-TV in bars, but the staff tell me we lose customers at game time. They go to the bars that do have the flat panel TV's. No better reason to take the leap than this weekend's Redskins game. And, we'll be ready for the Super Bowl, and March Madness, and the NBA championship when it comes along, and then the second season of the Washington Nationals.

And in the daytime we can have it turned to news and public affairs. For example, the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee
SAMUEL ALITO today. But is anybody watching this show? I wonder. It may be the only way to get a large audience for Supreme Court nominees requires pubic hair and a Coke can and films starring LONG DONG SILVER. Peculiar, isn't it, since who gets on the Court really matters to our well being.

Stomach flu is fairly raging through the community. My son has it now. He is probably the 10th person I know to catch this bug. It got me back before the holidays. A flu shot does not protect one from stomach flu, so be careful. It doesn't last long but it's awful.

The morning after and it feels sweet indeed. Will we get an encore when the Redskins come up against Seattle next week? Hmmm. That could be a tougher game, but in a different way. It seems our offense will have to get it in gear by then. I'm no football expert. What mattered most to me, after the victory, was being able to give my son a taste of what it was like in the 80's when Riggins, Gibbs, the Hogs, and Theismann were getting it done week after week, all the way to the top. I was a goofy little fan back then. Football parties with my family, wearing the hats and shirts, standing in the rain outside the District Building to cheer the team after the Superbowl, visiting DUKE ZEIBERT'S to get a glimpse of the trophy, and being very excited when my husband told me JOHN RIGGINS was a regular at Nathans. He'd also tell me that when Riggins was at Sibley hospital, where he went often to recuperate after games, Nathans catered his dinner. Not only that, Howard would "slip a bottle of Moet" into the box with the fettucini alfredo and salad and bread, and the nurses "would look the other way," according to the waiter who delivered. Being the waiter who delivered dinner to Riggins was a plum assignment, I'm sure.

Riggins had some wild nights at Nathans. He was a happy, rambunctious drunk, and it wasn't out of his repertoire to overturn a table just for the hell of it. We fans were enchanted that he lived in a storage facility and that he once wore a mohawk and that he knew the right way to flirt with a Supreme Court justice - hey, Sandy baby, lighten up. A few years ago Riggins did one of the Q&A Lunches and I was over the moon to have the chance to go back and forth with him. Age and sobriety have not diminished his charms and his unique view of the game. He's an actor now, and sports commentator, and lives in New York, and seems happy. It's good I didn't own Nathans back in his bad boy days because when he was in the bar I would have hovered like a groupie and if he'd asked me I would have kissed my husband and job good-bye and run away with him.

Speaking of men. Some interesting conversations with men over the weekend. One with a married fellow who applied this rationale to his love life, "I have a family but I don't have a marriage." I said, "Excuse me, in the eyes of your wife and the law you have a marriage." Then, in another conversation about apprent rampant infidelity in our fair city, a bachelor friend said, "You have no idea how many married women hit on me. If I took them up on it I would be very busy. I'd never have a night off." The thing is, I know some of the women, but their secret is safe.

When troubled in love here's the remedy: a nifty little book published by Vintage Books called, "Tell Me The Truth About Love" - Ten Poems by
W.H. AUDEN. Each is brilliant, moving, and telling. It includes this personal favorite:


Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone/Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone/Silence the pianos and with muffled drum bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead/Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead/Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves/Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West/My working week and my Sunday rest/My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song/I thought that love would last for ever; I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one/Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun/Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood/For nothing now can ever come to any good.


It's no longer Friday but not yet enough of Saturday to count. Rare to be up past midnight, but I'm off duty tonight - Spencer has a sleepover in another part of town. For me this means young men and new friends. But before you go typing me as the stereotypical widow on a sex crazed rampage let me tell you it was simply a night out with pals, but one happened to be a young man who is a covert CIA operative. We left the cocktail gathering and hooked up with two friends of his in the same line of work...at Nathans. They weren't sure what names to use with each other. I'm not kidding. This started a riff on their most embarassing moments when they could not remember the correct names to use in meeting other covert ops out in the real world, and the confusion that ensues when these kinds of professionals don't remember to call Bob "Dick" or Harold "Jeremy" or Stephen "Hank." These spys can be a real laugh riot.

