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John Kelly's Washington

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John Kelly
Friday, September 17, 2010; 12:00 PM

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John Kelly: Does anyone out there remember a short-lived ABC sitcom called "The Knights of Prosperity"? It was a shaggy-dog kind of a show about a group of misfits plotting to burgle Mick Jagger's New York apartment. When that plan went bad they decided to rob Kelly Ripa, then Ray Romano. (To gain access to Ripa they pretended they were the firm of famous architects headed by Oswald Montecristo.)I found the show fresh, funny and subversive. (This fake movie trailer that featured in another episode manages to tweak post-9/11 pieties.) Apparently, however, I was the only one who watched "The Knights of Prosperity," because ABC canceled it after a single season.Which is all a long way of saying that you are the only person who visits this chat. Therefore, this is the last one. Now, I may still chat in the future--I hope I do--when the news warrants it. But you and I both have our Friday afternoons back.Whatever shall we talk about? Well we ragged on the MVA during last week's chat but I'm happy to do so again, in light of the two columns I wrote on this subject. Or we can talk about how small businesses fare in the face of competition from the big boys, a battle that will be playing out between Continental Pizza and Chipotle in Kensington. Several readers have written to say there won't be a battle, that the two cuisines are so different--subs and pizzas versus burritos and tacos--that both establishments can thrive. What do you think?Or we can go across the pond, to Oxford, subject of my story in last week's Post Magazine. If you read the story, you may have been disappointed that there wasn't a photo of the Oldest Ham in the World. Well, here's one I took: Oldest Ham in the World. (That's on my Facebook page; I dunno if we have to be friends for you to see it.)Of course, there's plenty of other stuff in the news: an incoming mayor, a (probably) outgoing school chancelor, Jedi knights in Glen Echo, a naked firefighter...Speaking of naked, a reader forwarded me an e-mail this week from a friend of hers who saw something unusual on Connecticut Avenue on Monday: a totally naked woman walking down the street:Talk about Casual Monday.

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First dog waste now speed humps: Is there anything you can't attack your neighbor over?

John Kelly: It sounds to me like that was a guy--the alleged shooter--who was gonna hurt somebody eventually.

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left turn: Can we talk about how to make a left turn at a green light after the left arrow turns off? In California where I moved from, everyone knows how to do this. You pull into the intersection, stop with your wheels still pointing forward, and wait for the oncoming traffic to break so that you can safely turn left. This simple behavior seems to be unknown by about a third of the drivers where I live (near Silver Spring). So many drivers seem to think that when the left turn arrow turns off, they have to just sit there through the light cycle. Of course, that blocks all the drivers behind who also need to turn left. Is it something about Maryland?

John Kelly: No, I think that's just bad drivers. How about people who want to make a U-turn at one of those places, but to do so they have to cut wide right first, and then take forever to whip around?

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Chipotle in Kensington: John, I wish I had known about Al Carr's Chipotle campaign before Tuesday. I think it might have changed my vote. Seems to me he should be campaigning to support locally-owned businesses, not lobbying for new fast-food chain outlets.

John Kelly: I didn't talk to Carr, but I'm guessing he might say he was providing good constituent service: 300-odd residents who want a Chipotle versus a coupla guys who own a sub shop. And there is the argument--made by my editor, among others--that the two will have completely different clienteles.

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Fenty's stepbrother?: Sorry if this is out of your purview, but I don't think Chris Cillizza follows DC politics, and I don't want to wade into the miasma of reader comments to ask: In Nikita Stewart and Paul Schwartzman's excellent analysis posted on Wednesday morning about how Fenty lost, they mention his "stepbrother, B. Seth Bryant." I was surprised by this, since my understanding is that Fenty's mother and father have been married to each other for several decades, and are STILL married. How did Fenty end up with a stepbrother his own age? Or is this a better question for the Reliable Source goddesses?

John Kelly: I don't know the mayor's, er, outgoing mayor's, family tree. If the stepbrother's name is Bryant, that suggests he's Fenty's mother's son?

