Another week, another trip.Earlier this week, I returned from a whirlwind trip to Washington, D.C., where I was part of a staff retreat. Which was exactly how it sounds, minus the "trust fall." (Though there was an exercise that involved six people standing on a towel…) And there weren't nearly enough snacks.
I hadn't been to D.C. in quite a while — the last time was to visit a friend for New Year's Eve, a plan I made at the last minute because I'd suddenly started to hate New York and needed a change of scenery — and I was dreading the trip.
Because I do not like D.C. The politics, the old money, the Ivy League–picnic feel of Georgetown on weekends — boat shoes and polo shirts and knee-length shorts embroidered with tiny whales, and that's just the men. I've never felt like anything but an outsider there, and I didn't mind it. Plenty of other fish in the sea. There was no reason to force myself to like D.C.
So I climbed into a taxi at the airport — prepared to grin and bear it, put in my day and a half and get the hell out — and headed to meet a coworker at a little Italian restaurant a few blocks off Dupont Circle. We sped through the city, past banks and drugstores and Ann Taylor LOFT stores. By night, D.C. was an awkward mix of New York, Chicago and Kansas City, familiar and foreign all at once. Plus monuments. And motorcades, parked motorcycles and roadblocks and little station houses to keep out the terrorists. But after the federal buildings had emptied and everything inside the Beltway had all but gone to sleep, the city felt almost comfortable.
I felt my shoulders relax, settling into my seat as we climbed the hills past the alphabetically named streets. On U Street, I grabbed my bag and dragged it into an narrow, old restaurant decorated with Italian cycling memorabilia. A wood-fired oven blazed, garlic and herbs in the warm air, and I greeted my coworker with the startling revelation that maybe I didn't actually hate Washington.
I have always been quick to say I don't like things, quick to write off people and places as "not me."
But it's possible I'm actually mellowing a bit. Trying to chill out.
Or at least be more open to new things.
Like actually enjoying D.C. Or, you know, working for a political campaign. Yeah.
It's not like I have much of a private life, and this will come out eventually. But in the pursuit of the nuttiest freelance existence possible, I recently took on the position of "deputy director of communications — social media" for a Chicago alderman's mayoral campaign.
I hate politics.
For many of the same reasons I dislike D.C. — not including the whale shorts. Plus: I don't think, especially where Chicago is concerned, that politics has historically been a place for decent human beings to do business. I'm willing to be proven wrong on that, though. For now, I have taken on this job as exactly that: a job. (It's nice to be able to pay my bills.) But I think I've signed on with a good man and a good candidate. Time will tell.
And after dating John, I've realized that trying to pass myself off as someone who's not political is total idiocy. Because despite my strong dislike for the business of politics, I do care. Quite a lot. I care about what goes on in my community, in this city, in the world. There are lots of things I should understand better, but I don't need to get it completely to care.
Here I am. Getting into politics.
I'm not afraid to admit here that this is my first foray into it, because it will be fairly obvious to anyone I talk to. But where communications is concerned, I am not a novice. I know how to talk to people; I know how to show people I care. And I can tweet with the best of 'em. There will be some considerable skin thickening to do in the coming months — an interaction with a particularly prickly constituent of the second ward is testament to that — but that's all part of the learning curve.
I stayed in Alexandria the night of the retreat. The next day was a perfect autumn morning in D.C. The road to the airport wound along the banks of the Potomac, and just as we rounded a corner away from it, we passed the Key Bridge, which crosses the river into Georgetown. The red brick buildings glowed; the river's current twinkled in the glinting sunlight. I gasped, got a little starry-eyed, and my driver kept his eyes on the road. Nothing he hadn't seen before.
It all but took my breath away. I forgot the old money and whale shorts and had nothing but happy thoughts about the goodness and beauty that could be nestled among those buildings, the former epicenter of my distaste for D.C.
Baby steps, right?