Mayor Marion Barry says he was hard at work during the 21/2 weeks he spent away from the nation's capital - on himself.
"It wasn't a vacation," Barry said as he returned to work Monday. "I was going to work, on my body, my mind and my soul."The mayor left town mysteriously and on short notice April 27 in search of rejuvenation and recovery from what he called at the time "telltale signs of spiritual relapse and physical exhaustion."
He returned by holding a rally and news conference Monday where 150 supporters greeted his homecoming speech with sustained applause and standing ovations.
The way Barry's retreat was announced had prompted questions about whether he might have returned to alcohol or drug abuse and whether he was fit to continue as mayor. Barry has denied renewed drug or alcohol problems.
"It was what it was - physically exhausted, needed spiritual reconnection. That's it, no more and no less," he said Monday.
But one former Cabinet member said Barry's actions and comments were reminiscent of a trip the mayor took in late 1988 to a spa in upstate New York for rejuvenation.
Just over a year later, in January 1990, FBI agents videotaped Barry smoking crack cocaine in a local hotel. Barry was convicted on a misdemeanor charge and spent six months in prison.
"It's deja vu," said Dwight Cropp, who worked in the Barry administration from 1979-90. "I guess this is the third rebirth of Marion Barry that I've seen.
"The problem with Marion is he wants to take the whole city through his recovery," Cropp said.