West Wing Shenanigans 

The 100 year old mantle peppered with candlesticks and pictures. I guess it's in the East Wing.

I’ve been to the White House before. I’ve nibbled on Christmas cookies in the East Wing during the Clinton administration, rolled Easter eggs on the South Lawn during the Bush years and, once, peered into the void as the door to the Situation Room briefly swung open during a West Wing tour with an Obama staffer. I didn’t see anything, by the way. I tried. 

Today I got an email with the subject line Cabinet Meeting. I swear to God I thought it was from the White House. Not lying. And I’m looking at it and wondering why they’d send it to my personal, versus work, email. Yeah. That was actually my first thought. Not a recognition that it would be highly unlikely–like impossible–that I’d have anything to do with a Cabinet meeting. 

Of course, it wasn’t from the EOP (that’s an insider’s way to say the executive office of the president). Of course, it was to set up a meeting to go over cabinetry and to walk through the updated kitchen elevations–the ones that freaked me out last week. 

I mean seriously. The cabinets are going in the East Wing of our house–in the Residence, not in the West Wing. Sheesh. 

Shenanigans!

Spoiler Alert!

Three or four pretty ripe bananas. Not quite spoiled, though.

I asked the Big Guy if he watches Game of Thrones. He said he has, but not yet this season. And before I could form another word, he said he knew what happened. It wasn’t like I was going to tell him–although I heard about it, too. From the innerwebs.

He wasn’t concerned that I would tell. He just wanted to release that part of the conversation. Anyway, he said he doesn’t care about spoilers. He’s amused that fans get worked up. For him, the value of GOT is not plot–he says it’s all predictable and not that compelling. He watches it for the way it looks, the world created and the acting.

I met up with some friends who were in town from the middle of the country. We got together for a beer after they finished their Lincoln tour. Actually, the “Lincoln Assassination Tour.” The tour routes around a small circle between the White House and Fords Theatre and the house where he died.  In two hours they covered a mile and a half. They loved it.

The guide made it worthwhile. He was incredible. He told layers of stories with intricate and interesting details about Lincoln and the Civil War and John Wilkes Booth and probably some medical stuff, too. They definitely recommend it, and might even do it again. Even though, without a doubt, they knew how the story ended.

There definitely is something about being surprised at the reveal that Darth Vader is Luke’s father. Even more of a twist–perhaps even a twisted twist after Leia planted one on his lips–when we learn that Luke and Leia are twins. But while you can only be surprised that first time, you can still enjoy Mark Hamill’s lousy acting when he overacts his reaction. You can even find yourself licking your lips in anticipation of his howling, “Nooooooooooo, nooooooo.”

I have read and reread the Harry Potter books and have watched and rewatched the films. I don’t like them any less on return. In fact, I reread them and rewatch them because I DO enjoy the story. Knowing the plot frees me from frenzied page turning and lets me focus on the characters, their relationships and motivations and the themes of loss, friendship and power.

Frankly, not knowing how a bad movie turns out doesn’t make it any better. It’s still a waste of time. Actually, if you knew how it ended you might throw in the towel earlier and keep that time for yourself.

The topic of spoilers came up when I recommended that the Big Guy watch a hysterical White House video. I couldn’t tell him about it. I could, but then it would ruin it. Jokes are like that. You can spoil a joke. That is wrong. We agreed on that. You either tell the joke, or you don’t. Sure, you can retell a joke, but it’s never as funny as the first time.

Now a STORY, on the other hand…

Spares

bunch of shoes.

The lights are really bright in this basement. Most of the fixtures are bright but yellowish. There are two, though, that broadcast the brightest and whitest light. I bet they are new LED lamps. Energy efficiency and all.

The halls are lined with locked black metal storage cabinets. The cabinets are short and tall. Some of the short ones needed to be short because there were mysterious electrical boxes sticking out on the walls above them. There are plenty of mysterious boxes. There are also some short cabinets underneath free wall space. I guess they were all ordered at the same time and somebody didn’t do the measuring.

The tall black metal storage cabinets are deeper than the short ones. These were not all from the same order. There are slight variations among them. Just a few inches in height and a few inches in depth. They were randomly aligned–two tall and fat, one smaller, one taller, two smaller. The locks were also a hodgepodge. I don’t believe that the size of the lock was related to the value of the contents. But that’s just a guess.

The floors in this basement are peculiar. The hall is wide and the deck is primarily cement. There is about three and a half feet of steel in the middle. The steel is textured and bright. When you walk on the steel it feels hollow underneath. I stepped as lightly as I could to avoid the clank caused by my shoes. I preferred to walk on the edges, on the cement. The basement was empty and this made me feel less conspicuous. I didn’t want to sneak up on anyone, nor did I want to announce myself so loudly.

I stopped in the restroom. It was surprisingly nice for a non-public area. Lighting was excellent, no broken tiles, sturdy wooden doors for the stalls. The sinks were pedestal-style. I walked back out into the industrial underbuilding.