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Its Lunchtime: (posting early, because I started a new job last month)John,Ive called in an order (Cheesburger sub & small fries) at Continental Pizza & Subs. . would you be so kind as to pick it up for me? (parking there is TERRIBLE). Thanks !!!

John Kelly: Actually, I was thinking of heading over there for lunch after the chat today. Who's with me?

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Chatting in Pennsylvania: I'm sitting here in a cafe in Huntingdon, Pa., waiting to take my son home to Rockville for a well deserved weekend home from his freshman year at Juniata College, a latte at my side and WiFi on the laptop. Ain't fatherhood and the 21st century grand?

John Kelly: Wait a minute, a "well-deserved weekend home"? How long has he been there? Two weeks? Cut the cord, man! My Lovely Wife is trying to figure out a way NOT to see our college sophomore at Thanksgiving.

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locker rooms: Would your wife mind it if there was a open coed locker room at the Post? Even if reporters wanted to report from this locker room, could you just ask for ALL of the reporters to stay out of it until after everyone was dressed? Or is this just "the way it has always been done." Kind of like the argument for slavery. It was just always done that way.

John Kelly: Well tradition counts for a lot. I've never covered a sporting event so I don't know what the dynamic is like in the locker room. The argument early on for female reporters in the locker room was that male reporters had that access and so if women were denied it, they would be at a competitive disadvantage. That makes sense. Now, could you ban both men and women? That would level the playing field, so to speak, but it might diminish the reporting.

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Last chat?: I can't be the only one logging in to your chats and I can't be the only one perplexed by the WP policies on chats. Time changes, dropping of favorites, etc. could be explained to this valiant reader/fan, no? Where do I go to find official WP reasoning for who gets to chat and who gets to drift away? Where do I register my concerns and complaints?

John Kelly: There's a commitment involved in a weekly chat, not just my time but also a producer's time. And we have to reserve all the pixels and megabytes from the World Wide Web headquarters in Lucerne, Switzerland. You and I know that my chat is like a rare bottle of wine, destined to be enjoyed by only a few, but when the spreadsheets are printed out certain goals must be met. You can complain here, but maybe the extra 90 minutes in my schedule will allow me to write columns that are .05 percent better.

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NOT to see our college sophomore at Thanksgiving.: Announce ahead of time: VEGETARIAN THANKSGIVING.I have one every year.Thanks much. HLB, Mt. Lebanon PA

John Kelly: Ha, great idea. My daughter is rooming this year with two vegetarians. I asked her how long it would be till she converted. But she loves her animal flesh too much for that, I think.

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Left turns: I think that is wrong; you are not supposed to enter an intersection, whatever color the light is, unless you can proceed through and out of the intersection. You should never stop in the middle of an intersection. What if your light turns red before oncoming traffic stops. You now have run your red light, and delayed those who now have a green light who have to wait for you to get out of the way.

John Kelly: I think if you're the first car after the left turn arrow disappears you can nudge out a bit. You shouldn't block oncoming traffic but you should expect to be able to get across as the light turns yellow, as oncoming cars stop. It's a problem if too many cars do that--potentially clogging the intersection--but if you're the first one, I think it's okay.

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CHATTING IN PENNSYLVANIA redux: Actually, I'm taking him home for Yom Kippur, but I thought that would spoil the mood.

John Kelly: Ah, got it. Happy repentence!

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Choose your weapon: Jon Stewart's rally or the other guy's (Colbert)?What sign will you be hoisting? (in case the event is covered live on C-SPAN)You're FREE TO CHOOSE but not free to refuse.Thanks much. HLB, Mt. Lebanon, PA

John Kelly: Actually, that's the sort of rally I can see college students returning home to attend. Not exactly the March on Washington, but if more young people get their "news" from people like Stewart and Colbert, it could be a big draw.

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locker rooms: Quite a few years ago I was in Paris with my sister. It was a very hot afternoon and there was a public pool near our hotel. We went, paid our money and asked where the ladies changing room. He pointed to one door. Yes the locker room was coed. No big deal. There were enclosed areas to change but otherwise men, women and children all shared the same space.

