If you’ve ever been to Nellie’s in Washington, D.C. chances are you’ll recognize this happy face and this cheery smile. It’s the kind of smile that immediately puts you at ease and makes you feel good that you dropped by. David Chung was one of the friendliest bartenders in town, for the longest time making Nellie’s my go-to spot on any given night. Last night, I learned of David’s untimely death over the weekend; his story was featured in a Metro Weekly article. The cause of death is yet unknown, but what is known (oh so clearly) is the overwhelming response his death has received from friends and family — for Nellie’s really is a family to its regulars — from across D.C.’s gay community. Like many, no doubt, I remember my first encounter with David, and I’ll cherish that first memory and the many memories thereafter, including some of his ridiculously funny Facebook status updates like “My mom said I can’t drink when I’m on this new medication. What to do?”
When I first met David, he was a brand new bartender in a fairly brand new bar that not many thought would succeed as much as it has, because it was so far from the 17th Street gay district. However, since Nellie’s opened on 9th and U NW in August 2007, with its mix of antique plates and sports paraphernalia and the two massive Victorian portraits of the grandmas named Nellie hanging behind the bar, it has solidified its place in the D.C. gay scene. No doubt the bar’s success belongs to the service given by the down-to-earth, decent staff employed there. Among them was David, a warm man who made an awkward, chubby queen like me feel like part of the Nellie’s family. He often greeted me kisses on the cheek, called me sweetie or babe, and if I’d been away for more than a week, he’d ask what’s taken me so long or where I’d been.
In the past week, David’s Facebook page has become a memorial, where I myself have set down a few words, offering peace and love to him wherever he is, no doubt somewhere up there charming new friends with his infectious smile. It’s a smile I’ll miss. Last night, I watched an episode of “the Middle,” and the dad gave a wedding speech where he said (oddly) that the dates on headstones are not as important as the lines in between them. For each of us, that line represents the life we lived. If that’s the case, I want to think of the line between David’s dates curved up into a smile because that’s the way he lived his life. ☺
David turned 26 on July 2nd and passed away on July 8th. For a link to his Facebook page and for memorial service information, please see the Metro Weekly article.
In Memoriam A.H.H. by Tennyson (excerpt)
For she is earthly of the mind,
But Wisdom heavenly of the soul.
O, friend, who camest to thy goal
So early, leaving us behind….