John Kelly's Washington

John Kelly
Washington Post Metro Columnist
Friday, July 31, 2009; 12:00 PM

Post Metro columnist John Kelly was online Friday, July 24, at Noon ET to chat about horse massage, vanity plates, high school reunions and anything else that's on your mind.


John Kelly: How much have you changed since high school? If you are still IN high school, I hope the answer is, "Um, not much."

Perhaps it's the same for the rest of you, too. You often here people say "[Fill in the blank] is just like high school": Capitol Hill, Club MEd, office politics, life, whatever. Maybe it's more correct to say that high school is like life. Your personality is set in stone during those four years.

Or maybe it isn't. In my round up of

local high school reunions

this week I recounted how two 1979 Edison High grads do a survey of classmates every 10 years. For those respondents, at least, things have changed. Coffee is more popular than beer. TV sports is more popular than sex.

If you're old enough to have a few high school reunions under your belt, what have you noticed about how you and your classmates have changed over the years?

Yesterday my column featured

another round-up of funny personalized license plates

. On deadline we ended up cutting on for reasons of taste. On reflection, I think there's no reason to hide it from you. Here's the section that was cut:

About 25 years ago Vienna's Dave Henderson was startled to see this plate through his rearview mirror: TIH5 WA. "Doubt it would get past the censors today," wrote Dave. "It cracked me up so much that I almost did!"

What's the best vanity plate you've seen? What's on your vehicle.

On a more serious note: Is there anything more basic that a city should provide than water? And yet D.C. often seems incapable of that. Oh sure, it can provide water. It may have lead in it, but it's wet. And it may trickle from your tap, but it's there. Just hope your house doesn't catch on fire.

Can you imagine if your house was going up if flames like the Cooper-Cafritz mansion while firefighters had to scramble around to find a hydrant that actually had any pressure?

While we're on the subject of fires, I've received a few more clues that may aid in

my search for the memorial to Washington's last fire horse

. I'll get back on it when I'm back from vacation.

Which reminds me: I'm going to the beach. If my mind seems a little scattered, that's why. I can already feel the sand between my toes and taste the Mike's Hard Lemonade on my tongue. Ahhhhhh....


Washington D.C.: No mention in the Post about the recent Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson concert. A Sunday edition that has all but shrunk to the size of an advertising supplement, very little space devoted to books or arts, a classified section of a single page, a Sunday Magazine with one article and four or five pages of filler, comics reduced to the size of postage stamps, the baseball team finally wins one on a Saturday and no coverage on Sunday ("late game"), no racing coverage, and articles that read as though they've been penned by teenagers... The Capital of the most powerful nation on Earth with no credible newspaper. Yes it's tough times for newsprint but somehow The New York Times has managed to maintain its standards, albeit with certain cuts.

John Kelly: I lament some of the same changes you point out but you lost me when you wrote "The Capital of the most powerful nation on Earth with no credible newspaper." Do you really believe that The Post isn't credible? Because our classifieds are down to a single page? (I know: Let's PAY people to take out classified ads!) Because we still have more comics than almost any other paper in the country and in order to save as many as we can we're printing them smaller? Because we've made some difficult choices?

Tell me what your profession is, please, and how ably you execute it.

And what do you have against teenagers, you old fogey?


Washington, D.C.: Absolutely loved the Green Day show (45-year-old mom). While I may not be as familiar with all of their material, there was so much energy at the Verizon Center, it didn't matter if you didn't know the words.

This was my son's first concert experience. I told him beforehand to be prepared to stand for the duration. We were way up in section 403. There was a row of teenagers behind me and they were complaining about the three guys two rows down who stood up when Green Day came out on stage. I loved it when Billie Joe told everyone to get out of their seats! But I certainly woke up the next morning with aches and pains from standing for over two hours and waving/clapping constantly. Monday, we go see the Silversun Pickups at Rams Head Live in Baltimore. I think I'm getting too old for the Rock and Roll lifestyle and a real job!

I agree that at a big concert like Green Day, the constant texting didn't bother me. There's so much going on around you that the glow of the small screen isn't that distracting.

John Kelly: It was a great show. We were in Section 102. I wish we'd been on the floor. Those guys BRING IT. And Billie Joe Armstrong shows you can be a punk and still be a showman. He's not embarrassed to be a performer.

