It has been a while since I went on a right royal binge. A real bender of sorts that has me step outside of my normal routine or comfort zone. Frequenting D.C. for business as I do, I have fallen into a rut of eating at the same spot each time, each day I am there. There are reasons for this. The place is mature. The menu is good; the prices are affordable from a Gotham point of view, the selection of booze the same selection for any establishment of a similar classification or Yelp(TM) category. Having gone there from time-to-time over the past four years, the bartenders know of me, can remember me from my last visit even if it was months prior, and even know basic biographic information.
What is more interesting is to binge at three bars. Bar hoping! But also with an adult intellectual flare of discovery, or is that a mask of respectable anthropology to cover a lifetime of alcoholism?
Bethatasitmay, the night started out with the middle class, shot up to the one percent, and then drilled down to the upper lower class, since, as it is, the truly destitute don’t dine out, as far as I know.
There is an image of one worker eatery, but this is not from our nation but that of Peru. The place is the middle of the half-cut-down jungle, and while there was at least one tourstica place to eat, there was also a place for the workers. Drudge day tired men from far-off places who I had seen during the day lugging stones or piles of horse shit. The place was an ancient building. No glass in the window. Maybe one electric lamp. The walls had not seen paint since the days of Simon Bolivar, and the men gathered about on rotten tables and sat on sleazy plastic chairs mirthlessly eating food from gungy plastic plates. I dared not stare too long. But I was fascinated. The food was cooked over a propane burner, and the sound of the flame and the smell of propane stood with me. This was not a Dennys. Not an IHOP. Not even the lowest class low class classless greasy spoon the most Sarah Lawrence cum Vassar [identifies as a] girl/woman could find and document as part of some term paper or lead article in that shitty socialist newspaper –
The one that was pushed in our faces around campus before we learned it was totally a scam.
The first bar is certainly just above the aspirations of a good majority of the middle class but so deeply represents the values from Concord, NH to Charlotte, NC. Depending on how one defines the middle class. The classes have never been a homogeneous group no matter the time period, but let us flatten or winnow down to at least present the people in the Acela-Charlotte Douglas Airport (CLT) corridor as representing the middle ground of economics and culture of our classless nation.
For those long-time readers, you have read my entry on the Old Ebbitt Grill. For all others, I will give a quick synopsis. Old Ebbitt is close to the White House in Washington the District of Columbia and serves stalwart victuals and boasts many original elements from long ago when the bar was located in the now demolished Ebbitt House Hotel. The menu is 19th century but inflected with the tastes of our current times. That is why I return. However, there are also subtle things I enjoy. Meeting people more middle class than I and conversing with them is one. At Old Ebbitt, I have met retired professors, former foreign embassy staff, low-level Department of Homeland Security, and sundry other professionals young (+35) and old (+65). I was there one night when [REDACTED] was there with his/her staff of fawning doe-eyed dunderfunts – a cast of young people out of a twentysomething version of the TeeVee show VEEP, and just missed Rachel Maddow as she apparently staggered out to film her program. “That place is full of spooks,” the UberLyft man exclaimed as we drove off one night back to my hotel in another country. Come again, I may have said. “Spooks, guys who worked for or are working with all sorts of agencies, like ex-FBI and ex-CIA, they all think they are important and stuff.” I had to agree, having had a few too many drinks with a spook all night, a self-proclaimed former-DEA-former-INS-former Border Patrol now working for some branch of the DHS apparatus. My drinks that night were good, but even after I polished off the [very yummy but they don’t pay me to give reviews], I felt I needed to take advantage of being in the heart of D.C. before returning to the hotel in the county I was staying in. I felt I needed to go somewhere else.
So, I went to the Trump International Hotel, a luxury hotel stuffed into the old Post Master General building. What a funny place for such an establishment, connected as it is to an anti-Federal Government services administration to be housed in the very and (maybe first) Federal department that helped connect this nation and was founded by a nominal Founding Father. I sauntered to the door without any issue as I don’t fit the profile of so many things that may give me a hassle at the door, or so I thought. I imagined an orgy of vacuous sucking inside.
A hateful rally of hooded figures and bankers laughing and having an orphans light my cigar with large denominational bills. However, that was not the case. After the doors were opened for me, I subtle up to an empty space at the bar. Everyone about me seemed… stunningly… normal. Of a certain rank and class. There was a huge room behind me as I sat at the bar and the comings and goings of many very fancy people. These people looked like others I had seen in D.C. Money yes, but different skin tones and languages as we today boast sets our Great Nation apart from those imagined monotonous hum-drum nations of monolingual monochromatic skins. While the clients at the bar were not there to chat with strangers, such as Old Ebbit, they were in gregarious groups telling various stories the mirth and depth of which I was disinclined to eavesdrop upon as I suspected none of which were that interesting even if I were interested to do so. While I hoped for extreme tacky and the typical brass claptrap of a Trump palace, the most I could come up with was the bar snacks, a trifold dish separating a serving of salted nuts, pork skin, and jellybeans. Not sure the message there, but that’s what we have. Middle of the road middle-America bar fodder, anti-Muslim pork, and childish Jellybeans – some toss back to Ronald Regan perhaps. Or maybe, like my anticipation of the orgy of the new “normalized [this and that]” I just saw the same upper-class D-bag-upscale-concept-meta-fusion bar I have already been to in Boston, New York, Miami, Columbia, Chicago, Houston, Denver, Los Angeles, Seattle, and points in-between. At the cost of the drinks, this avid citizen reporter could not afford another drink and had to leave. Maybe the crazy Eyes Wide Shut shit started just after I left, but I left.
