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John Kelly's Washington Live

John Kelly
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 8, 2005; 1:00 PM

John Kelly writes five times a week about the joys and annoyances of living in Washington. He aims to show readers the Washington (and Silver Spring, Alexandria, Manassas, Bowie ...) that they know and take them places they don't know. He wants to make them see familiar things in unfamiliar ways and unfamiliar things in familiar ways. ("We may occasionally end up seeing unfamiliar things in unfamiliar ways," John says, "but such are the risks of the job.") His columns take a cockeyed view of the place the rest of the planet knows as the Capital of the Free World but that we all call home. John rides the Metro for fun and once kidnapped an Irishman to see what made him tick.

Fridays at 1 p.m. ET John is online to chat about his columns and mull over anything that's on your mind.

John Kelly and unidentified revelers. (For The Washington Post)

This week's columns:
Going Far for Someone Close (Post, April 8)
A Few Trips Around a Small World (Post, April 7)
Branching Out in the Art World (Post, April 6)
A Cold Day, a Hot Dog -- and Baseball! (Post, April 5)
Answer Man: Attack of the Killer Moths (Post, April 4)

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.


John Kelly: Can I trade lunches with you? I'm really underwhelmed by mine. The sandwich line was really long in The Post cafeteria today so I grabbed from the ready-made items: a scoop of tuna salad, a bag of Baked Doritos (Cooler Ranch! flavored) and a yogurt. Do those things even go together? I'm pretty sure they don't. I'm betting that your lunch is better than mine, whoever you are and whatever it is. Tell me, so I can enjoy your meal vicariously.

This week's columns explored the history of the gypsy moth scourge, went behind the scenes with the National Gallery of Art's flora, offered ways to improve the RFK experience at Nationals' games, and looked at more coincidences that make you scratch your head and say "How about that?"

Now it's your turn to scratch your head, or anything else that needs scratching.


Centreville, Va.:
Hi John ... I've noticed that restaurants rarely offer a soft drink that is both diet and decaffeinated. You can find soft drinks that are diet or decaffeinated but it is rare that the two ever meet in the same glass.

Can you, or perhaps other restaurant owners and managers, shed some light on this fact?

John Kelly: The Post cafeteria, god love 'em, does serve Caffiene Free Diet Coke. I wish they also served decaffeinated diet Dr. Pepper. I imagine most restaurants think their customers are either in the low-cal group or the no-caffeine group, and that the two rarely coincide.

For me, no caffeine trumps no-calories, so at a restaurant last night and I had to get regular Sprite. I also had a Guinness.


Frederick, Md.: John, when I opened the "submit question" link, an advertisement on the screen read "No Nerds Needed". I think someone was trying to bust on you!

John Kelly: I believe you are suggesting that I am a nerd. And yet nothing could be further from the truth. I may look like a nerd, but I'm one of the coolest people I know. (I hope I haven't just dissed my friends.) If I am a nerd, I am so far off the nerd-o-meter that I start coming round the other side, into the Cool Zone. What would a cool person have for lunch?


Takoma Park, Md.: Where were your seats at the Nationals game? How was the view? Would you recommend them?

John Kelly: We were in section 505, high up along the first base line. They were okay for $10 tix. I want to see what the $7 ones are like.


John Kelly: Hey there. As you can tell, we've been having technical difficulties. The internet connection is out for the entire building. Right now I'm on the 11th floor, on a laptap, tapping in to someone else's wi-fi. Sorry for the delay. The view is lovely from up here, though.


RFK = pretty people mixing with the locals: Do to the lack of luxury boxes, which most other stadiums have. Do you see RFK becoming a place to see the most famous people in the world? I can think of 100+ newsmakers and other famous people that will be at games nightly... Not including Tom Davis, cough cough.

John Kelly: Wouldn't that be neat if it did, even allowing for how uncelebritylike our celebrities tend to be? I remember seeing Newt Gingrich at a Redskins game. He spent the entire time with his back to the field. It struck me that he was scanning the crowd to see who recognized him.


Washington, D.C.: There was, until fairly recently, a statue on Wisconsin Avenue in Bethesda, next to the post office, called the "Madonna of the Prairie." I loved it--it was so incongruous. Now she's gone, replaced by orange traffic cones. Where did she go? For that matter, where did she come from in the first place?

John Kelly: That's called "Madonna of the Trail," and was put there by the DAR back in the 1930s or so. A water pipe ruptured underneath it 3 or 4 months ago and it started to list dangerously toward Wisconsin Ave. The DAR had it moved for its own safety. It'snow at the police academy in Gaithersburg. David Dabney of the Bethesda Urban Partnership says it will be 3 or 4 months before it's reinstalled. By the way, it commemorates women who went across our country in conestoga wagons. Answer Man did a story about it a while back. I'd do a link to it, but we're sucking wind here....


