For reasons too improbable and esoteric to explain, I was recently invited to a small coterie of vacation shacks in Thurmont, north of the city of Frederick in Western Maryland. Franklin Roosevelt christened the joint as Shangri-La — in honor of his “Lost Horizon” reference following the Doolittle Raid against Tokyo — and that name stuck until Eisenhower renamed it for his grandson, Daniel or Douglas or whatever.
Anyhow, the rule is that what happens at Camp Daniel stays at Camp Daniel. When you get an invite, they don’t want you to describe the place on social media, or to relate the goings-on. And the Marines at the gate hold your cameras and smart phones so there’s nothing visual I could or should post here.
It will have to suffice as humble-brag to say that I drank a couple shots of presidential Jose Cuervo and I played a game of presidential darts and tilted a presidential pinball machine in the game room. Then I threw a couple jumpshots into the hole on either end of the presidential ball court, then powered my way down the lane past an imaginary presidential defender for a graceful lay-up. For a finale, I put on a pair of presidential bowling shoes and rolled a game in one of the presidential lanes. I did not use the presidential ball, which was clearly labeled atop the rack. They told me that was a definite no-go, and, well, Guantanamo.
All in all, I was feeling pretty damn special — 118 ain’t shabby when you haven’t bowled in a few years — until I look up on the wall of the lanes and there is a photograph of President Obama, the slightest suggestion of a smile on his face, pointing wryly upward at the tabulated bowling score on the overhead projection.
In between every other mess with which he’s contending, Barack Obama came here to the presidential retreat one day and rolled a 213.
Two thirteen! The man is a beast.
Me, I’ve never been more ashamed of a 118 in my entire gutter-ball-rolling life. And now that weak-ass score, with my name affixed to it, is winding its way to the National Archives or some other federal drain-swirl of historical ignominy.
Anyway, I’m guessing that’s about as far as I can go in terms of discussing my day in the hills of Frederick County. I don’t wanna break the rules. But a cabinet secretary later told me that considering my negligible background and general reputation, everyone thought I behaved myself and my little talk on public housing policy went swell.
Armed with such assurance, I promptly went back to the bar and stuffed the small item you see below into my sweater and made good my escape. The Marines at the gate probably assumed my conquest to be a gift-shop purchase or some such. Hah! What rubes. As if any chump of a visitor can pull out a credit card at the Shangri-La bar and waltz away from the place with $32 worth of presidential bar gear. As if.
My late father-in-law, Ted Lippman, who specialized in presidential politics for The Baltimore Sun for much of his long career, would have been so damn proud to down a martini from this bad boy. After all, who knows which historical lips savored its chemistry: Ike, or Truman, or Jackie Kennedy; Brezhnev or Sadat or Begin.
And, too, Ted would have been especially proud once I explained to him that they had renamed the entire camp in honor of my visit.
So that’s where it stands, Mr. President. You want this martini shaker back, you’re gonna roll me ten frames for it, double or nothing. And, to keep it fair, I’ll need a 70-pin spot.