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John Kelly's Washington Live

John Kelly
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 28, 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. This week's columns:
A Red Face From a Filthy Job (Post, Jan. 28)
What's Missing in the Life of the City (Post, Jan. 27)
Thank You, One and All (Post, Jan. 26)
The Doctor Is Still In (Post, Jan. 25)
Answer Man: Free and Forgotten (Post, Jan. 24) 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.

Post columnist John Kelly (The Washington Post)


Wednesday's Sessions
World: Greece's second bailout, 11 ET
Food: Free Range on Food, 12 ET
Entertainment: Reliable Source Live, 12 ET
Style: 30 Lessons for Living, 12 ET
Weekly Schedule

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Readers Are Talking About...

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John Kelly: Baby, it's cold outside. Twenty-one degrees (Fahrenheit) last time I checked. But we're all warm and snug, aren't we, bathed as we are in the glow of our computer screens.

Today's column was about another kind of warmth, the warmth we experience as our faces flush with shame. I invited readers to send in embarrassing things they were required to do for work. I've gotten some great examples so far. Send yours to kellyj@washpost.com, with "Job Indignity" in the subject line.

Other columns this week were on the Freedmen's Cemetery in Alexandria and how it was rediscovered after a century of neglect; a grab bag of items, including three generations of Arlington orthopedic surgeons (or, as they say in England, orthopaedic); the attainment of our Children's Hospital fundraising goal; and vanished parts of Washington that readers would like to see come back.

People of a certain age want the streetcars. Me, I just want the streets. Or the sidewalks. You can't even walk in Washington these days, what with all the barricades and construction closures.

Well, anyway, let's do it...

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Virginia: As a 58 year old life long resident (actually born in DC!) your list of gone but not forgotten Washingtoniana was a trip down memory lane. One thing did cause me to go "Huh?":Rock Creek ginger ale. I realize that the old Rock Creek bottling company is no longer around but Canada Dry company does still distribute Rock Creek ginger ale...we usually buy it at Shoppers Food Warehouse.

Love your column and chat

John Kelly: Yes, thanks for reminding me. You can still get Rock Creek sodas. I don't think they're made by the same company that was native to Washington, had a plant on 7th Street SW, and was heavily advertised in the city. But I need to look into that and make a correction in my column. It's high time I learned about the intricacies of the carbonated beverage industry.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Well, after hearing the news out of New York this week about the long-term shutdown of the A line, I'll be thinking twice before whining again about Metro's woes. Suddenly, non-working escalators and occasional delays don't seem so bad. Can you imagine what it would be like here if, say, the Red Line had to shut down for 3-5 months? Perhaps I should go find some wood to knock on now.

John Kelly: Please do. Metro had a problem this morning, two in fact: Two cracked rails were discovered. One was an outbound piece of track at the Van Dorn Street Metrorail
station. A second cracked rail was discovered south of the
National Airport Metrorail station on an inbound piece of track. Something similar happened a while back. I hope we haven't reached the point where all the rails start cracking.

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Washington, D.C.: Hello John - I heard on the news this am that there is a on-line discussion with Metro scheduled for today. But nothing is listed. Metro was horrid today - think they cancelled because of that or was the news report wrong?

John Kelly: Metro does its own chats now, on its Web site. Here's a link.

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washingtonpost.com: http://www.wmata.comJohn Kelly: Now don't all abandon me. The Metro chat ended at 1.

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Maryland: What do you think of the Post's fashion guru Robin Givhen publicly chastising the VP for not dressing to her liking at the commemorative ceremonies for Auschwitz?

John Kelly: I thought she was right, and very brave to so meticulously explain why what Cheney did was wrong. I'm sure there'll be grousing about her article from Administration supporters, but once you see the photos I don't see how you can come to any other conclusion than hers. What was he thinking?

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washingtonpost.com: Dick Cheney, Dressing Down (Post, Jan. 28, 2005) John Kelly: Judge for yourself.

