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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Limey On The Road - DC & The White House

So I just got out of one of my semi-regular meetings at the White House. OK - maybe a little of an exaggeration. All right; you got me, a lot of an exaggeration. Actually I figure if the Rapture came tomorrow and you all had been very bad and all that was left was the President and I it is likely I would still not be asked for advice.

However, I am in DC on business. I have never been here before and the business I am visiting is only two blocks from the White House so I figured why not; be a tourist for a few. So off I trundled to see the White House [and let me tell you when they say white they mean white; I don't think I have ever seen a white as clean and white as that white is].

Now you may or may not agree with the President's policies. Heck, depending on where you live in the world you may or may not like the US. We are not going to go there; political views are personal and often divisive and certainly not something I want to get into here.

What I do think we can agree on is this. The President of the United States is the most powerful individual in the world. Furthermore as each generation comes and goes technology and therefore power advances. If we accept that theory then we can argue that the current President is more powerful than previous Presidents. In short that makes the current President the most powerful human who has ever lived. Back to the White House; it's not as big or as impressive as I expected as a building BUT it's the hang out of the most powerful dude that ever lived - that's actually rather awe inspiring whatever you think of the man himself.

I have a photo. Did I really post that? I must have lost one of the few screws I have left. Check it out after the break.

Now I am travelling alone; I would much have preferred the wife to be with me but it is what it is. Taking a picture is not that easy on your own if you want to be in the photo. I have an iPhone 4 so I have the camera that points both ways; should have been a breeze getting a photo of me with the White House in the background. Not so! It seems I am just not very good with the camera pointing back at me and the photo I took of myself outside the White House makes me look like - well I don't know what to be honest but it sure ain't good. Some would say at my best I don't look much better and that may be true but this picture is definitely not my best.

So, move onto plan B. Grab another tourist and ask them to take a picture. As it happens before I could leap into action a seemingly very happy Japanese tourist asked me to take a picture for him. He seemed to have a permanent grin and through his broken English [which was infinitely better than my completely busted Japanese] I could tell he was clearly very excited to be where he was. So, I took his camera, composed a nice shot; him to one side, White House to the other, nice spacing, a touch of zoom to fill the frame and click. He checked it out and loved it. Now it was his turn. Point, click and off he went. I checked the photo; well it was a picture of me completely obscuring the White House. It could be anywhere. Moral of the story; despite their apparent amiability don't trust happy smiling Japanese tourists with your camera [or iPhone]. I actually found another tourist willing to take a photo for me, by chance also Japanese. The result was eerily similar. If I was a little more unbalanced than I already am I would no doubt conclude that there was some weird conspiracy at work here but I think it is more simple; I just happened upon wonderful, friendly and helpful people that just don't have a clue how to compose a photograph.

There was, not unexpectedly, a significant security presence in the area. Police, what looked like Secret Service [one parking lot seemed to have an suspiciously high percentage of black SUV's with darkly tinted windows] and also, as I noticed at one point, undercover operatives. At one point I saw an individual stopped by two uniformed police; I could not tell why. After a moment's discussion two other individuals were called over by the uniforms. Now I thought they were tourists, never made them as any form of security, but as they started to search the guy it became evident they were indeed some form of security. Eventually took him off somewhere else. As I said no surprise; a high security presence around the leader of the free world, that's a given, but it was interesting to observe.

There was one other thing I observed and this did give me pause and made me think; within just a few blocks of the White House there were many homeless and panhandlers. I do not belittle the plight of those individuals in any way; I do not envy them and they have my sympathy. Still, I would not have expected so many so close to the White House. Now that is nothing to do with security; I just figured that within blocks of the leader of the richest and most advanced society the planet has ever seen this nation would not be advertising its shortcomings to the plethora of tourists in the area today and probably every day. If we can't take care of our own here in the capital ... well you get the picture. On the ten minute six block walk from my hotel I saw such individuals in eight different location and was approached for money five times. That is extremely sad in and of itself but it is also a damning indictment of our society and not a great testament to "progress".


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