Friday, July 28, 2017


There was a time here in the D.C. Metropolitan Area when the population was smaller, younger, and lots more fun. It was actually possible to get a speeding citation without looking for someplace where there was space in traffic in which to speed. 

Ditto being able to un-ass your ride when you went into - it's unbelievable, we know - even Georgetown for a night's entertainment. 

And entertainment was lots more accessible; and you could still see nationally known acts such as Blue Oyster Cult, Roy Orbison, John Denver, John McLaughlin and many others at venues such as Crazy Horse, The Bayou, Desperado's and the late lamented Cellar Door. The Cellar Door was one of the best "small rooms" in America for big name acts, and for jazz there was Charlie Byrd's Blues Alley and the One Step Down lounge at 24th and Pennsylvania NW. 

Even major arts venues were more accessible back then. The Kennedy Center (where we saw performances by Carlos Montoya and Andres Segovia)  and George Washington's Lisner Auditorium were easily reached by car, which said car could be parked within easy walking distance of the performance.

We must admit to having had a penchant for going to strip clubs once in a while. These existed in Virginia but were "Pasties and g-string" clubs. D.C. clubs were "bare tits and everything" clubs, and the best of them were found on 14th Street NW between I and K Streets. Benny's Rebel Room, the Butterfly Club and "This is It?" were the most famous and busiest on the Strip. Their flashing marquees were powered by incandescent bulbs sequenced by rotary analog timers whose "tic tic tic tic tick" provided a background rhythm for the scene.

Eating out was less complicated then. The big ongoing competition between rival restaurants was between Mel Krupin's and Duke Ziebart's over who had the best matzoh ball soup. French was French, from formal classic restaurants like the Rive Gauche (now a Banana Republic clothing store at the southwest corner of Wisconsin and M) to informal bistros like La Nicioise (where the waiters came on roller skates) and "Au Pied du Cochon" which was open 24/7/365 (Famous for the re-defection of a Soviet defector and now a hamburger stand). 

Chinatown was palpably Chinese and had some very good and very authentic regional Chinese restaurants. Li Ho Food, a humble little place where slabs of roast pork and whole roast ducks hung from hooks in the front window finally bit the dust a few months ago after decades of very authentic Chinese cookery. Now Chinatown is identifiable mainly because Fuddruckers and Subway and other American shops are required by law to post their names in Chinese characters (fun fact: Mandarin for Chinatown Metro Stop translates literally to "Beautiful Village Underground Ox Cart")

The time we are here writing about is the early 1970s to the early 1980s. Those were the days of very interesting Washington scandals. There was the Representative Wayne Hays scandal featuring Elizabeth Ray, whom Hays hired as a "secretary" although she could barely type.  Then there was the Wilbur Mills affair, when Congressman Mills was having an affair with "Argentine Bombshell" stripper "Fanny Fox". One night they had a fight in the back of Mills' limo and she jumped out. Mills chased her around the Tidal Basin by the Jefferson Memorial, begging her to come back, until they both fell into the drink and had to be pulled out by the United States Park Police. The resulting loud and very public scandal provided much salacious and entertaining evening news and newspaper fodder for the better part of a month.

There was one such scandal wherein we personally knew every participant: The Bauman affair; wherein a conservative Republican congressman (Robert Bauman) who was a closet gay propositioned a 16 year old boy working as a "go-go" stripper in a failed seafood restaurant called "The Chesapeake House" which had been re-purposed as a homosexual strip club (Things were outrageously loose back in the day).  The boy's 17 year old lover filed a complaint and Bauman was in trouble plenty. Every person involved in that affair had been a passenger in my taxicab. 

Speaking of the taxicab business: Back then, the government limited itself to making sure the cab and the driver were safe for the people who used the cabbie's service and the system for determining fares was Hoyle. Today I miss the old days, and thank God I didn't cross over from Virginia to D.C.. 

Back in the day, D.C. cabs operated on a zone system, and a savvy rider could save himself a dollar or more on a ride just by hailing a cab from the other side of the street. But then D.C. decided to force taximeters on the drivers.

Next they required D.C. cabs to accept plastic for payment, even on street hails. Goodbye days when one could knock off early and drive into Maryland for a seafood dinner. This practice has since spread to the Virginia suburbs, where we resist it (but futilely). And D.C. - having forced their cabbies to pay for at least $3,000 worth of modifications to their vehicles less than 10 years ago; now wants to require them to modify their cabs again with GPS based meters and other such things to the tune of almost five grand per cab. 

Living here has gotten too damn complicated and restrictive. I'd move back to Dayton, Ohio in a New York second but for one thing:

THERE AIN'T NO FUCKING MONEY IN DAYTON. Not like there is here. 

Gawd, I miss the old days.

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