Rockville, Md.: John, I have to say, while some of those coincidences are fascinating (like running into your own father) how amazing is it, really, to eventually run into casual aquaintances that you've lost touch with? I mean, we all meet people every day, and most of them will eventually move on to other things. If you take all the people you ever met growing up, at schools, trips, work, etc, is it really hard to believe you may run into one of them again at some point?

Just thinking about it...but still fun to read about them anyway!

John Kelly: Agreed. If you could assign a numerical value to the various spheres of our lives, you might be able to estimate the likelihood of these coincidences. If you went to a certain college that has a junior year abroad in the same place, or you go to the same travel agent as other people in your neighborhood, maybe it's less than surprising that you would run into acquaintances in unusual places. Some do boggle the mind,though.


John Kelly: Again, my apologies for the delayed start. My assistnt Julie and 'i are finally set up, with matching laptops atop a filing cabinet, each pointed towards the building across the street, from which we suck connectivity like two vampire bats.


Arlington, VA: John,

Come on!; Diet and decaffeinated? Why not just drink water? Or, seltzer water?

John Kelly: I'm a slave to the soda-industrial complex.


Washington, D.C.: Lunch -- one of those microwave meals. Today was lemongrass chicken with brown rice and vegetables. It tasted good, but, alas, was only 240 calories. This means that by 3pm, I'll be gnawing on my desk.

John Kelly: Save the package it camem in to eat later.


Arlington, VA: I may have missed this from an ealier "chat," but what are you doing with your fingers in the picture? Is this a secret sign?

John Kelly: Yes, it was one I made up for my gang, the Cool Nerds.


Washington, D.C.: I noticed that on Sunday the Nationals played "Rock and Roll Part II" after Ryan Church's home run. I really hope that this doesn't become a regular song at Nationals games because it's the song that the Maryland fans take a juvenile delight in yelling "You suck" whenever it's played. (Talk about stupid, too--if the Nationals hit a home run, you should be cheering for them, not yelling obscenities!) Before the Caps disappeared I was enjoying the games less and less because a lot of the fans at MCI have picked up this obnoxious habit as well. I REALLY don't want the same thing happening at RFK!

John Kelly: I haven't heard that bit of audience ad lib. I like that song, but there's plenty of others i'd like to hear. Speaking of which, a reader e-mailed to say that the players themselves pick their at-bat music. I did not know that. I guess I won't be hearing any Elvis Costello.


lunch, IN: Wanna trade with me? Carrots, brocolli, and low sugar apple cinnamon oatmeal. Now THAT goes together. haha.

John Kelly: Thanks, but you can keep that.


Washington, D.C.: Having now learned more about Gypsy Moths from you, I'm wondering if you could help us all learn how to deal with another Spring blight: Tourists. They walk around like all of the people trying to rush past them are also on vacation. They stand on both sides of escalators, and seem not to understand when someone says, "Excuse me." They generally clog up our metro area and make it more difficult to get around. Is there anything we can do about them? Can we stomp on their egg sacks, as we can with the moths? Is their some way we could wrap duct tape around the beltway and Metro stations to keep them out? Please, enlighten us.

John Kelly: There's nothing you can do. And don't forget that as with certain types of fungus, tourists are symbiotic. We rely on them. Yes, they clog the Metro and walk around with that sort of bovine look, but we need their cash.


Alexandria, Va.: I appreciated your April 6 column about the National Gallery's horticulture department, partly because the Post does such a poor job of covering the museums in Washington. I wonder, however, whether your editors would do a better job catching obvious errors (such as referring to Paul Mellon as "the philanthropist who gave us the National Gallery"; it was his father, Andrew) if the Post showed more interest, as a general matter, in the fine arts. Also, you referred to "Bonsai for an exhibit of Japanese prints" as an example of the horticulture department working with "the exhibit's designer." When did that happen? I searched the Gallery's web site and there's no mention of any Japanese print exhibit there in the last 50 years or so. Is this something that's being planned now?

John Kelly: My apologies. It may have been Japanese brush paintings. As for Andrew vs. Paul, Andrew was dead by the time the museum opened, wasn't he? Paul was really the driving force behind the look and feel of the museum.


Washington, D.C. - need BASEBALL HELP: I just read that "professional" cameras are not allowed in RFK - meaning cameras with changable lenses. How can that be? So if I have a nice camera I can't bring two lenses to the park?

John Kelly: At the exhibition game I was at every other person had a huge salami-size lens in one hand and a camera body in the other. I hadn't heard about that restriction and neither had they.


