co-ed Madonna bathrooms & greasy spoon dining
I had a really kewl dining experience a week or so ago in DC that I thought I'd mention.
18th & U Duplex Diner
2004 18th St NW
Washington, DC 20009
Neighborhood: Adams Morgan
One write-up described the place as thus: Description: "...a perfect place to enjoy a leisurely weekend brunch, complete with buttermilk pancakes, bagels with smoked salmon, shrimp cocktail and mimosas. Upbeat music sets the..." restaurantrow.com.
What we had was a huge bowl of pickles and an order of tater tots as appetizers (a first for me - lol), then our meals - mine was that of the fish & chips. The food was outstanding, but the history and atmosphere were what drew a lot of folks, I suspect.
I'd been staying with a couple of friends of mine who are gay. The boys took me to this place on a Friday night, and a storm broke just as we parked (rock star, curbside service, right in front of the door). After slogging through the rain, we found the place packed, and nobody wanted to get out of their chairs until that storm played out. So the guys socialized, introduced me to friends and wait staff, and I watched one of the big screen televisions. This movie was playing, and I'd not seen it.
Sometime during the meal, about forty minutes later, I was told that the bathrooms are co-ed or bisexual or whatever the hell a bathroom is called when men and women alike use it...just not at the same time. Anyway, I was told to steer to the right in the little hallway and to visit the Madonna, rather than the Asbury Park bathroom. I didn't need to 'go', but I visited the tiny room anyway, just to see what all the fuss was about. I'm sure I confused the hell out of the guy waiting to get in - I left the seat as it was...UP - lol.
The homage to Madonna was evident everywhere I looked, though. Took somebody a long time to decorate that room. I'm sure the diva would be thrilled, but I was a bit nonplussed that Madonna rather than Bruce Springsteen had been plastered all over the walls. Only two bathrooms--one featuring a Jersey seashore and the other a Michigan Catholic singer...Jersey I could see--it's right next door. But Michigan? Just seems like while they were working on NJ, they could have added The Boss. Oh, well.
Back to the atmosphere.
Online sources and textbooks give the colorful history of the Adams-Morgan district, but they leave out a vital piece of information, that the gay population is what keeps the area alive. Sure, there are tons of restaurants and boutiques, and the row houses are charming, but the inhabitants and many of those employed in the neighborhood are the life's blood thrumming through the area’s veins. For some reason it bothers me that we can't say GAY, even QUEER, or whatever without it sounded like we're tainting something. Which brings me back to atmosphere.
I was told that back in the fifties, if memory serves, there was a woman in the Adams-Morgan area who opened up her house to her gay male friends, so that is where they'd hang out, dance, 'be themselves', if you will, and that this establishment at 18th & U was one of the rare places where 'they' could dine amongst like-minded people.
My visit with my friends coincided with the Gay Pride parade and festival, which is why this is on my mind. Writer in me couldn't help but wonder at the price so many others paid decades ago when they had no place to go in safety, without fear.
And for some strange reason, I'd much rather have been where I was a few days ago than to have sat in say Richard Nixon's favorite Chinese restaurant a few blocks away, or sipping tea at Dolly Madison's or Abigail Adams' old haunts. We can read about good food, progress, happiness, and history - but living it, tasting it, watching it unfold is pretty special.
Sam, if you catch this post, hope you have a marvelous time visiting your family - figure you should be either somewhere over the Atlantic or landing about now. Enjoy, kiddo!