Happy July 4th, everyone. Remember to kick back, be proud, have fun, hug a friend/lover and eat your berry pie.
Happy July 4th, everyone. Remember to kick back, be proud, have fun, hug a friend/lover and eat your berry pie.
The Georgetown ANC met last night and among other topics addressed contractors who over-use dumpsters for home renovations and also abuse "no parking" permits at these renovations. The catalysts for the debate are two notorious renovations on 31st Street -- one at the corner of O, and the other only a block over at P -- but there are others throughout the village.
I did not attend the meeting, but a conscientious neighbor was there and sent this report:
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Tom Birch opened the issue about an hour+ into the meeting. He began by noting this is not a new issue; the ANC discussed it about 10 years ago though it took no action then. He also recommended that the ANC discuss the issue but make no decisions on this issue until the next meeting in September(?). He then made the following points in a very well articulated presentation of the problems caused by the multitudes of dumpsters in Georgetown. He specifically referenced that 31st Street between N and P is the current locus of the problem, but that everyone in Georgetown should be concerned.
It's been a week of ups and downs. A definite up was Monday and a visit to Potomac, MD., to Congressional Country Club for the launch of the Quicken Loans National golf tournament, aka the "Tiger Woods tournament." Got to watch some golfers get acquainted with the course and also attend a motivational luncheon for businesswomen.
The next day I got a tip and an exclusive about Donald Rumsfeld putting his Kalorama house on the market for $4.5 million. It's fun when that happens (the tip, not Rummy). Upshot: certified Rumsfeld started following me on Twitter.
Another big writing moment was putting the story online about the German Embassy's plan to host a soccer viewing party at Dupont Circle. The party turned out to be a big draw, though not a happy result for U.S. soccer fans.
Then there was a party for the Washington Kastles. Their annual tournament begins on July 9 at a new temporary venue, the Smith Center at George Washington University. The party was at a crowded and warm Eno Wine Bar at the Four Seasons Hotel. I had a nice pinot gris and a friendly chat with my friend (and team owner) Mark Ein. If you haven't yet watched Mark's appearance on The Q&A Cafe, it's recommended. Mark is at Wimbledon until his tourney begins.
At the very beginning of the week I learned how to decorate cookies at the home of my friend Larry Calvert, who teaches cookie decorating on a regular basis. I'll have more about that in the next issue of Washingtonian. I decorated six cookies and got a passing grade. My son ate all of them. He gave me an A+.
There was also a nice night out at the Library of Congresss, drinks at Rose's Luxury, and dinners in our garden. All of which combined to make it easier for me to accept/ignore some of the more vitriolic reactions to my coverage of Little Washington, Virginia's upset over development. Here's one from a resident out there who gave her professional affiliation as Time Magazine. "Carol, now that you have abused your membership on rappnet to get your juicy quotes, violated Ben's trust and exhibited execrable journalistic ethics I would think it was time you unsubscribed and left us alone." Sigh. Time's attitude toward journalism has changed a lot since I worked there as a writer in the New York Bureau.
In sum: TGIF. I'm ready for the weekend.
As you can probably tell it's embarassing to him ("hey, pose for a photo with your Mom"), but here I am out tonight with my darling son, Spencer, about to arrive at a party hosted by our friend Lyndon Boozer at the Library of Congress. Spencer indulges me by coming to some of these things -- and only some -- but I sometimes press because his GF, Katherine Davis, is in town from Houston and I think she likes to see the sights and sample the random perks. (In truth, they'd rather be in Shaw, at The Yards, or on 14th Street...and I can't blame them.).
The thrill for me was to show them the balcony view of the Reading Room, one of the capital's great and awe-inspiring spaces.
We also stopped by Rose's Luxury for a drink at the upstairs bar. Owner Aaron Silverman said that most nights now the wait for a table is down to one hour from the high water mark of 2-3 hours. If you haven't been, give it a try because the experience is big. One way to do it is stop by at, say 6 or 6:30, put your name down, and then take a walk in the Marine Barracks neighborhood while the time flies by before your table becomes available. I prefer reservations, personally, but that's not the way Aaron does it and its his place!
Since we've made some noise here about neighborhood renovations that have the nearby residents up in arms, props should be given where props are deserved. This house, over the last year and change, was gutted and renovated from top to bottom. By and large, the project did not disturb the peace. There was one small dumpster, only reasonable claiming of parking spaces. What it proves is that it can be done without making a disruptive mess.
