Ever since America learned that former FBI bigwig W. Mark Felt was the Watergate source known as Deep Throat, many people have not been asking me my opinion on the revelation.
They have not been asking me to appear on Sunday morning talk shows. And they have not asked me to pen incisive op-ed columns on what Deep Throat meant to journalism.
Which is all a little disappointing, even if I was only 9 when the DNC headquarters was burgled and 11 when Nixon resigned.
When the scandal unfolded, our family was living in Texas. I'm sure I had some exposure to Watergate there, courtesy of Walter Cronkite, who was such a respected nightly presence in our home that for many years I assumed that's what God must look like. But the whole thing seemed pretty distant. That changed during the summer of 1974 when I went to Washington to visit my relatives, flying by myself as an unaccompanied minor.
I remember quite a lot of things from that trip. My grandmother's house on leafy Otis Street NE was as quiet as only a grandmother's house can be. "Momsie" took me to the Wax Museum, where we managed to get locked in after closing time. She drove me to Gettysburg one day and paid for me to tour the battlefield by helicopter.
But my main recollection is of how Watergate-crazy Washington was. It was like being in a city whose baseball team was in the final stages of a pennant race.
I ate it up, buying as many scandal-related tchotchkes as I could. I spent three bucks on something called The Watergate Scandal, "a game of cover-up and deception for the whole family."
When it was your turn you asked the other players to hand over a certain card -- they were marked things like "White House Aide," "Phone Tapper" and "Attorney General's Wife." Anyone who didn't have the card, the instructions said, "should place another card face down and act normal -- not giving the impression that he is covering up a lie."
I don't think I ever played The Watergate Scandal. Nor do I think anyone was supposed to. Like a lot of Watergateabilia it was a high-concept joke, a way to make a buck, yes, but also get a few digs in, as with this section of the instructions: "When accusing other players of covering up, try intimidation and idle threats and if that doesn't work, promise executive clemency. This game is not recommended for those who believe in fair play, honesty, and the American electoral system."
I bought some adhesive labels designed to be stuck on liquor bottles. There was one called Watergate Scotch, which bore Nixon's photo and the motto "The Proof Increases Every Day." The label for the back of the bottle read: "The makers of Watergate spent untold sums of money attempting to concoct for you a brew that is smooth and easy to swallow. Only recently has their well-guarded secret been discovered by others."
I also bought something to read on the plane ride home: the Dell paperback edition of the presidential transcripts -- "With commentary by the staff of The Washington Post." I reveled in every "(expletive deleted)" and "(unintelligible)."
I went up to the attic the other day and pulled all this stuff down. I'd written my name on the inside front cover of the paperback in a jaunty 11-year-old's hand, all slanty and cool, the signature underlined for good measure.
Follow the Money
Nixon said it: "You could get a million dollars. You could get it in cash. I know where it could be gotten. It is not easy, but it could be done."
I don't need a million, just $650,000, our goal for Camp Moss Hollow, a summer camp for needy kids. So far we've raised $21,352.60. Here's how to make your tax-deductible contribution:
Make a check or money order payable to "Send a Kid to Camp" and mail it to Family and Child Services, P.O. Box 96237, Washington, D.C. 20090-6237.
To contribute online, go to www.washingtonpost.com/johnkelly. Click on the icon that says, "Make a Donation."
The Iron Age
My old iron bit the dust the other day, running hot one minute, cold the next. That just won't do. I need high heat. When I iron my shirts, I want a sleeve crease that'll slice a tomato.
I briefly mourned the death of the appliance and then I looked on the bright side: I could buy a new one. Irons come in a million different varieties these days. I eschewed both the $200 models and the $20 models, deciding on one somewhere in the middle, but closer to the cheaper end of things. (It's the same way I choose a bottle of wine.)
Before I fired up my Rowenta PowerPress (which features stainless steel soleplate, anti-drip feature, variable steam and a handy self-clean system), I read the instructions, paying special attention to the boldface warnings.
Important: Always empty the water tank when ironing is finished.
Warning: Never direct the steam jet at persons or animals.
You mean it won't take the wrinkles out of Aunt Mildred or the neighbor's shar-pei?
Warning: Never iron clothes while they are being worn.
I love that warning. There is no better way to state something so obvious. "Don't iron while wearing clothes" doesn't work since it leaves open the possibility someone may assume that means you should iron in the nude.
Come to think of it, that sounds dangerous, too.
Speaking of dangerous, do you dare join me today at 1 p.m. for my weekly online chat? Go to www.washingtonpost.com/liveonline.