Diary of a Saloon Owner: OCTOBER 2005
by CAROL JOYNT
More photos at Photos Central
MONDAY, OCTOBER 31... Happy Halloween and Happy Birthday to Ward 2 City Councilmember JACK EVANS. What must it have been like to be a kid with a birthday on Halloween? Cake and candy and more cake and candy and more and more candy. Wow. I wonder if he ever slept on those nights?
If you know Capitol File magazine publisher JASON BINN, then maybe you notice what I noticed today: he and (the younger) Supreme Court nominee SAM ALITO look to have been separated at birth. Eery resemblence. With this nomination the city is now off and running on another political slugfest. Who has the energy? As a consumer of news it makes me weary in advance. Plus the other drama of whether VEEP DICK CHENEY will be hauled into court to testify in the SCOOTER LIBBY trial, if there even is a trial.
Here at Nathans, here in the windowless, airless, basement office with the battleship gray walls, we are gearing up for Georgetown Halloween tonight. It's not what it used to be but it's still a relatively crazy night. How many Scooter Libby and VALERIE PLAME masks will there be, if any? Who will be the hot head? I would hope someone would wear a two-headed freak mash with one head belonging to JUDITH MILLER and the other to MAUREEN DOWD, with both banging into each other the entire evening. The best view, the best way to find out, is from Nathans generous windows.
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 30...This is the time of year when I can't help but be tempted by a sudden weekend getaway. The leaves, the sky, the air are all so beautiful. It makes me want to hop in the car and drive to a distant country inn and disappear for a weekend. I recommend going right now to western Connecticut for a night or two at the Mayflower Inn in the small town of Washington. There are probably some leaves still clinging to the trees, but it doesn't matter. Inside your room with the fireplace and the big bed and the charming decor -- you won't care about the outside world. After all, it's the getaway that matters. Also, this place served the best roasted chicken I've ever had at a restaurant in the U.S. Their website is easy: mayflowerinn.com. Not too far from home is the outstanding Inn at Little Washington, in another small town named Washington, which is the perfect place to check-in after hiking the trails off Skyline Drive and stopping at Jenkins outside Sperryville to buy baskets of just-picked apples. And also The Ashby Inn in Paris, which was recently sold but is still fabulous. It's adjacent to a nifty state park that was given to Virginia by PAUL MELLON. Just big enough and dense enough for a challenging walk in the woods during which you will feel a million miles away from everything DC. I'd like to recommend the Inn at Perry Cabin on the Eastern Shore in St. Michael's, but every time I've been there it has been too pretentious by half. I don't know why. Early on, like 15 years ago, it was more relaxed, like the region where it resides. But big money and quick expansion has tapped out its goodwill. If you are looking for a Chesapeake Bay getaway I would recommend chartering a sailboat and taking off to some secluded anchorages. Yeah, it will be chilly at night, but does one need a better excuse to get closer to your bunkmate? You don't know how to sail? Okay, charter a boat with a captain. He'll leave you alone at night. He kn knows why you chose this particular type of getaway.
Now I've given myself a terrible case of wanderlust.
The NICOLE KIDMAN movie is still shooting in and around Georgetown. Friends tell me they see her here and there, walking amongst us mere mortals, seeming to enjoy herself here in our quaint burg. The men are struck by how thin they think she is and the women are impressed for the same reason, though they add she looks pretty but blends in. All the best actors don't stand out until they become their character.
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 29...Sitting here at home tonight with my friend MYRA MOFFETT, helping her design an announcement of her new position as tip top realtor for LONG & FOSTER in Georgetown. If you are thinking of selling or buying will you please do me a big favor and call Myra, because then she will better understand all my whining about being a business owner. Her phone number is 202.944.8400, ext. 293. Remember, I'm watching.
Hollywood is back at the corner of Wisconsin and M today, and I'm assuming it is the NICOLE KIDMAN movie. They have a crane and many technicians and seem to be shooting in the vicinity of the PNC parking lot where it runs up against Old Glory. Perfect view for customers having brunch at Nathans. This is the way I like it: always give the customers a good show. This is a classic autumn Saturday. The leaves are in full color. The sky is partly cloudy with occasional blasts of sunlight. The sunny side of the street is warm, the shady side freezing. Everyone seems to be out on the streets in their fall outfits - the tweed jackets and burly sweaters that hung lonely in the closet for all those unusually warm September and most of October weekends. I haven't seen anyone in costume yet, though the staff tell me there were some Halloween revelers in the bar last night. There will be LOTS more tonight. I still don't know what the police have planned, if anything, because we've been given no information. Just assume, if you are coming in to Georgetown to participate in or watch the action, that there will be heightened police presence. I'm wondering what Monday will be like, which is official Halloween. This much I'm sure of: if the weather is pleasant there will be a scene on the streets. It will be strong early and not last into the wee hours. And there will be more police then.
So, it's the day after for the drama of the Plame-gate leak investigation. I find myself feeling sorry for SCOOTER LIBBY. Not because I've got some idealogical or political investment in this saga - I don't - but because we lifers have seen it happen over and over again, and we skeptics see it as simply politics as usual. I've never understood this thing in men about working at the White House and doing the dirty work they willingly do. They must know the bosses consider them expendable. Is that what they think of themselves? Is ruining their careers worth it? Or do they think, Gee, I'll get a light sentence, a fat book contract, huge speaker's fees and possibly my own gig on MSNBC? Maybe that's enough. Maybe that's the goal. But really, anyone getting a high administration appointment should immediately do two things: hire a good lawyer and also start a fund to be able to pay that lawyer when the time comes. Oh, and take the lawyer's advice, too.
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 28...It's cynical, I know, but one senses a letdown among the media and the democrats this morning as word spreads that KARL ROVE may not be indicted in the VALERIE PLAME leak investigation. Of course, they feel a small thrill at the possible indictment of poor "Scooter," but Mr. Libby is not Mr. Rove. His demise is a minor-bloodletting by the standards of this city's political executions. Besides, working for the Veep is NOT the same as working for POTUS. That will make all the difference. Fitzgerald may ask for an extension, and the prospect of a Rove indictment will dangle out there for a while, but the whistling sound you hear in the sky above Washington is the steam racing out of the story. Unless all the early reports are wrong and, instead of Libby, EVERYONE is indicted. What the democrats thirsted for was indictments for Rove and Libby and for Vice President DICK CHENEY to be named as an un-indicted co-conspirator. There would have been hooting and hand-clapping and festive drumbeating through the night from Georgetown to Cleveland Park to Adams Morgan to Capitol Hill. So, if it's only Libby, and your best friend is a diehard Dem, take him or her out for a drink, hug it out, and feel their pain. Remind them, too, that there's another Supreme Court nomination in the pipeline and they'll soon have that to stomp on. But, if Rove escapes indictment, Bush is tall in the saddle again.
