Monday, April 14, 2008
Sunday, April 13, 2008:
Tomorrow is the big day – the first day of Overseas Americans Week 2008.
That means that today it’s time for our pre-OAW strategy meeting. But first, I had some serious work to do. I was tasked with writing the OAW “talking points” – the items we couldn’t forget to mention in each of our many meetings this week. I’d been planning on writing this for weeks, but I’d been short on time and inspiration. Nothing like a deadline as inspiration.
So midday today, I set out in search of the perfect location for my great work of lobbying genius, the venue where I would pen my opus. In this city of Corinthian columns and marble, where does one go to contemplate the inner workings of government? The Library of Congress? The steps of the Lincoln Memorial? The Capitol Rotunda? No, the Hard Times Café.
When Mollie and I lived in Washington a decade ago, we discovered this hole-in-the-wall in Alexandria, Virginia and let them feed us on many too many an occasion. It’s one of my two favorite eating establishments in the greater Metro DC area (more on the other later). So today I took my laptop and headed there for a little peace, quiet, chili and inspiration.
Working my way through the talking points on my laptop, my mind wandered. There are things you don’t realize that you miss about home until you move away. If I hadn’t ever lived in Europe, I never would have known to appreciate the simple convenience of good restaurant service. When I want something, I just look in the waiter’s general direction and he comes scurrying over begging to help.
He was so helpful and accommodating that I realized that sitting there in my booth, I was re-fighting the Civil War, as I struggled with a sweet tea arms race – each time the waiter refilled my tea I would feel obliged to drink it, making him feel obliged to re-fill it again, ad infinitum. I could have exploded at any moment. Or he could have run out of tea. Eventually, something would have to give. I was a ticking time bomb and yet I sat there peacefully listening to Dwight Yoakam singing Elvis covers, showing no outward sign of impending doom.
For lunch I had a heaping helping of veggie chili. My meal was called a "Chili Bubba" – two large pieces of cornbread smothered in veggie chili, sour cream and jalapeños. Then I spent a couple hours finishing off the talking points presentation I was going to make to the OAW delegation over dinner tonight. Reflecting on my ongoing arms race, I was comforted by the thought that tonight’s dinner would be in the District, where sweet tea isn't served, so I'd be okay.
Incidentally, if any of you were picturing lobbying in Washington to be a glamorous affair, then we should stop here and review – picture me eating chili and listening to Dwight Yoakam in a place called the Hard Times Café -- a much more accurate image of a day in the life of a non-profit lobbyist.
Our dinner meeting tonight went well. I met a number of people I will be working with this week who I had never met before. I presented my talking points – the fruit of my afternoon’s work – which we discussed over dinner along with the various other documents that my colleagues have spent so much more time and energy preparing. Before we split up for the evening, we went through our very extensive schedule for tomorrow, deciding who will attend which meetings.
Just to give you an idea of the scope of what our day will be like tomorrow – at OAW, we normally visit around 30-40 offices during the week. Thanks to the hard work by Alice Grevet, AARO’s Office Manager, just for tomorrow alone we have 42 meetings scheduled. Many of them are unconfirmed, so we’re unlikely to actually visit that many offices, but it promises to be a very busy day.
Off to sleep.
Posted by Andy Coyne at 12:04 AM