Our work progressed slowly, as delays in setting up the network grounded further progress. I was volunteered to help pick up 20 computer monitors from the Inaugural headquarters, a 3-mile drive downtown, and promptly piled into a mini-van with three newly met associates. The security circus at Inaugural headquarters was strangely reassuring (after all, my currently vehement nationalism doth not tolerate bugs in the bed sheets).
After going through four security checks and a credentialing, we were free to proceed to the fourth floor. Sadly, a complete strip search was not administered by the winsome brunette stationed at Security Point #2.
The next day went by fast. I just remember a dull, frostbitten pain in my earlobes and fingertips, and then... I was shaking the hand of Albert Gore, Jr. Considering his allegiances to the Internet, his visit to our tent was a likely surprise. I had brought him a signed book from my friend David Brower, 84-years old and a long-time proponent of the "Free Al Gore" insurgence. (After reading Al's book "Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit" one can't help but wonder what kinds of threats and back-handed gobbledy-gook must have been slung to ensure his relative inaction on the aforementioned topic.)
An image of that special moment between Albert and I was soon uploaded to our live Webcast (http://www.technologyplayground.com). When the smoke cleared, we had 2 million hits on the site. Getting back to my work, I proceeded with a renewed sense of purpose. I was glad to have greeted such a respected fellow American -- just beyond the toll plaza of the "Bridge to the 21st Century."
* * * * * * * *
Mr. Williamson. We have to talk about Mr. Williamson. Mr. Williamson was an older, portly sort of bell captain stationed at the carport of our hotel, the Washington Hilton, who had cross-eyes and a smooth veneer of black D.C. sophistication gone a little awry. In talking to him one evening while waiting on friends for dinner, I learned he had been to San Francisco. And he loved it - the O'Farrell Theater to be exact. The O'Farrell is a long-standing fixture in The City openly dedicated to high quality, pure, legitimate... porn.
Yes, that's right, and Mr. Williamson had been witness to flaming presentations of pure flesh quite a few times. He began recounting his adventures at the O'Farrell, conjuring up dark nights and back alleys in a neighborhood to be frequented sparingly.
Appallingly, when one of my pretty colleagues finally came down to meet for dinner, the usually restrained and soft-spoken Mr. Williamson eagerly turned to her, carrying on that he thought he might have seen her at the O'Farrell theater before! It was shortly thereafter that we politely bade Good Night to Mr. Williamson and headed off into the cool, star-lit evening.
* * * * * * * *
One of the true highlights of the whole trip for me was Thursday, January 23rd. After successfully completing our Webcast on The Mall, spending the first half of the week in meetings, and running all across D.C. catching parts of the Inaugural parade, the speeches, the dinners, the Western Inaugural Ball, et al, I actually had A DAY OFF!
I awoke at my good friend Rick's flat in Adams Morgan well-rested and eager for the day. First on the list was a visit to the largely unsung Teddy Roosevelt Monument, a tribute to the president who was widely known for his love of the outdoors and a commitment to conservation. I had seen the monument on a map, noticing it was on an island. I really like islands.
I jumped on the nearby Metro subway and crossed under the Potomac, resurfacing in Virginia. It was truly a beautiful day, probably even a little warmer than San Francisco and certainly sunnier! I walked straight onto the trail leading to the monument, enjoying the sunshine and even starting to sweat. A quaint wooden foot-bridge led across part of the Potomac to a forested island about a mile long, part of what I think was once John Adams' summer plantation.
The deserted monument lay majestically at the center of the island, surrounded by wintry woodlands. Today, it was bathed in sunshine, the statue of Teddy himself shining softly against a backdrop of bare elm trees and large granite tablets. Each block was chiseled with Teddy's words of wisdom under the themes Youth, Man, Nature and State. I leaned against a tablet in the sun, pondering his insight in each area dutifully.
Four helicopters ushered what I believe was the newly elected head of the United Nations just above the river and the sound of scattering mockingbirds echoed with the choppers across the monument.
* * * * * * * *
Of the five times I had been to DC, one dream had been to spend a full day at the Smithsonian Museum, discovering natural and human history and maybe even learning a thing or two. Each time, due to largely business-oriented trips, a full day off slipped away to an hour and only once did I take that self-deprecating, one-hour whirlwind through the about-to-close museum, all the while whining at my sorrowful state of affairs.
Not today! Today I had... well, about two hours at this point. But I was happy with that. One can do a lot in two hours, you know. And, believe me, I did my best.
The Museum of Natural History was even more enjoyable than I expected, and I wandered awe-struck through the remarkable History of Life exhibition. I learned about the Native American customs and tool-making of my home state California and basked in the aqua glow of a water-tank display portraying the Earth's oceans before complex life.
It was soon 6 p.m. and time to attend one of the crowning honors of our trip: induction of a project we had worked on into the Smithsonian's permanent archives. This was definitely cool. Immaculate timing afforded us this celebration of "24 Hours in Cyberspace" -- a coffee-table book and CD-ROM that brought the first glimpses of how the Internet and new communications technologies were affecting people across the world.
I walked next door to the entrance of the Museum of American History and met up with friends there. Invited into the reception early, we were handed our badges and soon found ourselves casually sipping -- er, gulping -- brown ale in the lobby of the Smithsonian, eyeing beautifully catered trays of hors d'oeuvres alongside special exhibits. A good-spirited group began gathering and familiar faces dotted the crowd. Five-hundred guests soon filled the room and anticipation was building...
- to be continued -