One of them told me how the night before former CIA director
GEORGE TENENT was at Nathans for dinner at one table while at two other tables there were three other CIA operatives including the station chief for "a middle eastern country I can't name." Another said, "this is a great place for us. It's loud and crowded."

Okay. Who knew?

By the way, we had our earlier cocktails in the bar of the Jefferson Hotel. What a swell find. It's a small, dark, charming, handsome bar, but beyond all those virtues it DOES NOT HAVE A TV. This was something close to nirvana. The absence of a blaring, or even silent Tv contributed mightily to the room's good vibe. If you are looking for a place to meet someone for a drink, and desire privacy, atmosphere and relative quiet -- go to the Jefferson.

Black Op was hard at work on Nathans behalf today. He met with two individuals who could play a central role in getting a new lease. But this is what he reported after a friendly, pleasant and revealing lunch: "what you are in, Carol, is the perfect storm of commercial lease negotiations." Translation: nothing is in our favor and all the negatives are in concert against us. Not what I wanted to hear.

Where have I been? Well, at the Shoreham a lot. That's the site of the Washington Antiques Show, and this year it is sweet indeed. I recommend a visit over there this weekend if for no other reason than to be warm and to wander among the booths and ponder the provenance of so many old objects. Where have they been? Who owned them? Who made them? Why does this item cost $75 and that one $45,000? There's a lot to look at and to admire. I hadn't been in a decade but I'm glad I went. And if you get hooked then set your calendar for the end of this month - around the 19th, I think - for the Winter Antiques Show in New York. It's the mother of all antiques shows and quite a lollapalooza of old stuff - with prices to match.

The Shoreham was a sentimental visit for me. I met the Beatles there in '63 or '64, whenever it was they played at the Armory. Also, in high school, many of our formal dances were held there. And on more than one election night I was detailed there to interview republican or democat officials reacting to the returns. The lobby remains grand and versatile. Maybe one of these days I will write the Beatles story here. It is a doozy.

Washingtonian Magazine called yesterday to do an interview about parrot ownership. They will not be quoting me. Mostly they wanted to find out the names of DC celebs who own parrots. I haven't a clue. I gave them some names of people who might know. For example, the avian vet. We talked about how our household came to parrot ownership. It was a long journey for Spencer from gold fish to siberian fighting hamsters to a lizard to the bird. "I draw the line at any animals PARIS HILTON would own," I said. (Now watch, she'll go get a parrot.) The writer wanted to know the difference between dog owners and parrot owners. "The only difference is the perception that parrots aren't companionable," I said. "But the truth is they are just like dogs, but smarter and with feathers." It's true.

Terrific lunch today at Equinox with
COLLEEN EVANS, PR genius from the Ritz Carlton hotel chain, and an interesting man who denied me permission to mention his name. Oh these international men of mystery! We gossiped a lot and laughed a lot. My white bean soup was thick and delicious, but I particularly enjoyed the chopped chicken salad. It was delicate and tasty. Just right for a mid-day meal only a few days after the holidays.

The good news is the DC City Council passed the smoking ban. The bad new is it exempts bars and does not begin for a year. To me this is typical lame DC politics - not really this, not really that. Too many compromises. I hoped the bill would be absolute and immediate. Clean air in public places, particularly the work place, is the way of the future, and something to which we all have a right. Why should non-smokers have to be exposed to the exhaled foul fumes of smokers? Especially cigars. And of all places - bars and cafes. There is no situation where food and drink taste better with smoke. But this is just one person's opinion.

