In the winter of 2000 I was far less politically interested than I am now. I was a member of the group of Americans who feel that “all politicians are corrupt liars”, which had led me to largely only vote in presidential elections, and then usually for the third-party candidate.
I had little idea what the difference was between a US Representative or a US Senator, except that they were both Congresscritters.
But I still liked the idea of Washington, D.C. And I had family friends who lived in our nation’s capital, and their adult son lived in New York City, and I had always wanted to travel to the East Coast. And I had vacation time accruing from my job, and money to spend.
So, in the waning days of the Clinton Administration, I arranged a little vacation.
I’d fly into Baltimore (my friends advised this as a cheaper, easier alternative to flying into National), take a short train ride into D.C., stay a few nights at my friends’ apartment, then take another train ride to Manhattan and stay with their son.
I barely remember the details of the flight, in those days before religious extremists flew planes into tall buildings, except that it was easier and more boring. And most of what I did inside the Beltway was visit as many of the Smithsonian museums as I could. The Lunar Landing Module at the National Air and Space Museum actually made me weep for the steps backwards we have taken as a nation in exploration and nearly pure science. I’m so sentimental. And I was suitably impressed with the Hope Diamond.
I’ve got many stories I could tell from that trip, but the one that makes me kick myself now is my dinner choice on my last night in D.C.
The couple I was staying with were political. Very much so. In fact, Tom had a job working directly with Vice President Al Gore. He was working on policies to help the salmon runs in the Columbia River, on behalf of the State of Oregon. My friends spent a lot of time with other politicians and policy makers, which is the way of things in our capital.
And Betsy told me that my final evening with them, they had already planned on having Senator Ron Wyden over for a private dinner, for some political reason I don’t remember now but was probably related to the policy work Tom was doing. And she offered me a choice of joining them, or finding something else to do.
If I had that choice now, I would leap at the opportunity to grill Sen. Wyden on many topics, including but not limited to the corporate bailout or telecom immunity or stealing an election or executive branch accountability or network neutrality or or or… So many things come to mind, and Sen. Wyden has taken brave stands with the majority on some of them, and has given the standard corporate Democratic position on others.
But on that trip, on that night… I opted for going out to a movie.
I saw a restored version of “Rear Window”, the classic Hitchcock thriller. I had never seen it before. And the idea of a small dinner with some boring windbag Senator bored me to tears.
Such a lost opportunity.
Can I get a do-over?