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Let's Get This Virtual Party Started

Hello. Welcome, welcome. Come on in, take a seat. There's some room at the front. Everyone here? Great. Let's get started. This is my new blog. And when I say "my new blog" I really mean "our new blog." I have discovered, over the last few years of writing a column, that you are a smart, literate, opinionated bunch and I try, whenever possible, to reflect that in my column.

"John Kelly's Commons" let's us take that a step further. The comments section is here for us to back-and-forth in. But I also want to use this venue to be even more interactive, as a place for contests (see details below) and a place where the army--okay, the platoon--of "John Kelly's Washington" readers can submit material that interests them and that they think might interest others.

For example, we're kicking things off with the "What Does It Mean to Be a Washingtonian?" essay contest. You can read about it in my column today. I hope you'll enter. That contest got me thinking about the great and pressing need we have for something like a D.C. I.Q. test, a quiz that will determine what sort of Washingtonian you are. For example, are you a better Washingtonian for knowing the next line of this ditty: "Jerry's Ford makes it clear, --------"? In a D.C. quiz should you score more points for having visited the White House or for not ever visiting the White House? (I mean, really. What sort of Washingtonian goes to the White House?)

So, that's your first task: to help me come up with a sliding scale of Washingtonness. The best way to start might be to complete the following sentence: "You might be a Washingtonian if..." Post your thoughts in the comments below. Perhaps I can work the results up into a nightclub act.

In the spirit of testing your I.Q., I'll also be hosting a weekly contest. Every Monday I'll post an old image of a Washington-area scene with its name blacked out as if it had been redacted by the FBI. Be the first to e-mail me with the correct answer and you'll win a prize. I'm starting things off very easy today. Here's the first image (thanks to David Stinson for the post card):


I promise things will get harder next week. What's the prize? A post card autographed by a bona fide Washington Post Pulitzer Prize winner. Be the envy of your friends when they see your genuine, suitable-for-framing, one-of-a-kind keepsake.

"John Kelly's Commons" will also be a place where I share links to things I've seen that might interest you. I'll be trolling local news sites and blogs and invite you to e-mail me with any suggestions you might have. If you're a blogger who's especially proud of something you've written, let me know.

I welcome readers from my old blog and hope you'll jump in with both feet too. I read a story the other day that human evolution is essentially over. The evolution of "John Kelly's Commons," however, is just beginning.

By John Kelly  |  October 20, 2008; 4:00 AM ET
 | Tags: Washington, blog, contests  
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Good Old Jerry's Ford "let the competition beware." But, for the bonus points, what street did the Ford's live on in Alexandria and what is the name of the new street that will honor President Ford there?. My voxford blog commenter name "mark from alexandria" was not available for the Post, so I am stuck with this one. Great to see your "bloggy bottom" online again.

Posted by: mfromalexva | October 20, 2008 6:41 AM | Report abuse

" I'll be trolling local news sites and blogs... "

Troll! Troll! Probably not the best choice of words...

Posted by: reddragon1 | October 20, 2008 7:41 AM | Report abuse

@Reddragon: Ha! Good point, although surely that usage must spring from the noun not the verb. Maybe I should say I'll be "loitering in the shadows...."

@MFA: Welcome. And a good question. In fact, it gives me an idea for another contest.

Posted by: JohnFKelly | October 20, 2008 7:54 AM | Report abuse

I thought this was a contest re "Washingtonness," not Alexandria-ness or any other SUBURB you may wanna throw in. If it's a DC thing, let's keep the trivia within the diamond proper. Thanks.

Posted by: ALLDCAnge | October 20, 2008 9:19 AM | Report abuse

Re: I thought this was a contest re "Washingtonness," not Alexandria-ness or any other SUBURB you may wanna throw in. If it's a DC thing, let's keep the trivia within the diamond proper. Thanks.
Posted by: ALLDCAnge

Dang! I'm a man without a state...or even a region. First, I find I'm from the not-the-real-Virginia and now I'm rejected from the DC thing too. Bummer.

Posted by: GaryJean | October 20, 2008 10:27 AM | Report abuse

You might be a Washingtonian if...

Your sense of self-importance exceeds the D.C. height restriction.

Posted by: MStreet1 | October 20, 2008 10:37 AM | Report abuse

John! Hello from a really boring Entertainment Marketing class. (Inconsistency noted.)

Here's a DC IQ quiz for you:

I could only remember answers to seven of the 25 questions. Must mean I'm not a Washingtonian anymore?

Posted by: feldmeierj | October 20, 2008 11:13 AM | Report abuse

from MStreet1: You might be a Washingtonian if...
Your sense of self-importance exceeds the D.C. height restriction

Love it!
AnnZ from NTRV or Not-the-Real-Virginia

Posted by: Z914 | October 20, 2008 12:10 PM | Report abuse

How about: You might be a Washingtonian if... rush to the Giant at the first mention of snow in the forecast.

Or, You might be a Washingtonian if you know your Inner Loop from your Outer Loop.

