Actually, I've been here this week.
Let’s go back to Monday in the early AM, when I wrote:
As the wise adage says, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. In the modern version, that’s the step you take onto an airplane. And then you sit down and no more steps are required. But a journey of a thousand miles also does not begin until the plane shows up, and if it’s Frontier, this is questionable. I am at the airport at the moment, and the flight is delayed. That’s okay. I like airports. I’m content to sit here in that vacant, drifting, half-awake state you get after insufficient sleep and pre-dawn delivery to the smooth soothing environment of an airport in the early morning hours. I love the early hours of the day. It’s a nice place to visit but I wouldn’t want to live there. But it’s a neighborhood you can visit once a day if you like.
Speaking of Frontier: worst website in the history of aviation, and that includes YTMND sites that show the Hindenburg exploding. Once you’ve checked in, a pop-up window offers you seats with more legroom. I declined. Next page loads: you have no assigned seats. You can get one at the airport or restart the check-in process. What a load of steaming codswaddle. Who designs a website that requires people to restart the entire process to perform the basic function of the purpose of using the website?
I mean, does upper management of the airline use the site? Of course not. Their staff does it for them. And if it’s hard for staff, well, they’re staff, and that’s why they’re there. If some conscientious member of Staff tells the boss that the website is ugly, old, and barely functional - just like some bosses, come to think of it - then perhaps the boss makes a note to bring it up in a meeting, whereupon someone will be tasked to form an exploratory committee, which will bring in all the stakeholders, and move forwards the end goal of arranging a mission statement, after which they can start to look for vendors to build the website. By then people are ordering mobile molecular-transmission units from Uber via a patch they wear on the underside of their earlobe.
NOW I AM in DC
A day of great huge battering conflicting emotions. First of all, I landed at Dulles. Always a joyful place.
Got to the hotel. It is called Rouge and it is somewhat silly.
Room wasn’t ready. Stowed my gear and walked outside into a perfect beautiful fall DC afternoon, the city at its best. Grown-up, autumnal, sober, historical, confident. My heart just sank.
Because this place makes my heart sink. It would be easier if I didn’t feel such affection for it. For the times I spent here and the people I knew. I’ve never lived some place I loved and hated with equal intensity. Indifference would be a gift. It just brought back all the days of walking, feeling overdressed, hot, and insignificant, adrift. But great buildings! Well, okay buildings. I tromped up to Adams Morgan, my old neighborhood, and found it just as dispirited in the daylight as it had always seemed, shabby and bereft. Apparently it has a thriving club scene, which may explain why it seemed squinty and sullen in the light of day. Went back to my old apartment:
And the final point of the journey reached, I went back to the hotel and fell asleep. Even though there was an ominous church across the street, straight out of a Blue Oyster Cult live album cover.
The evening’s event was in the Mayflower Hotel bar. I was early, so I walked to my old office building, 2000 Penn, a 90s-style shopping arcade that’s not completely dated, but damned close. State-of-the-urban arts at the time, though. Walked through thinking how I felt when I first passed through these doors to my first day at work, and remembering quite well how I felt: TREMENDOUS REGRET. Excitement, yes, but man. Passed the bar where we all met after work, because yes in those days the journalists went down to the bar at the conclusion of the day’s business. Cliches must be honored. Hoofed it to the Mayflower and had three and a half great hours of conversation with Ricochet members, including one moment that really - really rocked me back on my heels. One of the guys mentioned that his dad was a fan of my stuff, podcasts in particular. His dad is Buck Dharma.
Long day. Lot of talking tomorrow. When I checked in they asked what I was here for, and I said “flapping my gums. Making great wind. DC’s main industry.”
That is my job, and I suppose I am home again.
TUESDAY NIGHT AFTER ALL WAS OVER
Well, that was marvelous. Got up, walked to Starbucks to get an egg-and-sausage wad because the hotel room service menu said “2 eggs. $12.” Walked around DC in un-DC garb - white T-shirt and jeans - feeling as if I was finally, finally comfortable in this place. Did a podcast at the American Enterprise Institute, then went back to the room to arrange some thoughts for what I intended to say at the Event. At the appointed time I put on the new suit and wandered over, feeling . . . happy. Calm. There are times when you just feel like a passenger, plugged into an event; it’s all out of your hands - until the moment they point at you and it’s your turn to talk and the C-SPAN cameras swivel on you, and then, hello: perform.
It’s for a book with wonderful contributors, many of which I met for the first time. The obligatory mutually-congratulatory dinner & drinks afterwards; I sat down at the end of the table with P. J. O’Rourke, whose work I’ve been enjoyed for decades, and we talked film noir and Venice, which makes it sound so pinky-extended salon-pretentious, but no. Then Matt Labash for a while - as smart and engaging in person as in print. Walked outside to a warm night - again, DC has never been kinder - and strolled unmolested to the hotel without fear of being strong-armed or relieved of my worldly goods, which is a different DC than I used to know. It’s been a marvelous time.
THE NEXT DAY WHICH PUTS THE PREVIOUS LINE IN STARK RELIEF
Got up and did some work for some reason I can’t remember, then stowed my gear and headed out for some final photos in the autumn noon. A front was moving in. The light was alive.
Let’s take a look before we get to the grimness.
En route to the airport my TripIt app sends me a message: my flight has been delayed. Shucks. I look at the details: it leaves me 0 minutes to make my connecting flight. That’s what it says: 0 minutes. Now, this could mean I’d have 50 seconds to make it from one gate to the other. It’s possible. But of course you know that the “departure” time isn’t the time the plane closes its doors and says fare-thee-well. I check to see if there are any other flights out of Denver. No siree.
I’ve never had this happen before, I don’t think. But then again I’ve never flown Frontier, and never will again. It’s an awful airline. They don’t nickle-and-dime you, though, I’ll grant them that. They twenty-and-fifty you. Well, while in the Uber I call the airline to see if they can help me out, and alas: they don’t have any partnerships with any other airline. Maybe a pedicab company, but they’re booked. Criminey. I hang up and use my phone to find something else, and Sun Country pops up with a flight that leaves at 10 PM and does not cost $1,000 like all the other options. Bless them.
The bad news: travel plans rent asunder. The amazing news: I fixed it by hand-held networked computational device before I got out of the cab.
So . . . eight hours. What to do? I’m not going back to the city to trudge around. I have a column to write, anyway. Will stretch out every . . . thing . . . I . . . do as loooooong . . . as possible. I am also amusing myself by reading customer reviews of Frontier, which now strikes me as the most Soviet airline in existence; the flight crews come off as professional, but the airport employees and people who handle Customer Service are so consumed with self-hatred over working for such a low-rent organization they have to take it out on the passengers, or they’re just mean people to start with.
MUCH MUCH LATER
At the bar in Terminal A, which is much improved over its brutal days when I came here to go home. Bar’s in the same place, though. I spent my many hours quite well. I walked a lot, doing one end of the airport to the other end four times. I took hyperlapses. I ate at Ben’s Chili Bowl, which has an outlet at the airport. I suppose that was the way to tie today back to the DC experience - half-smoke from Ben’s Chili Bowl.
You know how you leave a place where once you lived, and there’s a fishhook in your heart, like someone with whom you had a torrid affair that ended in rancor . . . but still. But still. You that feeling?
I do, and this isn’t that. Nice to come. Nice to leave. That’s all.
Notes on the ongoing Pumpkinification of Everything:
Let it be known that this confection has no true identity.
It is a morsel.
Of what they dare not - cannot say.
It is merely sufficient to say that it is a morsel.
Hey! Fixed Richie Rich. Sorry.