09 November, 2008

Lessons from DC

This was written while waiting for my flight...

I've spent nearly five days in Washington, DC and sleep deprivation has taken hold and I lack the cognitive abilities to do more than make a list. So here's a list of lessons learned (in no particular order)...

  1. Interacting at the fringes of the DC power/money culture leaves me feeling like an Amazon adventurer meeting the tribes he's only read about.
  2. I know enough about the above to be only a minor but inoffensive curiosity to that culture at worst, or at my best manage to convince them for a couple hours that I belong--the latter of which is a frightening thought on many levels.
  3. 4-star admirals apparently appreciate being introduced to Gold Star fathers.
  4. Former soldiers, a giant-sized gay choreographer, and a right-wing radio producer (and little ol' me) can all get along famously at "8th & I" with drinks in hand (young Marines out with their girls for the Birthday Ball, however, can be a little bit touchy).
  5. Floor-length ballgowns are worth the hassle because you can stash your shoes in a corner and no one will know you're walking around barefoot.
  6. 4-star admirals' wives can be unflappable when you approach in a ballgown with spike heels in hand... unless you happen to thank them for their decades of service and sacrifice, too (whereupon they turn into a somewhat startled pile of goo and kiss your cheek).
  7. I've spent enough time in DC in the last four years to be irritated by tourists on the Metro.
  8. I may have to start carrying a purse on a regular basis. At the very least it's useful for leaving at expensive restaurants so that VIPs remember me and our dinner together because we have to turn the car back to pick it up.
  9. I have now met the kinds of people about whom jokes regarding Republicans and sex were written. Yes, they really exist.
  10. Apparently I have to start wearing lipstick because to do otherwise offends Greta's sensibilities, and Macy's makeup artist, too--"people pay for those kinds of lips and you're hiding them??!!!"
  11. Guys sitting in a bar telling stories about SF and parachute jumps attract surprising numbers of short, soft idiots who want a fight.
  12. Watching those guys winding up the idiots until they have to either take on someone one-and-a-half times their size and trained in hand-to-hand combat or else back down is perversely amusing (they back down).
  13. Reminder: Wars are fought collectively and suffered individually... and that sucks beyond words. We owe them. Bigtime. [Note to self: next visit, plan for exercise time to do something about that urge to assault the nearest wall with your fist.]
  14. DC Airport conversations these days are absolutely fascinating--apparently some people think that having worked for someone who was considered for Assistant to the Assistant Undersecretary for Nothing at the Department of Meaningless Governent Work for the New Administration gives you "pull" and entitles you to be an arrogant ass to someone on the phone even if you are only about 26 years old.
  15. Other conversations are equally fascinating. On the topic of a career in entertainment law: "It's great because you get to meet celebrities. That's what I want to do with my life."
  16. Rituals of the elite must be observed even among "friends."
  17. Standing in the flight path of Flight 77 at the Pentagon will give you chills... and then make you ragingly angry all over again.
  18. Pentagon tour guides can walk backwards for miles.
  19. It's almost frightening how much I can enjoy just a little luxury and access to power. I could really start to like this if not for the queasy feeling it all gives me...
This little country mouse is definitely very tired of pretending to be a city mouse.

UPDATE: Sleeping in one's own bed and being able to sit around in sweats helps with equilibrium. This morning (Nov. 10), I asked a friend who does a lot of consulting for DC people and organizations how he handles operating in that millieu, after he admitted it was draining. His response? "Living in California helps." Absolutely. I'm beginning to suspect it wasn't necessarily a bad thing that job in DC I was up for awhile back fell apart... This kind of work is fun and rewarding, but only in small doses.