John Kelly: I went to a restaurant in Berlin once that had co-ed bathrooms. The stalls were unisex, but the outer area was co-ed. Oddest of all, though, was that in the middle was a television playing pornographic anime. As I was there for lunch with my children, I felt it was inappropriate.

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Online Chat complaints: My favorite: The host pretends to do an hour then leaves after 25 minutes.And I can name BIG TIME folks who've been on here (usually famous One-Offs) who had to get back to their Plutocratic lives. Too busy to mix with the internet-savvy hoi polloi, you know.

John Kelly: Name them! We have no secrets here in Kelly Chatland, especially on the last day.

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Forget Vegetarian Thanksgiving: Canadian Thanksgiving is only a few weeks away, by golly.

John Kelly: Do they really eat stuffed beaver on Canadian Thanksgiving?

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Chat attrition: I am very sorry to hear that you will no longer be chatting. Even though I don't live in Washington, I have been there often enough to enjoy your commentary and good-natured repartee with your chatters. Having read The Morning Miracle, I realize that pretty much everything at the Washington Post is under siege these days, but I have been especially unhappy to see that many of the chats I found most interesting (such as yours, Weingarten's, the multiple political reporters rather than just CC, Milbank's, Farhi's, etc.) have ceased to appear and there seem to be way too many sports-related chats. It's bad enough Tai Shan had to leave--I hope you are not being shipped to your ancestral land as well.

John Kelly: The peat bogs of Ireland? I hope not too. Although the Guinness is fresher over there.

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Chipotle v. Continental Pizza: I think they'll both be fine. It's not that the restaurants will have have completely different clienteles, but people will want burritos one night, pizza another, etc. First they cancel your blog, then your chats. Who did you tick off?

John Kelly: Not enough people, apparently. I'm thinking of starting my own newsletter. It will be mimeographed and mailed out in hand-addressed envelopes. Order yours now!

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Cut the cord, man: My parents changed the house locks during my freshman orientation week at college. Followed by a party, followed by a cruise, followed by ...(Yes, I'm just kidding.)

John Kelly:

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RE: Left turns: The only points taken off on my driving test were for NOT entering an intersection on a solid green light while waiting for a left turn (first car in the line only). If Metro D.C. drivers would stop running red lights, this would be a far less dangerous prospect.

John Kelly: The answer: roundabouts. It works for the English. They say it saves gas, too, since you don't have cars sitting idling at a red light when there aren't any cars coming from the other direction.

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left turn: If it is a very busy intersection I would rather wait the light cycle so that I can turn safely. I will go if absolutely no traffic is coming but I much rather left turn on the arrow. I have seen too many close calls with people gunning it through the intersection. (I also know of people pulled over by the police who though the left hand turner did not make a safe left hand turn)

John Kelly: You mean people gunning it to make the yellow before it turns red, right? That's why you have to be so aware of what other cars are doing.I was talking with a Nigerian guy the other day and he was talking about how hard it was for him to pass his test here, because he wasn't used to traffic lights. He said there are only a handful in Lagos. And I remember when I first started driving in the District--as a delivery driver in college. It took me a while to "see" the traffic lights, since most were at the edges of the streets, not hanging above the middle of them, like I was used to in the suburbs.

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RE: Canadian Thanksgiving: Did you really just say "stuffed beaver"?

John Kelly: I did. And so did you.

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Stuffed Beaver: A course they do. They either stuff it with moose meat or poutine if they're Quebecois.

John Kelly: Mmmm. Poutine. I've had that, and though it's distinctive, I wouldn't say I liked it. A Canadian would probably say, "You just haven't had it made the right way."Which actually may be true, you know. I used to dislike Brussels sprouts till I had them slathered in butter and sauteed with salty/smoky bacon. They were delish. I could barely taste them!

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Some nations..: Have green-yellow-red then red-yellow-green.Overkill or what?

John Kelly: Actually that's a great idea. Thanks for reminding me. Remember how last week we chatted about how long to wait before honking at the car in front of you when the light turns green? That sort of cycle helps. You get a little heads-up that the light is going to turn green.

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Chatless: Thanks for doing these for as long as you've been doing them.

