Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Mr. Kelley Goes To Washington. His Socks Do Not. (Washington Travel Journal, Day 1)

First, I just want to say that it was an honest mistake.
I had a lot on my mind.
I was busy.
I was distracted.
That's why I forgot to pack clean socks and undies for my 4 day trip to Washington D.C.
I have found that washing socks and undies in the sink with hand soap is an effective way to get them clean, but hanging them on coat hangers, suspended over the air conditioning unit is NOT an effective way to dry them.

I had much better results with a hair dryer. Socks can simply be slipped over the business end of a hair dryer. After a few minutes, they are dry and, as an added bonus, the process infuses the entire hotel room with the delicate scent of burning fabric. Undies, especially boxers, are somewhat more problematic due to their unwieldy shape, but with patience, they can also be dried with a hair dryer.

Other than the whole undies/socks thing, we had a lovely time on our trip to Washington. We arrived Friday afternoon, just in time for me to shower quickly, change into clean clothes (except for those undies and socks) and race off to a reception at the Library of Congress. Getting into an "invitation only" reception was one of the perks of being chosen as the author to represent New Hampshire at the 2011 National Book Festival.

The other perks were, of course, the opportunity to learn how to blow dry socks, and the opportunity to discover how sweaty you can get running from Union Station to the National Mall in freshly dried socks. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

After the reception, which Kerri and the kids drove me to, I wandered around near the Capitol Building, searching for a cab to take me back to my hotel. My recent adventure in New York had lead me to believe that 9 out of every 10 cars in a city are taxis. Not so in Washington. I wandered aimlessly to and fro, attracting the attention of the very highly strung police officers who stand guard at every street corner. When I finally managed to flag down a taxi, I gave the driver the address.

"Where?" he asked.

I repeated the address.

"Never heard o dat street, man. Get out."

"What?" I asked.

He slammed on the brakes. "I never heard o day street. Out my cab."

So I began my weary walk around the city, searching for a cab that might deliver me to the hotel. I got directions from a friendly police officer and was at least able to trudge in the proper direction until I finally managed to flag down a cab that delivered me to the hotel an the gourmet $50 pizza that Kerri had ordered in my absence.

Anyone who has ever met me will readily agree that:

1. I am a food snob.
2. I object, in the strongest possible fashion, to paying $50 for a pizza.

In fairness to Kerri, it was actually three "gourmet" pizzas, a bottle of Sprite and a plastic bag for $50. The plastic bag that the soda came in, our only souvenir from the trip, was itemized at $0.05 on the receipt.

The pizzas did not live up to their price tags and I'd prefer never to think about them again.

Instead, I will think about the festival itself, a literary bacchanal with many, many authors and many, many, many attendees, all seeking the same thing.

Free stuff.

I had been warned about this. Each state sent an envoy from the state library to show off the fact that people in their state could read. At least, I assume that's why they were there. They armed their representatives with free stuff to give to people. I really have no idea why the states felt obligated to give stuff away, but as it was in the name of literacy, I was all for it. Plus, I got some free stuff for myself.

"People will come through the pavilion," I was told by several librarians, "and they will grab anything that isn't nailed to the table. If you have a cell phone, DON'T put it on the table. They will take it."

The representatives from New Hampshire, in a bold effort to show just how cool we are, had color changing pencils to give away. "The kids will be all right," I was told, "but watch the adults."

Kids generally limited themselves to taking one or two pencils. And, even though they were asked politely to just take one, adults typically scooped up 10-20 pencils at a grab.

"Could you please just take one pencil?" the librarians asked politely.

The person would look the librarian in the eye, drop one of the 20 pencils back on the table, and throw the rest into her bag before running off into the crowd.

I suggested a metal yardstick to whack fingers with, and even offered to do the whacking, but my suggestions were ignored. My job, technically, was to merely stand around and be eye candy, something I am vastly experienced at. I was the author from New Hampshire, after all.

People wandered through the pavilion, traveling from state to state with a map of the US clutched in their sweaty, pencil filled hands. Each state had a sticker or a stamp that they would place on the map. Once you got all 50 states, you received the grand prize, a warm sense of satisfaction and a map with 50 stickers on it.

People raced from state to state in a fevered state of near frenzy to get the coveted stamps or stickers. I was conscripted into helping out with the stamping and took it upon myself to make sure people had an opportunity to slow down and enjoy the process. When they shoved their maps in my face and waved them back and forth, I put my stamp down and smiled.

"Hi," I'd say. "Having a good time this morning?"


"Yup," I'd respond, "I can't believe the crowds, can you? Amazing that this many people are..."


"Interested in books. I'm Marty Kelley, the featured author from..."


"New Hampshire. Do you need a stamp from New Hampshire?"


"I've got the stamp right here," I'd say, picking it up and waving it tantalizingly, "Can you find New Hampshire on that map you've got?"

The person would scan the map frantically and jab at any state that started with an N.

"Nope. That's Nevada," I'd say, "New Hampshire is a bit more toward the eastern side."

The person would then flip the map over, looking–I assume–for China. Then he would flip it back and jab randomly again.

"You're getting closer, but that's New Jersey."

Another jab.

"New York. Getting warmer."

The person would then let fly with an agonized howl and I would smile and gently stamp a New Hampshire stamp on his map. He would then plow to the other end of the table, grab a fistful of color-changing pencils and race off into the crowd.

Notice how happy the children are after they get to meet a real, live author.

I had a wonderful time and actually met lots of very cool teachers and librarians who were there for more than the free pencils.

Some states had bookmarks.

After a few hours, I bade a fond farewell to Ann, Michael, and Kelly, the brave souls guarding New Hampshire's strategic pencil reserves, and set off with my family to wander around Washington D.C. and soak up all the historic wonder of our country.

As we wandered through the National Mall, we passed a "Legalize Medical Marijuana" rally that had drawn exactly one attendee. The organizers probably should take a hint from the librarians and start giving away free stuff.

We forced our way through the Medical Marijuana crowd and gazed in awe upon the reflecting pool in front of the Lincoln Memorial. I can only assume that budget cuts are responsible for its current condition.

Likewise the state of security in the area.

When we arrived at the Lincoln Memorial where I noticed that visitors don't actually want pictures of the famous monuments. They want pictures of themselves, in front of famous monuments. This was to be a pervasive theme on our trip.

I found taking these pictures to be immensely satisfying. My family, especially my daughter, were unamused by this, however.

We eventually tired of all our wandering, made our way back to the hotel and stewed ourselves in the pool before heading to bed to rest up for another day of adventure and photographs of random strangers that lay ahead.


Ash said...

The photo of the reflecting pool illustrates exactly what happens when Giant Abraham Lincoln's toilet gets backed up. Not pretty.

marty said...

That would explain the peculiar Lincoln Log odor, then.

Ash said...

I knew you'd make a Lincoln Log joke.

marty said...

You set me up like that; how could I resist?