Wednesday, June 17, 2009

So what? I'm still a rock star

It's been awhile since the last update, so I probs should give you all an idea of what's going on here in DC.

Weekends in DC are a lot of fun.  It helps that there's so much to do here.  During the day there are plenty of museums to go to and at night there's always something cool to think of doing.  A few weekends ago we went Eastern Market, which was really cool.  There are a lot of artisans, farmers, and other food vendors who go there, so there's so much cool stuff to see.  We probably walked around for a good hour just looking at all the displays of food, pictures/paintings, and crafts there.  The food is probably the best to see because it's really fresh and there's a really interesting selection.  My faves were the butcher stand that had a ton of meat on display (including parts of the animal that I didn't know were edible), and the fish stand that had a lot of cool seafood on display (like a monstrous octopus!).  There's also this really good breakfast place there called "Market Lunch" (they serve breakfast and lunch, but they're well known for their breakfasts).  I probably had some of the best pancakes and crabcakes I've had in awhile.  Afterwards we went to the newly re-opened American History Museum, which was a lot of fun.  I'm an American history buff, so I really enjoyed it.  The exhibits were interactive and really interesting to read.  I liked the Presidents exhibit and the Pop Culture section (they had Kermit the Frog, Colbert and Oscar the Grouch on display).  They also had a really cool exhibit on the Inaguration, which had some up close photos of Obama (and even a shot of the Jonas Brothers, an important part of this year's festivities).  

That night we went on a late-night monument tour, which I love doing.  Like I've said before, nothing beats seeing the monuments at night.  Not only are they gorgeous along a dark backdrop (which lets you appreciate them so much more), there aren't as many crazy tourists around (which is ALWAYS a plus).  We went to the Lincoln, Vietnam, World War II and Washington.  From there a few of us decided to go to the Capitol rather than the Jefferson.  If you follow this blog, you know that I LOVE the Capitol, especially at night.  Lots of reflection occurred that night. 

Probably my favorite weekend stop is Ben's Chili Bowl, which is an historic African American restaurant.  Their chili dogs are AMAZING.  I've gone twice so far this year, the most recent was last weekend so I could eat my feelings and consul myself after the Red Wings loss (it's a touchy subject, don't ask).  Another good place I like to go to grab food on weekends is this pizza place called Jumbo Slice, which is where I spent last Saturday night.  Their slices are HUGE, stretching from my hand to my elbow.  I can barely finish a slice.  Here are some pics to give you an idea:

Pure greasy goodness!

Last weekend I also ventured to the Natural History Museum with Ben.  I'm not going to lie, the museum is cool because they have a lot of cool things on display (like dinosaurs), but it was hard for me to get into.  Natural history isn't something I'm really interested in, so the exhibits weren't too exciting to me.  While at the American History Museum I would read everything, I was alright skipping over stuff and not reading anything at the Natural History Museum.  Oh well.


On the work front, things have been really good.  I've been going to a lot of Congressional hearings for our staff, which I enjoy because the topics are really interesting and it gives me something to do.  Last week I went to a House Appropriations Committee hearing that dealt with Commerce, Science and Justice spending, a Senate hearing with Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius on health priorities, and a House Small Business Committee hearing.  My bosses also take me to their meetings as well.  I went to a really interesting one with lobbyists from the different sports leagues that touched on issues these leagues are concerned with.

I've been working on meeting legislators as well.  Last week I ran into Sen. John Ensign, who I worked for last summer.  I reminded him that I worked for him last summer at the NRSC and we had a brief chat.  Clearly he remembered me...

On Tuesday a bunch of us went to Debbie Stabenow's constituent hour.  We were the last group to get in, which was nice, but that meant a long wait before we could actually see the Senator.  During this time we awkwardly chatted with her staff, which I'm sure you can imagine was a party (though a kid I went to high school is on her staff, so I talked to him for a bit).  When we finally got to see her, we made small talk then posed for a pic.  Naturally I stood next to her.  After we took the pic she turned to look at us and I noticed that my name tag was sticking to her arm (or chest, I'm really not sure)!  I was wearing my bag when I put the tag on, and I think it came loose when I took the bag off for the pic.  Obviously it ended up on the Senator.  Oops.  Imagine how awkward/embarrassing it was when I noticed and then lunged at the Senator to take it off her!  She's a really nice lady, so she laughed it off, along with the rest of us.  Here's the scene (one from the Senator's camera, one from mine):

If you look closely, you can see the name tag coming off me and sticking to her.

