Gossip Scribe Finds Bumps in the Road as Travel Writer

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By Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
Sunday, July 2, 2006

You thought writing gossip was rough? Try travel reporting.

Washington gossip Karen Feld left her column at the Washington Examiner in May after more than a year on the job. "I decided I didn't want to be there anymore," said Feld, who's reported Washington gossip since 1969 for a variety of publications. "I'm not interested in being a colleague of either the boys or girls on the make. There is an unprofessional cadre of wannabes out there."

That applies, she said, to both gossip and travel writing. She got into two public dust-ups doing the latter in the past five weeks.

In late May, Feld attended the North American Travel Journalists Association's annual conference in Stowe, Vt., accompanied by Campari, the toy poodle who goes almost everywhere with her. She complained about a number of things on the trip; Executive Director Hillary Dunn took her aside at a reception, asked what was wrong, and said Feld lit into her, using vulgar language.

"I was pretty strident in my criticism, which I thought was constructive," countered Feld, who denied using any obscenities. "I have my admirers and detractors, but I'm honest. Don't ask me unless you're prepared for an honest answer."

A week later, Feld (sans pup) left for a trip to Thailand sponsored by the country's tourist authority. By the second day of the tour, she was bickering with writer Yvonne Yorke on the van. "As long as I've been doing this, I've never seen anything like it," said Yorke. "It wasn't pleasant." Yorke, who is Chinese American, said Feld called her a "Chinese dragon lady." Feld denied it but admitted the trip was "terrible" and said she decided to "cut her losses," left the group and stayed in Bangkok by herself.

"Overall, people will tell you I'm a professional, I work hard and I try to be fair," Feld said. "I have trouble with people who are not professionals."

A spokeswoman for the Examiner said Feld is no longer an independent contractor for the paper, but had no comment as to why. The Thai tourist authority had no comment about the trip.

Meanwhile, Feld said she's taking a break at her Maine home ("Poodlewood") with Campari and Biscotti . She said she'll continue writing travel pieces -- but going solo. "I don't believe in group journalism," she said.

The Georgetown Restaurant That's Flush With Romantic Possibilities

Mie N Yu restaurant in Georgetown has an impressive list of accolades: Favorite Restaurant of the Year at the 2005 Rammys, Best First Date Spot in the 2006 AOL City's Best Awards, and a decor award in 2004 from the International Interior Design Association. Now Details magazine says Mie N Yu has one of the best public bathrooms in the country for . . . a quickie.

The magazine's June-July issue explores the latest trend in instant gratification -- sneaking off to a restroom for a romantic tryst -- and names seven hot spots in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Miami and Washington. Mie N Yu made the list because "the floor-to-ceiling stall doors at this opulent Georgetown restaurant create soundproof havens."

Okay, the restaurant is sexy (lots of candles, plush pillows, dining nooks) and the bathrooms are modeled after a lush Polynesian houseboat. "You gotta see it," says manager Dave Troust , who's a pretty good sport about the whole thing. "We understand that the exotic ambiance of Mie N Yu is an aphrodisiac itself, but our clientele is too sophisticated for that sort of behavior."

Translation: Get a room, people! But not that room.

The Teacher's Security Detail Offered a Lesson in Playing It Cool

After all those movies about presidential kids ("First Kid," "First Daughter," "Chasing Liberty") we assumed the First Twins were protected by big guys in sunglasses and dark suits lurking nearby. You know -- hilarity ensues when wily kid tries to give the agent the slip?

Real life, as it turns out, is much less cinematic. The presence of Jenna Bush at Elsie Whitlow Stokes Community Freedom Public Charter School this year was "an extraordinarily normal experience," according to founder Linda Moore.

The First Twin worked at the Mount Pleasant school for part of the 2004-05 year, then applied for a teaching position and went through the same process everyone else did. When the school decided to hire her, Moore understood there would be security issues, but says the Secret Service all but blended into the walls: "I gotta tell you, they were transparent. These agents were . . . well, I can't tell you how professional." Surprisingly, the media, except for a few calls to the school, essentially stayed out of the way.

As a result, the students in "Miss Bush's" third-grade Spanish-English immersion class were only vaguely aware she was the president's daughter, and she could interact normally with the kids, faculty and parents.

Jenna's headed off to teach in Latin America next year, but has a job waiting if she ever comes back to Washington. "Oh yeah," said Moore. "In a heartbeat."

© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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