Congressional Cemetery. It’s gone to the dogs. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Congressional Cemetery will help usher out the dogs days of summer with its Day of the Dog, welcoming local breweries, food trucks, dogs and the people who serve them on Saturday.
The free event, which lasts from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., is just the latest good-vibe party to swoop in on the final resting place for so many Capitol Hill denizens. Last week, the cemetery’s latest 5K, Flee the British, brought the historically minded running crowd over for a race on the 200th anniversary of the burning of Washington by the British army. The British muskets that doubled as the starting gun were a nice touch, as was “Dolly Madison” fleeing the redcoats in a golf cart. There were even redcoat hecklers. “Run, you cowardly Washingtonians!” one said from a hillock full of family mausoleums.
“Dolly Madison” attempts to get away from a marauding British soldier and save Gilbert Stuart’s portrait of George Washington. (Jason Dick/CQ Roll Call)
Washington Post writer Joel Achenbach recently recounted how weird a conflict the War of 1812, including that “we are a little vague on the question of who won,” and “we have a decent idea of when it happened, because of the name, but given the critical events of August 1814, the conflict possibly should be called ‘the War of Approximately 1812.’”
Every so often someone gripes about how appropriate it is to host such things at a cemetery. Pish posh. They’re probably the same sticks in the mud who groused about the Brits’ recent Twitter ribbing about the 200th anniversary of the burning, “a rather unfortunate event in UK/US relations” as the British Embassy’s press people dubbed it. Unfortunate, too, when so many people don’t get the joke.
But back to Congressional Cemetery. Amid the beer (Atlas Brew Works and Port City Brewing will be on hand), dog costume contest, raffle drawing for gate prizes and overall bonhomie, it’s a decent way to spend a Saturday.
When they stick me in the ground, I hope it’s in as lively a place as this.
Former White House aide Adrian Miller started writing his book “Soul Food, The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine One Plate at a Time,” in humble circumstances, but it wasn’t long before the James Beard Foundation Book Award winner took it to another level. “We should have soul food in space,” he said of a sit-down he’d had with folks about NASA.
Many forms of soul food do indeed taste heavenly, and whether they are bound for space travel any time soon is a topic that could be posed in person to Miller, who’s in town in Washington as part of the 2014 National Book Festival at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in downtown. The one-time aide for President Bill Clinton, who worked as part of 42′s Initiative for One America before heading to Colorado to work for the Bell Policy Center and later as a senior policy aide for Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter, decided to write the book almost on a lark.
At the end of Ritter’s term of office, Miller said to himself, “You know, I’m just going to go for it,” and cashed in his retirement to buy himself time and resources to research and write about his passion: a truly American food that is itself a melting pot story, a misunderstood part of our culture and a vanishing tradition. “I’m a risk averse person. It probably wasn’t the best financial decision, but I’ve never been happier,” he said.
The Beard award was “totally unexpected,” he said, and has given him and his work a level of appreciation that many books published by university presses (in this case The University of North Carolina Press) don’t enjoy. It’s an important topic as well, as it touches on issues ranging from nutrition, race and disappearing culture. Driving home the point about soul food’s endangered status, two of the local D.C. establishments I wanted to recommend to Miller for his trip to the capital city — The Rib Pit and Mr. P’s Ribs and Fish — are no longer around, and it hadn’t been too long since I’d visited each.
Miller, who is now executive director of the Colorado Council of Churches, speaks as part of the Culinary Arts pavilion from 10 a.m. to 10:45 a.m. on Saturday at the convention center. He’ll be signing copies of “Soul Food” from 11 a.m. to noon.
Two dozen Tastease doughnuts, waiting for a happy eater. (Jason Dick/CQ Roll Call)
HARTFORD, Conn. — There is more to the Nutmeg State’s capital city than the insurance industry, homes that Mark Twain and Harriet Beecher Stowe used to live in and heartbroken Whalers fans. There are doughnuts.
Located on the city’s west side — not too far from the domiciles of the authors of “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” and “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” — is Tastease, an establishment that serves up what it describes as “mini and midi donuts,” all for the good of mankind, if not its waistline.
Their midi donuts — bigger than a mini doughnut, not as big as a regular size doughnut — are cake varieties, in all flavors and colors. Want vanilla oreo? It’s there. How about apricot glazed? Check. German chocolate? Um-hmm. Red velvet? Yep. Dulce de leche? But of course.
The list of flavors and their decorative counterparts goes on and on. A collection of Tastease midis are at first a rush to the eyes, then to the taste buds. The beauty of the midis’ size is that one may sample twice as many at half the volume of a regular-sized doughnut. Truly a prized nosh.