I thought it was interesting--and quite touching--the way the show developed. I think Armstrong really does believe in the power of music. He WANTS us singing along, playing the guitar, whatever. And when the band did that medley of old songs--Swannee River, etc.--I think he wanted to show that Green Day falls in a long line of American popular music.

I blogged about the show here

, mainly to contrast it with what the NSO did last night. Was anyone at Wolf Trap last night and thus can speak to how the Twitterfest came off?


Gaithersburg, Md.: John, I just want to say how thrilled I am that, due to the court's ruling yesterday, not only can I get back to work doing what I love --- massaging horses -- but other licensed massage therapists in Maryland can now embark on animal massage careers as well. It's a win-win-win for therapists, consumers, and animals! Thank you for your persistent and insightful coverage during this long case.

John Kelly: This is Mercedes Clemens, the Maryland massage therapist I've written about several times. The latest chapter in her story played out in a Rockville courthouse yesterday. Here's my blog about it.

Mercedes knows that, as happy as I was to see the judge make his ruling yesterday, I wouldn't put it past the Maryland Board of Chiropractic Examiners to try to mess things up again.


Twitchy Eye: I've got that thing going on where a nerve in my eyelid is twitching. I haven't been sleeping well. I think that's a good enough reason to take sick leave for the rest of the day. What say you? If it helps I'm a federal employee.

John Kelly: Just go to your boss and say, "I probably DON'T have swine flu, but..."

You'll be on the next train outta there. Of course, you can't go out and party tonight. You actually have to get some sleep.


Washington, D.C.: John, there are several cars on my block near Union Station with tags from other states, Maryland or Texas for example, but displaying valid zone 6 residential parking stickers. Not temporary ones either. How do people who haven't registered their cars in D.C. get away with this? We have limited enough parking as it is!

John Kelly: I just did a quick read of a brochure the DC DOT has online. There is this section:

Q: Are students and other temporary

residents eligible for permits?

A: Yes, but only if they have met the

District's requirements for

Reciprocity vehicle registration.

I don't know what those requirements are but it sounds like if you live in the District but have a car registered somewhere else--maybe you work on the Hill or are in school--you don't necessarily need to have your car registered.

I don't get the Maryland one, though, unless the person is from Western Maryland.

Anyone out there fall into this category and can explain?


Washington, D.C.: John, what big national trial is going to take place in D.C. U.S. District Court (Federal Court) in September? I got a jury summons at the beginning of the summer, which noted a large 6-week trial, and it appears they are casting widely. My number is in the 600s. September 11 defendants?

John Kelly: I'll ask around the newsroom and maybe we can get an answer before the chat ends. Are there any Sept. 11 defendants left? I thought Moussaoiueiaeaugh (sp?) was the only one.


What's on my c,AR?: I think I've mentioned this before.

E99 C85

It's a Jeep.

John Kelly: Is that a basketball score?


Freedomville, USA: Now, John, now? You are headed to the beach this weenend, so no mowing grass for today. Can I come too :)

John Kelly: Sure, meet me at the Virginia rest stop at Mile Marker 113 on I-95. Bring a bathing suit and your water wings. And some zinc oxide for your nose.


Trial: Former Rep. Jefferson or von Brunn.

John Kelly: I thought Jefferson was on trial now? Or has all this stuff I've been reading merely been preparatory? And I don't think the von Brunn case will be anywhere near ready for a trial by then. September's just around the corner.


The First Car: Am I the only one who thinks this is crazy -- I can't stand it when Metro operators try to encourage you not to get on the train by saying "there's another car directly behind this one." Of course there is! It's a train track! Where else would it be -- indirectly behind? As one of the masses trying to make it home on the now-mad Red Line, I was standing waiting for the very front car at Farragut North when a trained pulled in and the driver popped his head out and gave those standing around the front car doors this very same line. Apparently realizing how lame it is, he added: The next train is at Metro Center. Now that was useful information -- so we waited. Good for him for giving us information we can use!

John Kelly: No, you're not alone. It bothers me too. There's ALWAYS another train behind this one. They stretch in an unbroken line all the way to Europe. But since you want to get home NOW those other trains aren't much help.