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Prince Frederick, Md.: Re: your humiliating experiences in the restaurant trade. John, dear, there's nothing disgraceful about manual labor and having to work for a living. What's disgraceful is the fact many thousands choose to sit on their butts and collect welfare. Some of my co-workers make no bones about wanting to sit home and have a paycheck come in the mail. Or worse, to marry for money. Too often women, the pretty young things (read "gold diggers"), feel they are entitled to rake in the bucks by just lying on their back. They get McMansions in the 'burbs, SUVs, diamonds, and tuition for their kids in private schools all in return for an "I do." I've never been able to understand why prostitutes are reviled while wives and mothers are venerated. They all do the same thing but for a different price tag.

Now for humiliating professions -- try being a secretary. Before women's lib, it was a respectable profession. Now women have to be doctors, lawyers, astronauts, Secretary of State. I work in an office where the female professionals are highly insulted if they are mistaken for secretaries. But let the support staff call in sick for a day and they panic. We pre-women's lib worker bees have to endure the humiliation. Counting the months until I can retire and get out of this rat race.

John Kelly: I hope I didn't give the impression that I think manual labor is degrading. I think more people should do it, not less. In fact Steve Barr and I were talking about that this morning. In college he worked as a dishwasher in a boarding house. Now, how many people who will end up in white collar jobs are doing that today? I think it's good for people to do all kinds of work, and to know that ANY kind of work, if done well, is important.

As for marrying for money, to each her own, right? People marry for all sorts of reasons, not all of them the best. Both sides of the equation must get something out of it, or these marriages wouldn't last.

You raise interesting points about secretaries.

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Georgetown, D.C..: You need to change your picture ... you look too bug-eyed. Maybe the 80's glasses could go. That might help.

John Kelly: I've been waiting for Richard Avedon to shoot a new picture for me, but he hasn't been returning my calls.

And I'll have you know those classes are circa 2000. The two pairs of glasses I had in the '80s were: A) as big around as salad plates and B)chunky gray Buddy Holly-style.

And anyway, it's what's inside that counts.

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Alexandria, Va.: Got a kick out of your little "senior moment" at the end of today's column... but wanted to note that for many people it may be wise to "patronize" funeral homes while you are still able to do so. It does help to remove some of the stress on the rest of the family in advance before the actual time comes, and in fact it may be necessary to take care of the financial end early if medical bills start to mount.

We happened to have patronized the DeVol Funeral Home in DC on behalf of a now-departed elderly relative... it's one of the few family-owned (non-corporate) homes still around, and they were very helpful and pleasant.

John Kelly: It's something that a lot of us don't want to think about. We probably should. I remember thinking that the instant I finished my will, I would die, that NOT writing my will was the only thing keeping me alive. Then I almost died and I HADN'T written my will. So then I wrote one.

Speaking of wills, I wanted to put a clause in mine that to get my money, my beneficiaries would have to spend the night in a haunted house. I asked the lawyer if he'd ever run across that, and he said no. I guess all those TV shows were exaggerating.

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Rockville, Md.: Hi John,
As a MoCo resident, you probably get the Gazette. Did you read the Crime section in the most recent edition? There was a report of a break-in of a home on 7 Locks Rd. and apparently all that was stolen was a goat that was living in the basement.
Now that would be an interesting story.
P.S. Your story of the brass pony brought back memories of being a dishwasher at a local country club. Ahh, the smell of eau de dumpster in August.

John Kelly: I do indeed get the Gazette, but only the Silver Spring one. But I'll look for that story. It does sound up my alley. (And I have an ironclad alibi for the night in question.)

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Anonymous: John, I can sense it: you've always wanted to be a food columnist. Am I right? Am I? No? Well, I have a food question anyway, in hopes that you have a loyal chat reader who can answer it. If I'm cooking up (roasting, if you must know) a whole bunch of potatoes Sunday morning, can I chop them Saturday afternoon or will they turn weird overnight?

