Saturday, June 10, 2017

Past Recollection Recorded: My Trip to the White House...Not Comey's.


Barbara gave me the inspiration for this post.  Thursday night, as we sat glued to our TV over here on Mykonos, watching FBI Director Comey's testimony and the endless tribal back and forth that followed, she reminded me of our VIP visit to the White House three years before.

How very long ago that seemed, which led me to dig out the April 5, 2014 post I'd written about it.  My re-read gave me chills, literal chills.  I'd completely forgotten the meaning I'd found in our visit, and the hope it gave me for our nation's future.  I cannot imagine what I'd write today if offered the same opportunity.   

Nor would I presume to imagine the reaction of those of you who'll read this now.  A lot has changed in those three years, far more than just the age of the mentioned babies. All I can say is God bless them all, and the rest of us as well. 

Note: The only White House link in the article that still works is to its history.

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. Your portrayal of the wonder of our institutions only makes the current befoulment all the more painful.

    But the youth of that Siger family, what wonders will they bring us?!?

    1. Thank you, my friend. I share your sense of wonder at it all.

  2. A fine and refined look at history. So recent, and yet the past is so not dead, so deeply precious, and so excellent a model for a brighter future. Many thanks!

    1. Thank you, shrew. A future we all hopefully hope for.

  3. I loved this, Jeffrey, and the photos that were included. Took my mind off the current situation, if only for a few precious moments.

  4. Gorgeous children. May they prosper and be happy and healthy, despite all of the madness in Washington.

  5. Thank you so much. We visited the Whitehouse last year after bouchercon but they wouldn't let us get very close ( not that I blame them ). Have you visited our house of commons. You would get more sense from a bunch of ring tailed lemus. ...