I made my first trip to Washington in the mid-Seventies, when my older sister was working on Capitol Hill and I was naively ensconced in the Midwest, and I have to say it never seemed to change demonstrably until the early 2000s. Even under the Clinton boom, it was a mysteriously sleepy backwater with the same hotels and restaurants every time I would go down to meet my consort while he was navigating the Geographic shoals. Something happened after the first election by Supreme Court, though, and I never understood it even though DI/DO did a big piece in 2003 on a neighborhood that had become restaurant central for reasons never even hinted at. Only now, thanks to Thomas Frank’s “Wrecking Crew,” and the series of tubes, is it clear why the dark-booze-drinking city on the swamp is busting out all over with boutique hotels and trendy restaurants and Holy Foodses and gentrification. The Chimp crew would call it privatization. Cynics know it is raping and pillaging.
The money being raked in in a time of bogus war is obscene, to the point where the teevee shows a lobbyist in her mega-mansion wrapping gifts using sheets of dollar bills as paper. In a video, Frank drives around pointing out the huge sleek office buildings erected out in the suburbs for companies like KBR (formerly Halliburton, Go-Fuck-Yourself’s evil empire). Campaign ads this season will be rife with allusions to how the restaurant world has benefited (I still remember a New York restaurateur saying, just after opening his steakhouse there, that he would never disclose his party; “capitalist” would be the belief system to draw both sides). I don’t blame anyone, but I do buy into the theory that the Villagers have done the country a terrible disservice by their insularity. The frog in the pot slowly comes to a boil, and the rest of America never perceives how absolutely absolute profits can corrupt. In retrospect I wonder what the impact would have been from having an outlander fly into DC to look into it the way they do other corrupt capitals. Personally, I always find stories on New York restaurants more fascinating when they are written by wide-eyed reporters rather than our own Villagers. Even when you want to spoof them, the kernels are generally of truth.