Saturday, April 5, 2014

My Trip to The White House

My head’s spinning. Thursday night I was in Washington, DC.  My nephew/godson lives there and works in The White House.  He’s been offering to give me a personal tour of the digs at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for years.  I finally decided this was the time to take him up on his offer.  There’s no hidden political commentary in that observation, just the recognition on my part that in less than two weeks I’d back in Greece, so why not take a look at the mecca of organized political disorder before falling back into the antithesis?

My driver and me.

I also had another reason: My tour guide’s brother and his wife also live and work in DC and just had their first baby. It gave me the chance meet the newest Siger man in the family and assemble the whole crew—including two-week-old Jack—for a night on the town. That kid’s a true party animal.

But, back to The White House.  I finally got to see it.  [Here’s a virtual tour for those who might be interested.]  No history lesson here, do your own Wikipedia research or check out this link to the official White House history.  (There’s more links like that below.)

Personally, I was impressed. Not by the grandeur of the location, all eighteen acres, or even the breathtaking beauty of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in its majestic, French Second Empire style. Though once inside that former OEOB (“O” for old, as opposed to today’s EEOB), I for a moment visualized Crusaders charging on their stallions down its massive corridors as if back upon the stone lanes of the old town of Rhodes. 

Just a teeny tiny part of the EEOB

Nor was I surprised by the phalanx of security measures I passed through on the way in, and constant surveillance while there. That was expected. What was not was the unexpected simplicity of what lay just behind the EEOB: The West Wing, nerve center of the World’s most powerful human being on earth…or, for the spiritual among you, the world’s most powerful government leader.

I have seen far grander spaces in any number of law firms, lobbyist and investment banker offices, and even some private homes. Yet, those West Wing rooms, which by their very names cannot help but conjure up visions formative of our American experience—Press Briefing Room, Situation Room, Cabinet Room, Rose Garden, and yes, even the Oval office—come across not as movie set displays of the true power they represent, but as simply places where people go to work everyday (albeit surrounded by priceless works of art) and into which the public is allowed only during non-working hours in a “bring your uncle to work” sort experience.  (But don’t let him take pictures.)

My producer and me.

And I loved every moment of it for that very reason. 

The last time I felt so moved by a place of power was when I saw the tiny size of the War Rooms in London, out of which Churchill ran England’s World War II efforts.

Churchill War Rooms

Such moments cannot help but bring on a chill to those of us who realize how much of our lives have been influenced by those who’ve occupied that little bit of office space for even a relatively slight amount of time.

Funny, my mind didn’t run to the politics of those who’d worked there, but to a sense that what makes our country great are the hardworking efforts of bright young Americans like my nephews, driven to working tirelessly for what they believe the right thing for their country.  We may not agree with all that their hard work yields, but we certainly owe them our thanks for their service. 

That’s a hard perspective for we “civilians” to maintain once we step back outside those walls and return to our surround-sound world of 24/7 partisan political bickering.

But I shall try, and so, thank you Rick and Steve and your respective “household support” casts for giving me a wonderful memory of the New World to carry back with me to the Old.

And there’s one more wonderful family joy I have left to experience this week. Friday was my granddaughter’s first birthday.  And today is her party.  Love you, darling.
And a connoisseur of fine literature, too.



  1. Sounds like a wonderful visit, Jeff, both to the White House and with your expanding family. And soon off to Mykonos. Sheesh. How do lawyers rate???

    1. Are you talking Moody, Standard Poor, or Dow in de dumps? Oh, those are writer ratings. Sorry, I forgot I used to be one of those other sorts.:)

  2. Great to hear about your visit to the W.H, Jeff. It's a great house, for a variety of reasons, and you got to see areas we common folk aren't allowed to venture. I'll want to hear all about it when you and that beautiful lady that must be the brains of the operation get back to Mykonos. Should you not appear on that island by late April, we'll assume you are vacationing at Guantanamo!

    1. I shall return in ten days, though my brains will remain behind for three more weeks...something I'm used to in all manners of the phrase. :)

  3. One of these days I'll get back to DC and tour the White House (and the Jefferson Memorial, which I've also never visited and always wanted to see).

    And your granddaughter and great nephew (?) are adorable!

    1. Thanks, Lisa, Washington actually impressed me quite a bit. It's not at all as I remembered it from my lawyering days. Clean, accessible, great neighborhoods, and a sense of youthful energy.

  4. The White House looks impressive in these "normal" pictures. And Lisa is right-your granddaughter is darling, as is your grand nephew! Nice places before you return to your usual hangouts.

    1. Thanks, Lil, and my granddaughter and great(?)nephew truly are delightful, delicious, and darling.