2024-06-18 8:09 AM

Our Man in Arlington

On July 12, I retire from downtown journalism, which enriched my soul for 43 years.

I am now free to reveal my career’s iffier moments.

Covering an event at the National Archives in 2010, I wandered into the staff-only area and got lost trying to exit. It was my first week on the job, so I had no proof of employment. Security guards kept me for an hour before giving the all-clear.

Twice, I lost notes from long phone interviews. In one case, I confessed and the source allowed me to re-conduct the interview. In the other, I relied on memory and let the busy official think I was just calling to double-check.
In 1987 I hosted a young Gov. Bill Clinton at a magazine office. We did a Q&A, but my recorder malfunctioned. Fortunately, my life-saver intern also taped it, so we published.

I once had an appointment to be interviewed by phone for a Buffalo radio station. I also had to drive my elderly aunt to the doctor’s. It ran late. So when the producer called, I pulled the car over and begged my aunt to sit still while I pontificated. Halfway through she threw open the car door and demanded attention. The audience never knew.

I once received an engraved invite to a nonprofit’s fancy dinner. Puzzled when the receptionist did not have my name, I talked my way in and, over wine and steak, made media conversation. It soon became clear the development team had mistaken me for a well-heeled donor.

The White House is famous for unveiling news at the end of a work week or holiday eve. Just before Christmas in 2012 — when I was due at a friend’s for dinner — President Obama’s team chose that afternoon to announce the winner of its efficiency award. That delayed me while I banged out the story. That year’s winner? My dinner host.

In 2012, I planned a column on the 50th-year reunion of the Yorktown High School classes of ’62-63. I had to time things just right to witness alums descending from their cars to behold a new school building — with not one brick from their era.

That morning, I decided to be good and drive my wife to her event downtown. But there was a 5K benefit race, which meant I got stuck dead-still for an hour on the Roosevelt Bridge. Patience exhausted, I jumped out (illegally) and left my wife to drive while I walked into Rosslyn. I hailed a cab and made it to Yorktown with seconds to spare.

In 1984, I played a cameo role in a national story while covering the Republican convention in Dallas. At a press conference with Vice President Bush, the reporter next to me was a male with shoulder-length hair. Bush called on “the young lady… next to the guy in the blue shirt.” That latter was me. Bush’s goof went out on the UPI wire and produced a gag on the Johnny Carson show.

Finally, I was likely the last to interview Arlington historian Eleanor Lee Templeman. In 1990, I was researching a piece for the Washington Post. “I’m sick in bed, but I’ll speak to you,” Templeman sang over the phone. A week later came her obituary.

Editor’s note: The retired Clark will continue as “Our Man in Arlington.”

Great spirit of the commons at the July 4 parade in Fairlington Villages.

With a porous barrier between participants and observers, 200-300 flag-carrying revelers, some on scooters, represented probably four generations.

They marched from the old firehouse on S. Abingdon St. to the community center accompanied by two costumed musicians.

Their rewards? Hot dogs and cold drinks beside booths offering Fairlington Citizens Association tote bags and a chance to donate food for the needy.


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