Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Rummy and Exercise

Monday was the Defense Department briefing for the fiscal year 2007 budget request from the White House, and I was Johnny on the spot representing my team. (Which, to be accurate, is just me and my editor. And she lives in Delaware.) So there I was, making small talk with a guy named Sidney from DefenseNet news company (if I remember correctly), who had been "doing this shit for a long time now," and wandering around the Pentagon like a trained seal while our escort made sure we didn't see anything newsworthy on the way to the briefing room. There was a great deal of kibbitzing and meeting up with old friends once we got there, except I don't know anyone in the DOD news business so I had no one to talk to. Thankfully the defense group from my company arrived and I could look like I'd been doing this shit for a long time too, by just chatting about mutual acquaintances until the brass arrived.

Then when the brass arrived, I realized I'd accidently gotten a good seat. And I was literally three rows away from Donald Rumsfeld, standing up there at the podium, pretty much looking like Darth Vader without the helmet.

It was a totally surreal experience, I don't have to tell you. There he was, chopping the air, making funny motions with his hands, grinning like a sinister cat, making jokes with the Reuters guy and acting like it was no big deal that I was in the room with him when he knew very well I would have liked to take him in hand him if only I had the authority. My thankless job was to ask about the DOD environmental remediation budget. This wasn't at the top of the agenda, apparently, and I never got an answer, either from Rummy, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Peter Pace (I have never seen such a highly decorated uniform in real life, by the way -- TV doesn't convey half the frippery this guy was sporting), DOD Comptroller Tina Jonas (with whom I once, fruitlessly, tried to get an interview) or this useless, out-to-pasture "Admiral" named something Channick. I went to the breakout sessions of the individual services' budgets only to struggle through the arduous process of getting the briefing booklets that would give me all the answers I needed without dealing with any professional military weirdos. (True story: one very nerdy guy with thick glasses kept ineptly trying to stage-manage the Army briefing and scolded reporters for not stating their name and publication before asking a question. When it was nearly over, the reporters broke off and chased down individual Army representatives in the room to ask their more detailed questions. One conversation went on longer than nerdy thought it should, and he walked over to the Army commentator, put his arms around the guy and said "Okay, time for you to go now." The Army guy replied: "You need to take your hands off me." Like I said, true story.)

Basically the whole thing was a bust, except I got broad numbers for the services' environmental protection budgets. Trust me, you don't want to hear how low they are.

The point is that Tuesday everything I'd been moving towards finally clicked into place. I rode my bike to work for the first time, I made my own lunch (thereby not paying the ungodly amount they charge for a sandwich in this town), I worked out at the gym where I just got a membership -- although it was a bit of an odd session, in which I mostly tried to teach Trevor to play racquetball before going on the challenge court with the big boys and cleaning some serious house -- and rode my bike home again. I can't imagine what the temperature was. I was wearing my heavy jacket and my workout clothes, which means shorts. It felt peachy.

Later I had to rummage through my roommate's desk, find her spare key and pick her up in Crystal City because she missed the bus. Her call interrupted my dinner preparation and I forgot to turn off the stove. We came home to the smell of burning. Don't worry, it was only the leftovers on the bottom of the pan. It was almost kind of fun.

You know, I should really finish that bottle of Haut-Medoc I've kept stoppered the last few weeks. It tastes divine. Maybe I'll wait until I'm in a more literary mood instead of wasting it on a work night.


Blogger charvakan said...

I hope the bike worked out well for you. How long did it take? I was guessing 10 minutes. Be careful--the traffic isn't terrible, but they're not looking for bikes.

It was damned cool you got to ask Rumsfeld a question.

10:20 AM  
Anonymous MikeSwanson said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

4:46 PM  
Blogger Lapp said...

Proprietor is very sorry to have removed a comment, but said comment identified Proprietor by his given and Christian names, which is an unstated but extremely enforceable taboo. For shame.

1:15 AM  

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