DC is “Hollywood for ugly people” and it is banal, but head nods are not
A good friend of mine back in college was fond of this quote back and she had it in her email signature for at least 4+ years. You know, the only kind of friend DC can produce. Ones that randomly take you a comedy club of years of radio silence that works for a nebulously smile drenched, ‘homeland security.’ Right. This post is for many of my new friends who ask me about DC, but if you are an old DC friend you will also enjoy.
Anyway, two events this week brings this subject to mind.
First was the untimely death of Christopher Hitchens (we will get to the second later.) Sad day for all heavy readers of the english language and residents of the District. I say untimely in that self-centered reader, sorta way that knows there is a massive void left and will remain unfilled. Hopefully all us young blood middle agers learned a thing or two to step up. Sorry. I will miss a man not afraid to mentally, “urine on anyones shoes when/if they are wrong.” Not my quote either. On the other side as a 30-year-old with bad GERD and the thoracic cavity fears of esophageal cancer that go with it, I am glad he is finally in peace. Be it with god, the spaghetti monster or atheistic atoms good sir.
For the same reason I hope Steve Jobs death will usher more interest and research (funds) in the pancreas and diseases and cancers of it, I hope that Hitchens death can do the same esophageal cancer, as first world diets and enjoyment of the finer things make these cancers more prevalent in all our families. When you are southern and can’t eat much more than tuna and artichokes or a bland sandwich for nearly 3 months you start thinking about these things allot.
If you actually live or work in NW DC you probably have at least one or more “Politics is for ugly people” story. Here is one of mine and how I knew “I lived in DC for reals,” thanks to Hitchens.
It was summer time was probably a sophomore or junior (2000 or 2001) and I had just moved off of GW’s campus housing and found myself at 24h CVS in Dupont (who has not right). Well the line was huge (days before self checkout) and I was way in the back of the line with a friend getting snacks and mixers for a party if I can recall (ahh yes summer crew house parties). We hear a gent having a good yell at the cashier ( who had not from time to time). Line is not moving. The gent was buying a toothbrush and condoms. My friend steps out of the line for a second to see what was going on. He comes back with a, “Dude, that is Christopher Hitchens!” I step out of line to take a look thinking (no way) and sure enough it was. And like that I realized I guess I really live here if you see famous people buying their necessities. I did get to see him speak in person twice and man it was deservingly crowded.
Eventually in DC it is just normal to see people who outside of DC would be pretty (Hollywood for Ugly People) famous doing really banal stuff. But to this day I consider that day the official day I ‘moved in to DC.‘ Thanks Hitchens.
The other event this week that led me to this post was a classmate (not American) asking me to name something, I agreed with or liked about our President (other than icing Osama). I could not think of any off the top of my head.I do… PCIP as punishing survivors for winning feels unAmerican, just like price controls sorry take my conservative/libertarian freedomist card from me if you like. That is about it though really.
Then it hit me the other day, ‘”the head nod” night.
Back when our President was a humble Senator I had a DC only encounter with him for 5 brief seconds. I was walking down Penn Ave to Capital Grille to meet some old friends in town to do a yearly walk around the Hill and talk to members. It was dark and around 8:30 at night. Oddly no one was on the street. Very odd Penn Ave is usually busy, but can go cold quiet and foggy at night. So anyway, no one was around, I was walking head down and blackberrying away. Very DC. A figure was walking toward me also head down in a suit, blackberrying away. So far and foggy in fact, I could only see it was someone tall. I am 6’5, tall to me is 6’5 and up. I kept thumbing away at the blackberry as does he. Only when we pass at about at about 20 feet apart do either of us look up from blackberrying. Now also note both parties were walking at full DC pace. Which is about as fast as your move and not sweat too bad in a suit. It was only then I realized. “Hey that is Senator Obama.” I flash the official polite DC half-smile and get the head nod, which the only response is a head nod. This was also about the time the activist community on the left and right were fighting hard for the Coburn-Obama transparency bill.
Now just like the fake ‘terrorist fist bum,” scandal of the 2008 cycle, I gotta say most old people don’t get the head nod or give it. From that moment on, even when I have disagreed with the Administration (often) I still remember the head nod and it makes me like the President personally. My point here?
When I was fifteen I was an intern for a field office for Newt Gingrich (after the 94 revolution but well before the Lewinsky mess) opening mail, etc. What you have fifteen year olds do. All I can say is Newt is not a man who could give a head nod. Ron Paul probably could, Romney would try but it would probably be robot.
If politics are personal, the head nod is up there. Get with it guys.
Some other politician get the head nod. It’s fairly trans-partisan (members and staffers) on Capitol Hill by the non-socially awkward given everyone wants to talk, but has somewhere else they must go. Maybe it’s just a Hill thing?
Spend a summer on the Hill with every Tracy Flick wannabe in America. Arguably the coolness and normal-ness of hillrats is inversely proportional to their actual value to the process of making the sausage. Meaning. Committee staffers are really wicked cool people. Chief of staffs and legs too. And from there it just gets worse and worse until you get to insanely uncool Flickian interns. Then again you never know who will be wandering around the Hill, real Hollywood real famous like, his Holiness the Dali Lama, Bono (seen photos of others I know not mine) or just “DC trip’s” from Cedar Rapids (rocking phanny packs.) Bless America.
DC is a wonderful and interesting place to live when you are young and you get to see a lot of banal activities by the ‘dc famous,’ but it gets rougher when you hit middle age. My old friend and colleague Jeremy Lott wrote the best look at this I have seen.
I have many more others more actually (meet your future boss via a dog walk) (anything to do with the Whole Foods on P St) (Nader with groceries) (watching Will-I-Am eating a burrito at Chipotle in Dupont) (salons and cigars) mostly banal crap. Anything to do with writers, journalists and bloggers doesn’t count, I know how banal your daily grind is, but I really respect it.
Some others more interesting are still privileged until I get official or unofficial book rights (gchat me later, seriously man buy me off like Fannie did Newt) or might hurt my ability to earn future income, because they are still in- strict-confidence (sorta still can exist in dc thank you law school by proxy) and not really mine to ever tell.
I am saddened Hitchens is dead, sorry the Obama Presidency looks so messy angered masses on the left and right, and the R’s primary will be lasting for more months to torture our news cycles, but all in all I just miss DC.
- Christopher Hitchens, writer and polemicist dies (thetimes.co.uk)
- Watch: Christopher Hitchens Dies at 62 (abcnews.go.com)
- In Memoriam: Christopher Hitchens, 1949-201 (theageofblasphemy.wordpress.com)
- So, Who is Christopher Hitchens? (collegecandy.com)
- Atheist Promoter Christopher Hitchens Dead At 62 (inquisitr.com)
- Christopher Hitchens: Remembering The Legendary Writer And Orator (huffingtonpost.com)