Let me check … why, yes—yes, there is a room available! The Trump International Hotel, in Washington, D.C., inflicted on the populace from the renovated bones of the Old Post Office building, has seen better days—which is saying a lot, since the Trumpian iteration of the landmark building hadn’t seen any days at all until 2016, when it opened. But the pandemic and the disgraced real-estate developer’s ejection from the White House haven’t exactly been great for business. “For four years its opulent lobby thronged with diplomats, lobbyists and Trump family members,” reported The Guardian. “But one recent afternoon it seemed more reminiscent of the haunted hotel in Stanley Kubrick’s film The Shining.”
Ah, but there were good times, weren’t there! Recently, Washingtonian remembered some of them, notably the complicated rituals performed for the benefit of the now-and-again occupant of Table 72, as outlined in an internal document called “Standard Operating Procedure”: “As soon as Trump was seated, the server had to ‘discreetly present’ a mini bottle of Purell hand sanitizer. (This applied long before Covid, mind you.) Next, cue dialogue: ‘Good (time of day) Mr. President. Would you like your Diet Coke with or without ice?’ the server was instructed to recite…. Directions for pouring the soda were detailed in a process no fewer than seven steps long—and illustrated with four photo exhibits. The beverage had to be opened in front of the germophobe commander in chief, ‘never beforehand.’” And not just opened, indifferently, carelessly, unthinkingly. No. “The server was to hold a longneck-bottle opener by the lower third of the handle in one hand and the Diet Coke, also by the lower third, in the other.”
It came as a relief that, on closer inspection, what seemed to be a chilling reference to “turning huskies and St. Bernards into sweaters” was in fact an unfortunate misread: in fact, the sentence had to do with harvesting the dogs’ combed-out, discarded fur for yarn. Phew! A German company, Modus Intarsia, is offering roughly $25 a pound—cashmere prices—for what they are calling “chiengora.” “The company has signed up with three German textile companies that will launch their first dog-based fashion collections in October for the winter season,” reported The Times of London. “Owners can also receive wool spun from their pet to knit their own creations.” Warp and woof-woof, truly.
Along vaguely related lines, one Somerset farmer, Frank Shellard, is hoping to persuade more people to look at a horse and think (no, not dinner) milk. The Times of London investigated and found that the drink, popular now with Kazakhstanis and previously with Tolstoy and Chekhov, tasted not bad and was “high in vitamin C and iron but low in fat, with levels of lactose and casein that are closer to human breast milk than to that from a cow.” Shellard, who currently has 14 mares and 150 customers, maintained that “the only reason cow’s milk is so popular is because of marketing.”
Well, actually, there’s really nothing to report from Bitche, in northeastern France, except the town’s inclusion in a silly, irresistible EuroNews.com roundup of places with unfortunate names. Among the others making the cut: Dull, Scotland; Condom, France; Climax, United States; Fucking, Austria (though the town recently threw up its hands and renamed itself Fugging); and Hell, Norway. (No word on whether a similar pivot to Heck, Norway—or at least H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks, Norway—is under consideration.)
Thanks to Russian mediation, a deal is reportedly in the works that would return to Israel the body of one of its most renowned spies, Eli Cohen. Cohen (who was portrayed by another Cohen, Sacha Baron, in the 2019 Netflix series The Spy) was an Egyptian Jew who worked for the Mossad undercover in Syria for several years before being caught and executed there in 1965. “The skill with which he had integrated himself into the highest echelons of Syrian life, plying contacts with alcohol at wild parties as he extracted information, while keeping his wife and children back home in Israel, made him the stuff of legends,” noted The Times of London. Still: “There have been rumours before that the Assad regime might relent and return the body.” Nevertheless, the newspaper reported, “Cohen’s widow, Nadia, and their daughters are said to have been closely watching the renewed co-operation between Russia and Israel.”
Part of the four-year renovation of the soon-to-reopen Musée Carnavalet has apparently involved the removal of Roman numerals, much to the dismay of purists for whom the idea of Louis XIV becoming Louis 14 is anathema. The controversial switch is being justified by the museum—a museum of Parisian history, ironically enough—on the grounds of “universal accessibility,” reported The Times of London. “Le Figaro said it ‘pricks the eyes’ to see the Sun King” so described, said The Times, which also quoted the writer Jacques Gaillard as lamenting that “ancient culture is beating a discreet retreat. Knowledge is being wiped out,” and blaming “American influence.” However, Le Figaro disputed that last bit, citing Rocky II, III, IV, and V, in the process turning Sylvester Stallone into a warrior for high culture.
Two dozen paintings of Tintin that feature the wholesome cartoon reporter-adventurer in rather more risqué situations than readers—or the estate of his creator, Hergé—are accustomed to has landed the offending artist in court. Xavier Marabout placed Tintin in a series of Edward Hopper tableaux, “including in hotel rooms with women, one of whom he is kissing,” reported The Times of London. Nick Rodwell, who is married to Hergé’s widow, is alleging counterfeiting and infringement of moral rights. Marabout argues that artists have the right to parody. (“I had fun imagining a romantic life for Tintin using the voyeuristic side of Hopper,” he said.) Naturally, Tintin’s wire fox terrier, Snowy, also figures in the paintings, his devotion evidently extending all the way to 21st-century acrylic mash-ups.
George Kalogerakis is a Writer at Large for AIR MAIL