Once upon a time, in a political galaxy not so far away, George Stephanopoulos was not the host of “Good Morning America” and James Carville was not a cable television combatant.
In “The War Room,” the 1993 documentary by Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker, the filmmakers shadow Stephanopoulos and Carville when they were virtually unknown campaign operatives, manning a fly-by-night presidential campaign that would topple an incumbent president and create the vaunted Clinton political machine that prepares, even now, 22 years after Bill Clinton first took the White House, for another run.
The very term “War Room” is so overused now, whether it’s referring to a Senate leader’s communications HQ or an NFL draft coordinating center, that it is easy to forget that this movie popularized a term that until then was primarily associated with Stanley Kubrick’s absurdist apocalyptic comedy “Dr. Strangelove.”
Watching Stephanopoulos and Carville run the show is one of the real pleasures of “The War Room.” It’s a movie that shows men at work, doing what they love in a way very few people see. It’s also funny, moves at a brisk pace and has a great soundtrack.
A couple of years back, the Criterion Collection released the film anew, and it has much to offer besides a high-definition digital transfer. Interviews with the principals, “Return of the War Room,” a companion documentary from 2008 and political catnip like an interview with Stan Greenberg about polling make the Criterion edition a great supplement for this, our current midterm political season, as well as the coming Clinton restoration run.
The Duffeyroll and its pastry brethren beckon. (Jason Dick/CQ Roll Call)
DENVER — Here in Colorado’s Mile High City, the humble Duffeyroll has been staving off hunger pangs since 1986, a cinnamon roll with simplicity that belies its buttery, sugary goodness.
As the starch industrial complex moves from fetishizing cupcakes to doughnuts, something as “been there, done that” as the cinnamon roll has, perhaps, been left behind. Or perhaps its time will come yet. Who knows? In the meantime, the Duffeyroll abides.
The original Duffeyroll has been complemented in the intervening years by other flavors — Pecanilla, English Toffee, Zesty Orange, etc. — as well as a pecan sticky bun. They’re all good, too. But the original is a graceful classic, the black cocktail dress of breakfast desserts.
It’s August, when many people take vacation and are lured by the open road. “Road Scholar,” Roger Weisberg’s 1993 chronicle of Andrei Codrescu’s journey across America in a red Cadillac, is the perfect documentary to illustrate what could lay ahead: fast food, kitschy motels, machine guns and an exploration of what it means to be an American.
Codrescu, the long-time NPR commentator, reporter, novelist, essayist, poet, professor and editor, was born in Transylvania, Romania, one of his claims to fame, as he states at the beginning of the movie. His other? That he doesn’t drive, which he remedies by not only getting a drivers license but using it to take what he views as that most American of things: the cross-country road trip.
Along the way, he traces the paths not just of Americana but his own immigrant roots. He came to the United States in the 1960s, a political refugee, and landed in the most car-centric city of all: Detroit. His return to the Motor City is a sad one, with the decay that continues to define the city taking hold in the early 1990s.
It’s not all sad. Codrescu’s wry narrative, which helped the documentary win a Peabody award, navigates the American landscape with humor and affection. Years before Sacha Baron Cohen’s “Borat” made some of these rounds, Codrescu paved the way, without having to fake the accent.
When Codrescu’s journey ends, in San Francisco at a citizenship ceremony he helps conduct, it’s a poignant moment that fits well into today’s debate on immigration. His own journey, from Romania to the United States, from New Orleans to San Francisco, shows the potential, accomplishment, absurdity and fun messiness of the American experience.
Plus, you get to listen to that awesome accent for a good hour and a half.
DENVER — It’s not what the president drinks when he visits Wynkoop Brewing Co., but it’s still a great beer worth a quaff: B3K Black Lager.
The brewery that Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper founded back in the 1980s is a fixture of LoDo and frequently cited as the pioneer in revitalizing the neighborhood. And it brews pretty decent beer, too. When Hickenlooper and President Barack Obama dropped by last month to shoot pool and drink beer, the two Democrats drank Rail Yard Ale, the establishment’s best seller, according to the Denver Post’s First Drafts blogger Eric Gorski.
Maybe it’s a contrarian nature, but I went with B3K, a German dark lager that’s unfiltered and black as midnight, because in Colorado, hoppy ales have their run of the place. It was a good choice on a hot (for Denver) day. Smooth, easy to down and refreshing, the dark color belies its light nature. It’s a quaff that shouldn’t be missed.
Maybe next time the president comes to “shoot some stick with Hick” as one of my friends here called the visit, he could go lager.
