Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Catching up on my trip to Washington, D.C.

Hello everyone...sorry I haven't posted anything in awhile.  My trip to Washington, D.C. was absolutely fantastic until the very end when I ended up with a wretchedly evil cold.  I managed to make it through security without getting groped, irradiated, photographed naked or otherwise assaulted by TSA, but thought my ears were going to explode from the air pressure changes during the flight.  Not fun.  Anyway, I'm finally feeling better now - just in time for Thanksgiving with the family, hooray! - so I thought I'd share some of my photos and adventures in our nation's capital last week...

(Long post with pictures and video...after the "read more" link...)

You know you're in for a great trip when the fun starts at the airport...

The awesomeness started before I even got off the plane.  I flew from Orlando to Reagan National Airport (DCA), and was lucky enough to have a window seat.  I didn't realize until we were approaching the runway how DCA is right in the middle of the city.  I could see the Capitol Building, the Washington Monument, and lots of other landmarks from the plane:

Washington Monument visible to the left
As I posted last week, the reason I was going to D.C. was to participate in a "Stop the Lame Duck" rally sponsored by Americans for Prosperity (officially called "November Speaks" but we all referred to it as the "Lame Duck Rally.")  The timing of our trip coincided with the orientation sessions for new members of Congress.  Even the ads in the airport had been updated with the elections...as I went to baggage claim to get my suitcase, I noticed a series of large display ads by a group called BankruptingAmerica.org:

The group's website describes the goal of the billboards as "to help remind [the newly-elected members of Congress] of their campaign pledges to cut spending."

Right before I got my bag, I turned around the corner to see a group of TV cameras and microphones interviewing a man with a distinctive haircut...as I approached I was very excited to see that yes, it was brand-new Congressman-elect Allen West!

I'd recognize that square hair and kick-a** attitude anywhere
Having no shame and being a total dork for passionate conservatives, I went up and introduced myself to him to say I was also from Florida and to congratulate him on the election.  West was very friendly and genuine and thanked me for my comments.  YouTube doesn't do him justice, West is just really darn cool in person.

I actually ran into West several more times during my trip at other Republican events.  There were always people approaching him, wanting to meet him, shake his hand and congratulate him.  There's a lot of excitement surrounding him, and I have a feeling that Allen West is really going to be someone to watch.

For the record, I strongly support West's decision to join the Congressional Black Caucus - how can we bring new people into the Republican Party if we don't engage in dialogue with them?  The victories earlier this month by Allen West, Marco Rubio, and David Rivera - all of whom are unapologetically strong conservatives - will go a long way to derailing the Democrat's narrative that they somehow have a monopoly on what minorities need for representation.  Wanting an ethical, fiscally responsible government and a strong economy isn't a black or white or Hispanic issue, that's what all Americans want. 

Americans for Prosperity Lame Duck Rally

Before I go any further, a giant THANK YOU to Americans for Prosperity for sponsoring this trip.  Our fearless leader, AFP Florida Director Apryl Marie Fogel, gathered up a great group of patriots from the Sunshine State so we could attend this rally on the lawn outside the Capitol Building on the first day of the "lame duck" session of Congress.

The rally drew a large crowd, several hundred people from many different states
Someone dressed as a duck for the rally.  I was thinking of getting a duck costume and bringing my crutches from when I broke my foot a few years ago, i.e., Lame Duck. It would have been AWESOME.  Or humiliating. Oh well. ;)
This dude had great signs.  Absolutely hysterical.
Ahem.  Hey, Congress...pay attention.  We REALLY don't like earmarks.
Remember when Obama promised the stimulus would be wonderful and would magically fix the economy?  So when is that gonna happen?  We're waiting.
Michele Bachmann getting interviewed after the rally.  Crowd LOVED her.
Alex Leary of St. Pete Times interviewing Apryl Marie.  See his article about the rally here.
Some of the Floridians who made the trip to D.C.
 AFP posted videos of the speeches and news coverage on their YouTube channel:

YouTube | AforP | AFP's November Speaks Rally on FoxNews

YouTube | AforP | November Speaks - 11/15/2010

YouTube | AforP | November Speaks - Phil Kerpen

YouTube | AforP | November Speaks - Morgan Griffith

YouTube | AforP | November Speaks - Michele Bachmann

Here's some more photos from the rally taken by Melissa Moore, who has an actual camera, so her photos look a heckuva lot better.  Follow her on Twitter @melissamoore.

Waiting for the Metro
Our fearless leader, Apryl Marie Fogel, on the Metro
At Capitol Hill before the rally
Lame duck!
Love the Florida and Gadsen flags in the hair
More with the duck...he was very popular
3 Floridians + 1 Duck = Awesome
Here I am live-tweeting the rally

Great picture, Melissa...I need to send this one to my Mom :)
With Apryl Marie and her Fantastic Hat
Yes, that's a guy dressed up as Captain America.  He's supporting the Marines, so he's cool.  Semper fi.
Of course a native Orlandoan is good at being a tourist!

I had a absolutely fantastic time exploring the city.  Here's some of the photos I took of various landmarks around the city.  My little BlackBerry camera did a fairly decent job.

