I’m offering here a peek inside Arlington’s most secretive and haphazardly organized support group.
The Men’s Development Club, for exactly one decade, has gathered every sixth Friday night (give or take) at East Falls Church-area watering holes deemed suitable for our brand of development.
I’m honored to have qualified. The entrance test weeds out many who aspire, according to chief operating officer Rick (I’m changing the names to protect the obnoxious.) Wanna-be’s must correctly answer at least one of three questions: “Are you an Arlington dad? Do you have a social life outside your family? Have you ever been thirsty?”
The resulting roster (padded with ringers who received misrouted emails) first “connected as school parents, volunteer sports coaches, Boy Scout dads, church members and neighbors,” says member Ross. Others are of the ilk who answer an ad that member Mo describes as seeking “fellow oppressed fathers, tired from many years of taking the high road and repeating, `Yes, dear,’ seeking others to share jokes and stories of former glory days over cold beverages in non-judgmental, non-intellectual environment.”
We boast at least one public official, some business owners and many active or shelved government employees.
Two or three are Catholic members in good standing at the Knights of Columbus on Little Falls Road, which allows our group of a dozen or so to populate the bar (enforcement based on the honor system). Bartender Kenny serves large pitchers from which we develop.
We’ve also assembled at the Asian Kitchen at Lee Highway and N. Lexington St. (former site of the Charleyhorse Grill, where the MDC was hatched) and at a private home, around a pit fire.
We have a captain, Van, who possesses the social clout to greenlight or block a proposed meeting. His deputy performs much of the work, signing off invites as “his most obedient servant.” Other formalities include the specially prepared “charter member” certificate presented (with our development glasses raised high) after a member named Bill moved to North Carolina. (He is establishing an MDC southern outpost.)
We’ve taken field trips to downtown museums, and one fresh-air fanatical rump group organizes camping trips. For primal reasons, MDCers journey to mountains in the Shenandoah or Pennsylvania to hike, cook primitively and confess around a fire while sipping their way to advanced development. That’s according to their “after-action reports.”
At Christmas, there’s a gag gift exchange (price ceiling: $10) in which fist fights threaten to break out as competitors seek to avoid booby prizes.
The conversation is nonpolitical, especially since not everyone knows all who turn up. (Should we make nametags? Nah, too civilized.)
“On the one hand, our wives are glad to get rid of us once in a while,” Russ ventures. “On the other hand, they benignly encourage us to make and maintain male friendships as we age, since they somehow think it might help us live longer.”
“The glue that holds the MDC together is fellowship, mutual concern and respect, and a shared sense of living responsible lives,” says veteran member Dick, with outlier sincerity. “We are no longer young, but haven’t lost our belief in the common good: community service, local and national values, and care for those around us. I salute the members of the MDC for making life in Arlington a little bit better.”
Here’s to the MDC’s second decade.
Arlington’s embarrassment now Alexandria’s?
Richard Spencer, a spokesman for the “alt-right” that is feeling its oats in the Trump era, has been photographed for national publications in Clarendon and the Courthouse neighborhoods. His residence was revealed to be in Arlington this November, and his “think tank,” the National Policy Institute, which pursues a pro-white, pro- European agenda, is in Crystal City. Altright.com has an Arlington post office box.
But Politico reported last month that Spencer now lives in Alexandria, where neighbors have complained. And the Alexandria Times just reported that his group signed a lease for a new headquarters at North Patrick and King streets in Old Town.