Despite the misadventures with an ill-named carry-on bag, after my 17 hour flight two weeks ago, this five hour cross-country hop seemed like a trip to the market. I think may have even stood the entire flight, who knows. I have come to Washington, DC for a very important purpose: to hear a speech from the President of the United States and to Lobby my Congresswoman on Tuesday. My schedule is booked pretty solid with different lectures and catching up with some old college friends who still live on the East Coast so, really, when you think about it, or at least when I tell my wife about it, it’s really a lot of work. The fact that I have three days away from paternal responsibilities is merely an afterthought, as far as my wife knows. Okay, fine, I’ve had a tough 98 days of being a family man– I needed a break!
Every time I come to the East Coast I forget how much the weather here sucks. I am used to temperature fluctuations of 16 degrees from the cold winter days of 65 to the broiling heat of 81. The humidity in LA is 4% even when it rains. Los Angeles has nothing else to speak of, but that is enough. Meanwhile, I stepped out of the airport in Washington this morning and it was so hot and humid that a thunderstorm started in my shirt. I always seem to run into people on my travels and today was no different. I ran into a woman, Marsha, whom I had met in the most awkward of circumstances 7 years ago at a resort with my family. It was karaoke night and Marsha– whom I didn’t know at all– was looking for a partner to sing with her. Probably just to annoy my wife who makes fun of my singing–she’s completely wrong: I have an AMAZING voice and if they ever do Senior Idol I’m auditioning and guess what? I’m going to Hollywood– I volunteered to partner up with Marsha. We got up there and the music to “The Pina Colada Song” started playing and Marsha and I were quickly playing the parts of a couple that was trying to cheat on their respective spouses, while Marsha and my spouse watched on. The only thing that made it more awkward was when Marsha’s husband Steve got up and joined the duet, so I wasn’t sure whom I was supposed to be cheating on in the song.
Anyway, Marsha was going downtown as well so we took a taxi together– I was tempted to ask her if she still liked making love at midnight by the dunes by the Cape, but she was with her 19 year old son, which didn’t really make it a worse idea, but I could get beat up. My flight landed at 7:30 and I had to be at the Convention Center by 9:00 to see the President speak. As long as there were no problems, I should make it there on time. So, the first problem was that every other street was blocked off because the President was in town– since he LIVES in this town, they should be better prepared for this type of thing, but that’s not my job. The second problem was that the streets that weren’t blocked off for the President were blocked off for a bike marathon. After driving around for 20 minutes in the only square block that wasn’t closed I asked the driver if he knew how to get to my hotel. He looked at me and said, “no” then kept driving. I then asked him to pull over and I got out, lugging my 70 pound carry-on with me towards the general direction of the convention center.
After six blocks, I had sweat through everything including my shoes and my anchor of a bag was slowing me down, so I stopped into a random hotel and checked my bag there. Fortunately, I was close enough to the Convention Center to make it in time to wait on-line for two hours of security, smelling like a homeless person urinated on me. By the time I saw the President speak, I was exhausted, but invigorated by being so close to the (image on a giant flat screen) of the Leader of the Free World. I remember reading that President Obama was reluctant to run for office because he would have to spend so much time away from his family. I wondered if at any time during his campaign he received a note from one of his daughters signed, “The Obamas” as I had received the night before from my son. As I watched the President, I was struck by his poise and confidence and thought, “He and I have a lot in common– we’re both good at public speaking, we’re both judged on our first 100 days and we both get to spend some time away from our families.”
After the speech which invigorated me and made me think “Yes I can” find my luggage, which I ultimately did, I headed over to my hotel. They asked how many keys I needed and I instinctively said, “two”. As I put my key in the door, I started getting a little sad that I was here alone and started humming the slow or “sad” theme from ‘Rocky’ (it’s a weird family trait, when my sister has a bad day she hums the sad Brady Bunch theme). My sadness evaporated as I collapsed on the bed and took a two hour nap, uninterrupted by kids screaming or dogs jumping on the bed. When I awoke, I looked around the room and saw that although I had only been in the room for two and a half hours– two of those hours in a coma– the room was a mess– my clothes were strewn everywhere, my wedding ring nowhere to be found (I’ll find it) one key already lost and my suitcase emptied out on a chair and I realized: holy crap, I’M the slob in my relationship!
After showering– I’M the one who gets the floor wet!– I headed out to hear some political lectures and catch up with friends, all the while thinking, “My wife would love this”. When it was time to go out, I had a choice of hooking up with my college friends who were still single, “living the dream” or some friends I knew from LA who were living the dream of being single for one night. How could I give up a night of hearing stories of men who were unencumbered, still living like I did out of college? It wasn’t that hard actually: I told them I’d catch up with them later, knowing I’d probably be asleep. Instead, I went back to the room of a friend of mine who coincidentally was there with one of my daughter’s teachers. My friend suggested we grab some drinks and watch the game, so we did. He charged three diet Cokes to his room and we headed upstairs to watch the Bulls play the Heat in the NBA semifinals. His room, unoccupied for all but 45 minutes of the day, was just as disgusting as mine was, and the three of us, talked about mistakes we’ve made being a parent. Finally, with my Diet Coke buzz raging I got the courage to ask my daughter’s teacher, “Is my daughter… normal?” He looked at me blankly and said, “No. She’s really exceptional. Really smart and really sweet. I wish I had 20 just like her.”
I remember during my bachelor party, when my friends were getting drunk and rambunctious in the main room of the suite I had booked at Caeser’s Palace, I snuck into the bedroom and called my wife and told her I missed her. It broke every code of bachelor party etiquette but it was who I was. And it’s still who I am. I took a moment away from watching the game to call my wife and kids to check in and tell them that I love them. Later in the evening I called my wife and asked about her day, listening to all the details about the kids that usually, well, sometimes, have me tivoing through them in my head. At the end of our conversation my wife asked how my day was and I told her, “Good. I got to see the President.” But that wasn’t as important as what I missed.
Tommorrow is another jam-packed day, learning from scholars and analysts and meeting dignitaries who makes decisions that effect everyone on the planet. Yet the most important people in my life will be 3,000 miles away from me at home, waiting for me to tell them everything. But all I’ll say is, “I missed you” because that’s all that will matter.