I hailed a LyftUber to get back to my hotel, out in the outer side of the beltway, outside of the bubble. As it was a shared ride, I had to get in with two other passengers. Both looked at me with sharp pointy daggers shooting from their eyes but in a polite D.C. way. I greeted the occupants as I have been trained to do. The tension in the car built, and finally, I felt I had to address the voodoo curses these ladies were put upon me.
I finally felt it was no longer any fun to just let them stew. “I didn’t vote for him!” I breathlessly exclaimed. The car warmed up, but only by one degree above zero. “I was just curious to see what it was like. I swear, I didn’t know where I was, I just thought it was a factory… we didn’t have any idea the extent… I continued and expanded and slightly embellished my passion and thoughts a little on the spot. The passengers warmed, but not like giving me their number warm. They became more able to chat in that UberLyft sort of way. After a little awkward chatting, each in turn gathered their NPR tote bags full of speciality fair trade coffee and complete cardboard folding cutout Flat Stanley images of the loosing presidential candidate, got out at different addresses on Capitol Hill, where houses go for above two million and the rent is perhaps over four grand for a one bedroom … not that I look at property values on the spot… But this is the age of the Internet. And I can drop a pin on a real estate site and find listings before the shared car driven by the private contractor who is working for a much of as little as s/he wants for a large multinational corporation is even to the first controlled intersection. I thought it ironic. Or something like that. I had a few drinks by then, one of which cost the equivalent of four hours or minimum wage work, and was feeling chatty, so I struck up a conversation with the independent contractor driving the private but shared car using the tech app that is making our lives both better and worse.
My temporary driver (not my subcontractor he didn’t work for me so and I need not worry about benefits because this is just a ’side hustle’ like all those nice ladies had going when they worked for Hustler) was an immigrant from a war-torn nation that was rebuilding or about to return to war, such as these places are. As with many of those who I meet who drive me to the places I need to go, we had an informative conversation. We also joked about the people in the car and their total aversion to my getting picked up outside the Trump Hotel. He said they both were saying some naughty things before I got in. As with other immigrants, he was shockingly positive about Mr. President. I didn’t engage. For I had a third destination of the night.
When I was young we could not afford to eat out, and we certainly could not afford to eat at the Red Lobster, despite the barrage of commercials all buttery and dripping hold up the fork and look at that, that shrimp just hit the table and jumped up in spices and now jump cut to a mouth.
That place looked delicious. It wasn’t a dream to eat there, but it was something when I was young I felt was a goal of sorts, at least until I got educated and knew better. Life happened and by the time I graduated school I overshot the Red Lobsters of the world and went right for the old established eateries, places balanced on the edge or rivers that caught their own fish, places that took only cash and had busted screen doors, places that never had buttery commercials on the Teelly Visionaire and certainly were not of the same classification as that of Red Lobster(TM) and cater to a different class than found at the previous establishments (see above). In order to get to the Lobster of Red, and not use a car, I had to cross several lanes of traffic and navigate an area unfit for pedestrians. Next to the eatery was that of a chicken place and one of the many McDonalds that today dot the bucolic American landscape as once churches and vestries did. To the other side a strip of commercial establishments including a tyre shop, a karate school, a nail salon, and some other establishment so fortean as not to register in my mind least I go insane. As soon as I entered the establishment, I knew my viscera were in for a ride. The restaurant side was quite crowded, I thought, for the time and day of the week, but there was a child’s birthday [this was after 10 PM], so it made sense there was a crowd. I sauntered up to the bar.
If one travels for work alone, one eats alone. There are few places that do more than give you the squinty eye when you require a table, and even if one procures a table, one is eating alone, and other patrons give the stink eye. Why is that person eating alone? What is wrong with him/her/it? So out of habit I typically eat at the bar. At the bar was the remains of the previous patron. Not anything different than a thousand other places, but this time, and for the duration, the items were never removed.
To my left was a sole person who was just packing up to go. By this, I mean dumping the sloppy contents of many dishes into a plastic container. To my right was a “girls night out” group, where were very particular about what they wanted, what they wanted to be sent back to the kitchen, and the amount and price of each dish. They were also drinking these concoctions that were served in glasses the size of skulls, but I knew had little content other than high fructose syrup. I ordered a drink and after a few sips had a splitting headache. Two bites into my supper I knew the worst. I was a food snob. I was not willing to guzzle corn syrup nor eat food-stuffs that came right out of the freezer, had a jar of something poured over it, and was nuked for fifteen minutes before it was served to me.
I am not sure the lesson learned from hitting these three establishments in a single night other than I should have done in in ascending or descending order based on Raceclassgender. Nevertheless, I pondered my night, and my spilling headache, when returned to my divorced dad style hotel out in the suburbs of our National Seat of Power. That I am good with returning to two of the three establishments may show my hand and political leanings or mean nothing. If you have time, have money, and want a tour, I recommend hitting three very different social-economic-cultural-gastronomic establishments. Perhaps you will see something too. Either going down, or coming back up.