The New Era - All about Sweet Home since 1929

Sean C. Morgan reports from Washington: Day 1 – Trip to nation's capitol full of little lessons


December 5, 2018

Sean Morgan stands on the Mall in Washington, D.C., where he is covering the lighting of the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree from Sweet Home.

– Editor's note: Reporter Sean C. Morgan is in Washington, D.C., to cover the lighting of the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree, which originated in Sweet Home, and to report on the activities of local city and county officials visiting for that occasion. Over the next few issues he will relay some of his experiences from the trip.

One thing a trip to Washington, D.C., will teach you is the correct time to drive in Portland.

Four in the morning is amazing. I saw I-205 without a single other car on it for the first in a few decades.

Tiffany, my wife, and I hit the road Saturday night for my folks' place outside of Salem so we could grab a little more shuteye before we headed to the airport for D.C., where we planned to attend the Capitol Christmas tree lighting ceremony.

Yep, it's finally coming down to the finish line for Sweet Home and I get to be there to see it.

I knew I wouldn't sleep.

We had to get up at about 2:30 a.m. to head for the airport. That's barbaric. So I watched movies – until the power went out at 1 a.m. – while the wife snoozed, happily unaware.

I laid down and stared into the dark until... Couldn't sleep. We left early to grab some coffee and fuel.

My dad dropped us at the airport, where we ran across Cassie Richey, another early riser, who was headed out on the same flight to meet up with her husband, Jared Richey of the U.S. Forest Service, who had traveled across the country with the Christmas tree.

We had some time to kill. It's really hard to sleep in those seats at PDX, so we ate some breakfast.

The flight out was a little bumpy, just enough to make the airplane ride marginally less boring. When it's not a little bumpy, you can't tell you're even moving.

We had a three-hour layover in Chicago, and somewhere we had to run into some kind of trouble with the TSA.

After removing just about everything, we quickly slipped through the checkpoint. My laptop, camera gear and other important items came through soon after, but the machine kicked it off to the side where a TSA worker scanned it and let me know the problem "wasn't in the computer."

She carried it back and ran it back through. This time, it came down the right side of the conveyor belt.

Without my shoes and my belt. Maybe she put them in another tub. I waited a few minutes and then a few more minutes. Nope, they weren't coming.

I asked the TSA worker about it. She suggested they might have fallen out, and she went to check. She returned with one shoe and my belt. I asked where my other shoe was.

"There's another one?" she asked.

"Uh, yes?" I replied. I decided not to continue with the obvious.

She found it, and we got on our way.

At least no one at the TSA stole anything this time around. A few years ago, on a trip back from Las Vegas, omebody stole a bag of sunflower seeds from my bag years ago. The TSA had kindly left me a nice card letting me know they searched my bag and the repacked it better than we ever could have managed.

After another enjoyably bumpy ride – the pilot apologized for it and said he was just going to leave the seatbelt sign on for the trip. We finally found ourselves at Ronald Reagan Airport where we met up with Jared and parted ways with Cassie.

For those who haven't used it yet, since we haven't gotten there in east Linn County, Uber is really easy to use and works really well. It was our first time. After the second black Toyota Corolla pulled up, we had the right driver, who politely and very quietly took us to our destination, a three-story, four-bedroom townhouse a couple of miles north of the U.S. Capitol.

The friendly driver answered with a nearly unintelligible accent, laughing, the two times I asked a question. The nation's Capitol and the Washington Monument dominated the skyline during most of the trip – except the parts where we went underground. Then it was just walls and lights dominating things.

We arrived around 6 p.m. local time. Councilor Dave Trask, Mayor Greg Mahler and City Manager Ray Towry were a couple of blocks away at a local pub where they were drinking water and Sprite. We tried some burger Trask said was pretty good – as long as you leave off the beets and the cheese.

We left off the beets. Don't know what the cheese was, but it was kind of weird.

The whole area was some kind of a semi-pretentious hippie-millennial paradise, with a woman begging change outside the neighboring liquor store, a man in a suit walking by and another man sitting on the steps of the local Baptist church smoking a joint for the whole world to see – and smell.

Sean C. Morgan

The U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree stands on the capitol grounds, with the Mall and the Washington Monument in the background.

We didn't see any chain restaurants, groceries or convenience stores. A note inside the townhouse which we shared with the city delegates`, proudly explained this: "Bloomingdale/Shaw is a vibrant D.C. neighborhood showcasing an array of of color with beautiful row homes, hip coffee shops, eclectic dining options and funky shops – No national chains here. Instead, foodies will find a plethora of must-dine neighborhood restaurants that are rapidly making a name for themselves."

And the burgers are $14 – and have beets on them! It makes sense, though. Six blocks away is a university.

Anyway. Nice place. Weird place. Would never want to live here. It's nuttier than a fruitcake – maybe even more so than Portland.

And the sky is orange.

Like the president – which I better stop saying because I don't want to be confused for one of those liberal commies who keep saying "orange man bad."


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