There is no wifi and only an ineffective blip of cell signal so there were no selfies. I waited for my colleagues outside the locked door. To the bowling alley. In the bowels of the White House.
bowling sign in the scary basement.
For those of you at home keeping score, I bowled in the bottom quartile of the bottom quartile. My solo tour of the basement was the best part of my game.

Throw Me Something, Mister!

Cleaning up a bunch of beads after a Mardi Gras parade. Please note the public works trucks and personnel.

Say what you will about New Orleans, but our cousins in Louisiana can sure throw a parade. They are known to take over a street for the special occasion of it being a Sunday.

More importantly, not only can they take a street over, they know how to give it back. Amazing is the sight of the very end of the parade–the Krewe of Cleanup. It doesn’t take hours for a street to reopen, but minutes after the last float throws its last beads, cars are released and traffic goes back to it’s typical snarl.

It doesn’t work that way in D.C.

Foot and coach traffic have been diverted in anticipation of upcoming motorcades. A labyrinth of jersey walls, cones, snow fences and police vehicles have corralled pedestrians and vehicles for days and days. Scores of corners are overseen by uniformed police with weapons. Some sit in their cars. Others stand. Reflector-vested and gloved officers are standing in the middle of intersections overriding the red-yellow-green of the temporarily redundant traffic lights. Tanks and humvees line commuting corridors.

For fifty people here for two days.

Since those fifty people are the leaders of 50 different countries–countries like Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, France, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Mongolia, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Austria, Pakistan, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Saudi-Arabia, Singapore, Thailand, Czech Republic, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States of America, Vietnam, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden and Switzerland–that’s a lot of security. That means a lot of motorcycles and a lot of squad cars leading a lot of limos with a lot of little flags from a lot of different countries.

Still, these diplomatic parades are short. They pass by in a matter of seconds. There is no detritus of coins, cups, strands or flasks. There are no hundreds or thousands of revelers to move along. Heck, there are no revelers, just the anticipation of bad guys.

Streets are closed. Traffic is gridlocked. And there isn’t even a chance of getting a long string of beads for those inconvenienced. I hope they do something about those nukes.

Dear Tourists, Let Me Help

weinermobile in front of the Capitol. I took this one.

Tourist season has befallen my fair city. As the hoards fill up our streets, hostels, chain restaurants and The Mall (we don’t shop there, by the way), I thought I’d offer some advice to smooth the stay.

Dear Washington, D.C. Tourists,
Welcome! I am super glad to host you in our fair city. A few things to help us get along better.

  • First, Washington D.C., is actually a real city. We vote for a mayor and a city council. We have schools where children study. People here have jobs and go to church and buy groceries and sit around dinner tables where we eat food just like YOU. Unlike you, though, we don’t have a vote in Congress. So don’t complain about your Congressman. We’d love to have one (and two Senators) to deride. But we don’t. And we’re U.S. citizens, too.
  • Second, D.C., is not Main Street, U.S.A. at Disney World. You can’t just walk into the streets and criss cross like it’s an amusement park. It’s not. There are traffic rules that you should follow.
  • Third, I know you don’t walk as a mode of transportation when you’re at home. You might walk on the treadmill at the gym or around your cul de sac with a neighbor for your New Year’s resolution. But here, we walk to get to work or to shop, and to grab a coffee or a beer.
  • Please please please, don’t start walking when you’re on the corner and you’re talking to your friends and not looking. Cars here are like your cars at home–made of metal and will hurt if they hit you.  We won’t mow you down because we’re mean but because you randomly walked in front of us without looking. Don’t jaywalk unless you learned this skill in Manhattan. Then you own it.
  • Key takeaways: Look for the traffic signals. If the light is RED do not walk. If the light is GREEN, go ahead. There are also signals that are RED with a hand that means, DON’T WALK. Really, nobody wants to run you over. Okay, to be honest, sometimes we do, but we wouldn’t. Not on purpose.
  • Fourth, I love it when you use our subway. We call it the Metro. It stops you from driving the wrong way on our one-way streets. It also stops you from running our red lights because you don’t see the traffic signals on the sides of the roads. We know you look for them hanging in the middle of the street. I don’t know why we don’t do that. But we don’t. Be careful.
  • Fifth, speaking of the Metro, if you’re not sure where you need to go, just ask anyone. People are happy to help you get to your destination. Seriously. They are. The thing we don’t like is your confusion at the turnstiles that blocks us from getting to the train. This is super-especially true during rush hour. An idea, please don’t use the subway during our rush hour. You are really screwing with us natives.
  • Also, this is weird, I know, but when you’re on an escalator in D.C. don’t stand next to your friend. Stand on the right and walk on the left. Leave the left side of the stairs open so people can walk. We are in a hurry because we have to go to work. We’re not on a vacation. We are glad that you are, though.
  • Sixth, this brings me to the costs of stuff in D.C. SHUT UP. You don’t have to pay a penny to go to the zoo and gawk at baby pandas; see the capsule that landed on the moon, the Wright Brothers’ plane and the real space shuttle up close; gape at the Hope Diamond and a stuffed woolly mamouth;  visit the East Room and watch the Secret Service watch you at the White House; and be in awe at pretty much everything–seriously look up, down and all around–at the Library of Congress. Also, there is crazy amazing art and culture–like Monet and ruby slippers and the lunch counter from the Greensboro Woolworths–at the Smithsonian. The Capitol Grounds, near the Supreme Court, have beautiful fountains, a botanical garden and lots of steps. Not to diminish the Lincoln, Jefferson, and Washington memorials, the homage to those who served and sacrificed in wars and the newer monuments recognizing Dr. King and FDR.
  • Back to the costs of things. Please don’t complain about prices for sandwiches or cokes. This is what we pay, too. We just live here. Also, speaking of prices, when you do eat out, please don’t be cheap. People waiting your tables and serving your drinks do this for a living. Tip. Really. You can tip.

