News item: The $100 million renovation of Union Station will go forward even if Congress does away with subsidies for Amtrak next year. Officials say the planned complex of shops, restaurants and offices at Union Station could generate enough revenue even without arriving and departing train passengers.
If Amtrak goes belly-up, the folks running those businesses at Union Station had better have sunny dispositions. Also a couple of bucks in the bank to tide them over when (not if) their businesses fold like tents.
There is no way in the world that a boutique-y Union Station can make it without train travelers. You say the thousands of workers on Capitol Hill are just a few blocks away? I say: Why would any Hillie come to Union Station to eat or shop?
If he wants fast, cheap food, a Hillie can go to some of the best cafeterias in town, right in the building where he works. If he wants to eat fancy, he can get to Connecticut and K by cab as fast as he can get to Union Station on foot. And if he wants anything else, he'll get it just as fast and twice as cheaply at a suburban shopping mall.
Add train travelers, however, and the arithmetic changes. Now the place can support restaurants, newsstands, stores that sell tourist memorabilia, and more.
Red Line subway passengers will help keep these places healthy, too, of course. But the 10,000 train passengers who pass through Union Station each day are the key. They're a captive audience. They can't go anywhere else.
Spending money to finish the Union Station shops without Amtrak may sound like a wonderful vote of confidence in the Washington market. But if the trains dry up, the bucks will, too.
News item: A New York policewoman who posed nude in a girlie magazine is ordered reinstated to the force by an appeals court. Her fellow officers cheer as Cibella Borges returns to her Bronx station house. "She never should have been fired in the first place," growls one battle-hardened detective.
Mister, you've been playing detective without a helmet for too long.
In every job, you have to make sacrifices. Top government officials have to put their investments in blind trusts so they'll avoid any scent of favoritism. Gas station attendants have to give up smoking while they work near the pumps so they won't blow the place up. Newspaper columnists have to avoid signing petitions and contributing to causes so they won't appear biased. And police officers have to avoid appearing nude in magazines so they won't make the entire force -- and the entire profession -- look ridiculous.
Sure, Borges had a right to take her clothes off before a camera. The top government official has a right to invest where he likes, too. The pump jockey has a right to smoke. And the newspaper columnist has a right to sign a piece of paper or hand somebody five bucks.
But in each case, there's a larger issue, either of practicality, or of morality, or of avoiding the appearance of unfairness. The larger issue for Borges was: How will anyone take her seriously as a cop once she posed as a tomato? The answer to that is: No one can.
So, Mr. Detective, I'm afraid she not only should have been fired in the first place, but she never should have been ordered rehired.
News item: A movie company is shooting a film called "Good to Go." It's about the hip street scene in Washington. The film features a spectacular chase and car wreck. The producers decide to shoot it on location, on 18th Street in Adams-Morgan. To do so, the police block off the street for the better part of a day. But no one tells the local merchants in advance. They are extremely upset at losing a day's business.
I learned at mother's knee that you never judge a film until you see it. However, if "Good to Go" does one single good thing for Washington's image, or Washington's economy, I'll be a monkey's uncle.
The last film about Washington I saw was "D.C. Cab." If you missed it, congratulations.
It, too, featured innumerable car chases and stupendous wrecks, all of them filmed on location in Washington. But the only D.C. people who benefited from the film were those who owned the movie theaters where it played.
Ask a real-life D.C. cabbie sometime if the film earned him one extra cent. Be prepared to hear raucous laughter.
I can't even remember the title of the Washington film I saw before "Cab." It was about a U.S. Senator who had a wife and two girl friends. Or maybe it was two wives and one girl friend.
Anyway, once again, the whole town turned itself inside out to help the producers, and for what? For a piece of trash that would have you believe that everybody in Washington stands in front of the Capitol on rainy afternoons and looks depressed.
I'm with you all the way, 18th Street merchants. The least you deserved was some notice. And the next time some guy wants to film a car crash on your street, give him directions to the Beltway. They have beautiful cruncherooes all the time out there. Don't even have to stage 'em.