I'm more bothered by the announcement they always make when you're going from VA to DC or DC to MD or vice versa: "This is the first station stop in the District of Columbia," as if we had to get our passports or landing cards out or something. Maybe if they added a bit of information it wouldn't bother me so much: "This is the first station stop in the District of Columbia. Residents here have no voting representation in Congress."

And why "station stop"? Why not just "station" or "stop"? Arghh! I need a vacation.


John Kelly: About that call for jurors with nothing to do in September: I got this message back from one of our crack court reporters: "kevin ring probably. he is an abramoff-tied lobbyist. his trial starts in mid-sept."


Reston, Va.: Going to the beach....those 4 simple words....ahhh -- totally jealous. Which beach do you frequent?

John Kelly: Pawleys Island, S.C. It's a hike to get down there, but we've been going there for years--more than 30 for me.


E99 C85 It's a Jeep.: OK, I have no idea what this means.

John Kelly: Could it have something to do with this? Or this? Or this?


Chapel Hill, N.C.: My favorite personalized license plate belongs to some (fake) blond lady in her 30s or 40s who drives a red sports car in my neighborhood. The plate reads: TROFIWIFE. It blows my mind every time I see it...

John Kelly: I guess if you've got it, flaunt it, even if "it" actually belongs to your much-older husband.


New Orleans, La.: Dollar Bill Jefferson's trial is underway right now, with the jury in the second day of deliberations. (They're being adjourned at 2 today.)

John Kelly: "Adjourned." Don't you wish you could be "adjourned" sometimes? I do. And doesn't it sound fun to be "sequestered"? I think that might even rival a vacation. Just allow me to be sequestered for a few weeks. Sorry, honey! Can't mow the lawn! I'm sequestered!


#rd and Constitution: A six-week trial doesn't necessarily mean politics. There are a number of very long drug/racketeering trials ongoing and upcoming, including some involving MS-13 members, Colombian radicals, etc. Also a big hostage/murder case arising in Trinidad (the island, not the neighborhood). Could even be wire fraud, immigration, lots of things percolating.

John Kelly: Oooh. Those all sound like fun. Regular John Grisham stuff.


Cleveland Park, Washington, DC: Re: reunions

The thing I've noticed most about reunions is that I get along well and am now friends with people with whom I had had very little in common in high school.

Regarding the Post these days, the worst thing is the little errors that creep in, like the reference to "Cordozo High School" in a caption to a picture in the Metro section today.

John Kelly: One of the Edison grads said everyone from his class had really mellowed. That prompted one commenter to wonder if wild, unmellow people attended high school reunions, the inference being, I guess, that reunions attract a certain type of person and repel another. There are certainly some people I wish would come to my school's reunions, just because I haven't seen them for years.

I joined my school halfway through the 10th grade and didn't grow up in the neighborhood so my ties aren't too deep, sadly.

And, yes, "Cordozo" is embarrassing, even worse than "Cardoza."


College Park, Md.: TIH5 WA -- that license plate hung above the bar in RJ Bentley's in College Park -- at least throughout the late 80s/early 90s when I worked there.

John Kelly: Someone else said he'd seen a plate that read TIH5 HO. That's probably what you'd be thinking if that car ran into you from behind.


New England: OK, I'm a librarian, so I get the Jeep license plate (Hint: Library of Congress).

What I don't get is the first plate you mentioned; the one you cut from your column. Help? Hint?

John Kelly: Did that last comment help?


Go Directly to the State of Relaxtion, Please: they are using directly in the time sense, so "immediately" behind or "just" behind. Sheesh, if that really bothers you, I hate to see how you react to real issues. Everyone needs to chill out.

John Kelly: It bothers me that you're bothered by me. Does that bother you?


Washington, D.C.: Am I wrong to feel that the Honda Prelude with "Historical Car" plates owner should be shot? Seriously, 1983 is not historical for a car, nor am I that old.

John Kelly: Have you seen such a car? I believe that most places issue "historic" or "classic" plates to vehicles at least 25 years old, so like it or not the Prelude would qualify. Maryland lets you do a neat thing: My Datsun has actual plates from 1968, the year it was made. I have to keep my historic plates in the trunk.


Washington, D.C.: Hey John,

I've just moved into D.C. from Northern Virginia. People in my office joke that I'll be getting my jury summons any day now and then every two years on the dot henceforth. Care to weigh in on how long it'll take to get my first summons?! I've been a District resident for 6 weeks now. Side note: I love it! Should have done it years ago!!