John Kelly: I have no idea. People? My gut tells me they'll discolor, unless you sprinkle them with turmeric or cream of tartar or something. Why can't you just chop them on Sunday? Are you feeding 300 people?

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Arlington, Va.: You often bring up concerns about falling subscription rates at the Post, and these comments have prompted me to wonder not only whether but also how participants in this chat read the paper.

I, for instance, subscribe to it, but, with a few exceptions, I rarely read any of it. I buy it mainly because I enjoy reading the Post online--I learn a lot from the published content and think the chats are both fun and informative. For this information and pleasure, I feel I should pay something, so I subscribe.

But, in the apartment building where I live, recycling is inconvenient. This inconvenience and the absurdity of subscribing to a publication I rarely read has prompted me to consider unsubscribing.

I'm curious about HOW people read the Post. All the way through? A few select pieces. Early in the AM? On the train? While relaxing in the evening?

Mainly, I guess, I wonder how people find the time. For me, it seems easier to steal a few minutes here and there to read a piece or two online than to sit down w/ the whole paper.

I recently read some of the chats that the late Marjorie Williams and her husband published on Slate, which indicated that they read at least some part of several papers everyday, and they seemed to through them fairly fast. Still, they seemed to be spending a few hours everyday reading newspapers, which is a lot even when news is your livelihood.

How do you read the newspaper, John Kelly? And how do other chatters read it?

John Kelly: I'm actually planning a column on this, sort of an instructional guide on how to read the paper. Because our daughters have to catch the bus so freakin early, we're up by 6 a.m. The Kelly girls split the Style section to read the comics (and, when forced, their father's column). My Lovely Wife and I swap the A section and Metro. We all tend to graze, leafing through the paper in a somewhat random fashion. I probably spend half an hour with it, maybe a little more. And I look online when I get to work.

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Crystal City, Va.: I enjoyed the article on the cemetery. Does Answer Man know why the church did not want a gas station built on the land that they sold in 1946? I can understand not wanting a saloon, but what part of refueling a car and buying beef jerky does the church disapprove of?

John Kelly: I don't know why they had that stipulation. The whole thing is kind of weird. The conspiracy minded could say they didn't want a gas station because they knew holes would have to be dug deep for storage tanks, but I have no reason to believe this is true. One thing I wasn't able to get in the story was my discussion with the man who runs the Mobil Station, a very decent fellow named Asghar Butt. He paid $300,000 years ago to be a franchisee and soon he'll be out on his ear. Mobil owns the land, so they'll get any money when the city buys it. Asghar may get some relocation expenses, but they won't come close to letting him buy another franchise. And he says it would be very hard to find a location as good as this one. I think the city is doing the right thing by turning it into a park. I just wish Asghar wasn't getting hurt.

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Arlington, Va.: In high school, I worked at an ice cream store in Old Town, Alexandria. It was pretty basic stuff, but the one thing we all had to do that we all hated was drag the trash over to the compactor across the street from the Torpedo Factory (most of the restaurants in the lower end of King Street used it). Anyway, it was a dirty job and the floor around the compactor was filthy and very slippery (you can see what's coming, can't you?). One night, I was working with a new guy and trying very hard to impress him. We had to carry the bags over to the compactor, and I was in such a hurry to get back to the store that I slipped in the muck and went down on my back! He was very kind and tried not to laugh, but you could tell he was thinking, "Loser!" The owners made me go home early because not only was I filthy, but I smelled rather unlovely.

John Kelly: It all comes down to muck, doesn't it? And yet my second most embarrassing job related thing was when I worked for the Greater Washington Society of Association Executives. We had a luncheon for our members every month (it went by the catchy name The Monthly Luncheon). We were doing some sort of fundraising drive for a scholarship fund or something, the corny theme of which was space travel. We had this display of a cardboard space shuttle that was supposed to encourage people to donate. One time I had to carry it 5 or 6 blocks from the hotel back to our offices. In the wind. I felt like a real doofus carting this big cardboard space shuttle down the street, trying not to be blown into traffic.

