When most of my high school classmates motored down to Washington, D.C., on the school-sponsored senior trip I was not among them.
Which by itself means absolutely nothing, other than to reinforce the point made here ad nauseam that in my younger days “Good Times” was nothing more than a CBS sitcom.
Oh for heaven’s sake, Google it if you have to. Damn kids.
But that non-trip has staked a claim for premiere space in my long-term memory, what’s left of it anyway. That’s because in the ensuing years there developed some unseen and unbroken connection between Our Nation’s Capital and yours truly.
Yeah, yeah, I know, I have only a slightly better chance than, say, Herman Cain has of being elected president. Still, no one has yet produced compelling evidence that my “Big Three Questions” approach to governance wouldn’t serve this county, and the world, well.
What’s the problem? How do we solve it? What’s for lunch? Done.
Maybe a fourth and fifth question: Hey, as Commander in Chief, how come I can’t fly this damn helicopter? How tough could it be?
That aside, there’s an ethereal something that brings me and me family back to D.C. No, it’s not I-95, smart mouth. I said ethereal, not concrete.
It dates back to the late ’70s, when a brother-in-law landed a job with the Federal Elections Commission. Come down and visit, said he. Sure thing, said we, and visited all the awe-inspiring landmarks: the Capitol, the Washington Monument, the Smithsonian, the seedy-looking vendor on Independence Avenue next to the hot dog truck where you could have you picture taken with a cardboard cutout of Jimmy Carter. Truly magic.
Five years later, in 1983, a congressman came a-calling and offered his press relations position to moi. Heady stuff for a guy in his 20s, so, of course, I said yes, even though it meant uprooting me young family, the Mrs. and an 18-month-old. Eventually found a neat little townhouse rental, wouldn’t you know it in the same complex as the bro-in-law.
Was quite the experience working for the only elected official east of the Continental Divide who thought the Shoreham nuclear plant was a good idea. Anyhoo, after he retired we returned to L.I. A year and half after that, I returned to D.C. help a niece in grad school find an apartment. Wouldn’t you know it, after she got her MBA a nephew down there for his law degree from the same school ended up in the very same apartment — no small coincidence since in was in the basement of a doctor’s house, not some mega-complex.
Now get this: My once wee son, who often raced down the sidewalks of our Virginal rental on his Kermit the Frog big wheel, has himself returned. He and our new daughter-in-law recently earned promotions at Merrill Lynch and relocated from NYC to D.C. They’re also renting in the Virginia ’burbs — wouldn’t you know it maybe 20 minutes or less from our old place.
We have an old video of the young lad, his mop of copper-red hair fairly glowing in the summer sun, riding the carousel near the Smithsonian Castle. I’ve heard him wax romantic about someday photographing his kids on those same up down, up down carved horses. Of course, by then we’ll probably have high-res cameras built in to our Ray-Bans and telepathically beam images to the old folk, giving a welcome reason to smile and temporarily forget the Facebook stock collapse.
The irony here is that I never became a true Washingtonian, one of the legion of fast walkers infected with acute cases of “Potomac Fever,” the symptoms of which are losing all memory of the real world and its people and embracing the shallow, self-serving drive for power and prestige. (Neither of which is enjoyed by congressional staffers, I’ll have you know.)
Getting off at the Capitol South subway stop each morning in the standard uniform of a three-piece suit, perhaps with a yellow silk “power tie,” briefcase in hand and that morning’s Washington Post tucked under an arm — I know! Am having a hard time picturing that meself — I’d join the herd for the short walk to the congressional offices.
For reasons unknown, most had their heads down. But being a perpetual hayseed, I couldn’t help but stare at that big off-white iron dome (no, it’s not marble) atop the Capitol. Will you look at that thing! Unbelievable. How in the name of Lyndon Baines Johnson did I end up here?
Surprised I never walked right into the back of someone’s Burberry coat.
So what’s next? Will our daughter in grad school find employment somewhere inside the Beltway? Should I revive my presidential aspirations in 2016? I’d be a great commander in chief, maybe get behind the controls of one of those totally awesome choppers and buzz the kids’ office buildings. Oh yeah, who’s in charge now?