John Kelly: I lived in the District for two years and during that time I served on a jury. I've lived in Maryland for close to 20 years now and have only been actually summoned for jury duty twice, I think. I never did get on a jury. Other times I've just called the number the night before and been told I didn't have to come in.


At the Bea, ch: John, do you expect to get crabs while you're at the beach?

John Kelly: I beg your pardon. Heat rash, maybe.

Does anyone go to the beach for the food? The choices have gotten better over the years we've been going there, but finding simple, tasty restaurant food is a challenge. There are a lot of those all-you-can-eat buffet places groaning with mediocre food.


Thong: Shouldn't the Thong headline have been, "Thong Cuts Off Circulation to Entire Village?"

John Kelly: Ha! That's great. The chatster is referring to an item in the BritNews RoundUp in my blog today, about a thong on a power line cutting power to some houses and businesses.

And what if a thing was used in Holland to patch a leaky dike? "Thong Wedged in Crack Saves Village."


Silver Spring, Md.: What bothers me is when the driver says there is a train directly behind this one, and I can see the sign on the platform that says it's 7 minutes out. Which means it will be packed when it comes in too.

John Kelly: Yup. And you have company:


Anonymous: "they are using directly in the time sense, so "immediately" behind or "just" behind."

Fine, if only it were true when they say it. Often they'll say there is a train directly behind, but you look at the display and it's several minutes behind. So it's not helpful either way -- either the operator says it and it's true, and we know because the display says 1 or 2 minutes, or the operator is lying, and we know because the display says 5 minutes.

John Kelly: I try to achieve a Zenlike calm in situations like that. But what still really frosts me is how awful the signage is in Metro. I was reminded of it again the other day when I saw a pair of tourists come up the escalator at Fort Totten and see that there were two trains in the station, one at each platform. The doors were about to close and they couldn't quickly tell which one they should have gotten on.


BeachWe, AR: John, you're not one of those nutjobs that dons Speedos and jogs on the beach, are you?

John Kelly: No. I attach them to helium balloons and let them go.


Rockville, Md.: In college, a little silver sports car in my complex had the license: HI HO AG

Drove me nuts. For years. Until I discovered Silver was "AG" in the periodic table.


John Kelly: And if you were a James Bond aficionado you could get AU FNGR.


Fairfax County: I have "88ZMZM" on my Mazda RX-7. Thought about getting "0 CYLS" but decided it was too much of a reference for the aficionados. (Though for some reason when I got the emissions inspection done last month the Commonwealth reported it as a 17-cylinder engine! A 1.3-litre 17-cylinder????!!!!)

John Kelly: "Wankel" is one of those words that sounds dirty, but isn't.


Tampa Fla.: John, It's a crime against nature and also is visually unappealing for any adult male, beyond their 30's, to be seen in spandex at the beach. Spandex should only be sold in 2 sizes . . . petite and small.

Just a heads up, before you hit the beach next week.

John Kelly: Spandex chafes anyway. I did once buy one of those UnderArmor exercise shirts. I think it was a medium. I feel like a sausage when I wear it.


Hint: Library of Congress: Sorry, I only know the Dewey Decimal System. You'll have to spell out the LoC reference.

John Kelly: Will do.


Cleveland Park, Washington, D.C.: re: E99 C85

It refers to E99.C85.C473: the Library of Congress catalog number of the writer's new book on the Comanche Indians.

It means the same as it did when this person wrote in to your February 20 chat earlier this year.

John Kelly: I'm glad you guys have better memories than I do.


Plates and reciprocity: If you work on the Hill for a congressman or senator you can get a D.C. parking sticker. If you work for anyone else, you're out of luck.

I've seen a D.C. license plate on a sports car which said BRSTMAN. I have no idea how it made it through the DMV.

John Kelly: Maybe it's Frank Perdue's car.


Car registered in another state: Military people can do this too. You can keep your car registered in your home of record state.

John Kelly: Gotcha. Thanks.

So don't go keying those peoples' cars!


Just moved to D.C.: For the chatter who just moved to D.C. -- it took 22 months for my first summons, but then it was exactly 2 years for the next. I've been here five and a half years; I'll be watching my mail next March.

John Kelly: Remember folks: It's your civic duty. And you might end up with a good cocktail party anecdote.