On Wednesday I went to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions hearing on the healthcare-reform bill.  On my way I saw a bunch of Senators (but didn't talk to them because they were Dems): Burris, Schumer, Brown, Tom Udall, and Reid.  I also saw Vice President Joe Biden as he was leaving the building!  Capitol Police and Secret Service were everywhere, but there were nice enough to let a bunch of interns hang around to see him.  As for the actual hearing, I decided to go because healthcare reform is a huge deal right now and the HELP Committee was marking-up its proposal.  Naturally, given the significance of this, I had to be there.   It was crazy because in front of each Senator was a 1-1 1/2 foot tall stack of paper that was the bill and proposed amendments!  In the two hours I was there, they didn't even get to the bill because each Senator decided to make a long-winded opening statement (Judd Gregg referred to the proposal as a mix between Rube Goldberg and Karl Marx, which Barbara Mikulski rebutted by calling the current system a mix of Adam Smith, Darth Vader, and Revenge of the Body Snatchers).  By the time I left, they had only gotten through 1/3 of the committee.  And we wonder why Congress takes so long...

That night I went to a few receptions, one of them with my boss.  Given her job, she pretty much knows the entire Michigan delegation, so she was able to introduce me to Reps. Vern Ehlers and Dale Kildee.  Kildee was really nice and remembered my name by the end (that, or he was looking at my nametag...which I made sure was securely on me).  As I've said before, I love going to receptions because there's TONS of free food.  Not a bad deal at all.

In other news, for those who follow politics, you might have heard of the latest scandal, which involves Sen. John Ensign and an extramarital affair.  Yes, this is the same John Ensign who I worked for last year and who I mentioned earlier in this post.  Pretty weird.  The sad part was working for him at the NRSC when this happened and actually worked with the son of the woman whom he was having this affair with.  Crazy stuff.  This has been dominating my news cycle for the past day.

Anyways, that's all for now.  More updates will come soon.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

I am a visitor here; I am not permanent

Pics from my journey thus far:

What I love about flying into Reagan-National Airport is that you fly over landmarks as you're about to land.  Here's the Pentagon.

Ben and I decided to show our love for America at the DC Memorial Day Parade.

The Groves Marching Band was there!

My favorite building in the world.  Takes my breath away every time.


Me, Jeff and Ben at the Tigers game.

Dana's birthday dinner.  Notice the shivering woman who made it into the pic.

I see a resemblance 

Honest Abe.  By far my favorite monument in DC.  

Even prettier at night.  

More pics will be posted on flickr and facebook.  A more complete update/entry will come soon.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

...and we're back!

After a year-long hiatus, I have returned to document my adventures in the District!  

I have been in town for about a week-and-a-half now.  I'm working at the University of Michigan DC Office this summer.  The office focuses on the University's federal relations.  We track legislation on issues concerning the school and lobby on its behalf.  Doesn't provide me with the kind of round-the-clock access to big shots as working at the NRSC did, but it provides different kinds of really cool opportunities, which is cool.  It's a small office (four full-time staff), which means I'm the only intern, and the staff does a good job of including me in what they do.  I've been able to tag-along to a number of meetings with Congressional staffers and other interest groups to learn about issues Michigan cares about and watch as my bosses advocate for the University.  I've definitely learned a lot about immigration, patents and taxation and how these issues affect the University.  

The first week I was here was a bit slow because Congress was in recess.  Since they weren't in town, there wasn't anyone to lobby, so there was little for our office to do.  That sucked because there was so much down time, but on the flip-side, it meant a few half-days, which gets no complaints with me.  My sister was also in town for a bit, so having some extra free time was nice.  

Congress was back in session during week 2, so work has picked up.  I've been able to spend some more time on the Hill this week, attending meetings and hearings.  On Monday I went with my boss to discuss a patent reform bill with staff from Sens. Levin and Stabenow's offices, which was really fun and really interesting/informative.  The next day I was sent to an Appropriations hearing on the House-side that discussed the budget for the Department of Health and Human Services.  I decided to make an afternoon out of it, so I started with lunch on the Senate-side, then I decided to take the Capitol subway over to the House side.  The subway is only available for members and staffers, so I made up an excuse to get a guest pass to ride it.  Always a fun ride.  To get from the Senate-side to the House-side, you start at the Senate office buildings, get off at the Capitol, walk to the other side of the building, then hop on another subway to the House office buildings.  As I got off at the Capitol, the Senate Republican lunch was getting out, so I ran into a bunch of my peeps.  Saw Senators Lindsay Graham, Susan Collins, Mike Johanns, John Barrasso, and David Vitter on my ride.  I was able to briefly say hi to Senators Jim Bunning, Judd Gregg and Johnny Isakson.  I told Gregg that I liked his healthcare plan, which he proposed the day before (it was similar to something I suggest in a PoliSci paper I wrote this year).  I met Isakson last summer, so Bunning and Gregg are new to my list.  Given that some of the people I met from last year are no longer in office, I need to come up with a new list.  

