I got an email on Monday afternoon, sent via Blackberry from a journalist friend in D.C. It said, "I'm coming to you live from the White House briefing room. This is kind of ... Well, I'm not quite sure how to describe it. It's exciting, but in a weird sort of way."
My friend is covering the White House! How thrilling. I've never covered the White House. (Obviously; it would have been quite a commute from Duluth.) I've never even covered the State House. Hell, I've only done a handful of stories out of City Hall. But I did go to the White House once, many years ago, when I was the News Editor of the Duluth paper.
The paper was owned by Knight-Ridder Newspapers in those years, and that November they held a convention in Washington for all KR news editors. So off to Washington, DC, I went. I remember very little about the conference, except for the fact that someone arranged for us all to visit the White House.
I remember little about the White House, either, except for a few oddball things:
1) We toured the briefing room. It was, as my friend noted this afternoon, much smaller than it seems on TV, and kind of shabby.
2) We went into an adjacent conference room and sat at a long, glossy table and waited for Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Colin Powell to come in and brief us. (On what? On nothing; it was all for show.)
3) While we waited for Colin Powell, one of the other news editors kept trying to get me to steal a White House ashtray as a souvenir.Just put it your purse! he kept saying, and I looked at him as though he was crazy. Did I look like someone who wanted to get arrested?
4) Powell came in, with someone else. I can't remember who. Some old white guy. He gave us quite a bit of time, and he talked a lot, but he said nothing at all; this was just a courtesy, really; it was all for show. But all of the news editors took notes like mad, just as though this was a real press conference, just as though they were all going to write stories. They didn't. Powell didn't say anything that hadn't been said before.
5) After I got back to my hotel room, I realized that I was missing one of my earrings. My friends teased me about losing an earring in the Clinton White House, as though something scandalous had transpired, but nothing had.
And in my free time, in the November dark, I walked and walked and walked and walked. From the Smithsonian, to the Washington Memorial, and everything in between.
3 hours ago