Jazz musician, Wall Street Journal columnist and mixed-drink connoisseur Eric Felten is diving into morality with his new book, Loyalty: The Vexing Virtue. Felten, who lives in DC with his wife and three children, gave Capitol File the lowdown on the book, DC’s unsightly ethics and, of course, his favorite spots in the city.
Your new book focuses on how difficult loyalty is to actually achieve. How do Washingtonians rate on the loyalty scale? Consider the Washington adage: “If you want a friend in this town, get a dog.” People in Washington suffer the same confl icts of loyalty that everyone else does, but there may be more opportunities here for those confl icts to arise. With all the bad examples of loyalty gone astray, I still think we in Washington could stand to take it more seriously. Loyalty is the virtue of being trustworthy—a quality at the core of every relationship worth having. Maybe if we all put a little more effort into being worthy of trust, Washington’s reputation might change for the better.
What’s the best sober spot in DC? Hands down, the Lincoln Memorial. Don’t miss the inscription of the Gettysburg Address, which includes a powerful statement of what loyal commitment, at its most profound, means— giving “the last full measure of devotion.”
What’s the best drink you’ve ever had in DC? I’m partial to the gin martini lovingly handcrafted at Chez Felten. My secret ingredient? A scant dash of orange bitters.
You’re also a talented jazz musician. What’s your favorite DC jazz spot? I love hearing music at Blues Alley in Georgetown—almost as much as I enjoy playing there. And when it comes to jazz as dance music, the Spanish Ballroom at Glen Echo Park. Nothing makes a big band swing more than to play in a dance hall packed with jitterbugs.
PHOTOGRAPH TOM WOLFF (FELTEN)