I finally got to the hearing and it was interesting.  Kathleen Sebelius, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, testified and it was interesting to hear her priorities.  The hearing, which was supposed to be about the department's appropriations request, turned into a a debate on a government-backed health insurance plan, which is always a good, partisan time.  

After the hearing I went to a reception with my boss.  Receptions are always a good time for interns.  Sure they're a bunch of old people talking about stuff we don't know/care about, but they ALWAYS have free food.  As my boss told me, "Play your cards right, you can get dinner covered."  Not only did this reception have some good food, it was to honor Speaker Nancy Pelosi!  So she stopped by and gave some remarks.  That was cool.  Also, I got my dinner covered, which was nice.

On Wednesday I went to a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on Chrysler/GM Dealership closures.  It was really fun to watch Senators tear apart Chrysler and GM's CEOs.  On my way to the hearing I ran into Johnny Isakson again.  Twice in two the rate we're going we'll be BFFs by the end of the summer.  Also said hi to Sen. Bernie Sanders (who's crazy).  One final celebrity run-in for the day: Jesse Jackson.  He was sitting in on the hearing and we both left in the middle and I ran into him as we were walking back.  I was in front of me and I decided to say hi.  Here's how that went down:

Me: "How ya doin', Rev. Jackson!
Me: You enjoying the hearing? (because I couldn't think of anything better to say)
Jesse: Yeah.

Then we walked back into the hearing room, which was cool because it looked like I was walking in with him, like I was part of his posse or something.


DC life has been great.  Second time around has been like a continuation of the first.  Coming off the plane (and being smacked by the heat and humidity), I felt like everything was just as I had left it last summer, which I love because it makes me feel like I never left the city.  My metro card from last summer worked just the same, the metro rides are just as I remember them to be, the dorm feels the same.  It really feels like the past year never happened.  

This summer I'm the coordinator of the Michigan intern program, so I have to organize things for the group to do.  The group is about 70 kids, which is nice because they're a fun and interesting group to be around.  So far we've had an outing to Ben's Chili Bowl (an amazing DC staple) and some other low-key events (like watching the Wings).  

On Saturday a few of us went up to Baltimore for the Tigers/Orioles game, which was a great time, other than the trek up there.  To get there we had to take the metro to the end of the line, transfer to a bus that took us to the Baltimore Airport, then take another train to the stadium.  That was a three-hour ride.  The game itself was a lot of fun.  We went to a really fun pre-game tailgate near the stadium which was a cool way to get food and hang out before the game.  Justin Verlander (my Tiger) was pitching and he was HOT.  There were a lot of Tigers fans there too, as well as people wearing Red Wings jerseys, which was nice.  Camden Yards is a beautiful park and our seats were really nice.  For some reason they decided to play Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" before the ninth inning, which was strange, given the "Born and raised in South Detroit" line.  Anyways, the three of us who went to the game got up and screamed that line, much to the chagrin of the Baltimore fans sitting around us.  A bunch of drunk ones starting yelling stuff at us afterwards, stuff like "MOTOR CITY GOING DOWN!" and "HOW ARE THOSE LIONS!," to which we astutely replied "THOSE ARE YOUR CARS TOO!" and "WE'RE WATCHING A BASEBALL GAME, NOT FOOTBALL!"  We also added some hockey ones too, given the Wings, stuff like "HOW'S YOUR HOCKEY TEAM!"  They didn't seem to get the taunt, as their response was "We don't have one..."  Anyways, that was a highlight.  Another highlight was that the Tigers won 6-3, but we had to leave before the bottom of the ninth to catch the train to BWI to catch the bus to take us back to the Metro to take us home.  Another three hours.  So six hours round-trip for a three hour game.  Might not seem worth it, but it was.  GO TIGERS.  

So that's my time in DC so far.  Hope you enjoyed.  More updates will come soon.