Posted by: JohnFKelly | October 20, 2008 12:18 PM | Report abuse

Well, wait just a minute, Mr. Alldcante (if that is your real name). Parts of Alexandria and Arlington were part of DC way back when. So an old picture from Arlington or Alexandria may have been taken in DC. Of course, if you knew that already then you really are a Washingtonian.

Posted by: LionelMandrake | October 20, 2008 12:41 PM | Report abuse

Back in the late 80s, during Mayor Barry's reign of terror, I was mugged about six months after moving to the city. This resulted in a broken skull and two broken fingers. While I was buying (gulp!) velcro sneakers so I wouldn't have to worry about tying shoelaces, the guy at the shoe store told me that I was now a "real Washingtonian."

Oddly enough, this DID make me feel better.

Posted by: | October 20, 2008 12:43 PM | Report abuse

Jerry's Ford makes it clear -- I played the drums on that jingle! Got paid $25 in '73/'74. Took several hours, because we made it up on the spot, guitar/bass/drums. Horns and vocals were added later.

But it wasn't just DC. The jingle was syndicated, and I had the odd experience of driving into Dallas late one night and hearing on the AM radio, "Somebody Else's Name Ford makes it clear..."

The jingle was played so much the actual tape wore out. It was redone with samplers and keyboards. I called Jerry in hopes of writing an article about it, but he got all panicked at the thought of press inquiry and curtly refused.


Posted by: Nutco | October 20, 2008 12:58 PM | Report abuse

You might be a Washingtonian if . . .

. . . you are aware that the shorthand reference to the new baseball team ("Nats") isn't new at all.

. . . you know someone who was born at Columbia Hospital for Women.

. . . you purchase your seafood from the fish mongers on Maine Avenue.

Posted by: f-street | October 20, 2008 1:03 PM | Report abuse

If you are worried about the dif between Washington and Alexandria, or the Virginias (West, Real and Imaginary) you are a real Washingtonian!!

Posted by: reddragon1 | October 20, 2008 1:03 PM | Report abuse

Comment. :-D

(this is Susan)

Posted by: batwings | October 20, 2008 1:27 PM | Report abuse

"...the diamond proper" isn't a proper diamond, and hasn't been since around 1846 or so. I think it's pretty difficult to draw boundaries around Washingtonian-ness.

You might be a Washingtonian if you can point in the general direction of the monument from any point on the globe. I developed this ability from years of driving around the beltway as a courier. I realized one day that I could tell which loop I was on based on where I was in relation to the monument, sort of like a magnetic pole.

You are also probably a Washingtonian if you think "Cul de Sac" is the best thing in the daily paper (no offense meant to Mr. Kelly's Washington). I wonder -- do people out there in America get this strip?

Posted by: JP_in_MD | October 20, 2008 1:33 PM | Report abuse

Gary Jean, to quote Steve Martin, "well excuuuuse meeeee!" Would it further inflame your suburbenvy if I mentioned that the San Clemente Trickster, Richard Nixon, also hailed from Alexandria when he was a lowly Congressman?

RedDragon-we may have the same Alma Mater.

You might be a Washingtonian...if you ever had Midnight Brunch at the Hot Shoppes on the corner of Wisconsin and Nebraska when I was a waiter there!

Posted by: mfromalexva | October 20, 2008 1:36 PM | Report abuse

You might be a Washingtonian if... you understand why no one from Maryland can imagine living in Virginia... and no one from Virginia can imagine living in Maryland...

Posted by: exkidspost | October 20, 2008 1:55 PM | Report abuse

... you call it National, dammit, not Reagan.

Posted by: ChrisCombs | October 20, 2008 4:02 PM | Report abuse

Re: You might be a Washingtonian if . . .
. . you are aware that the shorthand reference to the new baseball team ("Nats") isn't new at all.
. . . you know someone who was born at Columbia Hospital for Wom

How about actually being born in Columbia Hospital for Women, as I was in 1957.

Or watching Frank Howard hitting home runs into the upper deck in DC Stadium (its name before being renamed RFK) for the Nats in the mid 1960's.

Or, how about climbing down all 898 steps of the Washington Monument before the National Park Service banned that practice.

Or, being able to park your car under the Smithsonian American History Museum.

Or, having some of your first recollections of the Redskins be phrases like, "Week after week, we suffer from McPeak." Another great catchphrase was "What now Otto?" (What would coach Otto Graham do?).

Or another football memory: What, in my opinion, was the greatest Redskins home game in their history -- When they played a 4:00 pm NFC championship game against the Cowboys on New Year's Eve 1972. The Skins won 26-3 and went on to Super Bowl VII.

Maybe you remember the "temporary" office buildings constructed during World War II that stayed on the Mall until about the mid 1970's.

Perhaps you recall that the original name of the Beltway, when opened in 1964, was the "Circumferential Highway."

Or seeing the smoke and flames rise from the neighborhoods around U Street and 14th Street during the 1968 riots.