Is anything the same post-Nixon? Not really. But singer Barbara Foster was one of the first to put such sentiment to words and tunes when she released her song “San Clemente’s Not The Same (Mr. Nixon, You’re To Blame),” in 1969, bemoaning the effect of President Richard Nixon’s taking up part-time residence in the picturesque California beach town.
The song, which plays over the credits of the Penny Lane documentary “Our Nixon,” is all the more fun because it turns the knife with a smile. “You made our town your summer home/Crowned it with the Capitol Dome/Took a step out on the beach/Now Cotton’s Point is out of reach,” Foster sings, a familiar complaint for anyone whose access to previously public areas has been limited by a presidential detail.
This Saturday, Aug. 9, marks the 40th anniversary of Nixon’s resignation, after which Roll Call After Dark will scale back the Nixon obsession. Until then, hum a few bars!
Mallon, who can see the infamous office and residential complex easily from his perch as director of the George Washington University creative writing program in Foggy Bottom, has a boatload of honors and credits to his career as a novelist, essayist and academic. In “Watergate,” though, he takes it all to another level in giving voice to everyone from Nixon to first lady Pat to break-in perps E. Howard Hunt, Committee to Re-Elect the President chiefs John Mitchell and Fred LaRue to forgotten ghosts of Washington’s past like Alice Roosevelt Longworth.
Witness Pat Nixon desperately avoiding a drunk Martha Mitchell at a Hollywood fundraiser, or the president groaning in his sleep in Moscow, freaking out the eavesdropping KGB agents, or Hunt’s aggrieved anxiety in the aftermath of a botched black bag job he wanted no part of but nevertheless went through with anyway.
It’s those individuals, and Mallon’s ability to make us empathize with each and every one of them, that gives this novel a unique place in the canon of Watergate history. With the 40th anniversary of Nixon’s Aug. 9 resignation almost upon us, this is a critically acclaimed book worth adding to the reading list.
A handful of goodness in a savory canoli. (Jason Dick/CQ Roll Call)
DENVER — Here in what used to be called North Denver — then Highlands, then LoHi — there’s a restaurant that does something that feeds the masses in an exemplary way, combining Italian and Mexican influences to produce a savory canoli.
Lechugas Italian Restaurant and Lounge is a place that has been here through various phases of this neighborhood as reflected in its name changes. North Denver was an Italian enclave, Highlands was Hispanic and LoHi is riding the latest wave of gentrification here in the Mile High City. Lechugas combines those first two influences — the first owners were Italian, the current Hispanic — and spreads the love in its menu.
These canolis aren’t the ones you might expect. But they are delicious all the same. (Jason Dick/CQ Roll Call)
The canolis, dense rolls wrapped around sausage and peppers, are available in mild and hot and are a smoking bargain at $2 a piece. More than one is a meal. More than two is a party. More than three feeds the hungry — and then some — who assemble here at 3609 Tejon Street. The sweetness of the roll beautifully complements the spicy sausage and peppers. This is grab-and-go noshing at its best. No surprise that among the vehicles you see coming for lunch and take-out is a hefty dose of contractors’ trucks.
On the way out after lunch, I asked for a takeout menu. No dice. There’s no website, either. They don’t need it. People who come here know exactly what to order.
President Richard Nixon resigned the presidency on Aug. 9, 1974, capping off a political career and providing writers, historians and filmmakers creative fodder the likes of which Shakespeare would have drooled over.
Nixon’s ambition, his successes, his failures, his paranoia and his mannerisms have provided memorable film roles for some of Hollywood’s most talented actors. Here, then, are some of the best Nixon performances put to celluloid, yielding that most Washington of questions: Who is the fairest Nixon of them all?
— Philip Baker Hall in “Secret Honor” by Robert Altman. Hall’s Nixon is an enraged man alone in a White House with a bottle of booze, recording equipment and portraits of the people who have shaped his life and loom ominously over him. This cinematic one-man play is a bitter pill, and Hall gives his sweaty, drunken, extended soliloquy everything he’s got in the tank.
— Frank Langella in “Frost/Nixon” by Ron Howard. Langella’s portrayal of the disgraced ex-president seeking to redeem himself through his extended sit-down interviews with David Frost is a marvel. He shows a calculating, slippery, awkward man, deeply hurt and coldly calculating all the same, desperate to re-engage in the game.
— Anthony Hopkins in “Nixon” by Oliver Stone. Stone’s gonzo biopic allowed Hopkins to lean into his interpretation of Nixon as a less-sophisticated but just as dangerous version of Hannibal Lecter. It’s a wonder Hopkins doesn’t bite someone in this role. You have to admire the commitment.