John Kelly: I think it's been six years or so, whenever I started doing the column.

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Sorry to lose your chats!: I've enjoyed them a lot. And where else could I read an email about a naked lady walking down Connecticut Avenue on a Monday afternoon?

John Kelly: You obviously don't subscribe to NakedLadyWalkingDownConnecticutAve.com.

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Three folks you'll never see on a Washington Post chat hour: Charles Krauthammer.Barack Obama.Osama bin Laden.These are folks who don't like to stand back against the wall and face the music.I think you should personally try to get them on. Since you're no longer working, that is.

John Kelly: Hey, I'm still working! And I promise I'll be chatting as news warrants. If there are any naked ladies walking down Connecticut Avenue holding stuffed beavers, I will be here to chat about it.

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Answer man: It is legal for me to drink, but I can't force my vodka down someone else's throat. It is legal for me to eat twinkies, but I can't force them down someone else's throat. It is legal to smoke. Why is it ok for smokers to force everyone around them to inhale their toxic smoke?--Someone with asthma who shares a ventilation system with their smoking apartment neighbor

John Kelly: I've been pondering a column on smoking that would basically be this: Smokers, I know you try to be considerate. You don't smoke in our homes when you visit. You blow the smoke out the side of your mouth away from us when we're outside. But here's something you may now realize: You reek. Your very skin cells stink of tobacco and nicotine. You probably don't smell it because you're so used to it, but all you have to do is get on the elevator after your smoking break and it almost knocks us out.Do you think that's too harsh?

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Guadeamus Igitur: Did you ever accomplish whatever it was you moved to Oxford for?My favorite college: Caius (pronounced: keys)."Be seeing ya."

John Kelly: I did indeed. I was at the pub most nights.Oh, you mean did I accomplish something academically? You can find a link to my paper here: "Red Kayaks and Hidden Gold."

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Chat redux: So, you're okay with this? I'm not. So much. I get that chats (and the awful video chats) are time-consuming. I get that "interactive" is not what you may have signed on for in J school or at WP. I get that you are constrained from commenting on WP policies or colleagues' work. But, surely, you will miss me. Just say you will miss me and the others of us who look forward to these weekly chats.

John Kelly: Yes, I will miss you. But, like MacArthur, I will be back. Like, the other day when that dog got shot in Adams Morgan, we could have chatted about that. Not that I'm hoping for another dog to get shot but you get the idea.

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RE: Fenty's stepbrother: Seth Bryant can't be Fenty's mother son, because he's 40, and Adrian Fenty will be 40 in December ... AND Adrian Fenty has older brothers who are also the sons of his mother, Jan.I am so confused by all this. It's keeping me up nights.

John Kelly: Could the Fentys be Mormon?

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Oh, man...: But you're one of the few Posties who almost always takes my questions! Now where will I find that kind of chat acceptance? Anyway, you will be missed. (I liked "Knights of Prosperity" too, so obviously I'm a curse.)

John Kelly: Ah ha, now we're getting to the crux of the matter. It's not my fault the chat is ending, it's yours.

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obvious signs of a chat getting canceled: I know a chat is unpopular if even I can get published. It will be a long time before Hax gets canceled because I can't even make up problems that get published by her chat. Now I just read her transcripts.

John Kelly: And yours.

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Roundabouts: But that brings up the "local option" of who has right of way. Up in Mass., drivers *in* the circle have it. But down here in NJ, it depends on the signage. Different circles, different signs. The Netcong circle, where I live, has Yield signs *in* the circle, meaning that vehicles *entering* the circle have the ROW. According to a local cop I was talking to a while ago, Netcong Circle has one of the highest rates of accidents in the state.

John Kelly: We have both kinds of roundabouts in the Washington area, which is confusing. They tend to work better if you have to yield to traffic already in the circle and they're on roads that aren't too too busy.When we lived in England we would occasionally visit my step-sister* in St. Albans. We had to traverse what's called the Magic Roundabout in Hemel Hempstead. It's a bunch of mini roundabouts around a large central mother roundabout. It's the most frightening thing I've every encountered.*My step-sister is the daughter of the woman my father married after he and my mother were divorced. Is that clear?