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Frederick, Md.: Our precious Gov. Erlich threw a temper tantrum. "Respect my a-thor-i-ti!!" We have no respect for the president, why should we have respect for Haircut?

John Kelly: Wait, isn't Frederick a bit of Red in a Blue State?

My favorite part of today's article about Ehrlich's State of the State was the closing paragraph:

"[Doug] Duncan called the remarks 'disappointing.' Asked why he did not clap once during the governor's address, the Montgomery executive responded: 'That's not true. I clapped when he left.'"

Doug Duncan's a regular Algonquin Roundtable wit.

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washingtonpost.com: Ehrlich Decries 'Assassin Politics' (Post, Jan. 28, 2005) John Kelly: "Assassin politics"? No, that's what we're seeing in Iraq.

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Rosslyn, Va.: How nice that Iraq gets voting rights before the people in D.C.

John Kelly: There is a certain irony.

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Anonymous: Re. Potato Chef: Chop the potatos on Saturday. Just make sure they are fully immersed in water until you use them. This is a good way to remove some of the starch in the potatos as well. They'll roast up fluffier.

John Kelly: Oooh, fluffy....Thanks.

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Anonymous: Not to be such a drag on a Friday, but considering the funeral home talk, it might also be helpful to mention that writing down what one wishes of what to do should one ever be in a persistive vegetative state (see: Terry Schiavo) might also not be a bad idea.

That's my happy thought for the day.

John Kelly: Good advice. Just pick the right person to serve as health care executor, or whatever it's called. My father is convinced my brother will pull the plug the minute Dad gets a hangnail.

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Anonymous: Add this to your list: Yesterday's column on departed DC institutions happened to run on the final day for the old K-B Cinema on Wisconsin Avenue. (Didn't see anything in the Post about that, it was on channel 4.)

John Kelly: Yes, RIP. There was a little mention today in Style.

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washingtonpost.com: NAMES & FACES (Post, Jan. 28, 2005) John Kelly: ...to which I link right here.

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Clifton, Va.: My brother and I both worked in restaurants starting off as busboys and dishwashers while in college and high school. We later became waiters. Both of us have worked in retail sales. My sister, on the other hand, was a day camp counselor for Fairfax County in college. We all have white collar jobs. My brother and I are better people-persons and managers than my sister. Both my bro and I are better BS artists and don't stress about little things. We learned this in restaurants.

John Kelly: I think everyone should have to work in a restaurant. Even if it's for only three months. You learn a lot. It certainly makes you think twice about eating in a restaurant.

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Mclean, Va.: Just as Israelis must serve a mandatory stint in the armed forces, I think that we Americans, as a nation, would be a lot more courteous, patient, and kind (not as in kinder-gentler, just more appreciative of our respective situations) if each of us had to do a year-long stint as a waiter/waitress. Too often the people ordering are rude, impatient, and discourteous to those in the service sector. A reminder is needed to recalibrate the large-headed.

John Kelly: Yes, yes, yes. I actually worked in three food-service establishments: A Sizzler steakhouse (or was it a Rustler? I've blocked that memory). The Brass Pony, of which I wrote about today. And then the summer after high school in Myrtle Beach, working at a polish sausage place sensitively named Polack Pete's, a distant offshoot of Balmer's famous Polack Johnny's. If you can imagine the sort of person who wants a polish sausage at 1 a.m., well, I pity you.

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Anonymous: Okay, I've lived in the DC area for 22 years. The one restaurant I miss is The Man in the Green Hat on Capitol Hill. I still have a matchbook for it.

Embarrassing jobs--I need to put this online and not give names since I still work at the place and do not want to embarrass my former boss, but...I work as an executive assistant to the executive director of an education association. Associations in general are heavily staffed by women. One time when I hadn't been working there very long, my boss (a female in her 60s) was having a meeting with a group of potential funders. They came in (all women) and one took my boss and me aside and asked if we could find her some sanitary products! My boss, without blinking an eye, said "don't look at me, those days are long past!" So, I had to run around asking other female staff members (who I didn't really know) if they had any sanitary products!! Something I wouldn't even do if I needed them! Talk about humiliating!