I'm busy calling the DC Police to find out whether they have any plans for restricting traffic/parking in Georgetown over the weekend. While Halloween is Monday night, there's a good chance many revelers will be in the streets Saturday and Sunday. So far, I've been passed to four different phone numbers and no one knows. One officer said he knows, "but it's classified." An officer in Cmdr. Contee's office said to call back at 1 o'clock, which we will do and when we get the 411 we will put it up here.
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 27...I have the hots for PATRICK FITZGERALD. I mean, consider it: a man in Washington who keeps secrets and who isn't constantly yacking in front of TV cameras. This is a rare breed who should be propagated for the benefit of the women in this city. And I want to thank him again for doing the gentlemanly thing and NOT showing his hand yesterday and upstaging the Q&A lunch with MATT COOPER. Manners are a turn on, too.
If you would like to listen to the Cooper interview, here is the link:
Just back from an elegant gathering at the Four Seasons Hotel to honor ELLA POZELL, widow of Reserve Officer JOSEPH POZELL, who was struck down at his directing traffic at the intersection of Wisconsin and M earlier this year. Georgetown turned out in full to give Ella a well-deserved pat on the back for keeping it going. Trust me, it's not easy, but Ella has been awesome. Lots of hunky policemen in uniform at the party, too, but they asked me not to mention their names because the fact that I call them hunky would get back to headquarters. Yeah, right, I'll keep it to myself. PAT BURKE, you are a hottie. You, too, PETER NEWSHAM. So there. Then to Asia Nora for dinner with a friend. Very chatty, warm interlude and I'm the better for it. The place was packed and the food delicious. Checked in with Nathans, where it was also packed and the food delicious.
Georgetown, it turns out, was a story fest yesterday. In the morning it was NICOLE KIDMAN shooting a movie on M Street, at lunchtime it was MATT COOPER at Nathans, and in the early evening it was a little lost fawn in the Diesel and Ralph Lauren shops. All three stories made the news. Only the fawn made the Today show. It's not uncommon to sometimes see deer in Montrose Park, Dumbarton Oaks or down on the canal. But how traumatic for this little fella to get onto busy Wisconsin Avenue and then into clothing stores? Clothing stores are traumatic for humans. I can't imagine the experience for an animal. Today, fortunately, was more routine and calm. If you would like to take a look at the amusing piece DAVE STATTER did for Channel 9 about yesterday's Wisconsin and M activities, here's the link:
For me today it was a rare treat at lunchtime, sharing a meal at Milano with Capt. C.V. MORRIS of the DC Police Department. He's head of the violent crimes branch, which makes him basically in charge of all the "dead bodies." Someone should make a movie about this man. He's smart and charming, attractive and affable, and his dedication to the job is beguiling. When he talked about what it's like to look at the faces of the dead victims, especially later when going over photos of the crime scene, and often knowing who the murderer is, but not being able to catch them, or to get a witness who will testify, it made me proud and humble. Proud to have someone like that in the city's employ, and humbled by hearing the details of his work. We were three at lunch, the third being my friend the best-selling novelist who is writing a murder mystery that takes place in Washington. This was research for her. For me it was fascination. When lunch ended I thanked Capt. Morris, shook his hand and ...said, "I hope we meet again, but not with me as a dead body." My friend, "But at least we know if we were dead bodies Capt. Morris would find the killer." Very dark, I know.
Washington Post writer WIL HAYGOOD did a profile of Capt. Morris in August. Here's the link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/08/29/
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 26...Inside and outside of Nathans today could have been a scene from a movie. Inside was the sober side of Washington: a sold out room of loyal Q&A patrons who wanted to hear the latest on the PlameGate investigation from central player MATT COOPER. Outside was the frivolous Washington: sidewalks crammed with gawkers and movie fans who wanted to catch a glimpse of NICOLE KIDMAN as she filmed a few tiny scenes for "The Visiting." Okay. This did make the intersection a scene IN a movie. Plus blustery weather. All I remember about coming and going from the front door of Nathans was being buffeted and chilled by the wind. The movie company asked if they could use our front room, the bar, as a holding area for crew. So we had all kinds of young, fit, attractive movie crew hanging out in the bar most of the day, wearing their walkie talkies, carrying some of their movie-making equipment (cameras, cables,). This movie should have an interessting look. The director had many different kinds of cameras shooting their versions of the same scene. Different textures, different ratio, different film stock and digital images. Just think of the editing possibilities?
Frankly, I was nervous today. I was nervous because of all the action but also having to be on my marks in the interview with MATT COOPER. It's been a long time since I had to be utterly on top of a story in the sense of detail and nuance. Sat up last night reading lots and lots on Fitzgerald investigation but still this picture doesn't come completely into focus. I mean, where is ROBERT NOVAK? Is this a WMD criminal cover-up, or is it a case of inappropriate leaking of a covert CIA agent's name? And why is the entire media establishment piling on JUDITH MILLER? So, I took a big deep breath and jumped in. Matt made it wasy. He has an amiable, self-effacing side, and he's not twisted in knots about any of this. He answered the questions point blank, with no revelations except he thinks GEORGE CLOONEY should play him in the movie. He said he does not know what goes on with Novak, he does not know what the special prosecutor has planned and it baffles him that Judy Miller is suddenly the most unpopular girl in school. I feel badly because when I was questioning him about her reported $1.2 million book contract I made a bitchy crack about "books published for merit" or something like that. The moment it flew out of my mouth I knew I should have edited myself better. I still feel badly about it. I don't know Judy Miller. I have nothing against her. If she can get a $1.2 million book contact, good for her. Does she deserve it? Who am I to say? Was I being the kind of smart ass I disparage to my son? Absolutely. It's like another CONSTANTINE MAROULIS moment. The bookends of my day were driving early to Randolph Bakery in Arlington to get Halloween cookies for the lunch. Driving from there to Spencer's school. Transforming myself into something presentable. It's like a magic trick. From jeans and a t-shirt to a gorgeous $$$$ Missoni wrap dress SAKS FIFTH AVENUE provided. It is a comfortable, luxurious dress and I recommend it to anyone who's looking for something davtime to early evening. The dress appears in the Photo of the Day upper right, on Channel 9 this evening, and memory.
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 25...The media reports say everyone in Washington is on "pins and needles." Well, not exactly. There are more of us in wet shoes and raincoats. Certainly in certain parts of the city, like the White House, there has to be a run on Attivan. Who would want to be in KARL ROVE's or "SCOOTER" LIBBY'S shoes (wet or otherwise) right now? And it's likely that the Veep is worrying just a little about his own backside. The sniping in today's papers gives the impression there's a high wire paint ball splat fest going on between West Wing staff and bosses and assorted lawyers, along with the same shoot-or-be-shot game at The New York Times. Apparently the other wingtip will drop by Friday, when Special Prosecutor PATRICK FITZGERALD either will or won't indict SOMEONE. Then again, maybe he'll ask for an extension? Anyone who has lived in Washington for longer than one presidency will view this a ritual part of the program. The Humpty-Dumpty syndrome. Remember Lord Acton? "Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely." He said it probably a century ago, but oh how it resonates in contemporary Washington, DC. Tomorrow's guest at the Q&A Cafe, MATT COOPER, is - if not in the white hot center of this story - just close enough to feel the full flare of the heat. To Matt's credit he has kept his commitment to appear, even though his bosses at TIME are turning down all interview request. Now there's a gentleman for you. Meanwhile, out in front of Nathans, Oscar winner NICOLE KIDMAN will be filming a scene in which she crosses M street. It's for her new film, which is a remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. It takes place in DC, even though the bulk of the filming is happening in Baltimore. My advice: if you are attending tomorrow's lunch, head to Georgetown early because the police plan to shut down certain streets for the filming. Should be a fun day. I have my bottle of Attivan close at hand.