It was a turbulent stretch of days in Little Washington, VA., last week, after the issue of development seemingly divided the town. Some of my writing got caught up in it. Here is a very personal recap and some backstory on New York Social Diary.
Every time I visit a "staged" house, as I did today, I'm hit with an overwhelming urge to return with area rugs and color, even chintz, which are out of fashion. The prevailing look is bare floors, mud or grey colored upholstery and black pressed wood furniture. This is the Great Recession speaking, but wouldn't "all boats rise" with the lift of color? Do we really want the bottom of the economy to be the inspriation for our interior design look book?
I understand the staging concept, but I'd rather see an empty house than one with a lot of non-aspirational rooms. Real estate is crazy right now. Seller's market in the extreme. But c'mon, even hungry buyers want to be romanced.
Thank you to Thom Loverro, left, and Kevin Sheehan, right, hosts of ESPN's The Sports Fix, for taking the time yesterday to do an interview with me for The Q&A Cafe. As expected, it was a lively and amusing discussion about DC sports, with the greatest amount of time spent on the Washington football team and its name controversy, less time on the Nationals baseball team and some quick hits on the Wizards, the Caps and Johnny "Johnny Football" Manziel, as well as some other famous names.
We had a good turn-out, and I just want to say here -- when the Q&A tapings resume in September, if you haven't been, do try out our new venue at the George Town Club. If you were a fan of Nathans, you will like the clubby barroom where we tape the interview. It's intimate and the price is right: $35, all inclusive.
What did Thom and Kevin have to say about the subjects discussed? A lot. You'll get your chance to watch them when the program airs Friday, June 27, on DCN, channel 16 on Comcast. A week after that it will be on YouTube and I will post it here.
In the meantime, tune in to Kevin and Thom's show, which is broadcast live daily from noon to 2pm on 980AM and also streamed online.
The developer-vs-the-town drama playing out in Little Washington, Virginia, has not abated as the calendar moves toward a crucial town meeting called for tomorrow night. In advance of that, I did an interview this morning with the town's mayor, John Fox Sullivan. Here is is: John Fox Sullivan Interview.
Little Washington, Virginia, is one of the most peaceful communities in the Washington area. I know. I've been visiting there since the mid 1970s and owned a home on Main Street from 1999 to 2004. But the calm demeanor has cracked loudly in the face of development plans from a big Washington developer. The vitriol has reached a point where the town's newspaper has organized a community meeting for this Thursday night. Read all about it at washingtonian.com.
Today on New York Social Diary we look at Francois Delattre, the French ambassador to Washington who has been reassigned to the United Nations. Also, who will replace him at Maison Francaise?
Today's question: what can you do to relcaim your life? It's existential, of course, but timely. Once upon a time I had a friend who was both Russian and French, who said to me, in one of those moments, "sometimes you just have to throw a bomb into your life, blow it up and start over." I understood the message. Stop, boom, reboot. I hope this helps answer the question.
Now that I have your attention...
PLEASE make a reservation for this Thursday's Q&A Cafe. Omigod, we will be talking NBA, NHL, Nats, the Washington NFL team, that owner, the name issue, maybe even some tennis and golf. 202-333-9330. $25 buys you the whole show, plus beer and ballpark food.
Mix yourself a drink (we chose Bloody Marys), sit back, sip and enjoy this show -- my long-form Q&A Cafe interview with author, columnist and general ranconteur Julia Reed. We had a good time, as did the live audience, and you will, too. What's discussed? Life and love, of course, but also New Orleans, Washington, Jean Harris (remember?), Garden & Gun magazine and lots of food.
This may well be my favorite party photo of the week just passed, a week that included a gala, a barbecue, and a ball, as well as some friends winning the Belmont Stakes. It's all on New York Social Diary, where I also take a moment to praise a caftan.
Saw this little guy on the sidewalk near my house. Still alive, but barely. Maybe suffering the woes of rat poison. I don't see a rat a day, but I see a rat nearly every other day. Most often they are skittering along the edges of buildings or front gardens (they don't see very well) or they are dead. The rats live in tunnels underneath us, throughout Georgetown. They come up where there is food.
Don't hate me for posting this photo. It's part of the world.
A HOME RENOVATION THAT HAS DISRUPTED A BLOCK OF 31ST STREET
UPDATE: Council Member Jack Evans has assigned a member of his staff, Sherri Kimbel, to the parking/dumpster/renovation issue. If you need to talk with her, the number is 202-724-8058. Her position is simple: "People should be able to come home from work and park on the street where they live." This extends beyond 31st Street. If there is a home renovation that is making your parking life hell, call her.