John Kelly: What do you mean by sanitary products? Q-Tips? Alcohol-soaked gauze?

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Washington, D.C.: Re: Dick Cheney's parka. I sincerely hope this turns out to be a story of how someone on his staff forgot to pack his garment bag on Air Force 2. I just hope that poor guy/gal doesn't get fired for it. Will the truth ever be known?

John Kelly: I wonder if the truth will ever be known. But one would expect Cheney to be able to dress himself.

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Boyds, Md.: Mr. Kelly sir. Your Loyal Minion reporting in.

Can I call you Big John?

John Kelly: Um, sure. As long as it's not to my face. My bug-eyed face, that is.

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Bethesda, Md.: Re: Reading the paper--I read online to get the headlines and breaking stuff (not to mention these swell chats), and relax in the evening by reading the longer pieces and the all important funnies.

John Kelly: I condone that method. Sounds sensible to me.

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Anonymous: How I Read What I Need: Style, front to back. Then Metro, front to back (including obits). Then A-1, then op-ed, then the rest of A. Then sports (baseball season only).

John Kelly: Another fine strategy. Interesting that you wait so long for A-1.

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Rockville, Md.: More things to miss in the D.C. area:

The Bayou, the Key, the Biograph, Champions, Poseurs, the Fish Market, the Cellar Door, Desperado's, Winston's, Crazy Horse, Pall Mall, that old cafeteria that used to be downtown, the Foundry, the MacArthur, the Wax Museum, the 21st Amendment, El Azteca's, the old Hammerjack's, Little Tavern, the Cellar, the Paragon, People's Drug Store, Woodie's, the Crow Bar, WHFS, Al's Magic Shop.

Sigh.

John Kelly: And in 20 years somebody's going to be saying they miss CVS, Giant, the Kennedy Center, McDonald's....

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Tenleytown, D.C.: John: I worked in a restaurant where the owner was somewhat frugal. He would get deliveries of expired produce. I got to pluck the rotted outer leaves off the heads of lettuce. You don't want to know what went into the soup.

John Kelly: And here we were thinking soup was safe, that it hopefully had reached boiling point.

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Clifton, Va.: Bring back the street walkers around 14th St to the good old days levels. It was fun cruising and laughing at the ladies. No desire for a business transaction but a great way to spend some time after striking out in the bars in G town!

John Kelly: I'm sure they're out there somewhere. In fact, a couple of years ago we left our house very early to get to 95 south. I took a route through DC, down 16th Street, and encountered many prostitutes at 16th and L, right near The Post. This was about 4 a.m. What a long night. I was glad my girls were asleep so they wouldn't say "Daddy, why is that woman dressed in only a fish net and go-go boots?"

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Washington, D.C.: Re your new picture -- Richard Avedon is dead. Did you know that?

John Kelly: And I guess Ansel Adams is out too, huh? Henri Cartier-Bresson?

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Washington, D.C.: John --
Twice this week the Metro section ran stories with details I thought were in questionable taste. The first one was about the Maryland educator charged with money-laundering; the second was today about a murder victim found in his apartment downtown. Both stories contained unflattering yet titillating details of their personal lives, from unnamed sources, that were only tangential to the story. This seems to be a departure for the Post. Is the Metro section losing it?

John Kelly: Losing it? I don't think so. We're a NEWSpaper. We try to include as many facts as possible. You might say, oh it's nobody's business, but when a crime is committed and the police are providing details that may help explain how or why the crime was committed, and may help catch a suspect, then how can we not print them? I'm curious about how both of those stories will turn out and I think it would be irresponsible of us not to print what we know.