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Re: Left Turn: I just moved to Falls Church a couple of weeks ago from southern California myself, and have observed the same left turn situation in my area. Merging into traffic is an issue as well. On several occasions, the car ahead of me will sit there and miss every reasonable opportunity to go ahead. At least I know it's not just in my neck of the woods.

John Kelly: The real question is: What's up with all these Californians moving here? Are you guys taking over?

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Oxford article: I've been lucky enough to visit Oxford twice for a couple weeks and your article evoked exactly the feeling of the place -- the market at Gloucester Green, the world's oldest ham, the walled off colleges. Thank you!

John Kelly: You're very welcome. And weren't the photographs great? They made me want to go back. Have to start saving my pence.

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Commercials on WTOP?: I have a question that I'd love to ask, and this seems like a good enough forum to do so.I listen to WTOP a lot, and am often confused by the Boeing vs. EADS ads that run almost like political ads (the commercial starts with someone saying, "I've had it! I hate it when the facts get twisted!"). What I find myself wondering is . . . who cares??? Your average citizen is not going to care one way or another which government agency gets awarded some juicy contract (unless they want to vent about government spending, that is). This kind of commercial seems like a waste of money to me.Does anyone else wonder about this?

John Kelly: My colleague Paul Farhi has written about those kinds of ads. They also appear on our paper and in Metro stations. They go to a very select audience: people in government who can influence the procurement process. Yes, they might seem odd, but that's Washington for you. We don't have the "For Your Consideration: Piranha 3-D" billboards they have in Hollywood trying to sway the Motion Picture Academy. And they don't have the refueling tanker ads we do.

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Re: smoking: You may want to look at the Blairs in downtown Silver Spring (assuming you are in the DC area). They are a smoke free community (inside anyway).

John Kelly: Thanks for the tip. There must be others.

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Your last regular chat? : Sorry to hear it - I'll miss sharing Friday lunch with you. See you in the newspaper.

John Kelly: What are you eating?

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Left Turns: Don't Block the Box!If you are in the queue to turn left, and the light changes, don't charge forward.As I have said before, I know the lights where I have to turn, and I know their cycles--up here, left turns: usually 10 seconds. When the light changes, I start to count. If I get close to 10, I know I won't get thru, and I stop.

John Kelly: I think in the grand scheme of travel no-nos blocking the box is worse that squeezing out a left turn. I think what you and others are saying is that the two go together: People creep into the intersection and then are stuck there when the light turns red. I say don't creep unless you're sure you can get through.

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Dulles Terminal D = slum?: What gives? American and others get the nice new Terminal B with its 5 guys and nice clean floors. United is stuck in a bus terminal with urine soaked floors and a book store?

John Kelly: Anyone ridden the new trains? WHat are those like?

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Mimeographed?: A.B. Dick has been out of business for years. :-(

John Kelly: fresh mimeo in the morning. It was the smell of...education.

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Dog gets shot in Adams Morgan: You HAD to bring that up? Let this chat not devolve into rehash -- especially since full facts/investigation are not yet presented. I get the outrage. I am outraged. I am also outraged by "crappy" (using Ms. Rhee's own words) education and unemployment and poverty and hunger. In your experience, why is a dog shooting more of a rallying flashpoint than systemic deficiencies in our culture?

John Kelly: Because dogs are easier to like than a lot of people.

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Knights of P.: After your chat ends,where will I find out about things like the Knights of Prosperity? I am multitasking right now & checking via Amazon app on my iPhone to see if I can buy it on DVD.

John Kelly:

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Chats: Hey, how about a "Chat with John Kelly" Facebook page, where you agree to show up once a week and respond to wall posts for an hour? No producer needed.

John Kelly: That's a great idea. Feel free to friend me. I take all comers.

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To the left turner from California: You have a point for the left turners that do not go into the intersection while waiting for the oportunity to turn left. BUT, there are some interesections that the gods-that decide put a No-Turn-on-[green circle] sign hwere you can legally only turn left on the green arrow (like Conn Ave and Veirs Mill heading west on Veirs Mill). It might not make sense from the driver's poiint of view but the sign is there! Like it or not! (and I don't!)