Today offered a brief respite from the chill and rain at JANE STANTON HITCHCOCK'S welcoming and cozy home, where she hosted a small "ladies luncheon" for CATHERINE, LADY MANNING, wife of the British Ambassador, and an author in her own right, to celebrate the first time arrival of one of Manning's books to the U.S. This point matters because Lady Manning is a very well known writer in the U.K., under the name ELIZABETH IRONSIDE. The book is "Death in the Garden," and you should grab a copy.
MONDAY, OCTOBER 24...Monday, Monday. Back in the windowless, airless basement office with the battleship gray walls, the low ceilings, the varying piles of clutter, and the small portions of bad news served rare. First the good news: we had a strong weekend, helped by events that cater to adults at the neighboring universities - either parents' weekend or homecoming. Also, a Redskins victory helped. Lovely Sunday weather, too. I hope Hurricane Wilma rides the coast WAY out in Atlantic, keeping the heavy rain off shore. A little rain doesn't hurt business. A lot of rain does. As for the bad news. Or at least troubling news. One of the wait staff walked out of here yesterday with more than $600 of Nathans money. Was it an accident? An oversight? Or, worst case, a theft. I'm reluctant to jump to the last conclusion, because the employee has worked here for a while and also worked two shifts yesterday, which can overwhelm. Still, the business Nathans is in is making money in return for food and beverages and the money stays at Nathans, until it goes to the bank across the street. Reluctant though I am to pass harsh judgment, the server cannot be reached. Phone is turned off. Cell not answered. Messages not returned. Curious. If we hear nothing by tomorrow we call the police, which is a last drastic undesired act. Calling the police is not an indictment of the employee, only a procedure that has to be followed. It's what any business would do under similar circumstances.
The money part of owning a business is the part I like the least. It scares me, and for lots of reasons. First of all, it's not mine. I can't help myself to it, which removes any element of fun. Second, it has to be counted accurately, and since I can't count that means the job goes to others who I therefore must trust. When the count doesn't add up it becomes a process of mathematical detective work, which twists my already challenged NOT calculator bright brain. Then it goes to the bank and disappears. What also goes to the bank are the credit card receipts, but they come in electronically. We never see that money, which is fine with me. I wish all our business happened on credit cards. No cash ever. The money has to be added up every day. The bookeeper has to go over it and bills have to be entered in the computer and pay-outs accounted for. This is what goes on in the office ALL the time. It's not romantic, or creative, or even interesting, and it becomes excrutiating when, as often is the case at Nathans, the money doesn't add up to what's needed to pay the bills. The fun part of the biz is the food, the wine, the look, the music, the flow and buzz. But none of that happens without the $$$$.
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 23...A very Washington Sunday. Being that it's autumn, that can mean only one thing - a Redskins game. We were spoiled, too, as the guests of friends who have a box about three over from DAN SNYDER'S. In fact, we were so close to the press box we got to watch SONNY JURGENSEN and his broadcast cohorts relish pre-game cigars. My 'Skins fandom goes way back and has run hot and cold over the years. Way hot during the Riggins years, and way cold during the latter JACK KENT COOKE years, and then lukewarm during the early Snyder years, and now very hot again with JOE GIBBS back where he belongs. It was a very lopsided victory over San Francisco, but who cares? We won, and that felt good. As the game wound down, Virginia Gov. MARK WARNER stopped by the box to see our friends and hung out with us for a while. He may be a lame duck in the Virginia state house but it's unlikely he is a lame duck in politics. He has a very easygoing charisma, and when managed well that generally translates into the voter equivalent of Disney dollars.
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 22...Walking down the hill to Nathans this morning I crossed paths on M Street with lawyer ROBERT BENNETT, stolling in the rain, talking casually into a cell phone. I wondered if he was chatting with his currently most famous client, JUDITH MILLER, and if they were deconstructing NY Times' Editor BILL KELLER'S strange e-mail to the Times staff. The text is on the web for all to see. To me it reads like the kind of email you write late at night, hit the "save" button, open it the next morning, read it over, hit "delete" and start again. At least if you are the editor of the New York Times. It was so tentative, morose, weak. It did not seem ready for the whole world to read. I was thinking, This is the New York Times! Where's the guts, where's the muscle? But I'm not walking in his shoes, and we all know how easy it is to judge another manager's management style. Still, the Times can't have anymore of this where IT is the story, and the story isn't about winning the Pulitzer. For the serious people on the staff that has got to be getting old.
Capote. Saw it last night at the Bethesda Row Cinema, which if you haven't been is a surprise and delight of a movie house. It's down a long escalator ride into the basement, but the popcorn is fresh popped, the seats comfortable and the screens huge. At least the screen showing "Capote." How quickly do I think you should get to this film? Don't drive. Charter a NetJet. It's a small indie film, spare, slight, performance driven, but Oh what magnificent performances, particularly PHILIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN, which is not a surprise. His work always is interesting. But here he brings Capote to life, and illuminates a period that was defining for the writer, when he ingratiated himself into the case of the murders of the Clutter family in rural Kansas. The murders, the investigation, and Capote's relationship with the murderers, DICK HICKOCK and PERRY SMITH, particularly Smith, became his landmark non-fiction novel "In Cold Blood." I recommend reading it BEFORE seeing the movie, or after. But read it. That's what this film is about. That slice of Capote's life and, more darkly, how he related to Perry Smith. In a compelling line of dialogue he tells someone why he is drawn to Smith, how he finds parallels in their childhoods. He says metaphorically they were raised in the same home. "But he went out the back door and I went out the front ." The soundtrack is a keeper, too. You say to yourself, Hoffman, have I seen him in anything? Yes. Cold Mountain, Almost Famous, Boogie Nights, State and Main, Hard Eight, Next Stop, Wonderland, and another 20 films.