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McLean, Va.: Re: Subscribing to the Washington Post.
I'm a self-proclaimed news junkie. We get the Post delivered every day; plus I read it on-line. I'm also up ridiculously early because of the school bus schedule. At breakfast, I read the A section and Metro first, while hubby grabs Style and Business. Sometimes I save the extra sections (Home, Food, Health) for when I get home after work. At the beach this summer, I told myself I would not read the paper nor watch the TV news the entire time -- a nice break, I guess, but it was really hard!!

John Kelly: It is scary when you go away on vacation, or you're incredibly busy, and you don't get to the paper for a while. I say "scary" because you find you can live without it. Life goes on, even if you haven't consulted a newspaper to find out what "life" is. But that's okay. I think a lot of people feel that if they can't read ALL of a newspaper, they shouldn't read ANY of a newspaper, which is the wrong approach. A newspaper is like a salad bar: You only take what you want. You don't have to take the whole thing.

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Anonymous: There are new D.C. license plates that I've spotted over the past few months, and I can't for the life of me figure out what they are. I started seeing them this summer as low numbers (think double-digit) centered on a background that had a sort of faded out D.C. flag. Since then I've started to see more of them in increasing numbers (triple-digit, then four-digit, but not five yet!), but I have no idea what they are. No mention of them on the D.C. DMV page either. I've been wanting to ask an owner about them, but haven't had the opportunity,and I'm not desperate enough to know that I'd chase one down in traffic. Anybody have a clue? For now I'm going on the assumption that it is a super-secret cabal bent on keeping their well-publicized identity a secret.

John Kelly: Anyone? Inaugural plates?

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Herndon, Va.: Mr. K: If you can stand one more comment on planning for funerals. Make sure you tell your next of kin the type of funeral you want. I've told all and sundry they can cremate me or bury me, but if it's "bury," BUT NO OPEN CASKET! I've seen family members trying to decide "closed/open" after the death of a loved one literally come to blows.

John Kelly: They should offer a third option: Quick peek.

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Arlington, Va.: Georgetown is wrong -- I like your picture just fine. It makes you look honest and ready to listen to us dish out our complaints and thoughts for the day/week.

John Kelly: Thank you, but the damage is done. I'm having plastic surgery and then finding the nearest Olan Mills. I will spare no expense.

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Washington, D.C.: About gross job tasks...working in food service is one thing, but working in a toy store gives you a whole new appreciation for childlessness. I think one of the worst parts was putting your hand on a toy, only to discover that it had gum/drool/boogers/etc. adhering to it. And why do parents bring kids into toy stores just to look and not buy? You know the kids are going to whine and scream if they don't get anything.

John Kelly: For future reference, let's just call that GDBE: gum/drool/boogers/etc.

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Capitol Hill, D.C.: You don't have to keep an embarrassing job to suffer job indignity. I am proud that I worked my way up the ranks, from lowly intern, to a position of relative power, albeit in a very narrow area. One day, I was briefing my boss on the way to an event and I failed to see a barrier before me -- in this case, a thick rope strung at ankle height across two large planters (did I mention that I like to make eye contact when I speak?). Anyway, I managed to clothesline myself. And since it was a beautiful spring day, everyone witnessed me, falling a over teakettle and exposing the pair of panties that my Nana bought for me for Christmas. The ones with the dinosaurs in sunglasses.

John Kelly: Nancy? Nancy Pelosi?

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Anonymous: Things I miss in DC: There used to be this little coffee place. I think it was called "Starbucks." You could get coffee, a little snack, and just sit in a cozy chair and relax.

I wish that place was still around.

John Kelly: Well, there's always your living room.

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Vienna, Austria: John--

Cheney isn't my favorite person in the current administration. However, I think Givhan blew his attire way out of proportion!

I agree that Cheney wasn't the most dressed up of the world leaders. However, the part of Europe where he is is suffering through some of the worst winter weather in decades. (I'm in central Europe and where I am I have three feet of snow, one foot in the city center.) Cheney, unlike the others, was dressed for the conditions.

