The Problem With Washington, D.C.

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A view of the Washington Monument from the Jefferson Memorial in the fall of 2014: Glynn Wilson

The Big Picture –
By Glynn Wilson

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The world is populated by many very good people. Then there are the assholes, who simply do not get it.

When I set out on this adventure back in September to live with a very low carbon footprint in a camper van in the area around Washington, I knew I would meet all kinds of interesting people and make many friends along the way. That’s the way it is when you travel – if you are open to it. It’s what I told the dog when I adopted him from a rescue outfit.

I also figured I would encounter a few assholes, people who think the way to make themselves seem important is to bash everybody else. That seems to be human nature these days in this narcissistic world where any fool can hide behind an ego, “an inflated sense of self-worth,” according to Freud.

Of course I’ve encountered both in a very short span of time. Just this morning, when I took the dog out for his a.m. constitutional, a very friendly lady living in a house right behind the motel with a very large Bernese mountain dog offered me a bag of grapefruits and oranges.

Over the past week, a severe cold front moved into the area along the east coast and made it impractical to stay in the van every night. We had to drain the water system to avoid freezing pipes. So in the spirit of scouting out the best way to survive for the lowest cost here, we found a dog friendly motel chain with high speed Internet access. It turns out the Days Inn seems to be the best option in Virginia and Maryland. That’s important to know.

One night last week, however, I decided to make a foray into D.C. proper and find the best dog friendly hotel and a place to park the oversized camper van. I wanted to pop in on the National Press Club to see who was hanging out at the bar.

Unfortunately the Marriott on 14th Street would not allow dogs, other than service dogs, and the Roadtrek van would not fit in its parking garage anyway. But the concierge was very helpful, one of those nice and knowledgeable people you run into. He said the only downtown hotel that could accommodate a van so tall would be the Washington Plaza, just a few blocks south on 14th Street.

The Plaza was full for the night and the Secret Service was there guarding some public official or politician, and they only allow dogs under 25 pounds anyway. But they have an outdoor parking lot out back and parked my van for me — for a fee, of course. My English Springer Spaniel Jefferson weighs about 55 pounds. The concierge at The Plaza was also very helpful, and as it turned out, The Madison Hotel right across the street was dog friendly and welcomed me and my dog.

Once we were settled into the room, I took a cab back to the press club and ran into a blogger who I thought was a friend and a nice guy. But he was drinking heavily and by the time we ended up over at the Old Ebbitt Grill, he showed himself as just another asshole who thinks the way to practice “Washington” journalism is to bash everybody, including the president of the United States no matter what party he represents — or whether his policy proposals make any practical sense or not. That may be their game, but it is not my game.

For the past three and a half decades, we have been subjected to diatribe after political rant about the problems in our nation’s capital, now known as the “partisan divide.” Interesting that it also coincides with the “income divide,” the shrinking middle class and the total takeover by the corporate rich.

It all started with Ronald Reagan and has gone down hill ever since. George W. Bush campaigned for president in 2000 on this message that the problem was Washington and he could fix it, if the people would just elect him. That worked out really well, don’t you think? His handlers like Karl Rove just made the problem worse than ever, wouldn’t you say?

Barack Obama also campaigned for change, and by dog he has tried. But the assholes in Washington will just not let him get away with it. The Mitch McConnell’s of the world (read assholes) will never let the first African American president in U.S. history accomplish anything. That would offend their racist sensibilities, and endanger the electoral future of the party that now thrives at the ballot box on obstructionism.

The entire future of the Republican Party now rests on ensuring that nothing good ever comes out of the federal government in Washington. They have campaigned against the federal government for so long now that it would make them look like total fools if anything good ever happened here, if there was a public policy that worked.

They even have a bunch of “liberal journalists” fooled into playing the game their way. But let me be very clear about this. I did not come here to play this game their way. They can’t stand that, so they will do what they can to stand in the way of a different kind of journalism making it here. But that will not distract me even for a moment.

Just for the record, so that my anonymous commenter-blogger “friend” will know, my plan never included living on Capitol Hill and applying for jobs with mainstream media organizations and playing the game like everybody else in this town. It’s not about practicing “Washington journalism” like everybody else.

The plan all along included going south for the winter. It’s all about living in a camper van and moving around with the weather. It just so happens the plan includes spending much of the year in the vicinity of the nation’s capital.

I have now made three circles around this town and probably know the landscape better than anyone who lives here. I’ve stayed in just about every state park and federal campground in a 75-mile radius of Washington, as well as most of the private campgrounds. I have gotten to know some of the important people in these parts.

I’ve engaged in a few forays into town as well. I know where to park, where to stay, and I have not been arrested in front of the White House or anywhere else. I know where Karl Rove’s office is, and where my so-called “friend” lives on P Street.

We now have a street address and a company bank account in Silver Spring, Maryland, and the stage is set for the presidential election of 2016.

But it is about to be the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season, and the Lame Duck Congress will be heading home anyway. So I am about to load up the camper van and head south for the winter. We will be back by March.

There a few other places I want to see anyway. Most of the migratory campers I met along the way have already made it to Florida. I will be visiting relatives in North Carolina and staying in a lake house for a few days. Then I will be going back through Tennessee and onto Mobile Alabama. If it gets too cold even there, I can always follow the coast down into Florida for a few weeks. I will make it back in Birmingham for Christmas, and then we will see.

Nobody gets to dictate to me where to go or when, what to write about or how to write about it. That’s the total beauty of the freedom of the Web Press. These anonymous e-mails and comments have never affected me or what I do anyway. Ever. I just keep marching on. That must piss them off.

By the way, old Brett Blackledge is not working for the AP here anymore. He’s working down in Florida for a newspaper nobody has ever heard of in Naples. Eddie Curran is out of work and doing a little blogging down in Mobile. Who is pioneering a new kind of journalism on the Web? You know who.

I get that so-called “Washington journalists” who are mostly all just bloggers and Tweeters now anyway don’t appreciate this. Interlopers who don’t have an original idea in their heads. They just steal other people’s stories and try to capitalize on them. Quite frankly I don’t give a shit what they think. I can research, report and write circles around most of them anyway, and take the photos and produce the video to go with it.

Like a friend said in the comments last night on Facebook. “Washington needs an enema.” Maybe over the next couple of years I can figure out how to give it one.

Freedom is a beautiful thing. Perhaps the people stuck in Washington ought to get out now and then and see what the country actually looks like outside the Beltway. It’s been an amazingly beautiful fall all over Maryland and Virginia.

Check out all our photos in the travel section.

See you soon down the trail or on the road — or on the Net.

© 2014, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.