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 21...What I find the greatest challenge as an adult relatively alone in the world is coping with the huge, seemingly unsolvable problems. When I had a living husband I would come home from a tough day at CBS or PBS or ABC or CNN and dump the bad stuff on him. Not fair? Aw, c'mon. It's marriage. Howard was designed by God to pull me out of my funks. First of all he'd just tell me to get over it. Then he'd unload some of his problems, which paled mine. After all, he OWNED Nathans. I merely worked FOR the networks. If it was really that bad I could quit. Then we'd start to talk about going out to dinner, which would recalibrate my focus. I'd take a long hot bath, where I resumed my stew, so to speak. He'd pop his head in the door and tell me something funny, and I'd laugh. I'd get dressed, we'd go out. Midway through dinner at some favorite restaurant like Jean Louis or Gerard's or Galileo we'd be talking about all the ways I could solve whatever was hassling me, or how I could cut it loose and put it behind me. Sometimes he'd gripe about Nathans, too. But soon enough we would be talking about anything but work and we'd have each other laughing. Dinner with Howard was so often like being out on a first date. Or maybe I should say a second or third date, because while a first date can be wildly romantic, it's also nerve-rattling and occasionally awkward. By the 3rd date, if it's working, the ride is smooth. Invariably I returned home settled, resolved, stronger. Later in bed, in the middle of the night, I would be sound asleep and he'd be awake, staring at the ceiling, worrying about Nathans. That's why I miss A) having a husband; and B) working for someone.
But I have this blog now, and this blog takes the place of the husband. I mean, in so far as the venting goes. When that doesn't work I get in the car, take a long drive, and cry.
A friend called today and asked, "How are you?" My reply: "Apart from starting the weekend with Nathans already $5,000 overdrawn, I'm fine."
Spencer had two buddies sleep over and for breakfast this morning I made them raisin bread French toast with a syrup that was a combination of maple syrup and maple cream. In the batter for the toast I added sugar, of course, and Madagascar vanilla, of course, but also some brown sugar. They ate at almost noon. It took that long to rouse them from their teenage slumber. Tonight they are off to a dance. Discussion of this dance has amused me all week. What matters to these boys is being able to "grind," and dances are rated on whether the hosts (church, school, whatever) permit grinding, and just how much grinding. "It's no fun to grind if they make you separate by three feet," one of the boys lamented. There are two dances tonight and they have chosen the one "where everyone goes cause you can grind." It's at a church. I said, "There's no way a church will let you grind." They shook their heads. "No, this place is famous for it. Everyone goes there to grind." I can't wait to eavesdrop on the backseat conversation when driving them home after. While they are grinding, a friend is meeting me at "Capote." I can't wait to see PHILIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN's turn as TRUMAN CAPOTE. When I was a teenager "In Cold Blood" was irresistible and hair-raising scary. That book alone made me never want to live in a house at the end of a long dirt road and in the middle of a field, though I did live practically that way for a decade in Upperville, Va. In my 20s I met Capote at a party at the Four Seasons restaurant in New York. He was with KATHARINE GRAHAM. The party was for The Rolling Stones. Memorable. Of all the memories I could have come away with from that night - not the least of which was MICK JAGGER, what I recall is this iconic pair who sat together in the middle of this very jeunesse doree affair and did not appear to be having a good time. Moreover, they appeared to be in a serious discussion, which was a notable contrast to the chaos, loud music, crush of the crowd and other goings on in the restaurants famed "pool room." The expressions on both their faces were glum. Was it the lateness of the hour, well past midnight, or the crowd, the nature of their chat, or all three? When I met them I wanted to ask why they were so dour, but I was shy around them and didn't. Whenever I was not working, and I'd hung up my notepad for the night, I turned shy. After all, I was all of 21 and they were Capote and Mrs. Graham.
Today marked the arrival of the Oregon pinot noir wines I picked out at the Sundance Wine Shop in Eugene, Or., during our stop there this summer. I've been waiting for these babies for a few months. To the credit of the shop's owner, he did not want to ship until the warm weather broke. It was a wonderful experience, buying them, and I'll write more about it later when I open the box and fondle my new treasures. But for now I'll report this: When I got to the shop I said to him, "I want to buy some Pinot Noir that comes from small producers. I own a restaurant and I can get my hands on almost anything, but I want to get some good wines I would rarely if ever be able to get in Washington." He gave me a smile and we were off and running.
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 20...Pooh. I did not win the $340 million lottery. Some lucky mystery person in Oregon is this morning a gazzilionaire...this morning and for a long time to come. Yesterday I wondered, Would I rather have the $340 mil or love and happiness? I still prefer love to money, which is probably why I'm not savoring my 2nd or 3rd profitable divorce. But I do experience a deep curiousity when I meet women who are devious enough to get into a man's heart AND his wallet. I'm curious to know their secrets. How do they do it? Is it as simple as sex, or are there a myriad of other skills required? And I don't mean knowing how to set a table or find a caterer. Do the women ever have pensive moments when they suffer an empty heart, when they feel they've missed the important stuff? Nah. They've got a fat bank account and a long list of future prospects. As for the men, the marks, the targets, the silly suckers who say "I do" and don't get a pre-nup and have love blossoms in their eyes? Well, it seems some men WANT to be rolled. The lottery now drops back down to mere little millions. I'd be happy to win $1 million. That would almost settle Nathans and I'd finally have some peace of mind. From my point of view, peace of mind would be the best lottery prize of all.
If you are a NICOLE KIDMAN fan, or simply a fan of the movie-making process, mark your calendars for next Tuesday, October 25th. She will be at Wisconsin and M, filming scenes for "The Visiting." There will be a scene of her walking across M Street from or to Nathans. Not sure. Other scenes will be driving shots up and down M or Wisconsin. It might be a good idea to book a table for lunch and watch all the action through our big windows.
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 19...My son and I have just concluded our fifth argument of the day. They are about silly little things. But they are consistent and remind me of marital nagging. It's probably a result of his age (13) and my stress. But I spend all day with people half my age. I live with youthful mood swings. I think at my son's age - at any age - a child can sense when a parent is under a lot of pressure. As a parent, I'd like him to ease up and give me a breather. As a child, feeling threatened by my possible weakness, the need is to push me harder to make sure I won't break. Also, he can't say it, but he wants my life to be less complicated. I get so tired of having to be tough. I was thinking about five minutes ago, What I'd give to go dancing! That always lets off steam. Drinking and drugging aren't options, but dancing is possible.
EARLIER: Sitting on my desk here at Nathans is a bottle of the 2003 Marquis Philips Shiraz "9". It may be my wine of the season, though it will have to compete with the wonderful 2000 Barolo. Oh, and the few bottles I still have of the Marquis-Philips "Integrity." These are spectacular wines. The "9" is made with shiraz/syrah grapes. Barolo is from the nebbiolo grape. In fact, some call Barolo the wine of kings and the king of wines. No argument from me. I would be glad to recommend some various Barolos, but every 2000 I've tasted was delicious. In fairness I should note that Wine Spectator declared this vintage "perfect." Sometimes it is enough to just go with the varietal and the vintage. If you are thinking of a wine for your Thanksgiving turkey, any of these wines would be excellent. However, an alternate choice with this heavy meal is Beaujolais. It's light and seems to balance well with the heft, grease and fat of the feast. Or, a good rose Champagne like Taittinger, Billcart-Salmon or Krug or, if you win the $340 million powerball lottery tonight, the Dom Perignon or La Grand Dame.
