It’s black. It’s beautiful. It’s the emerging D.C. social scene.
Recently I was in Washington, D.C. to cover the Congressional Black Caucus’ annual gathering and found myself spending every night up well past 5 a.m. “caucusing” my way through social hoppers and trend-setters, trendy spots and the dead zones that make up the rapidly growing scene, still blossoming in the post-inaugural after-glow. Grab your elusive golden wristband to get into the VIP and avoid the “purple tunnel of doom.”
Welcome to Washington, D.C.
Wednesday “Ozio’s Wuh Dead”
The cigar bar party wasn’t as good as last year. Or at least that was what I was repeatedly told. Ozio Martini & Cigar Lounge on M Street was dead, so dead that despite being full with people the group of women I was with could not wait to leave. Besides, the smoke was disturbing their tender throats as we stood around makeshift pictures of President Obama and televised scenes from a presidential documentary hosted by Roland Martin.
“Everyone is being so double-o-seven,” was the no. 1 complaint. Meaning, it was like inauguration all-over again. People recalled the “purple tunnel of doom,” when A-listers spent inauguration trapped in traffic instead of watching Obama be sworn in from the good seats. The list of receptions and after-parties had come out as late as possible, people were being tight-lipped about where the hot spots were. If your name was not on the list you were not getting in.
“This is D.C., not New York,” one friend lamented. Yet there was an endless sea of lists following the endless number of phone calls to get on those lists and get the little precious tickets and wristbands that would grant entrance into hot spot after hot spot. So we got into Ozio, goody for us, but Ozio was pronounced dead-on-arrival, so everyone in it abandoned the place en masse and filed into “the Wuh,” aka The W aka the former Hotel Washington.
There, among the purple lit chandeliers and ambient music, we pondered our sore feet and watched the caucus attendees dance, one drunk off of one glass of white wine, while dressed in their business suits and ties. It was the night the nerds threw down and the scenesters rolled their eyes.
The Wuh just wasn’t getting it. We would close the evening hiding out, incognito at The Gibson in the U Street Corridor, the world’s most secret bar. There was no sign in front and no windows. You can only get there if you already know it’s there. It was pronounced the new favorite hideaway of the members of my party. They had found a new home away from home in the plush red and black booths, noshing on cheese and sipping champagne.
Time I got home: 4 a.m.
Friday “Twinkle Toes”
We were still a-glow from the above and beyond efforts of one DJ D-Nice at the Essence Evening of Excellence after-party at the Ronald Reagan Building. People threw down and got sweaty and dined on cupcakes. It was the one spot everyone seemed to want to get into Friday night and didn’t want to leave, but the point of caucus is to network, network, network and have a good time while doing it. One couldn’t simply hole themselves up in one place for too long even if they were having a good time watching CNN’s Suzanne Malveaux chat up NAACP President Benjamin Todd Jealous while actor Robert Townsend wandered about.
It was off to warehouse-turned-club Love on Okie Street in the Northeast, where the floors were sticky from God only knows what was spilled on the floor. Where caucus goers got to post up like rap stars in their own surreal video with overturned, empty bottles of champagne sitting in melting buckets of ice.
My posse was probably the sourest and saddest one on the dance floor, tired of people bumping into us, scowling our way through “Baby Got Back.”
So exhausted, the surreal evening was brought to a bizarre climax in the VIP. While blithely sitting on the couch my friend’s foot was molested by a randy stranger, offering the foot-fetishy gift of a free massage. Before she knew what was going on, he’d flung off one of her Dominatrix style heels and tossed the shoe in her lap. As he then attempted to make a meal of her toes, another friend came and shooed him away like he was cockroach. Our spot was supposed to be reserved for congressional staffers and he didn’t belong there. My friend asked me why I didn’t say anything, but over the thundering music and Salvador Dali-essque nature of the evening I’d assumed she knew him. After all, who expected there to be a great toe-sucking bandit loose on DC’s social scene.
Time I got home: 5 a.m.
Saturday “Are you Haitian?”
I’d spent most of my days at Caucus either attending panel discussions or going to functions like the fundraiser for Haiti at the home of Rev. Marcia L. Dyson. There I enjoyed various Haitian delicacies while being educated on the plight of the Haitian people and learning of the efforts of one Jacques-Philippe Piverger. He was there representing The Haiti Project, speaking with passion about his homeland.
That afternoon I also learned that I “looked” Haitian, as after every introduction someone in a lovely French-tinged accent would smile and ask quite blithely, “Are you Haitian?” Nope. Just your generic, Midwestern African-American mutt. As they were ever-so-lovely and polite about it, I quickly took it as a compliment.
Saturday was the last night of caucus and I spent it at The Park at Fourteenth, enjoying complimentary drinks with the staff of one Senator Roland Burris of Illinois. The senator was there, as well as countless other people wearing everything from business wear to shimmery sequined hot pants. After Sen. Burris left (but not before posing for many pictures with party-goers and friends), the party roared on to the tune of “Brick House.” I met one of his staffers, Kelechi Kalu, who wordlessly told me of his love for my weblog, blacksnob.com, then took to dancing on the same couch the senator had sat.
As I watched Kalu dance I thought of how DC’s scene, upon which I was frequenting now for the third time this year, was home to the belabored congressional staffer longing to just get down, even if it was in their Brooks Brothers. That it was home to lobbyists and activists alike, aspiring socialites and hipsters, government office dwellers and non-profit purveyors coming together to hold musical congress in places like Little Miss Whiskey’s on H Street and at rooftop gatherings like “The Coolout.” Where masters of the turntables, DJ Adrian Loving and Rhome Anderson, aka DJ Stylus, spin people into submission and out of their ties.
Long live party night in the Chocolate City.
Time I went to bed: Didn’t