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Riding the crest of a wave of bright-eyed interns, I washed up in Washington, D.C. and spent a portion of this past summer living there, in the national sandbox of politics. Like my fellow travelers, I set out working for the good guys and fighting the good fight. Washington, we quickly discovered, is a universe unique to itself, replete with its own character and life cycle.
To fully investigate the city’s character, I turned to the one medium that best represents Washington—blogs. They were the only means I had of experiencing the city without ever having to leave my room and actually experience the city. After some investigative research, I discovered that most D.C. blogs are about politics and politicians and political pundits, and those that aren’t deal with really stupid topics like losing your keys or taking a shower.
Washington, as I learned from the blogs, is an intensely political town. Those who have tired of losing keys and showering instead talk about the never-ending game of fighting for power. And boy, what a game it is. Entire industries center on preventing the other team from becoming more powerful and popular. “You’re killing Medicare!” “No, you’re killing Medicare!” “Well, I’m rubber, and you’re glue!” The whole process feels like a middle school game of dodgeball, with no set of rules but a dozen different referees.
But this all quickly faded away in early August, as the dodgeball game was outsourced from Washington to every other corner of the country. The recess bell rang, and the country’s leadership ran for the hills without looking back. The natural cycle of congressmen in Washington is oddly reminiscent of that of cicadas: They come out of hiding once every seventeen years or so to make a lot of noise before disappearing again for what seems like not nearly enough time.
The whole process is enough to make even the sanest observers question their sobriety. This, of course, is at least partly due to the mindboggling number of happy hours held everywhere from Capitol Hill to Foggy Bottom. America may run on Dunkin, but Washington staggers around on Heineken like it’s nobody’s business. Wonder no more about congressional inaction—when the workday doesn’t start until that headache goes away, not too much gets done. And when Harry Reid or Jon Stewart is busy mocking your boss on national television, that migraine tends to linger. To ease the pain, staffers head over to the next happy hour, which begins shortly after lunch.
This is summer vacation in Washington. The sun beats down on those of us lingering in the ghost town after the end of the gold rush. Senatorial offices are staffed by skeleton crews; the FBI closes altogether. (Who’s left to investigate, anyway?) Lincoln slips off his throne to take a nap and the tourists arrive in droves. As locals, of course, we make fun of these hapless visitors, who need directions to places we’ve finally found days earlier.
We lowly interns are largely left to our own devices, and spend vast quantities of time thinking about what to do with our vast quantities of time. After much deliberation, we do what the Lonely Planet recommends: visit the monuments and attend a Washington Walgreens baseball game, where we pretend to enjoy several hours of sweltering heat before of-age interns take refuge at a happy hour, where they run into a bipartisan assembly of upper-level congressional staffers holding a meeting. The staffers pretend not to see the interns, who manage to overhear part of the confidential conversation: “You’re killing Social Security!” “No, you’re killing Social Security!”
At long last, I was climbing out of the rabbit hole and headed home. I could finally clear out some much-needed space in my brain for non-political thoughts and focus on returning to school. But when I finally made it back to my house, I turned on the television set only to see election ad after election ad. I was left with no choice but to turn off the TV and fire up my laptop instead, and couldn’t help but check POLITICO.
After all, I loved my time in DC.
Jacob R. Drucker ’15, a Crimson editorial writer, lives in Mather House.
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