I'm still ruminating on the ANDY KOHUT lunch yesterday. When I asked him if anybody cares out the VALERIE PLAME story outside of Washington he said frankly, "no." He said it with a sigh. Of course there are people who care, a few people, but his point was that most Americans are more concerned with the war in Iraq, the economy, gas prices, and their own well being. They are not interested in the travails of NYTimes reporter JUDITH MILLER. Actually I have been struck by the levels of private vitriol from otherwise level-headed Washingtonians when Ms. Miller's name is mentioned. They hooted and chortled especially about her winning the First Amendment Award at the 2005 Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) convention yesterday. A week from today TIME Magazine White House correspondent MATT COOPER, who did not go to jail, will be the guest at the Q&A Cafe. There's every likelihood that between now and then there will be indictments handed down in this "Flame" case, making the lunch especially timely. That's the way I like it: right on top of the news. Right now we have about 4 seats open ... so book soon if you are interested.
As probably everyone in Washington knows, city councilmember JACK EVANS (Ward 2) is in some hot water over his relationship with art dealer MARSHA RALLS and the question of whether he inappropriately let his PAC pay for her transporation costs on a city government trip to Asia. It's been featured in the Washington Post these past few days, especially today in the hilarious Reliable Source column. An indication of their nefarious relationship was that Jack took Marhsa to the Corcoran Ball, which is a sort of city prom for the moneyed class. Year before he took me to the ball, which was a help because, among others, I met an influential developer who has provided a lot of good business advice. It was fun. Jack and I had a good time. We are friends and commiserate from time to time about the trials of being a widow and widower. The column also mentioned that Jack and Marsha went to another party with him in a sports "letter" jacket and Marsha in a cheerleading outfit. Clearly, the cheerleader look is the passion fashion of the moment, at least if the early marital romp scene in "The History of Violence" is any indication. I don't know any meaningful details about Jack's "friendship" with Marsha. I know he does a lot ot help local business owners. I hope this episode passes quickly and doesn't damage the path of a good community servant.
MONDAY, OCTOBER 16...I'm sitting here on hold with Direct TV. Anyone who subscribes to DirectTV knows the fresh hell I've entered on this otherwise ordinary Monday evening. This is the endless hold that comes after the dozen different prompts and the tutorial messages that instruct me to unplug this and wait 15 seconds and plug it back in and push "1" and then wait again and then try firing a shotgun into the screen, Elvis style, and wait another 15 seconds. So, I'm on hold. And it was just a little thing. Not a big thing. A teeny tiny little problem. Sometimes it is easier to do nothing, though sadly that does not lead to a discount on the bill. Like the phone company and A/C company and the fellow installing this or fixing that - THEY OWN ME. They own my time. They often own my day without regard to other responsibilities, like children, and possibly even a job. And there's little I can do but suck it in and wait, or go into a phase of life where absolutely nothing in my house works. Everyone who is not in a commune in the mountains of Arizona has been where I am right now. When's the revolution?
But there is good news on this Monday evening while I'm on hold with DirectTV. R.W. "JOHNNY" APPLE, JR., one of the still functional people at the dysfunctional New York Times, will be the guest at the Nathans Q&A Cafe on Wednesday, December 7. This is our holiday present, because Johnny has the best job in the world, short of the captain of the taxi boat that runs between St. Martin and Anguilla. His job is at the top of my list because Tuesday he can have a story on the front page analyzing the latest political debacle in Washington, and Wednesday he can be on the front page of the Food section praising the joys of the perfect tomato, and Sunday he can be on the front page of the Travel section, introducing us to a dreamboat village on the Turkish coast. Folks, this is what he does for a living. Along the way he has published some terrific books, and his latest, "Apple's America," was a necessary part of our few guide books when Spencer and I drove cross country and back this summer. Johnny has been on my "wish list" for a while. Today, when he left a message saying "yes," my delighted hollering scared the dog under the bed. That's the good news. The season for 2005 is now booked and I can focus on the winter of 2006. This is a relief. This past 8 weeks, while managing daily avalanches in the business office at Nathans, I was worried the distraction would cost me - and the patrons - a good season at the Q&A Cafe. I've been head above quicksand for too long and, if nothing else, producing worthy lunches matters. So, a little relief...even though I'm still on hold with DirectTV. Maybe I should get out the shotgun and shoot the phone AND the TV.
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 15...A simply glorious day. The sun was blinding this morning. It had the kind of brightness that comes with winter. Oh, dear. Yes, winter is just around the corner. Can't think about that. Love the autumn. Love the snow up till New Year's, and then on January 2 I'm ready for spring. Yesterday, with Spencer away visiting a buddy, I caught up on some movies. In the afternoon it was "Good Night and Good Luck," the GEORGE CLOONEY film about EDWARD R. MURROW'S take down of SEN. JOE MCCARTHY. It's filmed in somber black and white, which allows Clooney, the director, to incorporate a lot of authentic footage of McCarthy and other moments of the time. It is a slight film, but that is not a criticism. Not all movies have to be big fat screen busters. It's slightness allows DAVID STRATHAIRN'S marvelous performance as Murrow to shine through from beginning to end. While it is a dramatic film it feels like a documentary. It should be required viewing for all network news executives who believe their current programming is profoundly relevant. Man, this is back when the business had guts, even if the bosses felt quivvering in theirs. That's what they are paid for. Then last night a friend and I went to see "The History of Violence." This film has been receiving lots of talk, partly because of the violence and partly because of the sex and partly because of the stand-out performances. It's all true. The violence is vivid and hard to take if you are sensitive about grapic gore. The sex is provocative, especially at the beginning. For my money, I would have liked more of the sex, but then it isn't named "The History of Sex." This much I know: we should all keep cheerleader uniforms nearby. They seem to bring out the best in a man, if the men are anything like VIGGO MORTENSEN'S complex character. There is so much going on that it's pointless to try to capture it in this small space. Go see it. Go see it for the film and for WILLIAM HURT'S brief but hilarious performance. Then dinner at Nathans. The grilled salmon with truffled greens and porcini broth continues to delight me. It's simply delicious. We had a good bottle of the 2000 Barolo. If you can still find the 2000 vintage that is the Barolo to buy. You won't be disappointed.
