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Yo, D! The Hell You Been?
by Derek Smart
May 4, 2006 - 7:40 AM
I'm sitting in front of the White House
Okay, so I'm sitting on a bench in the park in front of the White House, but since they don't tend to let you hang out, writing in a tablet in the Rose Garden, I think the assertion's as accurate as possible for a member of the general public.
I've been here since late yesterday (Wednesday) afternoon, being called here for a conference, and after an airport day that included four unscheduled gate changes and three unscheduled flight changes, I'm just happy to have gotten here in the first place.
Except I'm not. I don't realize how much I rely on the internet in my life until I don't have it, and thanks to a combination of a hotel business center that charges by the minute and a work-issued laptop that doesn't so much as turn on, I'm left with nothing but a legal pad and my trusty fountain pen, which isn't so bad in the end (as a side note, I learned long ago, the hard way, that if your pen has an ink cartridge loaded that it's a bully idea to ensconce it in a Ziplock bag, as changing pressure on flights tend to cause leaks that are nothing short of catastrophic when allowed to run amok).
What is bad, though, is missing my family. Admittedly, I'm not much for traveling in the first place, so it follows that my first time away from my daughter (which this is) would be difficult. I'm used to putting her to bed and waking up to her smile, and while there are some amenities I'm lacking at the moment, nothing compares to the hole left by her absence.
* * * * *
May 4, 2006 - 8:37 AM
Not only have I been without any sort of computer-related stimulus, but my attempts last night to catch even one pitch of the Cubs game were maddeningly futile.
The hotel bar is small and has but two televisions, one of which was tuned to the Wizards playoff game, and the other.....well, I don't even know what it was on, but I'm sure it wasn't even on their own town's baseball game, and that being the case I figured the Cubs game was an unlikely concession, if it was even a possibility.
So I went in search of a local sports bar. One was supposed to be in the hotel, but I was told by the concierge that it had gone out of business (I later learned from a local that the bar, which was also a steakhouse, was owned by a local football hero, who also liked to have one night a week where he gave free dinners to veterans, particularly veterans of the recent conflict. Well, the hotel didn't much care for exposing their clientele to the sight of recently maimed folks eating free beef, so they asked them to stop the practice, which they rightly refused to do. Now they're locked in a court battle while the space remains unused. Charming.)
I tried to scope out the neighborhood, but the only place I could find was one that doubled (or trebled) as a billiard hall and "gentleman's club," and since full grown women on my lap tend to get in the way of my view of the TV, I thought better of it.
In the end, lacking any real knowledge of the area, I was left with the tried, true, and decidedly un-local ESPN Zone. Surely, I thought, in a place with several million televisions at least one would be tuned to the game I wanted to watch.
Well, as has happened thus far with everything else on this excursion, that which was promised did not come to pass, and despite staff assurances that the game would be on one of the main bar feeds, the television that was supposed to carry the Cubs was instead showing the Nationals. Reasonable on its face, but with the three other feeds carrying that contest, it seemed excessive from my end. In any case, with the late start and unlikelihood of getting to see what I wanted to in the first place, my mission, sadly, was aborted.
* * * * *
May 5, 2006 - 10:17 AM
I'm weighing the option of going to a Nationals game this evening. Here are the pros and cons as I see them:
I have nothing else to do.
I have nothing else to do.
It is, after all, baseball.
It's not even noon and I'm tired already.
Football stadiums make lousy baseball stadiums.
It may be baseball, but it's still the Nationals. And they're playing the Marlins.
* * * * *
May 5, 2006 - 8:32 PM
I wound up skipping the ballgame. In the end, I was a little too tired and unwilling to commit to any one activity for that length of time, and when that was coupled with the realization that I was close enough to the National Mall to walk to it from my hotel, I decided that, being a history buff on his first trip to D.C., it would be nearly inexcusable to not see at least a few of the landmarks.
I stuck to the area around the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial, as it held the perfect combination of interest and proximity. I saw the aforementioned presidential tributes, both impressive, as well as the World War II and Vietnam Memorials, both of which were striking in completely different ways.
The World War II Memorial is both solemn and exultant, recognizing the sacrifices of those who made victory possible, while celebrating that victory and the world it endeavored to preserve. It is meant to attract people from the street, to both stand up on its own and integrate into the bigger picture presented by the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument, and it does so beautifully. It's extremely well done, and something that I hope the descendants of those who fought in that conflict can be proud of.
The Vietnam Memorial is, in contrast, pure poignancy. I had only seen photographs and video, and the thing that had never been communicated effectively was just how much it is evocative of a grave - less so from the beautifully engraved names than from the extended tombstone quality its design and placement gives it.
Where the WWII Memorial is designed to draw you to it, the Vietnam Memorial is meant to be found as you wander, like the resting place of a misunderstood uncle who died too soon. It is short, it is small, yet in that tiny space is held immense sadness. It's a thing that is not fun to view, yet it is necessary. If you haven't seen it and you find yourself in our nation's capitol, I would almost consider it your duty as a citizen to go.
* * * * *
May 6, 2006 - 10:25 PM
I'm home now (boy, is it good to be home with my wife and my girl. I had a lousy travel day, but that all melts away once the hugs and kisses come), and am watching Big Z throw a terrific game against the Padres (although he looks to be helped along by a Padres offense that's nearly as inept as our own). It figures that while he looks like he's finally putting a long, excellent outing together, that he's doing it while the club appears completely incapable of scoring for him.
Judging from the boxscores I've seen I was somewhat blessed to be unable to view or comment on the most recent proceedings. I know it shows a degree of hubris, and that in reality my movements in time and space have nothing to do with a sports team's performance, but here's hoping that my return home coincides with a righting of the ship, because, despite a lowering of expectations, I don't know how much longer we all can stand this sort of horror show.