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OREGON LOVE IN THE DISTRICT

oregon love

Beaver in the house. Images via DG Studios

Reluctant traveler finds Oregon love on the road.

The best part of traveling to the other side of North America is answering the question, “Where are you from.”

The easy answer is, “Oregon.”

The one that gets across is, “Portland, Oregon.”

Saying anything else needs explaining, like Tigard, but since I get mail marked Portland, I’m not poaching too much.

Washington, D.C. shows Oregon all over town. Probably other states, too, but another blogger other than boomerpdx can rep them.

Oregon love is key, and I was looking for it.

The first time I saw Washington I was an Army Pfc on a weekend trip from Philadelphia. Got up early, took the train, and saw a city getting ready for a big birthday.

It was 1975 and everything was torn up for the Bicentennial. Construction, remodeling, and piles of dirt up and down the National Mall.

oregon love

Over Lincoln

After hours of sightseeing I bought one of those red, white, and blue popsicles made of ice and food dye, then sat down at an outside cafe table for a bite to eat to settle my stomach. Those bicentennial pops were awful.

The menu surprised me with a listing for Olympia beer. Olympia in Washington? Perfect for one homesick soldier.

About five cans later I headed for the train full of nostalgia, shrimp, and Olympia.

Not long after, a high school friend left the Navy and stopped by. We went to Washington and saw the sights together. The shared visit was even better than alone.

Since I’d already been there I pointed things out. Look, the Washington Monument, as if it was a mystery.

We were two Oregon guys on the loose, Ron Reher and I. The impact of national service made me feel part of the game.

oregon love

WWII Memorial

Oregon love guided the way.

The best trip of all to the capital came forty years later in baby boomer time with my wife. She’d never been.

This was a planned trip, as in planning a White House tour, and a Capitol Building tour.

Since I’m not a fan of putting our social security numbers online for the White House tour, we didn’t make the cut. Turns out all tours for the week were canceled, so even those who did missed out.

Since Congress was recessed, I had my doubts about any tour, but an email to Representative Susan Bonamici came back positive for an intern tour at noon on August 18th.

SAM_0007

If you think the street level around the Capital Building looks like a tough drive, with three office building on either side for the Senate and House, the underground tunnels connecting all the buildings is a maze.

Getting into any official building means security checks, emptying pockets, taking off belts. The congressional office buildings had the same, along with some hard looking men and women in uniform and in charge.

Emma, a political science major from Oregon State, met us in Rep. Bonamici’s office, along with a family from Beaverton, and away we went to the tunnels.

Was it a good tour? It was a great tour, especially the parts where we walked past lines of people who either didn’t contact their Representative, or out of country visitors who didn’t have a Representative. It had a Red Carpet feel.

oregon love

Oregon art in the tunnel

Make way for America. With the Olympics on television every night pumping up national pride it seemed like a good time to chant, “USA, USA, USA,” but we didn’t. At least not out loud.

Emma was such a pro on tour. She had the DC bug, bursting with more back story on where we were, knowing she couldn’t get it all out, but directing us afterward to more adventure in the tunnels.

Oregon love was strong in Emma.

Without fail, everyone we met said, “I can’t believe how Washington D.C. makes me feel.”

It was more than hot and sweaty.

They all said American citizens need to see Washington to get a sense or their country, how things there reach out to the smallest towns and whistle stops.

If the heroic columns and facades don’t get you, the people will.

Coming from Oregon, Portland in particular, isn’t what you’d call a hugely diverse state, not when it’s tagged the whitest city in America.

oregon love

Lewis and Clark

DC is not Portland, and while at the Lincoln Memorial I bought a hat. Walking up the mall past two workers on their John Deere talking with what looked like a supervisor on her John Deere, I stopped.

“Is it always this hot?” I asked.

“Sometimes hotter.”

“Well, lucky for me I bought the right hat.”

The guys looked at my Lincoln hat.

“Looks like the right hat,” they said.

“Well, I almost bought a Jefferson hat, but I couldn’t wear it. Parts of his story don’t work for me.”

“Yeah, hearing that.”

We all bid the usual, “have a good day,” and headed along. The staff on their John Deere’s took off.

A minute later the supervisor drove toward us with two bottles of ice cold water.

“It’s nice when people visit here and get it,” she said handing us the bottles.

“We’re just glad to be a part of the city while we’re here. Some of it’s better than other parts, but the stuff that shows takes a lot of work. Thank you.”

“Enjoy your visit.”

“It just got a whole lot better.”

Oregon love is one thing, Washington D.C. love is another, and right there they met.

About David Gillaspie
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