In the heart of commercial Washington DC, on M Street between 18th and 19th, there is a topless (and bottomless?) restaurant/bar. It has been there for decades; I have never been inside. An old friend once had a law office in the building across the street. She once said to me “You’d be surprised who goes in and out of there.” But I have rarely seen anyone enter or exit, even though I walk by the front door almost daily.

On the outside, there is a small marquis that has a partial lunch menu (very standard American fare, as you would imagine), and the first names of the “girls” inside. The names are never Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah. They are always names like Jasime, Tiffany and Sapphire.

And, there is always a well dressed man standing at the door. This is my question: why is he there? He is not big enough to be a bouncer; he is not handsome enough to be an attraction. In the summer he is wearing a suit (he does not look like someone who would wear a suit) and in the winter, he wears a brown topcoat, and sometimes has a wool cap on. He is part barker: “Hi, gentlemen, want to come in?” He is part friend of the local police, with whom he is often talking. He communicates (with someone) using a 1980-vintage walkie-talkie.

But he must have a more sinister function. He is not there to protect against suicide bombers, but he must be there to protect those inside against something. The question is “what?”

Yesterday, I saw something that I don’t remember seeing before. A taxi pulled up in front of the restaurant and a man got out of the cab and walked towards the door. I would guess that the gentlemen was in his 70s, perhaps even 80. He was short, clean shaven, had gray hair and blew in the wind, had on an overcoat. He was a little too heavy, and somewhat stooped. He walked with a cane. He made a bee-line towards the restaurant.

The greeter (I guess that is what I would call him) said “Are you coming in”. The man, looking serious, said “I am.” The greeter then moved towards the door to hold it open while, at the same time, talking into his walkie-talkie saying “Coming in, one, by himself”.

What activities inside did that set off? I wonder.


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