John Kelly: us that.

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No More Chats: Wow. I've noticed the Post canceling chats , but I'm very upset that you are going as well. Whoever is behind this idea has badly misjudged the Post's readers, many of us who consider the chats as a vital element of the overall Post experience. Very disappointing, and no the video chats don't make up for it, those are not very easy to participate in while at work. Very disappointing, John. We'll miss you.

John Kelly: Even with this regular chat gone, I think we can have an interactive experience. At least, I'll try. I try to respond to e-mails and I'm on Facebook. Maybe I should drop in more to the comments under my online columns, something I do only occasionally. It could be nice to have a dialogue there.

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Roundabouts: I lived in England for 4 years and the multi-lane roundabouts never stopped terrifying me, especially if I was in an unfamiliar area. I loved the occasional traffic light, where I could stop and get my bearings.

John Kelly: They can be demanding. It's like being Charles Lindbergh or something, flying nonstop across the landscape.

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Fentys: In a C-Span interview transcript from 2006, Fenty described his family as "Two brothers - one older, one younger, two nephews, and extended family beyond that - cousins and sister-in-laws, step-brother, step-sisters." So they exist, but who are they??

John Kelly: Now that he's lost, we may never know....Just for the record: My step-brother is an airline pilot who lives in California.

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More Answer Man: Does the end of the chat mean that we will see more Answer Man columns? I love get insight about the Washington of the past and today and have looked at many/all past articles in the archive (does the Post archive have all of them?).

John Kelly: No, the same serving of Answer Man: once a week. But it only works if you send him questions: answerman@washpost.com.

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Chat benefits to you: Would you say chats often gave you ideas for columns, or that interactions with the people of John Kelly's Washington, was a major benefit of these chats? What would you say you got most out of them? Thanks

John Kelly: That's a very good question. A chat does let you hear a lot of ideas at once, although you're never quite sure if you're hearing from multiple people or one single person with a lot of time on his hands. And by having to think on my feet for an hour each week, it perhaps staved off Alzheimer's for a while. And I think it's important -- in this new media world - to be responsive to readers, which is something that chats do. We still have many more chats than most newspapers. And, remember, I will pop up as news warrants.

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Last chat: Admit it, you are leaving to pursue your career in hip-hop music! When will you be going on Letterman?

John Kelly: I'm working with Lady Gaga on just the right outfit to wear.

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Another Left Turn Complaint: Besides not knowing to enter the intersection for a left turn, many, many drivers make what used to be called lazy-lefts. You know, just barely turning the wheel enough to go left while slowing down as little as possible. It drives me nuts, particularly when I'm sitting there at a light and some joker almost clips my front end because he doesn't want to slow down much.

John Kelly: I've never heard that expression: "lazy left." It sounds like an accusation Charles Krauthammer would make

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Good night and joy be with you all: John: As a Kelly, perhaps you know those words--the last line of The Parting Glass, the traditional Irish good night song. Of you, it will never be said:"And all I've done, for want of wit, to memory now I can't recall.So fill to me the parting glass..."

John Kelly: ...goodnight and joy be with you all...Just be sure to drive carefully.

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College Drop Offs and Re-Entry Back Home: Last August, you wrote a lovely piece about the "Delicate College Drop-Off Dance." It would be great to have a follow-up piece, such as "Reentry the summer after first year" or "Year Two - College Drop-Off." Any thoughts on this?

John Kelly: Let me think....

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Words of benediction?: Any parting words for us, your loyal chatters who should have dragooned our office mates into spending Friday noon with you?

John Kelly: I'm sorry I wasn't able to get to all the comments and nice sentiments sent my way during the chat. If I have any parting words, they would just be of the sort I've tried to impart these many years: Relax, be nice, have fun. We're only on this planet a finite amount of time. Let's enjoy it--and each other--as much as we can.Thanks again for being a part of these Fridays. And who knows: Maybe I'll be inspired to tweet more!


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