This past week work sent me on a trip to Washington DC. I went to assist with the relocation of the news bureau and to there and to perform some network changes on Capitol Hill. I have not been back to Washington DC since I was a very small child. When I say very small, I mean two years old. My parents have pictures and stories of me visiting the various sights around the city. But my memories are much fuzzier. I think I remember it raining once. Maybe I was just crying. Who knows.
Anyway, so I flew into Dulles on Sunday night and met up with Jim at Union Station Monday morning. I went early to take a few pictures. I wasn’t sure how much time, if any, I was going to have to do anything remotely touristy, so I just packed a little camera for some snapshots. I must say Washington DC’s Union Station trumps Chicago’s Union Station by quite a margin. It’s an impressive piece of architecture and serves as a hub for by Amtrak, MARC and VRE commuter railroads, and the Washington Metro transit system. Chicago’s own architect Daniel Burnham designed the station in the Beaux-Arts style. It opened in 1908.
From there we hiked over to Capitol Hill and obtained visitor credentials for me. I gained access to the Senate Press Gallery workspace and telecommunications attic above. While we waited for the Senate IT personnel to arrive and escort us up to our equipment, Jim gave me a quick tour of the Capitol. Jim showed me the rotunda, Statuary Hall and the Old Supreme Court Chambers before we met up with the Senate technician. Our equipment is mounted in the attic above the press galleries. To get there we had to walk up a very narrow brick spiral staircase past the “Wall of Shame”. The righthand wall of the staircase is littered with grafitti of names and dates. In my quick trip by the oldest dates I saw were from 1936. Jim informed me later that the wall is named the way it is as you do not want to get caught writing on it: so of course lots of people try.
We spent the rest of the day working on the logistics of the office move. Tuesday and Wednesday were much the same, moving back and forth between the old and the new offices and working out details. I had some specific technical things I needed to accomplish to get the network up and running in the new space. That went well and then I assisted Jim with the myriad little details that go into moving an office of this size and complexity. Long, hot days, with not much in the way of sightseeing breaks. We did take a few minutes to go up onto the roof of the old bureau and look out over the city Tuesday afternoon.
Washington has height restrictions on the buildings. There are no skyscrapers. Nothing can obstruct the view of the Capitol. The result is that there aren’t any buildings much over 10 stories. That gives the city a distinctive feel. A park can effectively wipe out the feeling that you’re in the middle of a city as the trees block the view of all the buildings. Nothing rises above them.
I had some delicious crabcakes — the signature DC dish. I drank a beer at the Post Pub across the street from the Washington Post. And I came to the conclusion that no one is actually from Washington DC. Everyone there is actually from somewhere else, often another continent.
All in all, it was a good trip. Hot and humid, couple of thunderstorms, lots of work. I got to see several of the people I worked with last summer during the political conventions and I got a brief glimpse of the nation’s capitol after thirty-plus years of being away.