Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Washington Social Diary

The view of the Kennedy Center and the Washington Monument from Georgetown, December 2011.
THE LESSER BAH HUMBUG
by Carol Joynt

Similar to the year before, over the last twelve months the recession that won't let go has continued to have an impact on the Washington social scene. It was better, but not much much better. Event planners and caterers reported stronger turn outs, and fundraisers reported more generosity, but the smiles on guests' faces still seemed tinged with doubt, worry and anxiety. Sometimes they looked quite frankly like they'd rather be anywhere but sitting at a table for 10 or 12, in formal wear, and listening to speeches about how much "more" generosity was needed. Nonetheless, Washington is a generous community, the lesser "Bah Humbug."

Even in Washington, a sense of fun.
As the year winds down the biggest social negative continues to worsen: The political divide in Congress is aggravated by the fact that many members simply don't live here anymore. One is directly related to the other. Congress follows a nearly state legislature type schedule, shorter weeks and fewer weeks a month, which means they keep the family at home. Even Sen. Barack Obama did not move his family to Washington until he became president. 

If the family is not here that means the children aren't in school here and the office holder has fewer opportunities to engage with the local community, or down time with other members whose children might be at the same school. They rarely show up anymore at social events.

The exception is Sen. Pat Leahy of Vermont. He shows up and is a good egg in this regard. If a member of the House goes to a fundraiser it's generally not for a disease or a museum or a theater but for themselves or another member who needs to keep the campaign chest plump.

Ultimately, without downtime to socialize, it's difficult for the elected officials – who almost all come here from elsewhere – to get to know one another, especially those on opposite sides of the aisle. Apart from similar jobs, they are strangers, and – just like writing anonymous trash on Internet comment boards – it's so much easier to dump on someone you don't know. 

Also, people are over-scheduled and stressed, which has led to another bad habit: canceling at the last minute or not showing up at all. What used to be "duty" has become "do I have to?" Well, if the reply to the RSVP was "yes," then yes, you have to. It's routine these days to hear someone say they have three events to go to in one night, as if that is normal behavior. Remember when people once went to one event for three courses? Gone. Over.
Bill Haseltine's Georgetown mansion.
There were some good parties, though, and we'll have more about that next week. For now, a good almost-last party of the year, Bill Haseltine's annual holiday party at the Georgetown mansion where he rarely resides anymore, due to a move to Manhattan. In fact, the house is for sale, and the price was variously speculated to be $14, $12 or $10 million. It's a good house on a prime corner in the East Village of Georgetown, and no, I'm not his agent. 

The party began early and went late. Bill warmed and charmed his guests with the usual delicious buffet, hot cider, wine, holiday music and embraces upon arrival and departure. Some of the guests included Brendan and Lila Sullivan, Dr. Anthony Fauci and Christine Grady, Didi Cutler, Lucky Roosevelt, Judith Terra, Francesca Craig, Jeff Weiss, Arturo and Hilda Brillembourg, Finlay Lewis, Mandy and Mary Ourisman, Joann Mason, Jon Ledecky, Mark Ein, Barbara Harrison, Nora Maccoby, Richard Marks, Calvin and Jane Cafritz, and Ann and Bill Nitze.
Haseltine welcomes guests.
The Carolers. Oh, Come All Ye Faithful.
Listening to the Carolers.
David Bradley, Katherine Bradley, and Bill Haseltine.
Judith Terra and Richard Marks.
Selwa "Lucky" Roosevelt.
Bill Haseltine with Lila and Brendan Sullivan.
Nora Maccoby Hathaway, Maya Haseltine, and Richard Marks.
Anthony Fauci and Christine Grady.
Calvin and Jane Cafritz. Finlay Lewis.
Joann Mason. Barbara Harrison.
Jon Ledecky, Ina Ginsburg, and Francesca Craig.
Mandy and Mary Ourisman.
Mark Ein and Bill Haseltine.
The bar. Le buffet.
Another trip to the bar.
Carol Joynt's memoir, Innocent Spouse, can be ordered from Amazon, HERE.