"If Washington, D.C., were a pet, it would be overly domesticated, boxy, tightly wound—and terribly jealous of New York dogs."
OCCUPATION Comedian, author, presidential historian
HOME BASE New York City
PET PROJECT Rocca, a veteran of Comedy Central's Daily Show with Jon Stewart and a commentator for CNN, VH-1, and NPR, recently embarked on a book tour for All the Presidents' Pets, his speculative (and uproarious) history of our chief executives and their animals, from Pauline the cow to Socks the cat. One stop was in D.C., near where he grew up.
SITE UNSEEN "Not many visitors know about the President Lincoln and Soldiers' Home National Monument [www.nationaltrust.org]," Rocca says. "It's a peaceful place that presidents once used as a retreat. Legend has it that Lincoln was nearly assassinated there in August 1864—the shot pierced his top hat."
DOG GONE Where would Nixon walk Checkers, if they were alive today?"Well, there's a pleasant lawn at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, and a nice little trail in the basement of the FBI building," Rocca jokes. "Both would make Dick very comfortable."
LAST CALL Where would you take Chester A. Arthur for a night on the town?"Chet would definitely be on the U Street corridor—he's too happening for staid old Georgetown. With those sexy muttonchops, he'd get past any velvet rope."
—Peter Jon Lindberg
KEEPING COOLIDGE IN NEW YORK On a quiet Sunday afternoon you might have found old Cal at the Cloisters [Fort Tryon Park; 212/923-3700; www.metmuseum.org]. He was laconic, taciturn—not much of a talker—so he'd feel right at home.
CHURCH AND STATE I've always loved St. John's Church [16th and H Streets NW; 202/347-8766; www.stjohns-dc.org], across from Lafayette Square. Every president since Madison has worshipped there. It's yellow and doesn't have a center aisle, which is kind of appropriate. And I love that huge statue of Teddy Roosevelt on Roosevelt Island—a nature preserve in the middle of the Potomac—there's something almost Marxist-Leninist about its scale.