John Kelly: And Cheney has a heart condition and you're supposed to avoid extremes of temperature. But still, he wore a more formal coat to another occasion. It is possible to dress warmly AND be fashionable. Put on an undershirt. Get a Russian style hat. And anyway, part of fashion is occassionally being uncomfortable. You think I like wearing these nylons?

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Reston, Va.: I'm in a white collar position (admin) but I will never forget my blue collar roots.

I got to shadow my mom for her shift once when I was a teen - she was a CNA for a nursing home. A certified nursing assistant has some very important but overlooked duties, such as bathing and cleaning up after residents. My mom had to endure a lot of abuse (mostly verbal but sometimes physical).

And after seeing what she went through for a measly paycheck that taught me not to complain about my nice desk job.

John Kelly: Right. We all could use a little more empathy.

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Arlington, Va.: I believe working in a restaurant makes a person a better customer. I've waited tables, served as a short-order cook and subsitute bus-girl when the occasion called for it, and let me tell you -- twenty years later, I tend to over-tip and be more patient when I'm out with a group of people who have never worked in a restaurant. And here's a tip for anyone who does still work in a restaurant and is reading this -- don't shy away from the family with small children -- they're usually pretty generous tippers. My restaurant associates and I used to fight over who would wait on the families with small children. And now that I have two boys under 4, I find myself being fairly generous with the good people at the Silver Diner who have to clean up food off the floor, crayon marks on the table, and milk from the windows.

John Kelly: This is another expense prospective parents should factor in: When going out to a restaurant you should be sure to include protection money.

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Arlington, Va.: I really miss the Circle Theater which I used to go to when I was a graduate student and had a lot of lonely evenings. They closed it down and said they'd reopen and never did. The Circle people had other theatres but those were first run and not reruns.

John Kelly: I have to get a copy of a book I saw a the City Museum gift shop. It was a near encyclopedic list of all the movie theaters ever in the Washington area. When I lived in Langley Park in teh 80s I used to go to a big one that started off with a single screen, then got cut into two. The most memorable movie I saw there was "Lucky Lady" with Pia Zadora. I must remember to put that on the old NetFlix queue.

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Gaithersburg, Md.: "It certainly makes you think twice about eating in a restaurant. "

Exactly why I never worked in a restaurant. Ignorance is bliss.

John Kelly: But knowledge is power.

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Washington, D.C.: Re: Your new picture. Why not commission the Rack-eteer?

John Kelly: The Racketeer is obviously in jail or in a persistent vegetative state. He/she has not been heard from for months.

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Anonymous: Re: Parka predicament: I'm a government worker who makes about 1/3 as much money as the Vice President, but you can bet that if I were going to represent my nation on TV at an event with world leaders, and someone had forgotten to pack my clothes, I would have gone out and bought some for the ceremony. I've done this in the past for out-of-town dinners. If the tailoring isn't exactly right because it's off-the-rack, I can't imagine it looking any worse than what he wore this time.

John Kelly: At least wear a knit cap that says "2004" or "2005."

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College Park, Md.: I worked in a drugstore back when the, um, family planning merchandise was not on display and you had to get them from the pharmacist. I worked at the cash register up front. One day a fellow walked in, planted both hands on the counter, and said in a Texas accent loud enough to be heard in the back of the store, "DO YOU CARRY PROOF-ELASTICS?"

John Kelly: Did you sell him an Ace bandage?

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Anonymous: Re. DC Plates: Those sound like the "low number" plates that the mayor and council get to hand out every year (I think there are 1250 of them in circulation, and the designs change each year).

John Kelly: Thanks.