— Dan Hedaya in “Dick” by Andrew Fleming. The Watergate scandal as comedy! Kirsten Dunst and Michelle Williams are the Rozencrantz and Guildenstern of Nixon’s White House, two ditzy teenagers who find themselves enmeshed in the biggest political scandal of modern times. Hedaya, so used to playing cranky police captains, homicidal villains in Cohen brothers movies or Carla’s deranged husband Nick Tortelli in “Cheers,” gives the most bubbly portrayal of Nixon ever, a marvel considering how dark the source material is.
— Richard Nixon in “Our Nixon” and “Nixon by Nixon.” Judge for yourself how Nixon does compared to the other Nixons out there. Penny Lane’s “Our Nixon” and Peter Kunhardt’s “Nixon by Nixon” use archival footage, Super-8 home movies and the Watergate tapes to illustrate the 37th president. Both films, particularly viewed as a package, paint a portrait of Nixon that is compelling, entertaining and haunting.
The Aug. 9 40th anniversary of President Richard M. Nixon’s resignation is almost upon us, and it’s being accompanied by the recent releases of archival material and re-interpretations of the 37th president that portray Nixon as more than just a disgraced caricature.
Both are the kind of movies that give non-fiction filmmaking a good name. Kunhardt’s film relies on Nixon’s secret tape recordings and archival news reports to paint the picture of the behind-the scenes president. Lane’s film is a different animal that uses some of the same techniques, but has an incredible twist, leaning on Super-8 home movies taken by White House aides H.R. Haldeman, John Ehrlichman and Dwight Chapin that were impounded by the FBI until just a few years ago.
What unfurls in Lane’s movie are images of a White House staff in its most candid moments, some light-hearted, some puzzling. It shows how much fun it can be in the White House and how dull it can be. Many of the film’s scenes depict a heavy conversation between, say, Nixon and Haldeman or Ehrlichman while the camera rolls on an image unfolding outside the West Wing — a hummingbird or a squirrel eating or spring-time blooms on the grounds. It’s a weird, abstractly sublime contrast.
“Our Nixon” shows a world most people don’t get to see outside of staffers and the press. It’s a view of the play from backstage, and the program is one of the most consequential epochs in American history.
DENVER — When at 5,280 feet elevation, drink Denver Beer Company’s Graham Cracker Porter. On what passes for a hot day here in America’s mile high city (90 degrees, no humidity, not a cloud in the sky), DBC’s headliner beer is the way to go. The brewery describes their creation this way: “Like a campfire in a glass, this robust beauty has seductive notes of vanilla, smoked cedar, and mulling spices. A dark pour with mild lacing, she is a rollercoaster of lush chocolate diving into a semi-dry finish of roasted malt and biscuit.” It’s hard to add to that, except to say that it goes down way too easy. The dog friendly, relaxed vibe reminds everyone that drinking beer on a summer day is a communal thing.
Denver Beer Company patrons come in all sizes. (Jason Dick/CQ Roll Call)
The art of the mix-tape lives, particularly when it’s so useful in wishing a fond fare-the-well to outgoing House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va. Brother blog Heard on the Hill compiled a Spotify list that could be used as a substitute soundtrack for the tribute video Republicans prepared for Cantor. We present the play list here as our tunes of the week, with our personal favorites coming from two disparate films: “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” and “The Sound of Music.”
If “All The President’s Men” is about the chase, the follow-up by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, “The Final Days” is about the long, slow, bleeding out and death of the hunted. A denser, complicated, multi-layered, sad descent into resignation, both literal and figurative, the recounting of the last few months of President Richard M. Nixon’s presidency is a master telling of the slog of a White House staff who knows that time is running out.
“[Press Secretary Ronald Ziegler] was exasperated. He only wanted the President to understand how dire things were, to recognize the hard choices fast closing in on him. But the President would not even accept the meaning of the words on the tapes and refused to believe that his lawyers were acting in his interest,” they write.
It’s just one of scores of examples of the sclerotic intransigence that gripped the Nixon White House in its final days. At the center of it is White House Chief of Staff Alexander Haig, the man in charge of the sinking ship, and White House special counsels for Watergate James D. St. Clair and J. Fred Buzhardt.
It’s a fascinating read, and an important, if quirky and somewhat neglected, part of the Watergate canon.
Roll Call After Dark is about what Washington does when it's not at work.
The District of Columbia is a cultural capital where you can you get your kicks from movies projected on the National Mall, lectures on vermouth or Russian avant-garde art. There's always something to do.
Jason Dick is the Hill Life editor for Roll Call and has also worked at Greenwire, CongressDaily and National Journal Daily during his time in Washington. @jasonjdick