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 14...This is the beginning of the crazy season in Georgetown, at least if you are a motorist in search of a parking place. The positive side of this problem is that it means a lot of people are coming to Georgetown. The down side is that for residents it can mean endless circling in search of a space. The other down side is that the DC Government lays on extra parking cops to hand out as many tickets as possible, which we all know is the profit center of the city budget. Speaking of DC and police. This week, especially yesterday, the local media went nuts for the story of the MPDC's "zero tolerance" policy regarding DUI. They wanted to interview me. I ran in the other direction because 1) I don't like to do interviews about alcohol, and 2) There is no side of the angels with this story. If I called the rule silly, then I would piss off the police. If I said it was a good thing, I would piss off the customers. I might have said if the police decide to arrest every driver who has consumed one glass of wine does that mean they will begin to arrest every driver talking on a cellphone, since DC also has a law against that? Here's the important information, which I rant about all the time. Wines are getting hotter and hotter, meaning the wine companies are jacking up the alcohol content at an alarming rate. You may think it's just one glass of wine, but one glass of wine that is 12.5% alcohol is one thing. A glass of wine that is 16.2% alcohol is another thing altogether. That hits your body the same way as a glass of straight vodka or scotch. If you think you got tipsy too fast on one glass of wine you ought to check the bottle, the fine print, to see the alcohol content. I now publish this information on Nathans wine list - JUST FOR THIS REASON. Drinking should be fun and relaxing. It shouldn't be dangerous and lead to the lock-up.
This has happened to everyone: I lost my wallet this week. It has been a nightmare. The worst part is losing my driver's license. However, the DC Govt website has a feature where you can order a replacement license for $7. If I'd known that before I would have had the replacement on hand just for this situation. You might want to consider doing just that. The credit cards I could actually care less about. All they do is get me into trouble. But I do miss my Costco card, and my Safeway card, and my Barnes and Noble card. They actually save me money. Bit by bit I've been calling everyone to get new plastic, but it's a pain. The wallet doesn't appear to be stolen, because no stranger has used my cards, but then again said stranger might have just stolen my identity and been done with it. Since I have no memory anymore, chances are the wallet is here somewhere in the house and will reappear on the day I have everything cancelled and changed.
Get outside and enjoy this beautiful fall day. Silly to be doing anything else but walking around.
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 13...A much better day, and I'm thankful to other people for making that happen. First of all, thank you BARBARA CHILDS-PAIR, who was not put off by the prospect of a light turn-out and still showed up for today's Q&A cafe, talking the talk of DC emergency preparedness. She's the head of the office and came with information and "goodie bags." The bags held books and flyers with phone numbers and guidance should the worst happen. Barbara explained to us what systems the city and federal government have put into place to deal with a catastrophe, whether it is bird flu, a dirty bomb, a suicide bomber, a bio-terror attack or something else we have not yet imagined. Many of the guidelines have to do with the citizens being responsible for themselves. I'm not sure how I feel about that, but that, what choice does a city government have in a chaotic situation. They can't really herd us. They can't even make us do what we don't want to do. Barbara explained one new rule that I'm not sure I like. If the city declares an evacuation emergency they will split DC in half at Pennsylvania Avenue. If you happen to be on one side of Penn, you will be evacuated in one direction. If you happen to be on the other side, you will go that way. Now while this makes sense on paper it seems to me to be unworkable in fact. What if your children are on the OTHER side of Pennsylvania Avenue? Barbara said the schools have been instructed to perform a "lock down" and keep the children in place. But what if the teachers decide to evacuate or to join their families? She said teachers who are DC residents have agreed to stay in place. Again, this sounds good. But if the worst were to happen there is no police force strong enough to keep me from getting to my son. I would wrestle my way through the blockade on Pennsylvania Avenue if he was on the other side. Wouldn't you? We talked about the drama regarding bird flu. Honestly, there's not a lot of information. I mean, do we catch it from chickens or other people who have it? This was clear: DC does not have enough vaccine in place. If it hit tomorrow, we'd be in big trouble. Also, when we have the appropriate vaccine it will go first to those "in need." My only suggestion was let's not let this be members of Congress. As far as I'm concerned, they are the least needy. This is what I came away with. Barbara is terrific. She has been doing emergency management going back to the Hanafi Muslims attack on the city and the crash of Air Florida into the Potomac. She has seen and done a lot. But we are now in the realm of the unimaginable, and no city governing body is actually in a position to fully know what to do. It's all a guess. If the worst happens, there's a good chance it will be every man for himself. Prepare with that in mind.
This evening I had dinner with my wonderful sister-in-law, DR. MARTHA JOYNT KUMAR, who just wrapped up her latest scholarly work on the relationship between the White House and the media. We were joined by another good soul, JOSEPH REAMER, who runs our local branch of PNC bank. Nearby sat DAVID KENNERLY, with NAVY ADM. EDMUND P. GIAMBASTIANI, JR., and his wife. He is the new vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Security were all over the place, but they were cool. Martha and Joe made me laugh a lot, which felt good. THANK YOU. Another big thank you to ROBYN JOHNSON, who sent me the kind of email that makes this diary worthwhile.
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 12...I've been a witch to live with lately. It's been almost 7 and a half weeks of me being stressed to the point of having no soft side. It didn't help one bit today that our check to the DC Govt. to pay for a new ABC license made like a basketball/boomerang and bounced right back to where it came from. This hurt particularly because we had the money in the bank - only not yesterday when the check arrived. Much high-wire maneuvering with the bank and the city and an emergency trip downtown by JON MOSS with a cashier's check in one hand and a letter from the bank in the other. We got through it but it extracted a year from my life. My poor son. I don't know how he puts up with me. We're at the point here at home that after we're back from the afternoon school pickup, and my brief evening return to work, and after I crawl up the hill from Nathans, straighten up the house, walk the dog, and make dinner, we both go to our separate small corners of the house. We don't speak much again until bedtime, when it's a quick kiss and goodnight. If I've had a long talk with the bookkeeper between dinner and light's out, Spencer simply avoids me.
Today he came to Nathans and pulled me out so we could go to Chopstix and get carry-out sushi dinner. In our home, Japanese dinner is tops. Yesterday I had carry out from the new Mama San for lunch and it was splendid. Can't wait to get back there, slide into one of their cozy booths, and have a sit-down meal.
For now I will lose myself in tomorrow's Q&A lunch with BARBARA CHILDS-PAIR, head of the DC Office of Emergency Management. We have only 20 reservations! I'm shocked. But she's game and so we will make it one of the best lunches of the year. I plan to group us all in a section of the restaurant where we can be together and intimate and maybe simply open the questions to the room, or do half on my own or half from them, with no microphones. We're serving roasted duck with figs and wild rice.
At Nathans we're quite excited that a group of 40 from outside Paris, who contacted me through the website, we'll be arriving in Washington next week and having a dinner at Nathans. We have done this all through email and it feels beautifully modern. I can't wait to meet these people who found us one of the ways I want to be found. Soon I might post myself as available for rescue by a knight in shining armor and see what happens. Winning the lottery would be nice, too. One or the other.