Norfolk, Va. My lunch: Beef tips and noodles, but the beef was in quotes - "Beef" - and had a little trademark sign next to it, so it may be to beef like Krabmeat is to actual crab. Shrug. Thanks.

John Kelly: I think having the beef in quotes is better than having the tips in quotes. Beef "tips" would really scare me.


Silver Spring, Md.: John: Who's the babe with you in the picture above. Great chats/columns.

John Kelly: Thank you. she's queen of the Myrtle Beach Medieval Times. Incidentally, that'swhere I was last night.I shoul dhave a column on it soon. (The Arundel Mills one, not the Myrtle Beach one.)


Washington, DC: I thought of you this afternoon because I was sitting outside on a bench eating lunch. I had finished and had to head back to the office in a few seconds. But this woman came by and asked if anyone was sitting on the other side and I said no, so she sat down and then I felt like I couldn't just get up and leave or she would feel like I was leaving because of her, so I sat there for a few extra minutes and was late back from lunch!; Ugh - see what you've started? I read too much into your earlier metro seating chats!;

John Kelly: This is why you should always carry a fake pager that you can activate surriptitiously. You could have beeped yourself, looked at your pager, then shouted "Mrs. Omelmihay's kidney is ready!" And then leapt up and dashed away.


Edgewater, MD: John, there is a strange looking plane I see flying over the Montgomery Co. portion of the Beltway every moring. Any idea what it is? It looks like some sort of glider it has two tails that are connected.

John Kelly: I did a column on this last year, which, if Julie and I weren't atop a filing cabinet on laptops, we would link to. It's run by MoCo and is for traffic control. They take it up every day to monitor traffic. It's harmless, though it looks scary.


Atlanta, Ga.: Your column about bugs got me thinking about my own cousin, who is a big guy in the field of bugs (and wondering why -he- wasn't quoted in your column!). So I googled him and found him (he works at some pest control company in FL). We're going to speak sometime next week and he seems pretty excited to catch up with the family - he's my dad's first cousin. I think he lives just down the street from an aunt and uncle of mine, actually. In any event, you got someone to get off their butt and contact a family member. Which excites my husband, since he's been working on his family tree and trying to get my family motivated to help on my side.

John Kelly: It's the Butterfly Effect: My little column may have struck a blow for family togetherness.


Six Feet Under: Since we can enter any identification or name in the "Enter your City and State" blank to be displayed in these chats, do the recipients (you guys at the Post) have a way of knowing who is actually sending the message?

James Dean

John Kelly: No, I don't think so. You are starting to smell a bit, though.


Washington, D.C.: Re. coincidences: Call me a crank, but here goes: An emerging scientific theory suggests that reality is created in our minds, kind of like a dream but on a larger scale, and with lots of other people sharing the same dream, which keeps it all more "normal" and consistent than a regular dream. (Notice that even in our own individual dreams, everything feels rock solid, pretty much as it does in "real" life, plus you can see stuff, even though your eyes are closed, and you can also taste, hear and smell.)
If you accept this new theory, it makes sense that the same characters would keep appearing in your life-dream. The coincidences represent glitches in the system -- signs that there is way more to the world than meets the eye. Freaky stuff, but the more I think about it, the more it makes sense.

John Kelly: This would make a great movie. Or three!


Springfield, VA: I was able to bring a digital SLR to the exhibition game with no trouble. I think the intent of the policy is that people cannot bring in those really big, long zoom lenses, the type that the photographers who sit on the baseline at basketball games use.

John Kelly: I'll look into it. Are they worried about someone getting injured?
Or a terrorist putting an RPG inside the Nikon? Or is it like at the movie theater or concerts, where they don't want you taking pictures that you might ssell somewhere.


Arlington, VA: Tha Nationals aren't allowing fans to bring their own food/drink into the stadium. That is wrong on so many levels.

My friend brought a sandwich to the exhibition game. It was wrapped in plastic from the Subway store. They wouldn't let him bring it in, so he stood there and ate it before he went in.

The food at RFK is awful, and it's going to be expensive.

I understand not allowing people to bring in glass bottles or metal cans. The Orioles let fans bring in bottled water. The Nationals will not.

It's wrong to say that I can't bring in my own peanuts, but I have to buy the peanuts at the park. Plus, we all know that ballpark prices are like movie theater prices.

Hello, if you want to be fan-friendly, make it affordable. Paying $4.75 for peanuts and $3.75 for bottled water is an OUTRAGE!;

A few years ago when the new Philadelphia Eagles football stadium opened the team said nobody could bring in their own sandwiches and Philly cheesesteaks. The Eagles quickly changed their ways.