I have lots more memories, but I will stop here for the time being.

Posted by: southardsm | October 20, 2008 4:15 PM | Report abuse

You might be a Washingtonian if you know the slogan from Jhoon Rhee Tae Kwon Do -"Nobody bothers me! Nobody bothers me, either!"

Oh, and it's the Cabin John Bridge...

Posted by: megtheegg | October 20, 2008 4:29 PM | Report abuse

You might be a Washingtonian if...

... you remember when Felix Grant was the patron saint of D.C. cab drivers.

Posted by: munchie2 | October 20, 2008 4:34 PM | Report abuse

I can't answer your Washingtonness question for obvious reasons. But, hey, we do have a Washington street here in Bahía Blanca!

So this comment is just to let you know how international your blog is.

Posted by: AEZfromArgentina | October 20, 2008 4:44 PM | Report abuse

You might be a REAL WASHINGTONIAN if:

You remember the streetcars running on DC Streets.

You remember Hot Shoppes cafeterias through out the region

You remember the Bobs Big Boy statue, in front of the Bobs Big Boy in PG plaza, where you waited for your bus.

You can remember all 4 names of the DC area bus companies, BEFORE W.M.A.T.A. took over in 1973.

You remember the Evening Star afternoon newspaper.

You remember soda fountains in ALL Peoples Drug Stores.

You remember Peoples Drug Stores, as well as Dart Drug, Drug Fair, Garfinkles, Landsburgs, E.J. Korvettes, S. Klein stores.

You remember people speaking ENGLISH and there was NO NEED for translations in everyday life.

Posted by: Robbnitafl | October 20, 2008 4:47 PM | Report abuse


I was with you till you got to the part about English. I've lived around D.C. almost 50 years, and I've never been forced to translate anything.

Maybe restaurant signs like Pollito Loco. Crazy Little Chicken! Is this a great country or what?

Posted by: munchie2 | October 20, 2008 5:43 PM | Report abuse

Ah, old jingles. What about:
"Whatever you want, blah BLAH blah ?"
or an easy one:
"You always get your way, blah BLAH blah BLAH blah blah ?"
and my favorite, because I don't think it even had a first line:
"Wisconsin and BLAH blah?"

Posted by: rpkelly | October 20, 2008 6:31 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the suggestions. The thing I always struggle with when it comes to this sort of endeavor is how to evoke a certain Washingtonness without resorting to nostalgia. Like, what does someone who hasn't heard a classic Ourisman jingle or ever went to the old 930 club associate with "Washington"? Obviously I need to start hanging around with 18-year-olds.

Don't get me wrong. I love nostalgia. (It tastes of Mighty Mo.) I just think that every generation is entitled to its own golden age, as long as they don't take it too seriously.

Posted by: JohnFKelly | October 20, 2008 7:04 PM | Report abuse

If you know that in DC, Potomac Avenue used to be Georgia Avenue.

Or if you can find Puerto Rico Avenue, though it's really a truck route and not a residential street.

How about if you still refer to businesses by the local names they once had? Such as:

C&P Telephone instead of Verizon
People's Drug instead of CVS
Riggs Bank instead of PNC

Or if, when you talk about Hecht's, you think of the building at 7th and F streets NW instead of the one it last occupied at 12th and G.

Posted by: jcbcmb68 | October 20, 2008 11:20 PM | Report abuse

Ok, John. Here's a non-nostalgia one for you...You might be a Washingtonian if you absolutely refuse to let a car merge in front of you. Because driving, as is everything in Washington, is a competition and heaven forbid someone gets in front of me on the beltway!!!

Posted by: megtheegg | October 21, 2008 8:40 AM | Report abuse

You might be a Washingtonian if you were an adult before you ever realized that most ppl *pay* to go to a museum.

Posted by: lindy47 | October 21, 2008 8:51 PM | Report abuse

Lindy47, you are so right about the museums. The first time I went to a museum in NYC and had to pay $25 I nearly had a heart attack and I wanted to organize a protest! I grew up fast though.

Posted by: wacquiebob | October 21, 2008 10:05 PM | Report abuse

megtheegg wrote: "You might be a Washingtonian if you know the slogan from Jhoon Rhee Tae Kwon Do -'Nobody bothers me! Nobody bothers me, either!'"

Or even better, if you know that Nils Lofgren wrote and sang the jingle.

Posted by: staxowax | October 23, 2008 12:30 PM | Report abuse

I know nostalgia is pathetic, but that won't stop me.

You might be a Washingtonian if . . .

Along the lines of "National, dammit, not Reagan", though not so insistent: Sometimes you refer to it as RFK, but also sometimes as DC Stadium (as hinted at by southardsm, when he mentioned Frank Howard).

And as Robbnitafl mentioned the Star, you might know that on the front page of the final edition, above the fold, was a byline by Maureen Dowd.

And also in that connection, you would know who 'Sam and Janet Evening' were.

Posted by: avonbrand | October 23, 2008 9:44 PM | Report abuse

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