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 11...I sided with NY on the terrorist subway scare and it turns out I bet on the wrong horse. Today we learned it was a hoax. The reason this isn't good, of course, apart from all the other reasons, is that the next time the warning will mean so much less. A day of rain and virtual bounced checks doesn't do much to make the small business owner feel young and fresh. (But at least the bad stuff happened in tandem). It's very much in the mode of "woe is me." But there were some good moments today, which must remain private, but they were those little gains that make survival seem within reach. Black Op wrote me an email that made me laugh out loud, a belly laugh out loud. He was a Gypsy fortune teller, assuring me that the future holds promise. I walked by the home of a friend who has a boatload of money, courtesy of a profitable divorce, but who I know is having a difficult time finding love again. As much as I kick the dirt and bemoan my flattened state, I consider that all of us, in one way or another, carry around some kind of heartache ... even with all the money in the world. What I regret these past two months of constant bailing is being so focused on survival that I've missed so much: movies, books, plays, walks, sunlight, the company of friends, daydreaming, idle gossip, sharing, giving back, being part of the world, losing myself in a project, being a balanced companion to my son. That's the price of living in quicksand, and it's a pile of rot. So much better to be irresponsible, clueless, in one's own private Idaho. Believe me, if I could write the full truth here it would be among the town's most read pages. But, you know, that will have to wait.
MONDAY, OCTOBER 10...Over the weekend we drove up to Princeton, NJ. Apart from monsoon rains and often gridlocked highways, it was an interesting getaway. Princeton is a charming town and has maintained its intimate college feel even though Princeton University is big business. The mix of the old buildings and the autumn leaves, the walkways that zigzag across the campus, fulfill the romantic stereotype of the Ivy League college, or at least the way Hollywood and pop culture have painted that image. I wouldn't know. I'm a public high school grad, and there was no college after - ivy or other. Perhaps that's why I enjoy walking around campuses, particularly old campuses. The vibes make me smarter. Ha. After Princeton we drove through Bucks County, along Route 32, with me pointing out all kinds of favorite old stone and brick buildings to Spencer. Apart from some development closer to New Hope, this area has stayed relatively intact over the past few decades. Thankfully. Then we took route 202 to Philadelphia, trying to make it to Bookbinders for a late lunch, but we were too late for lunch and too early for dinner. Cruised the historic area and headed out to 95, which became a parking lot just north of Wilmington, which gave us an out to make it to route 13 and then 301 down through Maryland to the east of the Chesapeake Bay. While the rain was very, very hard, there was no traffic on 301 and we maintained speed. Something I'd not done before was the Bay Bridge in driving rain - rain so intense it was difficult to see the sides of the bridge, much less the view of the water below. At 4 o'clock in the afternoon it was dark as evening because we were IN the rain clouds. Door to door, we made it from Philly to DC in good time, certainly better time than if we'd sat in the miles of backed up traffic on 95.
Long talk with Larae this morning. We had a good weekend at Nathans but we are woefully short of what we need to make it through the week, and this will be a slow week. Oye. So I've got my first headache right out of the gate on Monday morning. At the end of our conversation I said, "Well, thanks. I'm now thoroughly depressed." She said, "I know it's not good news but you need to know." Indeed. That's the perk of ownersip. I so much prefer problems that have solutions. These Nathans problems have no solutions, unless I become a bank robber or the female lead in Weeds. If you've never seen this show do check it out tonight on Showtime. I don't know what to make of the fact that people say to me, "I saw Weeds. It made me think of you."
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 9...Typicaly, other women's stories of their widowhood do not interest me. There are a couple of reasons. One is that grief is a selfish master. It creates a necessity to be "all about me." A lot of that has to do with simple survival. If the survivor does not keep his/her eye on surviving, it takes only a second to get washed down the drain. When you are alone in the world that is the cold reality. The other reason is this: why would I want to read someone else's horror story when I'm living my own? How many nightmares can we endure? There are plenty of the rest of you to read these books and wring your hands in woe and cross your lucky stars and thank the heavens IT IS NOT YOU. It might be you someday, but it's not you RIGHT NOW. But I might peak into two books. CAROLE RADZIWILL'S of couse, because she is doing the Nathans Q&A Cafe on November 9. It would be wise for me to read her book before the interview. Also, the new book from JOAN DIDION. But that's a big maybe. I read her excerpt in the Sunday magazine of the New York Times and, geez, even if I'd just won the lottery it would have put me at the edge of a cliff. All I thought was I hope this woman has lots of close friends round her and all poisons and sharp objects have been locked away. I also thought it was grief as strip club, as pornography. It was too much. I had to look away. But then today, reading the review in the NY Times, I was struck by quotes Ms. Didion gave at a comencement address 30 years ago. She's encouraging the graduates to live IN their lives rather than to merely live them. And she points out, in so many words, that while the gave is a "fine and private place" it's not where we do our best work. Touche. I just came from a long Sunday lunch with friends where that was my message. It had to do with sticking in relationships, jobs, addresses and attitudes where we're simply marking time, or obeying, or doing it for others (when we're really not), and being miserable, and then - bang - you die. Really. It's true. We die. We all die.
Okay. Enough depressing s**t. Let's focus on the good stuff Six Feet Over. First all, the Chateau Montelena Chardonnay. It's $35 of delicious, quality, handsome white wine. The Marquis Philips "9" is another home run of the cabernet variety. Enjoyed those two plus other awesome wines last night at a friend's wine tasting dinner. I would have the "9" again and again, but not if I have to drive. It has like 16% alcohol by volume - give it time in the glass. But it is so good you will be sipping long after the dinner and dessert plates have been cleared away, as last night, as my host and I got tears in our eyes as we thought of GEORGE BUSH not getting us out of Iraq and our young sons and daughters possibly being drafted. By dinner's end we both were ready to start a revolution.
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 7...The movie at the top of my list is GEORGE CLOONEY'S "Good Night, And Good Luck," which opened today at the Georgetown Loews, with showings at 5, 7:20 and 9:40. It is a look at CBS News legend ED MURROW and his on air campaign to bring down SEN. JOSEPH MCCARTHY. When I showed up for work as a writer for WALTER CRONKITE in 1972 the senior news staff were from the ranks of the old Murrow days. While there was a huge age gap and we didn't hang out, I did get to work alongside so many pioneers of TV news who when they were my age worked alongside Murrow. I thrilled to the stories they told and never turned down an invitation to be at a lunch table that included that crowd. A lesser known name would have been JOHN MERRIMAN'S. He was our editor on the CBS Evening News. John started out during the Murrow era when CBS News had offices on Lexington Avenue. John and I did hang out and I loved to listen to him, and especially to watch him smoke his cigarette like PETER LORRE as Ugarte. John never smoked during the work day or during the show. He allowed himself that one special cigarette at 7 p.m., the second we went off the air. He was killed when an Eastern Air Lines jet crashed short of the runway in Charleston, SC, in the mid-70s. I still think of him and miss him. Anyway, I can't wait to see this movie and I hope it is as good as the earlier reviews indicate.
