Street Theater

When the weather is nice I like taking a walk during the lunch hour. I don't know what it is about this intersection, but it's great for spotting people -- Donald Rumsfeld a couple of times, Tom Ridge, Helen Thomas, Ted Koppel. Last week I watched Sam Donaldson lurch across the street to pick up his sandwich at Potbelly.

I'll often loop through Farragut Park to Lafayette Park to see what's going in in front of the White House, listening to my iPod. Usually there's a good mix of tourists, protesters, press and various law enforcement types. A lot of high school groups. When I see people taking pictures of each other, I often offer to take their picture together in front of the White House.

I pick up random snippets of history from guides conducting tours. (When a Marine guard is posted at the North door of the West Wing, that means the President is at the White House).

I don't know why, but I instinctively look both ways whenever I step onto Pennsylvania Avenue even though the street has been closed to traffic for years.

One day last week there were Park Service cops on horseback and bright yellow-clad Secret Service on mountain bikes forming a line half-way through Lafayette Park, keeping everybody a half-block further away from the White House than usual. Marine One was lifting off on the South lawn. The cops never say that the park is open again. They just turn away and saunter off.

Last Tuesday I stroll around, and the whole park is closed. People lined up on H Street to see what's going on. I had a cigarette while listening to a podcast. When the all-clear was given, the cops broke their ranks and walked or rode away. Tourists began to filter through the park to the White House. ConcepciĆ³n Picciotto, who has been living across the White House in protest for the last 27 years, struggled with her bicycle and rambunctious11-month-old American terrier. A Secret Service agent, himself on bike, started to roll Picciotto's bicycle back to her plastic and cardboard shelter. It was an awkward arrangement, so I took the bike for her. "And they say chivalry is dead," the agent he said to me from behind darkened lenses. "I don't know, it isn't doing so well," I replied.

Later I learned that another small plane had entered restricted airspace and the Capitol had been evacuated. So that's what it was about.

Today the block of K Street between 14th and 15th was blocked off, cop cars and vans all up and down the block and around the corners. The windows in front of the ATM vestibule at the Wachovia Bank are blown out, glass all over the sidewalk. Some poor schmuck left his briefcase at the money machine, and the bomb squad blew it up.

How was your lunch?


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