That’s me in the corner. That’s me in the spotlight, losing my religion.
Trying to keep up with you and I don’t know if I can do it.
Oh no. I’ve said too much. I haven’t said enough.
A whole 2 weeks for Part II (Remember Part I)! Hope I haven’t lost your interest! We are in the MIDST of football playoffs, so let's wrap up Monday Night Football... To recap – we’ve left Chinatown’s bat cave and head to the infamous Capitol Lounge on Capitol Hill, a New England Patriots bar (I recently discovered) to catch the Monday Night Football game. If I were to make a list of the things I love most about DC, near the top would be the fact that DC is an international and domestic hub for individuals from all types of backgrounds. It’s a skittles commercial-all the colors of the cultural rainbow. And here we are – a Monday night in our nation’s capital, and this Southerner is surrounded by New England Patriots fans with Mark Wahlberg accents and his reaaally NSFW (unless you're Officer Dignam) The Departed vernacular.
Capitol Lounge (Cap Lounge as they call it on the street) is located on the strip of Pennsylvania Avenue restaurants down the street from the United States House of Representatives office buildings, nestled between Capitol Hill and Eastern Market in Southeast DC. It is a Republican-owned (but bipartisan in business) playground for congressional staff, particularly interns and younger twenty-something staff. The décor is pretty austere, but it is adorned with aged political paraphernalia (the walls are a collection for Reagan and Nixon campaign swag, hung amidst red+white+blue and stars+stripes fabrics/flags/buntings, etc.). Of bars in DC, with such power-packing patronage, Cap Lounge is the Jenny from the Block version of Jennifer Lopez – the inconspicuous, no frills neighborhood pub, full of fully suited puppeteers for our federal lawmakers. It is a staple in Capitol Hill so there is no need for inventive concoctions or promotions, although they do offer a few good ones, and I would call it unpretentious for that reason but doing so would only be half-right. Among the political and patriotic stylings are signs stating, “I don’t care who you work for.” And, if you show up AFTER the safety hours of happy hour, the place is full of political loose lips and poisoned philosophies, all willing to dive into a debate on House Resolution yadayada, the exact role/size of the federal government, skinterns in the office of Congressman Cat in the Hat, to whom and how much big donors have spent this past campaign cycle, the economics driving the American job market, and of course, how this/that party is screwing over America’s future.
The yin to balance the yang, however, is that Cap Lounge will often reserve entire levels for private parties, like it is on this particular night as the main level has been hijacked by a trivia night. The private party this evening (for what, I’m not quite sure) is closing down, so the staff has been kind enough to let our small group enter the private party for the tail end so that we may catch kick-off while trivia concludes. Not that there aren’t enough televisions upstairs, but we absolutely take the offer. The space has mostly cleared, with a few lingering behind, most of whom are vortex’ed into liquored-up conversations, with exception to a small, isolated table which is shared between 3 suited men (much grayer than the usual suspects) who are holding their alcohol much better than the usual suspects as well. This particular exclusive table is enthralled in a quiet conversation, with a private television, a table of beer, catching the beginning of the game between incognito conversations, all of which is being kept quite private.
In the same room, I’m sitting adjacent to 2 fine, young, over-served gentlemen I’m fairly certain wound up here from the Hill, discussing the state of our country and slurring their personal patriotism. “I mean…dude, I rreaaally love the Constah-tution,” divulging very little into any substantial political theory at this point. Full confession - by the end of the night, I will be guilty of similar crimes myself, bickering with well-informed friends over whether or not the state of Texas will remain red or turn blue in the 2016 presidential election. #onlyinDC In my experience, veteran Hill staff tend to turn their noses at the thought of Cap Lounge after work, probably because at one time they’ve done this exact, roll-your-eyes-the-next-morning-in-embarrassment, type of thing. I label it infamous because by the end of the night, it can be fall-down drunk, the last place that you didn’t need to visit on your way home from the evening’s shenanigans, yet you’re inside ordering another round and plunging money into the computerized jukebox.
Around 9:00, the majority of the trivia masses leave the bar, and Cap Lounge releases their Jerry Jones-sizedsuperdome screen (well, for a bar space it is huge) and we head upstairs to the main room. The crowd has dwindled, but that will change before halftime. The bar offers great specials for the football game, including $5 pizza which is my favorite from their food menu. If pub grub is not pleasing your palette, the location is perfect to explore other eatable options-Top Chef’s Spike Mendelsohn offers 2 amazing restaurants: Good Stuff and We the Pizza, located just across the street, perpetually packed with power players including President Obama. Cap Lounge is now packed with sports enthusiasts at this point, in particular New Englanders from the Hill, small business owners, veterans, lobbyists, and a few 2012 Presidential battleground campaign staff. After 9:00 on most nights, you are bound to see just as diverse a crowd...
My last call: great locality, interesting crowd, even more interesting conversations, most of which devolve into superficial matters. It is the bar for workers of politics to unite, and a spot for the rest of the world to watch the beer-based bipartisan common ground burn up in flames.
Until Next Time,
Until Next Time,