Much business dispatched me from the far reaches of Fairfax to the heart of the Seat of Power this week.
Having planned ahead for just such an event, I had a roundtrip VRE, a commuter railroad operating from Union Station where we honor Christopher Columbus with a circle outside and have a “Merry Christmas Train,” [trying to be politically inclusive, I am using all- our- president’s term for a season of the year – with religious overtones] circling on a miniature track inside.
VRE operates on two fronts, if you think Civil War, not cultural war, or lines if you think railroad tracks. One goes to Fredericksburg and the other to Manassas.
Instead of the last train in the morning, I had to catch the second last, leaving at the untold hour of 7:48 from the “land of the white Democrats,” the Washington Post’s characterization of where I live now and where I lived a few years ago.
OK, down to the mechanics of commuting , getting around and staying fit as the season challenges. Drove unaccompanied to the station, which also offers bus service to Mecca, Tysons Corner, aka Vienna or McLean to the postal service by zip, or Medina, the Pentagon.
But no shrines today — all business.
That was four miles, probably would have cost $20 if I had been doing the same on Interstate 66 under the HOT lanes’ regime, but I was on state-maintained, sort of, roads – all with names most often of people I don’t know and numbers usually in the 600s.
In Richmond, that translates, not a nickel for them.
My train was on time, and because I got in relatively close to where it started, I found a seat and rode for the next 45 minutes through sprawl. And then with dozens, possibly a hundred or so others, I got off the train at L’Enfant Plaza, managed to avoid being trampled by Feds, lobbyists, clerks, IT guys and gals, making their way to agencies the all-our-president despises, cubicles that are somehow connected to everyone his “Deep State” [I see Gene Hackman somehow involved in the movie as the villain] fears.
So far, this is pretty much the sedentary story of too many Americans, but the pace will pick up.
Down the escalator which actually lets you step on and find a footing rather than stumble as it immediate drops, on a Green Line train [a Yellow would have worked just as well, but first come, I am first aboard, no color loyalty] for one stop; up the escalator and a three-block walk to the first business stop of the day.
Please note the aerobic exercise that I am starting to run up , and I don’t own a Fit Bit or any other such useless device, a sign of an ancien regime holdout, to measure this now or boast about it later.
On to second business stop – again on foot. This time to the National Archives to renew my card there. more than a three-block walk because Pennsylvania Avenue is angling away from where I started.
Done there, back to Metro Archives/Navy Memorial [and the sailor statue was less lonely as a color guard was readying for some event to come] and this time a Yellow Line to L’Enfant Plaza.
Alas not to return home, but the third business stop of the day, which means transferring to a Blue or Orange Line [remember, where possible I don’t discriminate by color, but it is first come and I am aboard if we’re going to the same place] train on the lower level.
Of course in Metro’s rewrite of Dante’s hell, all the columns that used to have a listing of stations are wrapped in ads. I approached on the nearly deserted platform what I hoped was a friendly commuter and also morally correct because of location of encounter, not a tourist.
Turns out looks were correct, no deception there. He was a friendly commuter who had read a story to his daughter’s kindergarten class and was heading back to work on a congressional staff. I should note he was still dressed casually. Is this the way to Capitol South? Yep, and we talked through the short wait for a ride [Blue won the race] that continued through the shorter ride to Capitol South exit.
We wished each other “good luck” on the street across from the clubby Republicans.
Level of intensity of walk is increasing as the land rises; it is called “Capitol Hill,” after all. Maybe a block and a half, but slightly more strenuous.
Next stop: the Madison Building. Business there, renew my Library of Congress card. Easy-peasy as the saying goes. Now gearing up for the long haul, the true test of endurance on a workday.
Should have brought the sun glasses for this stretch, but they are back in the car. It has turned into a gorgeous late fall day – very high cirrus clouds, sun, light wind mainly from the southwest, and temperature pushing 60 F. The morning gloomy gray and thermometers not yet touching 40 F are in the dustbin of weatherman history.
Wearing brown tweedy [semi-camouflage] sport coat, sporting a red tie and a red sweater [in case the lights went out a beacon in the dark of the Metro stations and it was a cold start to the day and standing on an exposed to the elements platform], I set off for the most intense aerobic exercise of the day – the heights-depths- breadth [not length of Capitol Hill] to Union Station.
I crossed Independence, a street we fought for in the Revolution, also Constitution, the street that worked when Nixon resigned [can lightning strike twice?], and lesser knowns like Maryland with almost a minute of “the little white man” showing to cross, past the Supreme Court on my right, as is the incomparable Folger Library. Stepping around dozens of high school kids’ sleeping bags waiting for the SCOTUS tour and TV crews lined up to [figuratively] shoot Chris Christie on why New Jersey should be allowed to offer sports betting.
To the left, as I proceed relentlessly to my goal, the end-game of this event, the east side of the Capitol, the ugly sister of the west—photographed more often from the mall. But it is home to the subterranean Visitors Center, if you know it is there. The sign is not readily identifiable from the Supremes side of the street.
The question I ponder: Would a Jersey kind of victory on sports betting bring Don Junior and Eric back into an Atlantic City frame of mind? A serious ponder as the calories burn off in the relentless pursuit of exercise.
Then past the Monocle Restaurant [I am famous here because … Nope, no picture on the wall, so not famous.], “first table cloth restaurant on Capitol Hill” and conveniently by Capitol Police HQ.
From there, it is downhill all the way. Metro says the distance is half a mile from the LC, rejecting LOC as too long an abbreviation, so I am going with that for distance. Forgot my smartphone with its “Verizon Navigator” and distance data[in the car as well with the sun glasses and also very safe there], so I accept the transit system’s estimate as alternative fact.
Nonetheless, in utter triumph, I have in view the big red bows of “Merry Christmas” Union Station.
More than a mile under my — shrinking — belt. When you add it all up.
And I wasn’t gasping for air.
The burn I felt was real. Lunch was in sight, dreaming of a Whopper but Burger King is but a memory in Union Station’s food court. I don’t do Steak Shake lines, and McDonald’s is out of the equation unless all other places serving food are closed.
There is consolation as well as hunger. No, Fit Bit spending — at least $60 saved.