The Solomon Scandals
The D.C. newspaper novel, the media,the Washington area, tech and other surrealism: David Rothman at large
Google neighbors: A few words on David Bruce Smith and me

image “Google neighbors”—is there such a thing? Perhaps.

The Solomon Scandals Web site uses the words “David Bruce Smith” only once. He’s simply the son of the late Robert H. Smith and the grandson of Charles E. Smith, the builder whose life partly inspired my novel. A rather tenuous connection in many respects.

But some Googlers are still dropping by for information about David Smith. Oh, the mysteries of life and search algorithms. It’s a little like others accidentally contacting David Rothman by phone or computer while actually seeking David Roffman, editor-at-large of The Georgetowner.

Even so, I’m a great believer in serendipity; and now that you’re here, DBS fans, I’ll oblige very soon with a review of Conversations with Papa Charlie, David Smith’s book about his grandfather. If I move a few copies for the other David, a complete stranger to me, I’ll be happy as a fellow writer. This is a useful book, and I’ll explain why. I’ll also share a few thoughts on charity, one of the topics of Papa Charlie, and suggest a D.C.-area cause that just might intrigue the other David, based on what I know of him from afar.

While I’m disappointed as a newspaper reader and local history enthusiast in the Washington Post’s PRish treatment of the Smith family, and while the Smiths and I would disagree on more than a few matters, such as Virginia laws affecting construction sites, I’ll not let that dampen my enthusiasm for David’s book and for the accompanying drawings by his mother, the artist Clarice Smith. My thinking here actually fits in well with the end of The Solomon Scandals: I’ll explain.

And meanwhile—just a reminder. Sy Solomon, the builder in Scandals, is not the late Charlie Smith. The two are of Russian-Jewish descent, just as I am in part, and both grew rich off government contracting, but they are complete opposites in many and perhaps most respects.

A Catch-22: Of course, just by writing this post and the book review, I’ll make the “only once” obsolete. No problem. I’m pleased to send the other David some traffic via links here to his own site.

Update, January 18, 2010: Here is the promised review of David Bruce Smith’s book, along with a friendly suggestion for a new philanthropic initiative, which could start in the D.C. area and expand nationally.

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2 Comments to “Google neighbors: A few words on David Bruce Smith and me”

  1. Hayden von der Rijn says:

    You called it. I found your website by mistake. Rather serendipitous but entirely not fortuitous – at least for me. I spent a good 30 minutes reading through your website and found your complaints about the obituary of a recently deceased man to be in terribly poor taste. I wish there was some way you could repay me for the 30 minutes (and numerous brain cells) I wasted wading through this tripe…though I’m heartened by the fact that I appear to be the only person outside of your household who has bothered to read through your site (as evidenced by the dearth of comments).

  2. David Rothman says:

    Hayden, a death is a newsworthy event, a time to reflect back on a life.

    Robert Smith deserved an overwhelmingly positive obituary, as I’ve made clear. However, the obit should at least have briefly mentioned the Skyline collapse and Sen. Ribicoff’s well-documented conflict of interest involving a separate Smith building. That approach would have shown respect to both Robert Smith and the truth—and the families and friends of the men killed at Skyline.

    Most readers of this Web site are not familiar with the details of Skyline and the Key Building and understandably don’t know what to say. But some do.

    Just yesterday a reader wrote in about the loss of a friend in the Skyline collapse, and an earlier one told of the horrors of a West Virginia disaster that might have been prevented if people had heeded the lessons of Skyline. Fifty-one workers fell to their deaths in the second construction disaster, perhaps the worst in American history.

    Robert Smith was the member of the Smith family responsible for the building of Skyline. A brief mention of the tragedy, and of the court findings, would have sufficed in the Post obit on him. Various issues at the time of the collapse were hotly debated. Some remain. Does Virginia law protect workers sufficiently or insulate employers excessively from liabilities that they should face—factors to consider when setting construction deadlines, for example?

    David Bruce Smith himself had nothing to do with the Skyline tragedy, and I felt that his book about his grandfather is useful. I’ll be focusing on that positive when I do the promised post (today or later this week). Keep an open mind. I intend to do the same about the Smiths.

    Thanks,
    David Rothman

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