The Nationals should figure this out sooner than later and avoid the same black-eye that the Eagles experienced.

What do you think about the Nationals limits of not permitting food and drink to be brought into RFK? Stop the madness!;

John Kelly: It's still a work in progress. They've barely had time to catch their breath, so let's give them some more time.


Annandale, Va.: Regarding your articles on coincidences, I have a doozie for ya.

I took the METRO to work today and now I am on your chat via a link named METRO. Whoa.

John Kelly: That is something. And MEtro backwards is Ortem, the alien intgelligence that controls our reality.


Lunchti, ME: From the buffet: Salt and spicy fish, hot pepper calamari, chicken and broccoli, one unit of General Tso's chicken, fried rice, and an eggroll. And a 24-ounce Sportpack (TM) of water.

You can pretend you're me. I even look like you. When is the lookalike contest? We should all bring the same lunch.

John Kelly: Mmmm. I love Gen. Tso. How many military men have had tasty meals named after them?


Alexandria, Va.: This is a follow up to the conversation last week about Virginia driving laws and how or who should obey them. We were clearly informed that VA law dictates slower cars need to move to the right for faster cars. Well you know what? Going over the speed limit is against the law. Aggressive driving, including tailgating, is against the law too. I find it ironic and somewhat sad that people feel that they can subjectively decide which laws should be applied to them and which should be applied to others. If one person is breaking one law, it doesn't mean you get to break one or two laws as well.

Driving is a privilege not a right. I would plea for civility among drivers but it's clear that many people reading the chat last week are too self-important and the plea would fall on deaf ears. And we want to rely on parents to teach their kids safe driving. Sounds like that is going to more of a problem than the solution.

John Kelly: The level of, what, vitriol? last week was amazing to me. I obviously need to get out on the roads more often. I think I'm going to drive to Tysons for fun for a week, just to see how the other half (70 percent?) lives. We do seem to have a me-first agttitude, wherever we find ourselves.


Frederick, MD: For lunch, I had spaghetti with meatballs and garlic bread!;

John Kelly: Always a good choice.


Orange Line: What's the best place to sit on a metro train to avoid mild motion sickness? Avoiding sitting above the wheel seems to be one rule...

John Kelly: What I hear from people is that you should be sitting facing forward, beyond that I don't have any advice.


Arlington, VA: Re. tourists: Can't they just leave the cash? Do they have to stay? Alexandria's Chamber of Commerce used to pass out buttons to the Old Town shop owners that read, "Tourism -- it works for America and it works for you" and we were supposed to wear them. We edited them so they read, "Tourists, GO HOME!;" I always like Daivd Letterman's "Welcome to New York" speech -- "Go look at your own monuments and museums and leave ours alone!;"

John Kelly: I love watching tourists enjoying Washington. It makes me feel proud. I especially like it when it's Amish people. They cut themselves off from society, and they still like looking at the Hope Diamond.


Rockville, Md.: Okay John, since you've become Mr. Go-To-Person-to-complain-about-the-Post (why not get a new nameplate for it), explain this to me.

I often hear the Washington Post radio commercials in the morning. Really great ads, often highlighting stories I might not remember to look at or pique my interest in just a headline scan. The ad on Thursday mentioned a story in the A section about housing prices in a particular local county (didn't mention which) increasing to the point where a family with an average income wouldn't be able to afford anything. I was very interested to read this article as I am currently in the market for a new home.

I searched the whole paper Thursday. No such article. I searched the website. Nothing. So either you owe me an article about rising housing prices that are outpricing the average income family, or someone in the advertising department needs to look at the paper before making the ads.

John Kelly: I predict that that article will come out, if it hasn't already. Sometimes decisions are made late at night, after the commercial has been recorded. We're able to change to a generic commercial, but that may not have happened in this case. I don't know the specifics, but as I said, I just know that article will come out eventually. Just buy the paper every day untilthen.


My Lunch: Starbucks Grande Cafe Mocha w/whipped cream; trisquits and celery spread with cream cheese and, the pice de resistance (sp?) a Butterfinger. Mmmmmmm.

John Kelly: Triscuits and a Butterfinger. That may be the first time those items have been in the same sentence, and the same stomach.


Frederick, Md.: Is this a Casper the Ghost chat?

John Kelly: Sorry about this folks. Our web connection crapped out at 12:55 and still isn't back up. We've been in jury-rigged mode, making it difficult to engage in the kind of half-witty banter we've come to love on Fridays. I apologize. I imagine that someone somewhere tripped over a power cord or something. We'll try to get things fixed and do this again next week. In the meantime, I'm reachable at kellyj@washpost.com, or to play it safe: The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, DC 20071.

I need a Butterfinger.


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