Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Part XIII: The Way Mike Worked -- On the road to D.C.

My eight-year-old son Kevin and I were on our third day of cross-country travel from Cheyenne, Wyo., to Washington, D.C.

I had promised Kevin three things to coax him into traveling with me in the U-Haul. No. 1, each night on the road we would stay at a motel with a pool. No. 2, we would eat every meal at McDonald's. No. 3, we would take his dog, Precious, with us.

He asked if he could drive but I said no, even though I could have used some relief behind the wheel. But I did stick to the other three promises and on this, the third day, I had a bad case of heartburn to match my driver fatigue.

We were passing through the sliver of West Virginia between Ohio and Pennsylvania when I spied a rest area and stopped. It was Labor Day weekend and one of the service clubs staffed a coffee stop. I hit the restrooms and then the coffee stand staffed by a pair of middle-aged guys. As he poured my coffee, one of the guys asked where I was headed.

"Washington, D.C.," I said. "I start a job there Monday."

He nodded, handed me the Styrofoam cup. The coffee was as hot as the afternoon. "You aren't one of those Clinton fellas, are you?"

"Afraid so." I smiled. They didn't. I heard the Deliverance banjo playing in the background. I thanked them for the coffee and retreated to look for my son. Clinton fella? I guess that I was, although far down on the list, way below the political appointees and the thousands of full-time D.C. bureaucrats and the hangers-on that accompany any new administration.  The National Endowment for the Arts was borrowing me from the State of Wyoming because, as a writer from a flyover state such as West Virginia, my higher-ups thought that I would lend a new perspective to the work of the government arts agency. I had signed up for two years with a possible two-year extension. I was part of a pool of Intergovernmental Personnel Act (IPA) employees that made their way to D.C. every couple years. There was a surge now as V.P. Al Gore was tasked with trimming the federal work force.

Kevin and I spent one more night on the road. We could have made it to Rockville, Md., by nightfall but our new house wasn't available until the next day.  The motel had a nice pool and we could see the golden arches from our room. This Clinton fella was pretty tired and tomorrow was moving-in day. Chris and our infant daughter Annie were flying in from Denver in the afternoon. Soon we would all be together in a new house in a new town. Chris was going to stay home with Annie while Kevin went to the third grade. We would try to survive on one mid-level bureaucrat's salary in one of the most expensive suburbs on the East Coast. North Bethesda -- that's what city leaders wanted to rename our section of Rockville. The new name would probably bring higher rents and higher prices all-around. Bragging rights, too, I guess.

But that was all ahead of us in this new adventure.


RobertP said...

Mike, did not remember you moving to DC. And Rockville, the town referenced in the great REM song "Don't Go Back to Rockville"....

Michael Shay said...

My next post will expand on my two years in D.C. After two years in Republican Wyoming, we decided to live with the Democrats in Maryland. We watched the Fourth of July fireworks from St. Mary's churchyard adjacent to downtown Rockville. F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda are buried there. The Catholic Church initially wouldn't let Scott be buried there due to his scandalous lifestyle. But time passed and I think his daughter intervened to get him and Zelda to their present site. The last line from The Great Gatsby is etched into Scott's tombstone.