As I have written here before, I have a love-hate relationship with my current hometown, Washington, D.C.
And my feelings toward Washington could not be more polarized than they are now. In the last days of September, with the threat of furlough looming on the horizon, I was in denial. The government had threatened to shut down before. Twice. When we were in Brazil in 2011, on two separate occasions my boss called his entire staff into his office and on two separate occasions we were briefed on what would happen in the event of a government shutdown. On neither of those occasions did a shutdown materialize, and in the last days of September, I had no reason to believe there would be one this time.
I was wrong.
I went to work on September 30 fairly certain the federal government would be closed on October 1, yet was instructed to come to work on Tuesday anyway. I wasn't sure if our instructors had preternatural gifts of prescience or were just incredibly wishful thinkers, but--knock on wood--as the shutdown stretches into its eleventh day, I am still working.
On October 5th, five days into the shutdown, Elise and I completely thumbed our noses at the doomsayers and went out for a night on the town. We went big. Finally making it to a wildly popular restaurant on 14th Street, Le Diplomate.
As we entered the French restaurant, we were instantly transported to another place and another time, and reminded that you get what you pay for. A $22 first round was actually worth $122, a dirty martini up and a 1554 on draft, a beer crafted by New Belgium from Fort Collins, the makers of Fat Tire, inspired by a recipe perfected by 16th century Belgium monks. I had two.
As we waited, we spotted Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns. I resisted the urge to ask him how long he thought the State Department could operate without a continuing resolution and instead dove into the steak au poive and pommes frites we shared as though there were no threat of furlough. I don't mean for this to devolve into a glorified restaurant review, but I was truly impressed. It's the little things that count, and the fries were piping hot when they reached our table, even after taking an extended tour of the dining room as they made their way from the fryer. No small feat in a restaurant this size.
After paying for a babysitter and parking, we'd dropped the equivalent of a small house payment on dinner, but I would have paid twice that. If for no other reason than I was loving--not only Elise--but being in D.C. The place does have an unmistakable buzz, and Elise was the one to note that in either Le Diplomate or Oyamel which we had been treated to the week before, the crowd is unmistakably Washingtonian. I couldn't tell you what that means exactly, but you would know it if you saw it.
A few nights earlier, I met an old high school friend for beers on Capitol Hill. We met at the Capitol Lounge and I started in on a few DC Braus as the post-work crowd of Congressional staffers, many in hoodies and Nats caps, filed in and out. A girl asked is if we were furloughed. A good opening line, but one my buddy failed to seize upon. The Rays took a one game playoff away from the Indians, and I got lost driving home. Though I did pass the massive marble dome of the Capitol building, still impressive despite the mayhem that was taking place inside.
The following day, Day 3 of the shutdown, a woman lead police on a high speed car chase from the White House to the Capitol.
Two days later, a man sets himself on fire in front of the Air and Space Museum, and now I'm not loving D.C. so much anymore.
Elise asks me if this is the end of the world, the Apocalypse, Armageddon, or the start of civil war, only this time instead of North vs. South it is the Left vs. the Right. I can't say it doesn't feel like it. Three nights ago the sun set brilliantly, but ominously. Storm clouds were bruised purple and on fire. They reminded me of the way clouds look around a Colorado wild fire. We expected frogs to start raining from the sky at any moment.
Two nights ago, Sam and I played a scaled-down version of soccer. The goals were two squat shrubs about twenty feet apart, and he thumped me 15-13. Sam is our champion napper, and he is learning that when he naps and his brother doesn't, Sam will get our undivided attention from about 6:30 p.m. (the hour at which Pete either collapses from sheer exhaustion, has a complete emotional implosion, or, more likely, some combination of both) onward. It is impossible to give Sam too much attention. He thrives on it, and so while everyone else went to bed, Sam and I snuck out of the house and played soccer in the dark.
Last night, Elise went to get her nails done. She had whipped up fried rice before she left. Peter and Clementine--the two children who did not nap--devoured it. Clem polished off two platefuls. Sam cried like a baby for an hour before the prospect of dessert finally provided enough incentive to where he reluctantly forced down a few bites.
Sam has been the victim of name-calling at school, and Elise and I are trying to be especially sensitive to that and coach him through it, but I'll be damned if I'm going to let him storm through the house, slamming doors and declaring, "I AM THROUGH WITH THIS!!" like a petulant thirteen year old. I tried the calm, empathetic Mr. Rogers approach. That didn't work, and soon lead to Peter slamming doors and pouting, too. Only when I yelled at both of them like a drill sergeant berating doey eyed plebes did they finally fall into line. It was the attention that Sam needed; he would've eaten snails at that point.
Today, Day 10 of the shutdown, it rained like cats and dogs all day. Ironically, the Dow posted its biggest gain this year on the heels of news Republicans in the House may have finally blinked, and Elise and Clementine flew to Florida for a girls weekend with Nanny.
That means Sam and Pete are with me. Guys weekend! It's off to a good start, and I have a feeling I will probably come out of it with a love for Washington again. We'll see....