My brain is awash with so many more things to help you with, but I know you’re already overwhelmed. Please, though, know this well. This is your city, because you are an American and this is our nation’s capital. And it is our city, because every day we drive and walk and bike past and work in and near the amazing landmarks you came to visit. We feel lucky to live here. You feel lucky to visit here.

We can do this together. We survived the Pope, we can work with you. Have fun!
Doc Think

The People’s Choice

Aretha Franklin singing like a boss.

OMG! News flash!

Conservatives are WORRIED! Distraught, I tell you.

Perhaps even SHOCKED, that they disagree with Obama’s cabinet picks and/or his policies. And somehow, once they wake up, that the 66,882,230 people who voted for Obama are not going to be happy.

According to the WashPost

“It is disturbing,” said Roger Clegg, a conservative…”The transition team as described to me was made up of nothing but people on the far left. Though Obama is more moderate, that makes you wonder what kind of advice the president is given, and what range of choices he’ll be given when it comes time to make appointments.”

Oh no! Nothing but people that disagree with the current failed policies of the Bush administration.

Note to Mr. Clegg: Your side LOST!

A few months into the Bush presidency–you know the election when Bush lost the popular vote* and then came in running the place like he had a frickin’ mandate– I saw my friend David at the local bar and grill.

David: You know, I never, ever got the hatred and bile that people had for Bill Clinton.
Me: There was alot of hate and bile.
David: Yeah, there was. But now I get it. I really can’t stand the “W.” I now know how the other side feels.

Reminder to the other side–this is what it feels like.

Except that this new Prez-elect actually thinks it’s important to listen and acknowledge differences. That this new Prez-elect understands that he is a member of our national government, that was founded in 1776–that it did just not pop out of his head. And that this Prez-elect is the leader of a movement that has been embraced by the majority of the American voters.

Like in a democracy.

‘Nuff said.

*BTW–50,456,002 people voted for G.W. Bush in 2000. That’s more than a half-million fewer than voted for Al Gore. See more.

Colin Powell for Secretary of Education

President-elect Obama visits a school in Chicago.

Look at this picture.

What do you see? I see some little kids who are really, really excited to see the next President of the United States. Their fresh, smiling faces are full of hope.

I want each of these kids to read great books and newspapers, make informed decisions, vote and be responsible for themselves and each other. I want them to go to college, to get good jobs and to always be as happy as they look here.

Prez-elect Obama demonstrates that being smart can be cool–book smart is cool, too. He shows that these kids can be true to themselves AND do well in school and that getting an education is not selling-out.

The Prez-elect can bring this message all the way home by appointing former Secretary of State and Chair of the Joint Chiefs Colin Powell as his Secretary of Education.

  1. It would elevate education to a top-tier department by virtue of General Powell’s star power. You take a high-wattage leader and it shines on the entire department.
  2. Powell has been working on youth issues since he founded the America’s Promise Alliance in 1997–including efforts to prevent students dropping out of high-school.
  3. Powell’s pragmatism, commitment to public service and leadership certainly makes sense in an Obama administration.
  4. Powell, too, has a compelling story–a Harlem native who became the first ROTC officer to chair the Joint Chiefs and counselor to four presidents.

Powell gains from this, too.

When he endorsed Obama, Powell said, “I think the American people and the gentlemen running for president will have to, early on, focus on education more than we have seen in the campaign so far.” Being Ed. Secretary lets him put his money where his mouth is. Last, joining the cabinet would aid in rehabilitating Powell’s reputation. To be honest, he’s still dirty from the run up to the Iraq War. A high profile gig at Ed would be a great bookend to his public service.

I saw the picture above, and fell in love with each of those kids. And I want them to have every opportunity to be great people and great Americans. Let’s put a star at Ed.