One of the first places I visited was the United States Supreme Court.  As an attorney, it was really inspiring to see the building, walk up the steps, and think about all the historic cases that have been argued inside.  (I have never pretended to be anything other than a giant nerd, let me have my moment!)

It's a REALLY big building.  I'm the teeny little ant on the right.
The Capitol Building is just a block away...another impressively gorgeous building.  The BlackBerry camera kept capturing some cool effects with the late afternoon sun:

I don't agree with all the decisions made in this building, but darn if they didn't pick a great architect.

The fall foliage was just beautiful.  I love living in Florida, love the sunshine and warm weather, but there's definitely a trade-off in missing the changing leaves.

Stopped by the White House...it's hard to see in the picture (the black dot on the left side near the chimney) but there are snipers on the roof.  It's really sad we live in a world where we have to have snipers on the White House 24 hours a day.

The Capitol Building, like many other D.C. landmarks, offers free tours.  Another absolutely must-see.  Absolutely majestic building, so much history and symbolism.  I went on the tour on my second day in D.C. after the Lame Duck Rally:

The gorgeous Capitol Rotunda
Bust of Martin Luther King, Jr. in the Rotunda.  Facial expression is very somber and contemplative.  I noticed a number of people would stop in their tracks and just stare in awe at this statue.
Statue of Ronald Reagan in the Rotunda.  A piece of the Berlin Wall is incorporated in the base to honor his role helping fight communism.  "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"  So awesome.
The Rotunda is lined with famous paintings.  It was amazing to see this historical art first hand.
Also in the Capitol is the National Statuary Hall.  Each state has several of its citizens honored with statues, and there's some sort of complicated rotation system for placing the statues all over the Capitol, and this room always has a lot of them.

I thought it was fantastic that one of the stone representatives for Florida was John Gorrie, M.D.  He is the father of refrigeration and air conditioning.  Even in November, you know we're all grateful for his contributions!

Dr. Gorrie, you rock.  Seriously, dude, thank you!
There was also a statue of the "other Daniel Webster:"

This Daniel Webster, not this Daniel Webster

Two gigantic statues are over the doorways to Statuary Hall, Lady Liberty and History, who watch over Congress.  History is recording their activities, hoping they make the right decisions:

Lady Liberty holds the Constitution in her hand as her guide as she points out the right way (it's hard to see but there's a scroll in her outstretched hand).

Pay attention to this lady.
On my last day, I met up with some other conservative blogger friends for lunch and wandered around the Western end of the Mall, to see the Washington Monument, the World War II Memorial, and the Lincoln Memorial.

Beautiful photo but the wind was wickedly strong and cold.  Probably why I got sick.  :(
Is that a historical landmark or are you just happy to see me?  (Yes I went there.)
WWII Memorial

The sign says "HERE WE MARK THE PRICE OF FREEDOM," and the 4,000 stars on the wall are in remembrance of the more than 400,000 Americans who gave their lives during WWII.
Sun setting on Lincoln Memorial
View of Reflecting Pool and Washington Monument from steps of Lincoln Memorial
Commemorating where Martin Luther King, Jr. stood when he gave his famous "I Have a Dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial.
One of my favorite Republicans.  Engraving above his head says, "In this temple as in the hearts of the people for whom he saved the Union the memory of Abraham Lincoln is enshrined forever."

Miscellaneous cool stuff during the trip:

I visited the National Archives and saw the actual original Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights and Constitution.  They don't allow photography inside (the light from camera flashes would speed up the fading of these precious documents) but I strongly recommend everyone take the opportunity to see these documents in person.  There's so many countries where the "law" is only whatever some nutty dictator wants that day (I'm looking at you, North Korea!), and in the United States, we not only established a system of laws and rights that is a model for the world, we display them with honor and reverence where anyone can go see them for themselves.  It is really inspiring to read the actual First Amendment with your own eyes.  Visiting the National Archives is free...so you have no excuse.

I had the opportunity to attend to a panel discussion by a conservative group while in D.C.  I'm not going to identify the group specifically because they ask that the discussions stay off the record.  What I found interesting was what they chose to emphasize and celebrate about the election results.  Two of the first things that were mentioned were (1) the movement to ban earmarks, and (2) the decision of the Republican House leadership to share power with the freshmen (Boehner gave up one of his votes to the freshmen and they have been given more committee seats than in the past).  This was a room full of long-standing conservative activists (some of them might even rightfully be called "establishment" types...gasp!), and they were encouraged by the same exact ideas and policies that the tea party activists were championing during the past year.  This bodes well that the grassroots, the Republican leadership, the elected officials, the think tanks, are all on the same page about what the priorities of conservatives should be right now.
When I was visiting the Capitol, we walked past the hallway to the office for the Speaker of the House.  The sign still says Nancy Pelosi (John Boehner won't take over until January when the new members are sworn in) but humorously, there was also a sign stating "This Corridor Closed."  Needing space to carry in all the moving boxes, Nancy?