So this is what it will be:
ABRAMOFF: THE MUSICAL, starring NATHAN LANE as JACK ABRAMOFF, that most beguiling of Washington characters: the fully-loaded pay-off pro who decides to sing for his freedom.
Fasten your seatbelts for what we hope will be a delicious and dishy ride. Let's hope we don't have to wait too long for the good stuff.

A friend called this morning to say, "You know, it's great that you're doing a lunch on divorce, because
it's all anybody talks about - that and real estate - but nobody will be able to come. What would it mean to show up at that lunch?" Well, it means you want to learn something you don't know. It means you want
to hear a clever lawyer tell some truths about his craft. And maybe, also, it might mean you want to get wise about the particulars of divorce. Does that mean the people who attend will be considering a future divorce? Heavens, no. However, knowledge is power. And, as I said in the announcement, disquises are permitted.

For those of you who faithfully read the blog while we were in the Bahamas, there's now a page of photos from the trip. Click on photo central above and then click on the Bahamas photo. I hope you enjoy them. If nothing else, they look warm.

I don't want to trivialize the mining catastrophe by writing too much about it, but how awful for the families. If the mine officials had better communications control, the story this morning would have been that one miner miraculously survived, because so many of us went to bed assuming the group was doomed. But the misinformation that 13 survived got out, spread rapidly, became the accepted truth, and now we have, if anything, a more painful disaster. It could get worse, because the media, smelling tears and scandal, will be duty bound to drag every last grieving individual in front of a live TV camera.

As you will note in the left hand column I have posted some of the first lunches of the new season. Others are in the pipeline and we will announce names and dates soon. The season will run from January 26 to mid May. Given the political climate, I'm hoping to focus a little more than usual on what's going on inside the Beltway, but there will be diversions from all that, too. LINDA FAIRSTEIN, for example, was head of the sex crimes unit in the NY district attorney's office and has launched a successful new career as a crime writer. Also in February we will hear from DAVID LEVY, former head of the Corcoran Gallery of Art, will join us to answer questions about what went down there. The Corcoran doesn't fall down, but it certainly stumbles a lot. Both DAVID GREGORY and CRAIG CRAWFORD will get us current with the political heat.

And we had a terrific late day booking. One of Washington's top divorce lawyers, SANFORD AIN, has accepted an invitation to be the Q&A guest Tuesday, February 28. I'm thrilled. For the longest time I've wanted to do a lunch that focused on D-I-V-0-R-C-E, because it is a thriving industry in America, and also because, at least in my orbit, it seems to be happening a lot.

Speaking of heat. If you're looking for some mindless fun on winter nights, rent or buy the new DVD package of old episodes of Miami Vice. It holds up well if you can overlook the absence of cell phones and the tight trousers worn by almost all the men, except DON JOHNSON, and the shoulder pads and disco hair on the women. The new movie version of Miami Vice is currently being shot by creator MICHAEL MANN and is scheduled to be released this summer. If you can imagine them, COLIN FARRELL will be Crockett and JAMIE FOXX is Tubbs.

It may be a federal holiday, but the rain and the chill make it feel like we're all already back to work. Brrr! (Unless you are a smartie who stayed in bed all day.) It could be worse, of course. Imagine the California coast, where it's been like this for two weeks.

Work today consisted of a trip to Costco for office supplies, etc. The challenge of the parking lot was HARD work. Circling, circling, circling and more circling. We spent a while on the 15-person long check-out line, but that was still less time than was spent circling for an empty parking space. In many ways Costco is a brilliant store, the morph of Soviet style and American excess. Good deals on flowers, DVD's, underwear, Dom Perignon, raisin bread, frozen foods jammed with trans fats, and naugahyde sofas, but couldn't they please consider a line for customers with 50 items or fewer? I'm kidding. But how about a line for 10-15 items or fewer? Wouldn't that be humane? I ask, but the guys in the red vests tell me it would be against their proletarian ethic.

