Any town that can straight faced call a Metro stop (and suburb) Foggy Bottom has to have something going for it. That the train line stop is underneath the George Washington University Hospital suggests someone in the planning department might have had a sense of humour as well. Indeed, this town has a lot going for it and my wandering out for a coffee last night and a quick downing of the books for a quick sneak into the Smithsonian Air and Space museum reminds me again how attractive and appealing this town is. It is a bit hard to believe it is twenty years to the month when I was here first. Then it was to present a paper up on the banks of the Potomac at Langley. Ten years ago to the month I spent three months camped at Bolling Air Force Base, a pleasant sojourn in the care of the US government and a real treat as they made every effort to introduce us to the sights and history of the area. So in some respects it is a little like coming home. There are events and people here that stand out. Like the old African American barman at a Defence function who decided that only he and the Australian would imbibe the red rum. I remember him, but not much of the rest of the evening except that the bow tie came off pretty early. Or the CIA doctor who gave me a small white tablet of something which cured me of the symptoms of the flu in the time it took to ride the elevator from her office back to the auditorium. I have always wondered what was in it. Or the Iranian woman trying to smuggle US currency into the country on a flight here from Europe (there has to be a story in that somewhere). But I am reminded that it is the people on the street that make this place partly compelling. Flying over here I watched the rather compelling movie “The Visitor” in which drummers beating up a storm on plastic buckets were featured. Blow me down if the same guys were not on the sidewalk down here last night with a collection of plastic buckets driving African rhythms up Connecticut Ave! But this end of town is a university end of town and the students, diners, tourists and people with one hundred languages spill up and down here in a cosmopolitan soup few who have visited here would associate with Washington. Even the pan handlers (there are plenty of them) can make you laugh – one guy was presenting his case for a donation based on a lucid argument about how the recent shaky performance of Wall Street meant he was now even more deserving of our money. Mind you they all seem to have some sort of economic theory with which to align their arguments. We might assume the White House smothers all but it is barely seen or heard in the hubbub of metro DC and all those who mingle here. I am reminded of such as I walk past the polished brass plates of the Ukrainian Embassy a few doors away from where I am staying. The biggest party on this street one night was spilling out of the Ukrainian Embassy, not helped by the guards and their big Soviet style officer caps, more drunk than anyone else. Major Andre was from the Ukraine – he insisted I try his juniper brandy, followed by a pepper vodka. I can still hear his hearty and guttural “ha ha ha” as I crawled back to my apartment. Another character in this town who is hard to forget.
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