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Herndon, Va.: Mr. Kelly: Embarrassing job. Long, long ago, I was a movie usher when such existed, and when, on New Year's Day, there were 25-cartoon Kiddie Matinees to which hundreds of parent with hangovers would bring their kids, drop them off and head back home for a couple of hours with an icebag on their heads. One cherub first went to the concession stand to buy candy and popcorn, later a soft drink, then more popcorn and a soft drink, then, on his next visit, had everything come up right in front of the concession counter - but not so close the food/drink remnents were on the tile - oh no, had to be on the carpet. I, of course, as the junior usher, got to clean the mess up. Another happy moment of long ago . . .

John Kelly: I like how this post sort of comes full circle, getting in a gross job AND a movie theater. Now if only you could have worked in a funeral, we'd have had the trifecta.

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Anonymous: Crowned Heads, Europe: Cheney was "dressed for the conditions"? The conditions were a memorial service for 1.5 million dead at Auschwitz. I think he could afford a black coat.

John Kelly: I wonder if there will be any reaction beyond Robin's story and chattering such as ours. Any chance the White House will release a statement?

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Bethesda, Md.: Great column today -- and it sure brought back some memories. One summer, when I was in high school, I got a job as a waitress on the breakfast shift at a crummy little place. One day, another waitress invited me over to her apartment after work, and once we got there she offered me "a drink." I said sure, and she proceeded to give me a tumbler of what I thought was water but what turned out to be gin or vodka or some other powerful clear liquid. At 16 years old, I thought this was just the height of sophistication -- and was terrified that she'd notice I could barely choke the stuff down. Somehow, though, she never invited me back.

John Kelly: This sounds like a lost Bob Seger song somehow. Or maybe it's the Kinks.

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East Falls Church, Va.: I just wanted to provide evidence (ME!) that the wp.com has made me read MORE of the paper post. I refer to the Live On-Line feature. I feel more inclined to read a story, especially if I recognize the by-line! And I now know more names after getting to know individual journalists via these chats!

Was this an intended result, or merely serendipitous?

John Kelly: You know I don't know if we did that on purpose, but I'm glad to see it's had that effect with you. Papers are trying to position their product across platforms, and that includes, I guess, their reporters and editors, who go on TV and do things like these chats. If it encourages people to interact with our bread and butter business--the newspaper--then so much the better.

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Anonymous: Re: Reading the paper: I would be able to read more of my paper if it only the Post made their carriers deliver it earlier. The paper isn't considered late until 6:30, and that's usually when I get it. But I'm up at 5am (I'm an early bird) and get stuck watching the TV news because my carrier is almost tardy.

So maybe you should get the Post to require earlier delivery. Even if to make one subscriber happy.

John Kelly: I'll mention that to The Powers That Be.

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Adams Morgan, D.C.: A room mate of mine insists on getting the print edition of the newspaper. I came back to the apartment after work one day and saw him with the Post to his left and the white pages phone book to his right. He would glance at the paper and then scratch out something in the white pages. I asked him what he was doing, and he held up the Obituary section of the Post. "Updating our directory," he said. I moved out the next day. Weirdo.

John Kelly: Are you serious? Or are you joking? In either case, a great story. (E-mail me if you're serious: kellyj@washpost.com.)

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Anonymous: Used to work at KFC, and have never stopped being amused by the guy who came in one night, late, wanting a "whole roast chicken, all white meat." He was quite confused when we pointed out that this was not, in fact, possible. (We ended up selling him four white-meat quarter-chickens.)

John Kelly: I'm sure there's a researcher somewhere working on this right now, along with the turkey with six drumsticks.

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Frederick, Md.: You're picture looks just fine! You're the kind of man I would love to have. Down to earth looking and I wouldn't have to worry about a massive amount of women oggoling over you!

John Kelly: Thanks, that's very nice of....wait a minute. "Down to earth-looking"? That's one step from saying I have a "nice personality." No wonder I've never been oggoled. Ever.

But hope springs eternal. This chat doesn't, though. Thanks for all the great posts today. Keep sending me your thoughts at kellyj@washpost.com. No column, or chat, next week. We'll be dark till Feb. 7. Now go enjoy your weekend and don't forget to tip your waiter.

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