After taping Tim Russert’s program (a full hour, which will air six times this weekend), I left for the Richmond Junior League Book and Author Dinner, where Bennett Cerf and Katharine Graham had gone before. All the indicia of dread were present: large ballroom, lit podium, 1,000 people, many of whom would surely be nodding off after eating the heaviest chocolate dessert I’d seen since Wednesday’s Black Russian hot fudge banana split. Thinking the chocolate would have a calming effect, I ate every bite. Slightly tempering my dread was the presence of wine—which always makes those still awake laugh easily—my initial book sales, and a lovely room at the turn-of-the-century old Jefferson Hotel in Richmond, Va. How I love hotels! All the fluffy towels I won’t have to launder. (I take way too many showers.)
Until I was out of college, I knew the hospitality industry from the back stairs only; I would meet my grandmother after her shift as a maid at the Hotel Washington. An Eloise manquée, I was captivated by the smell of starched linen, the minute perfection of toilet paper folded into a tiny triangle, the standing ashtray imprinted with a coat of arms. But I have some advice for ailing hotels: Lose the magnifying mirrors and scales. They’re bad for business. Despite the fact that I’d been eating like a truck driver, I still expected to lose weight during my stay. Confirmation that I hadn’t was discouraging. And I certainly didn’t want to discover that the bags under my eyes had grown to the size of steamer trunks. While I’m on this tirade, I want another branch of the tourism industry to know that although I feel sorry for the little airport shops going bankrupt, I feel no sympathy for the plight of the corporate heads at the airlines who made customers like me—those of us who couldn’t decide 21 days in advance that we wanted to fly to Los Angeles and stay over a Saturday night—pay through the nose. And the president of American Airlines who ordered pay cuts for his workers while he was secretly pocketing a bonus and a pension? There are no printable words for you.
Teresa Heinz has replaced Bill Bennett as the talk of the town. Can someone be too honest? Apparently so. She’s being castigated for telling Elle magazine she misses her first husband, who died suddenly (in a helicopter crash) when she was still young enough to be madly in love. By all appearances, she loves her second husband, Sen. John Kerry. But he’s running for president, which means she’ll be expected either to turn into a potted palm or learn the Nancy Reagan gaze. I’ll grant that she shouldn’t have said “Doesn’t everyone has a pre-nup?” but kudos to her for saying she did—and more uncommonly, for admitting to Botox. She’s added Kerry to her name because, if your husband is running for president, you have to. (How many aliases did Hillary have before that Rodham crept back in?) My generation tried the hyphenated route for their kids but, when a second generation is wrestling with four hyphens, something’s got to give. There’s a school of thought that in politics you’re allowed to lie about sex (the Clintons again) and plastic surgery, though the Eighth Commandment neglected to mention these exceptions. Many women I know use Botox; I can’t because I wouldn’t be able to frown with disgust at Novak on television. But when I get these steamer trunks under my eyes fixed, I hope I look to Teresa’s smooth forehead for inspiration and own up to it. If authenticity is good for Bush, why not for Heinz?
Now I’m off to tape Chris Matthews’ Sunday show—after that, only two more to go. Like Tim Russert, Chris and I got into political journalism by taking the road less traveled. We went the non-Harvard Crimson route, by way of Catholic school, sentence diagramming, and our parents’ pride in JFK. I met Chris and Kathy soon after I arrived in Washington. Along with Kathy’s mother, I cooked their wedding rehearsal dinner 20 years ago. Courtney, around six at the time, separated 120 eggs for chocolate mousse cake. Two years ago, on May 5, Chris and Kathy returned the gift by hosting Courtney’s rehearsal dinner at their house. Not to mention that “other” author again, but It Does Take a Village.
I’m tempted to do a big sum-up of my week, but I’ll simply mention what’s still undone: getting to the DMV (did I mention that a building a city-block long had a crumpled scrap of paper Scotch-taped to the door to announce its new hours?) and convincing the Old Georgetown Board to allow me to make changes to the front of my house. I did some research at the library and found that a window was once a door. I took a Polaroid (just like the nice fuzzy ones I’ve been sending to Slate all week), but sadly the Board wants drawings, so I’m working on them with an intern in my friend the world-class architect David Schwarz’s firm. (David built the Texas Rangers stadium and the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra’s Bass Performance Hall.) I’m doing the dirty work and he’s doing the art. Who could argue with that?
Whatever I didn’t accomplish this week, it turned out to be the happiest of Fridays because my brother Jimmy got the job he’s been hoping for. Although he can’t recognize numbers well enough to match grocery carts with cars in the pick-up lane like the rest of the baggers, the Giant grocery in Camp Hill saw that he could make up for that in other ways. Courtney and I shrieked over the news on the phone and argued over which one of us would get to tell him that finally they’d found a jacket and apron to fit him.