D.C. Jurty Duty: Moved into the District in October of 2001, got the first summons a year later in Nov 2002, and every other November since like clockwork.

John Kelly: Wow. If only the city was as efficient in other areas.


D.C.: I don't know if you can answer this question but I have not seen it addressed in the Cafritz fire articles. Did she have a sprinkler system in the house? It seems crazy that a house that nice and relatively new full of stuff would not have a sprinkler system?

John Kelly: I don't know the answer to that. I think that in some settings sprinklers may not be recommended. You end up with more damage from the water. Of course, now the house is toast.


Silver Spring, Md.: Do high school classmates track you down on Facebook? Do you accept friend requests from people you don't remember, or didn't like?

John Kelly: I accept friend requests from everyone. I am a whore that way.


Washington, D.C.: Another useless Metro announcement. "We hope to have the situation resolved as soon as possible." Is that as opposed to "We hope to take 50 percent longer to resolve the problem than is really needed."?

John Kelly: Well, they're trying to be helpful, I suppose.

One of the things that bothers me about the announcements--any announcement--is how loud they can be. Sometimes the PA system isn't very well calibrated in the train cars and it's almost painful. And when the driver has the speaker on when he's got loud beeping going on, I want to perforate my own ear drums. It happened on the train back from Green Day. I'd just seen a rock concert and my ears were fine--until I got on Metro.


It refers to E99.C85.C473: the Library of Congress catalog number of the writer's new book on the Comanche Indians. : Thank you. But what does this have to do with the car's being a Jeep?

John Kelly: There's a version called a Jeep Commanche. Now, I don't know if there's also a Jeep Geronimo, which would be the car you'd want for driving off a cliff.


NoLo, D.C.: A couple of months ago on my way down to the Outer Banks I saw a jeep with the Virginia "horse country" license plate -- it's got a big horse's head on the right side of the plate. The vanity text, just to the left of the horse, read, "HNGLIKA".

I have no idea how that made it past the censors.

John Kelly: Ha! The censors probably thought the guy was from Hungary and that was his name.


It refers to E99.C85.C473: the Library of Congress catalog number of the writer's new book on the Comanche Indians. : Not quite. Section E99 is the LoC section on Indian Tribes and Cultures. C85 is the section on Comanche Indians. My guess is the guy drives a Jeep Comanche.

John Kelly: Thank you for the detail. Wouldn't want anyone looking in the wrong section of the stacks.


Card Catalog Q: What's the Library of Congress catalog for Hustler?

John Kelly: Why? Do you drive a Cougar?


Washington, D.C.: John: I moved here from San Francisco about a year back and since that time, I've been looking for the perfect daydreaming spot around D.C. In my initial naivety, I started on the Mall, which really turned into a Hollywood Francisco. Then I ventured out to Great Falls, which, while cool, was a little loud. I've been shopping around, but haven't found "THE" spot yet. Any ideas for me? I need a reasonably wide vista with some kind of movement. I live in NE, but anywhere drivable is good. I know, it's a weird request, but I miss looking out over the bay and dreaming I'm escaping from Alcatraz.

John Kelly: Hmmm. We don't have time to get into this today, but let's try to revisit this early in a future chat. I wonder if someplace like Sugarloaf or Skyline drive would fit the bill. You get some overlook there, but they're well out of town.


Tying threads together: Speaking of high school, you just mentioned drinking Mike's Hard Lemonade. I didn't realize anyone over, say, 19 drank that. (Good way to crack down on underage drinking -- nab anyone buying Mike's.)

John Kelly: My Lovely Wife likes it. And it's the perfect beach drink: cold, wet, tasty and deceptively alcoholic.

Kids: Just say no to drugs.


Come with me to the sea...: John, drink a hard lemonade for me. In fact, drink one for all of us (not at the same time though).

John Kelly: Will do.

Thanks for stopping by on this lazy Friday. There's a very slim chance I may try to sneak out of here early today. Don't say anything to my boss! My column will resume on Aug. 17 and my chat on Aug. 21. I have a treat in store for you on my blog next week though: Every day I'll be posting a different historic photo from The Post's photo archives. I hope you'll get a kick out of it.

Let me also thank everyone who donated to this year's Send a Kid to Camp campaign. With your help, we made our goal.


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