Washington trip is once-in-a-lifetime, but glad to be home

Merry Christmas!

It didn’t seem much like Christmas last week in Washington, D.C.

There was far too much to do and see. Too much journalisting and touristing to do to really get that ol’ Christmas vibe going.

But it all came together over and over again whenever Bridgette Harrington performed musically or recited the excellent poem that won her the honor of throwing the light switch on the Capitol Christmas tree, which was the big reason we and so many others went to Washington, D.C. last week. (City Councilman Dave Trask thinks he might have that poem memorized now.)

During a rushed week of events, sightseeing and visiting with our congressional delegation, where everyone seemed focused on everything else around the Capitol Christmas Tree, Bridgette Harrington, a fourth-grader from Hillsboro, consistently reminded us why we were there.

Sen. Ron Wyden showed a lot of pride in little ol’ Sweet Home.

He repeatedly said that Oregonians do a lot of things well, that what they’re best at is growing Christmas trees, and nobody does it better than Sweet Home. And he said it for the final time on national television during the lighting ceremony.

Rep. Peter DeFazio added to the list of anniversaries marked by 2018, the National Trail System and the Oregon Trail, telling the nation on live TV about Sweet Home’s 125th anniversary. He has been in Washington so long, that displayed under the glass of his office coffee table was a pin for Sweet Home’s centennial celebration.

Sen. Jeff Merkley personally thanked Sweet Home officials for brightening the lives of everyone in America.

It was nice to hear after making that cross-country trip.

House Speaker Paul Ryan brought everything Christmas home in a speech wrapped around “It’s a Wonderful Life,” his favorite Christmas movie. Seconds later, the tree was lit, and Wyden hosted a reception immediately following in the Capitol Botanic Garden. It felt like Christmas.

My wife Tiffany and I had a great time. We’re happy to be home with the family around our own Christmas tree; but that was one of the most interesting, fun weeks of our lives. Special thanks to the bosses for the opportunity.

We stayed with the city representatives at an inexpensive Airbnb, sharing the cost, and spent quite a bit of time out and about with Trask and Mayor Greg Mahler.

Mahler, Trask and I together paid our respects to the late President Bush in the Capitol rotunda after attending a reception Monday night at the National Press Club.

With Tiffany, we wandered the National Mall visiting museums and memorials, solemnly collecting rubbings of three names from the Vietnam Memorial wall and sharing a lot of laughs, especially over those goofy Trump 2020 hats Trask and Mahler bought. We were just happy it gave us jaywalking privileges, something I had yet to discover about MAGA hats.

Our thanks to those city officials, Susan Coleman (with husband, Matt Coleman), Trask, Mahler and City Manager Ray Towry, for tolerating our presence – particularly mine.

Along with the local Forest Service staff – Jared Richey (with wife, Cassie Richey), Lance and Stephanie Gatchell, Regan Eivers, Chris Sorensen, Nikki Swanson and Joanie Schmidgall – and Commissioner Will and Lynne Tucker, they represented Sweet Home well in Washington, D.C.

I can report our city officials represented Sweet Home’s interests well to the congressional delegation.

By most standards, what I heard was a very positive response from Washington, D.C.

The delegates and their staff members were warm and welcoming. They seem to be extremely busy people, with ever-changing schedules; and I think all of us appreciated their time and attention. The officials and their staff members made sure meetings happened even when it required last-minute adjustments (thank you, Beth from DeFazio’s office, and Nicole from Wyden’s office).

While he was on his way to make an important speech for one of the causes he’s involved in, Wyden filled in the minutes as he walked to the Senate chambers by talking with Tiffany and me, shooing away a small group of Capitol reporters.

Speaking of which, those press corps members are just weird. It’s a whole different world lurking around the exit from the Senate subway. I understand that conditions are different there, possibly necessitating that approach to journalism, but it makes me appreciate more the access, the simplicity of access, we have to our local officials.

Washington, D.C., itself, is a nice place to visit, and though we wouldn’t want to live there, we really want to take our kids on vacation there just for the history. We weren’t able to do everything – in fact very little – we were interested in doing.

The people were friendly. The Uber and Lyft drivers were crazy but managed to get us around safely.

The food was often a little weird – increasingly so, the closer we got to the fancy, college and government parts of the city, but some of it was really good.

The traffic wasn’t half as bad as I expected, but drivers were as crazy as they are in San Francisco or Chicago, and parking was hard to find most places we went.

All of it made me appreciate my little town of 9,500 that much more.

We were happy to be a part of Sweet Home Goes to Washington and we were proud of our community. We were able to take a lot of pride in Sweet Home’s part in this national event, one that had nothing at all to do with taxes, healthcare, spending, confirmation hearings, tariffs, illegal immigration, etc. and so forth – although some of that Christmas spirit might better inform our politics.

Just like the Nov. 9 celebration in our town and traveling through cities across the country afterward, our politics didn’t matter as we rallied around Christmas and all of the things that means today to the American people, whether it’s celebrating the birth of our Savior, crass commercialism or spending time with our families and eating too much.

Merry Christmas!