File this one under "Ironic Symbolism"
I visited the RNC and NRCC during my trip.  The Republican headquarters are a block away from the Capitol.  The "Fire Pelosi" banner is still up:

The banner briefly said "Hire Pelosi" right after the election.  Personally, I think it's fan-freakin-tastic that the Ds want to keep Fancy Nancy as the face of their party.
The RNC has framed photos of prominent Republicans lining the walls of their offices.  First photo in the hallway from the main lobby?  New Jersey Governor Chris Christie:

Hmmmm.  Do you think it means anything?
In contrast to the RNC, the Democratic National Headquarters are more off the beaten path.  I found the building by accident when I was taking an ill-advised shortcut to meet a friend for lunch.  The building seemed more like a funeral parlor than a political office...everyone coming or going seemed very, very sad.

All your house seat are belong to us.  Bwahahaha!
Not sure if there's any connection, but right around the corner from the DNC HQ, I found this liquor store:

Best name for a liquor store ever.  Still, I'd rather have the Capitol Club.
There was a reception for the newly elected Republican members of Congress from Florida at the Republican Club of Capitol Hill (usually referred to as the "Capitol Club").  I attended and was happy to see my new Congressman, Daniel Webster:

Outgoing Congresswoman Ginny Brown-Waite made the introductions of the new members at the reception.  She had some really wonderful comments.  (Some sounded more like a roast than a reception...she did mention that it was liberating not having to worry about running for re-election!)  She introduced Allen West by noting that he had made history as the first black Republican elected to Congress from Florida since Reconstruction, and made a prediction that he "would continue to make history" as a member of Congress.  Her comments about Dan Webster expressed the feelings many of us share: "I love Dan Webster, loved him in the Florida Legislature, but most of all I love him for beating Alan Grayson!"

I was excited to find out that I'm related to some local celebrities.  My cousin Heather and her husband Leland live in D.C. and both of them have really cool businesses.  Heather runs a dog training business called Spot On Training.  Even though she hasn't been in business that long, she was nominated for this year's Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce "Hilly Awards" as Best Service Provider.  She didn't win (boo!) but it's pretty rare for such a new business to get nominated.  Leland runs a food truck business called Red Hook Lobster Pound DC, which drives around the D.C. area selling the most amazing, insanely delicious lobster roll and shrimp roll sandwiches.  They post where they are going to park the truck on their Twitter account (@lobstertruckDC).

Here's a local D.C. news story about the Lobster Truck:

View more news videos at: http://www.nbcwashington.com/video.

The "Lobster Truck" is verrrrrrrry popular, usually having very long lines, sometimes an hour or two wait!  I mentioned to a friend of mine that I was going to go get a lobster sandwich from my cousins, and several heads turned around, "Oh wow, you know the Lobster Truck people!  I LOVE their food!"  By the reaction, you would have thought I had said I was going to go have lunch with Elvis or the Beatles.  (OK, maybe that's an outdated reference considering 3/5ths of them are dead...so you whippersnappers just pretend I said "Justin Bieber" instead.)

Anyway, if you are in D.C. and don't have shellfish allergies (shout out to my patient friend D.F.) you absolutely positively must try the Lobster Truck.

Leland, King of the Lobster Roll
The squirrels at the Mall are insanely aggressive.  This happens in any tourist area, because tourists always share their food, but D.C. squirrels are especially nutty.  Zero fear of humans.  I saw a Japanese tourist feeding one right out of his hand. They even charged right at us a few times, displaying ninja-like agility.  I'm not kidding.  If you visit, be cautious, especially if you're carrying any food.  I wouldn't put it past the little furry bastards to jump up and rob you blind.

Evil squirrel getting ready to charge
The Washington Metrorail, or "Metro," is fantastic.  Besides the fact that it smells a heckuva lot better than the NYC Subway (and the Paris Métro, for that matter), it's very cheap to ride and probably the quickest way around the city.  I know that a number of my readers are very opposed to SunRail and other proposals for mass transportation in Central Florida, but when I visit other cities that have systems like this, I can't help but think it would be really nice to have in Orlando too.

A helpful hint if you don't want to look like a tourist: snap a picture of the Metro map on your cell phone, then you can check your route by just looking at your phone instead of obviously looking at a map.  Also, on the escalators in and out of the trains, stay on the right if you want to just stand and ride, and stay on the left if you want to walk and move faster.  The locals get annoyed if you are standing and blocking the left side.  Oh, one more thing - the paper Metro passes from the machines have magnetic strip which tells how much money you have left, and somehow cell phones will de-magnetize them.  Then the only way to get your money back is a complicated redemption process that, as a visitor, you're probably not going to do.  So just be careful and don't get your cell phone anywhere near your Metro pass.  (I messed this up twice...sigh...)

Anyway, I had an absolutely wonderful, inspirational time in our nation's capital.  Met a lot of wonderful fellow conservatives, caught up with family and friends, ate some fantastic food, and survived the crazy ninja squirrels.  Every day I walked until the soles of my feet felt like they had been pounded with hammers, and it was completely worth it.  Can't wait to go back :)

Thanks for reading!  Hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving.

God Bless America and God Bless You and Your Families.

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