The Whir Before the War

By John Kelly
Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The recent Answer Man columns about helicopters in the Washington area prompted a phone call from Ray Lustig, a retired Washington Post photographer who lives in the Palisades section of Northwest Washington.

Ray has lived in that neighborhood for 39 years. He's had a lot of time to make some detailed observations of its various rhythms. One thing he's noticed is that every major U.S. military action was preceded by increased helicopter traffic over his house, as choppers shuttled people back and forth between the Pentagon and CIA headquarters, which is across the Potomac River from where he lives.

Desert Storm, Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom -- Ray said they all came after weeks and weeks of helicopters big and small traveling the well-worn air route above his house.

I had a hunch where this was going. Uh, Ray, have you noticed anything, say, recently?

"The movement in June was truly extraordinary," he said, a near-constant chatter from 6:30 in the morning till 2 in the morning. "I figure they're either planning the endgame of the Iraq war or they're going to bomb the nuclear facilities in Iran."

Couldn't those choppers just be full of Pentagon brass taking advantage of the all-you-can-eat salad bar over at Langley?

What Do You Know About the Croutons?

I can just see me getting a knock on the door late one night. Two dark-suited men with curly wires coming from their ears are standing on my stoop.

One speaks: "Mr. Kelly, how did you know there was an all-you-can-eat salad bar at Langley? Who is your source for that information?"

"I, uh . . . "

"Do you love your country, Mr. Kelly?" says the other.

"Well, I . . ."

"Or do you think our nation's defenders don't deserve access to a fully stocked, sneeze-guard-protected and reasonably priced assortment of fresh fruits and vegetables and an equally impressive selection of condiments with which to dress them?"

"No, I . . ."

"Do you know what Cuba is like in July?"

"I suppose it's . . ."

"Hot, yes, but it's not a dry heat, Mr. Kelly, believe me."

Oh, I do.

Suit Someone Else

We gain weight. We lose weight. We retire. We decide for whatever reason that the lady lawyer look just isn't needed anymore. What do we do with that closet full of extraneous work clothes?

For 15 years, Suited for Change has been helping to clothe unemployed women who want to become employed women. In addition to providing them with appropriate outfits, it also helps teach them the skills they need to join or rejoin the workforce. Since it was founded in 1992, more than 13,000 low-income women have been helped by the nonprofit group. Last year, some 1,300 women were "suited."

Suited for Change hopes to gather even more women's outfits this year. If you're a woman (or, I suppose, a cross-dressing man) and have clean, stylish professional clothing you aren't wearing, contact the group at 202-293-0351 or

Dress for Success (202-544-3373, ext. 264; is another organization that provides career training and work outfits to low-income women. And MenzFit (202-396-2050; is interested in men's suits, dress pants, belts and dress shoes in good condition.

Send a Kid to Camp

In case you missed the news: A foundation has offered to match any donation that comes in during the final week of our Send a Kid to Camp fund drive. I know a few readers are leaping at the opportunity by donating $355. Double that and it covers the cost of one child at camp for one week.

Our goal by Thursday is $475,000. Our total so far is $407,579.90. We're very close, so if you want your gift to be the one that sends us over the top, send it in today. Here's how to make your tax-deductible donation:

Make a check or money order payable to "Send a Kid to Camp" and mail it to P.O. Box 96237, Washington, D.C. 20090-6237. To contribute online, go to Click on the icon that says "Make a Donation." To donate by MasterCard or Visa by phone, call 202-334-5100 and follow the instructions on our taped message.

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