Friday, April 25, 2008

D.C. Droppings -- XVIII

I usually blog about ideas, not about my day. But I had a good one today (April 24), and I will share it briefly, because it basically explains why I might not be as productive online here and in chat as before.

I have been doing freelance reporting for a major Washington newsletter (a daily publication that charges a shitload of money from lobbyists to tell them everything that is going on among the politicians they have paid for.)

Today, the Metro subway system and the Capitol itself, were swarming with sloppily dressed surly children because nothing is more political or egotistical than bringing your kid to work. Of course it was the latest incarnation of “Take Your Daughter to Work Day,” now opened to children of all different genders.

This being Passover week, it also seemed like “Take Your Jew To Work Day,” too. Passover came late this year, right in the middle of nice weather and the start of the tourist season in D.C., and elsewhere. It is an eight-day holiday, of which only the first two require observing anything more than not eating leavened products. (Including the senior senator from Michigan.)

What this means is that many young adults are home for the entire holiday week and bounding around the baseball stadium, the Capitol and other tourist attractions. And while you can’t really generalize about people’s religion, you can be pretty sure that people with East Coast accents, wearing small skull caps, beards and/or long sideburns, and “tzitzit” hanging from beneath their shirts , are not your average Sikh, for instance.

Anyway, back to me.

The reporting job was ideal for someone who loves the work and returns to the scene of his cub reporter crimes a generation ago. The only catch is that my son has achieved much higher prominence and status on the Hill than I ever did, so now I introduce myself as his father, instead of him introducing himself as my son. That’s fine, really, because I got a jump on everyone by taking my kid to work the day before, and then he droves us from his exalted Capitol parking spot over to see a ballgame.

I did two stories today about subjects I knew nothing about, which is the real challenge and joy of the job. But I had to tell my editors I would have to be taken out of the rotation because I have accepted a fulltime job elsewhere.

I am going to be a Kelly Girl!

That is, an employee of Kelly Services, one of the country’s, and government’s, biggest contractors. That’s the technicality. The reality is that I will be a communications specialist for a small unit of the mammoth National Institutes of Health, which is conveniently located about a mile from home and which also employs my wife, at a much higher pay grade and with a parking space. (Note that parking in D.C. is a bigger status symbol than your indictments.) Why did I accept this new job, which, while right up my alley, is very low key? Because out of the blue I was asked if I was interested, and before I could hem and haw, the amount of money you taxpayers will be sending me every week was too great an offer to refuse.

But the good news is that both my journalism employer and my government employer have agreed in principle that I can work 40 hours over four days and keep a day free for reporting or editing. In addition, I will stay on retainer with a nonprofit that I have been working for the past year, although at a lower level for a bunch less work.

What this means, of course, is that there is no recession. Three jobs have been created, and I have them all!

The other nice thing about today was that by happenstance I met a woman who had recently been my daughter’s boss and son’s colleague (both kids work for the same company in different capacities), and this very staid middle-aged woman went insane at finally meeting me – the reason being that she thought so highly of them. Now, people do say polite things. But this went on for about 45 minutes, so I think I really am proud of them! And earlier in the day, I met a guy who knows my son, and after a few minutes of mutual praise, he looked at me and said, "You don't look old enough to be his father."
So you can see what kind of day it was!

Finally, I went to a panel discussion about the neuropsychology of sports at which an author, two brain researchers and an ex-athlete talked about some of the themes in a new book called “Your Brain on Cubs.” The book has one of the best chapter titles I can remember seeing: “It Isn’t Whether You Win or Lose, It’s Whether You Win.”

By the way, the ex-athlete was Bobby Thompson. He is 84 years old, lucid and affable, looking pretty much like James Stewart. If you have not heard of Mr. Thompson, maybe you would recognize him as the central figure in the greatest broadcast sports “call” of all time:

And he gave both an utterly predictable and highly scientific answer to the question, “What went through your mind when you hit that home run.”

“Nothing,” he replied. The cool answer of a professional who knows what he can do without having to think about it.

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