Earlier this week I wrote about a new Georgetown home renovation that is consuming the short block of 31st between O and P Streets. The contractor has claimed six parking spaces -- that's right, six -- and is causing quite a raucous among the neighbors. Not just because of the burden the multiple "no parking" signs have put on the tax-paying residents, forcing them to find alternate parking in an already parking-challenged neighborhood, but because they find the contractor's attitude toward them to be, in their words, consistently "arrogant." There have been some contentious moments, espeically after the renovation work flooded a neighbor's basement.
It was topic "A" on the street this morning as some of them gathered to discuss their frustration. I know one of them has reached out to Ward 2 Council Member Jack Evans, but they also talked of wanting an intervention from the ANC and the Citizens Association of Georgetown.
The parking, obviously, is just one of the problems with this renovation, but it's a festering problem. It's created a perfect storm, really, of rippling lost parking spaces for the residents. Half a block over, another new homeowner has been renovating a house for months and months, consuming several parking spaces, including a dumpster, on 31st between P and Dumbarton. Half way down O Street, there's another renovation that is using a dumpster, (but, to its credit, has consumed only one parking space and the workers use the homeowner's driveway, too.)
Add to this the related fleets of service trucks and vans that also take up parking spaces. And the timetable runs into November and beyond.
"My housekeeper comes once a week for four hours and gets a ticket every other time," said one of the frustrated neighbors this morning, "but these trucks sit here and nothing happens." The residents come home from work to a block where, normally, it was easy to find a parking space. No more. Typically they could go to O Street, but that's where a lot of the service trucks park.
1. Require homeowners, before a renovation, to reach out to neighbors to discuss the demands of their renovation and the concerns of the residents in the vicinity.
2. Limit the spaces a contractor can claim for a home renovation. There's no excuse for 6 spaces.
3. Limit the number of renovations that can happen in proximity to each other. One at a time and only one at a time within a block or two. Sorry, you just have to wait. (And that is completely fair).
4. The ANC should have a street mediator who talks the arrogant out of arrogant contractors and calms the concerns of insulted neighbors.
5. Don't allow dumpsters. Dump trucks in, dump trucks out. The dumpsters are eyesores, becoming stinking pits of garbage, attract vermin of all kinds.
Most Washington dinner parties are hum drum affairs where the cast of characters are a bureaucratic version of "Groundhog Day." But occasionally something wonderful happens, a stunning talent is among the guests. That was last night, when three-time Oscar winning cinematographer Vittorio Storaro was feted at the home of the Italian Embassy's cultural counselor, Antonio Bartoli. For me, who spent many hours in the thrall of director Bernardo Bertolucci, it was a special thrill.
Storaro's credits include "Reds," "Apocalypse Now," "The Last Emperor," for which he won Oscars, and two films that blew my mind in my formative years - "Last Tango in Paris" and "The Conformist," plus later loves such as "Bulworth." In addition to Bertolucci, he's worked with Warren Beatty a lot, including successes ("Reds') and duds ("Ishtar").
Storaro is a young and spry 70, and still working. According to IMDB his latest project, "33 Dias," is in pre-production.
He is in town for a Georgetown University Italian Research Institute conference that is happening today, where the other speakers include writers Mario Vargas Llosa and Allesandro Baricco.
If I told you this view was Africa you might believe me, given the terrain, but it is Austin, Texas, which claims some of the prettiest terrain in the state. The exact location is the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - a must visit if you go to Austin.
Today on New York Social Diary I write about the Center and Austin and being in Austin for my son's graduation from the University of Texas. It's simple: I love Austin. Maybe its my Colorado DNA, that yearning for the field and prairie, for adobe and limstone and oak trees, and wildflowers. Big, open spaces. Hot sun. I love it all.
It took a month, according to Katie Carrera in The Washington Post, but the Washington Capitals have chosen new leadership: Brian MacLellan as general manager and Barry Trotz as coach. There's everything you need to know today in Carrera's piece, but we'll go even deeper at The Q&A Cafe on June 19 with guests Kevin Sheehan and Thom Loverro, hosts of ESPN's "The Sports Fix."
It'll be a Thursday afternoon, early start to the weekend; kick back with a "liquid lunch." We'll start the program at 3pm (seating starts at 2:30), the reduced $25 fee will cover a "ballpark" menu of mini-burgers and hotdogs and beer. Bring a friend, bring your co-workers.
