Tell about growing up in a dive tavern in a bad neighborhood, Southeast Washington D.C., but little of the politics of that Marble City surrounding me. It is just a set. A Marble backdrop on a stage.
This cold-pastoral City always intruded on my innocence. At the moment of my death, the Capitol Dome snow globe will fall from my hands, and I will utter my last word; “Souvenir.”
“You over-write El, don’t be obscure.”
Great literary writing never begins in this City, never about being born here or a first act in someone’s life. I am at a disadvantage, so I must scribble. Washington D.C. stories are always about the third, and final act of powerful people who came here at their zenith, at the pinnacle of their careers, political intrigue, and the power won or lost.
I can’t write stories with openings sentences like;
”It was the best of times and the worst of times, eating lunch at The Palm, and passing out bags of money to Senators.”
I don’t write stories about political writers or political personalities at their zenith in this town.
“I stood there watching George Will walk to his favorite eating establishment in Georgetown, with a newspaper under his arm, tripping over the curb on M Street.”
Or; “Chris Mathews got out of his car, taking his nineteen blue shirts to his dry cleaner near Chevy Chase circle. He did not put coins in the meter.”
I scribble my stories without black, bold lines to guide me. A scribbler, not a writer.
I remember being a four year old child with my Huckleberry Hound coloring book and crayons, sitting in a booth inside that Southeast, Washington D.C. Tavern.
I was wildly scribbling colors with no apparent connections. I didn’t know I was to take a dark blue crayon, move over the black lines and then pick up a lighter shade of a blue crayon and fill inside Huckleberry Hound’s body. It looked just like the colored picture on the front of the book. The cook who worked there was teaching me this. He told me I was doing it wrong by just scrawling crazy scribbling colors, and not working to shade within the bold, black lines of the coloring book.
A short, wildly gray haired, unshaven, and unkempt man got out of his booth where he had been sitting with two men, and started to yell at the cook. He told the cook I had been coloring correctly and to shut the hell up. This mangy looking little Santa pointed his finger at me, telling me to forget those black, bold lines and what the cook had just showed me. He was taken back to his booth by his suite wearing friend who looked like a banker.
The banker man said; “Sit down in the booth, and relax.”
My mother who was tending bar, came over and the banker man introduced himself as Tom, and apologized for the disruption. They had been coming around every so often in the last month, and they had taken a liking to me, so my Mother was gracious as she was to most customers.
The next week I saw them in a picture accompanying a Washington Star article that was being passed around in the bar. Mangy Santa had just been released from nearby St. Elizabeth’s Hospital and it also showed a picture of his friend Banker Tom who had been working on his release. Some of the regular bar patrons who saw them the last time they were at the Tavern, figured the other man with them was a doctor.
Most of those bar patrons were World War II vets and some of the talk was about treason and what he had done during the war. I only knew him as a mangy man who taught me to continue scribbling outside the bold, black lines, and how it was far better than trying to duplicate Huckleberry Hound.