Now's the time to make your lists of all the stuff you will get done this year. I wish I were a list maker. I make lists but then I lose them. My main goal right now is to detox for two weeks. I figure for every day I put my body through the pleasure (for me) of eating and drinking whatever I want I should give it the same amount of time to revive. Two weeks of extreme holiday equals two weeks of detox. When I say detox I mean a diet that is low in the known cholesterol-busting foods, alcohol, sugars and so forth. This means sashimi rather than cheeseburgers, green tea rather than vodka, whole grains instead of cinnamon buns. And lots of blueberries, walnuts, yogurt and veggies for snacks. Maybe a fast, too, and other detox procedures favored by the saner health gurus.

This morning I enjoyed a reunion with
JANET, DAVID and CAROLINE BRUCE, who are visiting from their new home in Shanghai. They've been here for two weeks and return to China in a few days. We had a long, chatty, pleasant breakfast at the Georgetown Ritz-Carlton, which remains one of the smartest hotels of that chain. (The new one in South Beach looks good, too.) I love the lobby with its fireplace. Marriott used a different architect for the Georgetown hotel and so it doesn't look like other Ritz-Carltons, and it also looks like it's in Georgetown. The apartments are handsome, too. The only thing that's missing -- and this is a big void -- is a spa and fitness center. The Four Seasons could use some competition in that department.

SUNDAY, JANUARY 1, 2006...
I want to be a geisha. I want to move like flowing water, wear floor length silk robes, have perfect hair and make-up, hands like petals, sleep till noon, a household devoted to me, and my work be making men melt. Apart from being 100 years too old, I would go for this job.

I'm just back from the film "Memoirs of a Geisha." It is only a third of the book, not nearly as Japanese, occasionally a muddle, some plot points are twisted around to achieve Hollywood goals, but it feels epic-like, the actors are a delight to watch, and it manages to achieve the powerful, romantic pay-off that is the point of the story. But read the book before seeing the film. It makes it better and less confusing.

New Year's day is winding down. This morning, when most people were sleeping it off, we were in Rockville, Md., in a sweat-stinky indoor sports facility for two - count 'em, two - lacrosse games before noon. And to think a week ago I was on a sunny beach smelling salt air instead of jock air. Oh, well. Spencer's team lost one and won one. We returned home for our New Year's Day meal, which was pina coladas and "cheeseburgers in paradise." This is how I made the pina coladas: take a handfiul of the "natural rocks" ice they sell at Whole Foods and put it in the blender, add a few scoops of coconut "lite" sorbet (better than the heavy, fatty canned coconut milk), a half cup of chopped fresh golden pineapple, a splash or two of pineapple juice, a splash of skim milk, and hit the "go" button. Spencer likes to have some grenadine added to his -- and occasionally a banana for a Pinana Colada. If you want it fully loaded, add some rum.

The cheeseburgers in paradise are fun to make. Mix equal parts lean and fatty hamburger, add diced fresh garlic, diced chives, an egg, salt and pepper. Make patties, grill them with thick slices of sharp cheddar cheese on top, place them on buttered and toasted kaiser roll buns with shredded lettuce, skinned tomatoes, pickles, mustard and ketchup - and EAT. This is a variation on the way they make them at "Ma Ruby's" on Harbour Island, one of the dozen places where JIMMY BUFFET allegedly had his first cheeseburger in paradise, though I'm told the authentic location is a dive in Puerto Rico and the burgers were made with horse meat. Jimmy and his posse had been at sea for a while and any burger -- horse meat or Kobe beef -- would have tasted like a meal in paradise.

As I write this I've had the TV on "mute" as the last quarter of the Redskins-Eagles game played out, because I was too scared to listen. This is the kind of nerve-searing game that can go either way with the 'Skins, and it did for a while, but they pulled it out and made it safe for me to turn the audio up, and I'm happy for
JOE GIBBS, and the team and the city. Nothing puts Washington in a good mood like late-season Redskins victories and a shot at the play-offs. Should be good for business, too. I'd like to be a geisha named SANTANA MOSS, which does not mean I want to be a tranny geisha. It means I want a cool name.

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