This Ain’t No Foolin’ Around

There’s nothing like an international conference to reinvigorate your prejudices against Eurotrash. On Thursday, as Chatterbox struggled to escape the limo-lock around Washington’s Madison Hotel, where NATO conferees were descending en masse (the answer to the question ‘Whither NATO?’ it turned out, was the intersection of 15th and M streets), he found himself mumbling resentfully about a Million Headwaiter March. The next day the streets of Washington were empty–federal employees had been warned to stay away–and Chatterbox told himself, no, he’d done our allies discredit, they were thinking grave thoughts about blockades and other war plans. But Saturday’s Washington Post reported that the NATO visitors were disappointed with the quality of DC’s nightlife. “It’s a pity it dies on weekends,” said Vasco Colares, a spokesman for the Portugese defense minister. “As far as we know, Washington is a suburb of Baltimore,” said Jan Skorzynski, a Polish journalist. “I like it for a couple of days,” said Belgian Defense Minister Derycke (that’s how the Post identified him; maybe he only has one name, like Sting), but “to Belgian standards [!], it’s not too exciting.” Chatterbox, who does not dispute that Washington fares poorly in any international ranking of cities that sizzle after dark, found only one NATO official who came here to work: Petr Burianek, a member of the Czech delegation. “During the summit, it’s impossible to do anything but the summit,” he told the Post. The U.S. press, which trashed President Clinton for golfing during the war (unfairly, Chatterbox thought), should be harder on NATO officials who partied the night away–or bitched that they could not do so–when they were supposed to be stopping the massacre and expulsion of ethnic Albanians. Can’t they go three days without boogieing down?

–Timothy Noah