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GLINT


Washington, DC! It's the greatest place to be. It's not the cherries everywhere in bloom. It's not the way they put folks on the moon: 7/1/11


JFK once said famously of Washington, DC that it is a city of southern efficiency and northern charm. In other words? It totally sucks. From the driving (the worst and rudest in the country!) to the Metro manners (stare straight ahead and wear ear buds; by no means, smile or acknowledge you are swimming in a sea of humanity; unless you glare at someone who inadvertently touches you!). From the lockstep automaton feel (bars are empty at 8:00 p.m. on any given Sunday night--gotta work in the morning!) to the company town schedule (August? The dc calendar should only have 11 months.). From the transience to the pretension. Trust me, the stereotypes are all true.


And you should trust me, unlike most of the interlopers in this strange diamond-shaped province. I have spent the last decade living and working in our national city. Some of that actually overlapped, and I lived and worked here simultaneously, and not altogether unhappily. I do have some fond memories of the peculiar state of living in the 51st state. There are a few plus points about the District. Happy hour is king here. Biking is good on the weekends through the near-empty federal city. Because the typical social compact between Washingtonians and their city is so nasty, brutish and short, when you do find friends that break that mold, it's an extra-special treat! Yes, the museums are mostly all free. And there is lots of lots of marble--cooling slabs of marble to lay down on, great ionic and doric marble columns (do YOU know the difference?) to lean against, and many, many marble steps to run up and down. You can engage in any one of these activities while pondering all of the powerful and corrupt things happening here, in the most powerful city in the most corrupt nation in the world. Or is that the most corrupt city in the most powerful nation? Oh, who cares. It's all happening right here! Right now! All around you! And also, when you're traveling, you can tell how the weather is back home just by turning on any major news channel.


But that's about it. And now, I am faced with cutting the last formal tie I have to the District. For the last 10 years I have worked with some connection to the federal government, if not directly for it. For the last 10 years, I heedlessly passed by (usually completely ignoring) some of the most moving architectural testaments to democracy and freedom on the planet. And for the last 10 years, I have not allowed myself to cultivate a bittersweet appreciation for this town, opting instead to focus on savoring the bitter.


Yet, probably because I love nostalgia to the point of compulsion, I am already getting misty-eyed over this ill-spent decade of my life. And so, in honor of the town that I love to hate and hate to love, here are my top five comments that smack of D.C.


1) "That's what I love about interns. I get older, they stay the same age."
I have to credit this one to an old boyfriend. Obvs, this is a reference to the classic line from Dazed and Confused but adroitly tweaked to refer to a particuarly dc phenomenon. Oh, interns. Every year, you think their skirts can't get shorter, their heels can't possibly get higher. But they do. Let us only hope that their lofty position in our political process pads their resumes as much as they had to pad their bras to land it. Who would have known that girls (and boys!) barely old enough to vote could carry such influence in Washington...ahem, MONICA.

2) "Oh man, I love artichokes. I got $15 million in earmarks for artichokes last year!"
This comment would probably mean nothing, not to mention be uttered, outside the borders of this city. And what does it mean? It's a wacky reminder that the most important government document for us here is...no, not the pocket-sized Constitution re-written by the Tea Party Caucus...but the federal budget. Introduced by the President every year around Valentine's Day, it does not serve as a love letter to the American people, but rather as a harsh reminder that everything has its price. If you think Congress spends its time in lofty debate over the issues of our time, you are wrong. There are countless bills and articles that must pass through the legislative process that concern post offices being renamed, parade routes being rerouted, and enough trade-offs, side-deals, and exchanges of the finer points of policy it would make your head spin. Why? Because everything has its price. The staffer who said this knows this art of sausage making and clearly takes it to heart (artichokes? heart? get it? oof.).

3) "Child care is so hard to come by. My daughter is down at the Forrest Service now and I'm so glad."
It may be a little known fact that government agencies offer some of the most affordable and best day care in town. I spent the last few years on the board of the child care center for the federal courts and I don't think I ever fully shook the mental image of women in judicial robes propping up their little charges in a jury box for nap time and banging a gavel to wake them up. So when I overheard this remark from a frazzled dc powermom, it made me giggle. I pictured her little tot safely in the care of racoon Ranger Rick, and being fawned over by Smokey Bear and a host of friendly woodland creatures. My own niece narrowly avoided child care at the Treasury Department. What could that have been like? I picture an assembly line of toddlers toiling in the mint, bouncing too high and hitting the debt ceiling, and counting teetering towers of coins.

4) "Oh yeah, there's been some lively discussion around the office of organizing a bi-partisan paintball outing."
This comment still makes my skin crawl. That is all.

5) "You can't do a keg stand. Senate staff are here. If it was just House, then fine, go ahead."
First of all, no, this wasn't directed at me. I overheard it at some ridiculous Hill party several years ago. It's another one of those highly nuanced statements that only make sense in dc. Did you know Senate staffers barely acknowledge their counterparts in the House, kind of like feudal lords to serfs? Did you know that the average age of both varieties is about 26? Did you know that the night after you witness a blottoed 26-year old from Iowa doing a keg stand that would make his buddies back at State U glow with pride, you may end up sitting across from him in a meeting about the minutiae of legislation that could potentially affect the lives of millions of impoverished school children? Do you care? Nah, neither did he. If you ever feel cheated by the government, it's probably becuase it is secretly run by people who are all under 30 and hungover.


I think this is a valiant output for a Friday afternoon. Don't worry. It wasn't on your tax dollar (this time). More later, maybe. I kind of want to wax poetic about the time I gave Orrin Hatch a "flat tire" on the back of his shoe and he turned around and said, "Don't worry, I'm a lot faster than I look." Ah, memories. Now though, I must dismiss myself from the office to embark on yet another patriotric blur of beer, fireworks and sunburn. It's 4th of July weekend...let's get American, ya'll.


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