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 5...This is how it's done sometimes. When the world spins too fast and time flies through your fingers with an alarming swiftness, try to the best of your ability to grab the earth and make it turn your way. Ask yourself, "When I'm on my deathbed, and all my choices have been made, what will I wish I had done?" And so today, with a dozen good reasons to be chained to my desk, to regret the earlier acceptance I'd made to go hiking with a friend, I decided to do the right thing: honor my commitment to my friend and hike the Billy Goat Trail. It turned out to be one of the smartest choices I've made in several weeks. Why? Because I got out of my laggard, depressed, stressed-out, overwhelmed skin and embraced the great big wonderful world outside. My self-centered funk was not invited. In fact, my friend said, "from this point on NO talk of Nathans." Hiking, scrambling over steep rocks, standing on peaks to take in the view, dodging snakes, feeling muscles that hadn't been used in a while - this is what makes us human. Also, this kind of hiking and climbing requires an aggressive focus that cleanses the mind. At the end of a couple of hours I was bouyant from the thrill of accomplishment. I had a win, and it was a super-vitamin. The remainder of the day followed suit. Things went my way. My Potomac high sustained. Can you do this? Of course you can. It's free. It's close. It's there for you. Put on some strong shoes, pack a bottle of water, and call a friend.
Important lunch coming up next week with BARBARA CHILDS-PAIR, the head of Emergency Management for the District of Columbia. Interestingly, yesterday, when we talked about the post-human era and how genetics could give us endless lives, it was a sell-out. Next Thursday, when we will have a real world discussion about JUST HOW PREPARED DC IS FOR A CATASTROPHE, we have 9 reservations. This does not compute. People, it matters. I know the cynical point of view is that DC is hopeless and we'll all be stuck in a Houston-size gridlock, but it's up to us, the citizens and taxpayers, to ask the questions and to learn just how prepared our government is - OR NOT. It's an hour out of the day. Everybody has an hour.
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 4...One of those up and down days that are becoming all too familiar. The up part was the lunch today with DR. WILLIAM HASELTINE, a serious player in the world of bio-technology. There were so many questions to cover. We got through fewer than half. I could have interviewed this man all afternoon. But we did cover some important areas. We began with this question: "In what decade will babies be born who have a chance at endless life?" While he didn't give a specific date or time he made clear this is not a farfetched notion. Not in our lifetimes, perhaps, but possibly in the lifetimes of our children. He certainly believes death does not have to be a necessary part of life. As for those of us in our mature years, Haseltine says that with good nutrition and other sensible living we should be able to make it into our 90s. (Has he ever driven the Beltway?) I asked questions that pertain to one of my favorite subjects: eating to be well. Does it make a difference if we drink green tea, eat lots of walnuts and almonds, spinach, salmon, blueberries and the other food we're told carry anti-oxidants. "Not one bit of difference," he said. "Eat whatever you want; only, don't get fat." He said fat has more to do with the dreaded diseases than diet. Keeping your cholesterol down, too. Haseltine said there are four things to avoid under all circumstances: sun, radiation, cigarette smoking and old, moldy Chinese food. That must mean that we can still indulge to our heart's content in the all time favorite top three: sex, drugs and rock n' roll. But don't take my word for that. I didn't ask that question. The lunch today attracted a packed house.
The down parts of the day had to do with the usual: keeping Nathans afloat. Our ABC lawyer phoned to say the bar's license had expired. This WAS supposed to have been taken care of by someone, and it wasn't, and it wasn't the kind of news an owner wants at 5 p.m. on a Tuesday. Impossible to describe the anxiety attack that followed. Compounding it, this news came in the middle of a conference call with other lawyers, and then the home security system malfunctioned, letting off an awful squeal while I was trying to think, talk and do business, and help Spen with his art homework. Chaos reigned and I remembered some of those tranquil hours on the sofa of past life regression specialist DR. RICK LEVY, when I inhabited other lives - long ago and far away. I love my son, the dog, the bird and our home - the rest of it, well, let's just say - I need the current turmoil at Nathans to level off. For six weeks it has been one wind tunnel after another. Describing me as a "mad" saloon owner puts too soft a spin on the situation.
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 2...Very delighted to welcome Sunday. Never been sure whether it is the beginning or end of the week, but it does feel like a fresh start, and with lots of help from beautiful early autumn weather. This kind of weather makes a huge difference in Nathans business, literally from flat to full. And we're ready. The autumn menu is in place, and we now have our Sunday night Bottle Beer discount and our Monday night half price wine list. I'm excited about these two new programs and hope they will generate excitement among customers, too. Last Monday a lot of regulars were jazzed...
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 1...Today belonged to my son. His first day back home after a week deep in the Appalachian wilderness, learning how to sleep on the ground, eat what's offered, and find one's way through forests and caves with not much more to work with than wits and a sense of direction. Of course, he came home with a raging cold. His first words off the bus, "I think I was homesick." Sleeping in a tent on the cold hard ground will do that every time. After a grilled chicken/sliced steak/crabcake dinner last night he nibbled at the "Welcome Home" chocolate cake from Palate Pleasers in Annapolis. This morning he had a slice for breakfast. At home I try to keep the Nathans drama at bay, particularly my down moods, but he's a perceptive human. He can tell. He doesn't bring it up, but he can see the puffy eyes and he knows it's not a scuffed knee that worries me. But he diverts me brilliantly. In fact today, as we drove to Savage, Md., to get some bread at a bakery there, much of the road trip conversation was about love and sex (or was it the other way round?) Questions, questions. Many questions about married life and about boyfriends and so forth. Was I ever attracted to women? No. Not that way. "Why don't you have a boyfriend?" Where to begin? Too busy, basically, and dodged all the other reasons. "Have men come on to you?" Yes. "Do you date them?" No. "Why not? They're married. "Have you been attracted to men other than daddy?" Yes. "Why don't you date them?" They're married, or in New York or Chicago. "Have you been on many dates since daddy died?" The required minimum with every unmarried man in town. "And?" No answer. A face. He wanted to know so much. What kind of camping trip was that? Too much time to think, I think. I gave apparent candid answers, but did not get into all the stuff about being at war and that when at war one thinks only about the strategy, the battles, survival - not dating. But I did express hope that there's still someone out there with my name in his pocket who, like me, is patient. First win the war of saving Nathans, and my a**, and then there will be time for romance.
Where we went, Savage, Md., was a pleasant getaway on a Saturday afternoon. We stayed off the highways, heading out 16th Street all the way to Silver Spring and beyond through Howard County hunt country. Spencer was impressed with the stateliness and architecture of old 16th Street. We talked about the buildings and their history and the changing face of Washington since the 1960s. At Savage we visited the Bonaparte Bakery, which is such a treat. Their pastries come as close as I've found in this area to tasting like France. Their baquettes are crunchy and chewy. That's the bread they use at Bistro Le Pic on Wisconsin, and sometimes I eat two orders. It's also carried at Patisserie Poupon and is featured every Wednesday at the Rose Park farmer's market. Savage Mills played a role in the Civil War. The mills, owned then by WILLIAM BALDWIN, were a prime producer of canvas for cannon covers and tents. The old town is about a block long, but it features a restored area at the old mill, where there are craft shops, galleries, artists' studios and Bonaparte. There's also the Ram's Head Tavern for more conventional fare. It was pretty there today, but it will be a picture postcard when the leaves turn.
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