We'll talk Caps, Nats, Wizards and the Redskins, the team with the controversial name, and we'll ask, why hasn't it been changed? We'll delve into other sports-related subjects, too.
Drink, eat, talk sports; a perfect Friday afternoon.
The show is at The George Town Club at 1530 Wisconsin Avenue. For reservations, please call 202-333-9330
A friend gave me the tastiest gift, a jar of Iranian caviar. I love to take photos and I love food and it's special when I can put the two together - it makes the pleasure of the food last longer. Caviar is a rare treat, by and large unaffordable now, and so when it comes along it's important to go slowly and enjoy each bite. With it? A glass of icy cold vodka.
This is a problem that's not unique to Georgetown, but in Georgetown home renovation can have a particularly strong street impact because parking is beyond precious. The impact is caused by dumpsters - aka a "roll off debris container" - parked in what would otherwise be residential parking spaces. In this compact neighborhood where I live, we're accustomed to, and usually patient about, new homeowners who post signs claiming a space or two for a dumpster. But this week brought something many of us have not seen before: several "no parking" signs claiming as many as six parking spaces, and on a very short block of 31st between O and P. The resident who brought it to my attention is up in arms and plans to protest. Who can blame him?
A lot of new people are moving to Georgetown and paying dearly for the privilege. It's not uncommon to hear of home sales in the multi-millions. And it's worth it. Georgetown is a wonderful place to live. But what seems to go with the big ticket purchases is major renovations (and often of homes that were renovated by the previous owner, and the owner before that, and the owner before that). Some people move here from suburban communities, where home renovation does not directly disrupt the neighborhood. For long-time Georgetowners, who have lived through various real estate booms and busts, there's not a whole lot of attention given to the flux, and the renovations - UNTIL IT IMPACTS PARKING.
In the years I've lived in Georgetown I've seen dumpsters on my street half the time. They usually remain in place for one year, but sometimes longer. Still notorious is a renovation that happened on Dumbarton Street that drove residents mad for at least two years. But that renovation, if I recall correctly, did not suck up six parking spaces on a short block. There's been a renovation underway at 31st and O that has compromised residential parking but with that house -- and it's a big house - there's only one dumpster, using about two parking spaces. That project uses up residential parking for the daily influx of plumbers, carpenters, painters and electrticians. The neighbors, who often can't find parking until after 6, aren't pleased but make do.
What's the solution? Obviously, when any of us take on a big renovation that involves a dumpster we should take into consideration the burden it puts on neighbors. Also, limit the number of contractors who take up residential parking during the day.
Here are a few snaps from the annual Tudor Place garden party, which was held this evening and was not dampened by the weather. The smart ones wore boots. Read more about it, and find more photos, here at washingtonian.com.
It was a rollicking good Q&A Cafe today with guest Julia Reed, the author, columnist and raconteur. She had the audience cracking up as she told stories of life in the south and just plain life. Julia has a gift for anecdotes. The program will air in full on DCN/Channel 16 on Friday at 8pm, and then soon after I will have it here on YouTube.
We did this interview on Friday, May 2. The full interview is on this YouTube link, with lawyer Bob Bennett talking about the Donald Sterling scandal, the U.S. attorney's investigation of his client, DC Mayor Vincent Gray, and the culture of the law in DC and the US in 2014.
At the risk of coming across very ArHuff, this is a Q&A with me that appears today on a British-based website, Women In Web, for a feature called Women in Journalism. The topics are life, work, the Web and my memoir, Innocent Spouse. The link is here. The interviewer is Laura Dunn, the site's founder.
Our next Q&A Cafe is this Friday October 17 with political and economic strategist Gregory Valliere, who appears regularly on CNBC, Bloomberg, CNN, CBS and Fox to analyze politics and the economy. We'll focus on what to expect from the mid-terms, and the aftermath. Dan Rather is scheduled for November 7 and "Redskins" president Bruce Allen on November 18. Fee: $35, all inclusive. The George Town Club. 1530 Wisconsin Ave. Reservations: 202.333.9330. All are welcome.
Visit this link to view our archive of broadcasts: The Q&A Cafe on YouTube
Author, interviewer, and photographer. Read more...
Here is information for my popular memoir Innocent Spouse...
MEDIA: For book-related inquiries, please contact my agent, Laney Becker, at 212-243-8480