September 29th, 2021


The agony of finding a parking place for the spare Mercedes

Wesley Pruden

By Wesley Pruden

Published March 28, 2017

Huey Long President Warren G. Harding at Washington Senators Baseball Game.

Politics is serious business in Washington. Detroit is puzzling over how to make SUVs bigger. Hollywood is worried over how a screenwriters' strike will curtail production of tinsel in Hollywood.

The most serious business in Washington is not what to do about Obamacare, a tax cut, the nut case in North Korea, or even how the election of Donald Trump has so polarized America that no friendship, relationship or marriage is safe.

Washington worries about how to find a parking place.

The worry is most acute in Kalorama, one of Washington's most expensive neighborhoods where $5 million can get you a pretty nice house on a quiet street. Your neighbors might be a former president (Barack Obama); a business baron (Jeff Bezos, the owner of Amazon and The Washington Post); Jared and Ivanka Trump Kushner (daughter of the president, and her husband, assigned to figuring out how to blow up the government and put it back together again); Rex Tillerson (the secretary of State), and even the editor in chief emeritus and the editor of the editorial page of The Washington Times.

Bordered by two of the city's longest and most fashionable avenues (Connecticut and Massachusetts), and barely two miles from the White House, you might say Kalorama is sitting pretty.

Warren Harding entertained his poker buddies there, William Howard Taft found a house to accommodate his enormous girth, and Douglas MacArthur hid his mistress from his mother in an apartment on Connecticut Avenue before World War II. Madame Chiang KaiShek threw lavish A-list dinner parties in Kalorama during the war.

The China of Mao Zedong is just now completing an enormous apartment block for purposes undisclosed. Only Chinese workmen are allowed in an inner core said to be designed for advanced electronics with a straight downhill shot to both the White House and the Pentagon.

There's a democratic (small-d) sprinkling of embassies, some A-list and some merely of tribes with flags, and a few apartment houses with one-bedroom flats. (How else could a mere newspaperman make it to such a posh neighborhood?) But all that brass and cream is no consolation when you're looking for a place to park on a dark and stormy night.

That's what le tout Kalorama is talking about. When Ivanka Trump moved in to a six-bedroom cottage a next-door neighbor left a note - written by hand in proper blue-black ink on engraved stationery - welcoming her to Kalorama and assuring her that the two family dogs love children (hint, hint). She didn't get a response. Rhona Friedman, a lawyer and the friendly neighbor, figured Mrs. Trump Kushner was still unpacking and would answer later. But then the dreaded no-parking signs went up to make room for security details. Who needs a friendly dog now? "Their exasperation peaked," The Washington Post reported, "when city workers installed two additional no-parking signs - not in front of [the Trump-Kushner] house, but outside [Mrs.] Friedman's residence next door. 'I started screaming,' [Mrs.] Friedman said. Then she began writing emails."

Rex Tillerson's digs get only two orange warning cones to mark a place for his car. Nothing yet from Jeff Bezos, who is no doubt too busy in Amazon's vast packing sheds to worry about a parking place in Kalorama. Like much of the rest of Washington, the neighborhood is accustomed to inconvenience and excessive secu­rity for political celebrities. The Secret Service even closed Pennsylvania Avenue, a major east-west thoroughfare, in front of the White House during the George W. Bush administration, strangling traffic.

The Secret Service insisted it was necessary, though residents noticed that the closed street is used mostly as a parking lot for Secret Service SUVs. Lately the Secret Service has been unable to prevent intruders from climbing over the cast-iron fences pro­tecting the White House, but they pose no threat to Kalorama.

Hillary Clinton won 98 percent of the vote in the District of Columbia, and voters of that dissenting 2 percent are not likely to live in Kalorama. The 98 percent are much more likely to approve of how the Secret Service has closed a quarter of a mile of Belmont Road, which runs past the largest mosque in town, to accommodate Mr. Obama's fortified mansion. That's where he can plot the insurrection against President Trump once he settles in after girding his loins on vacations in the Caribbean and the South Seas.

"When Ivanka moved in," one neighbor sadly tells The Post, "we were all excited to shine a spotlight on our pretty neigh­borhood." She even considered throwing a party. But then the no-parking signs went up.

Finding a place to park the spare Mercedes is so fatiguing. In Kalorama it can be enough to make a body walk.

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JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.