to DC and back

I spent 24 hours and 15 minutes flying to Washington DC and back this week. I was attending the FDA Social Media hearings for the day. It was a very different reason than the last time I went to our nation’s capital though. I went to hear and see and speak on why the FDA needs to re-evaluate the rules and regulations on advertising in social media for pharmaceutical companies. There’s a whole list of reasons why this needs to happen…but I’ll list those in another entry.

The reason I had only 24 hours to go across the country and back though, was because my mother is here. November 11th is the one-year anniversary of my father’s death. My mother flew into LAX that afternoon, and I wanted to pick her up and safely deliver her to visit her grandson before I left. Which I did. Then I packed while Mom helped put Ben to sleep, dropped Mom off at the Westin Hotel downtown, and headed to LAX. I was scheduled on a 10:45PM red-eye flight to Dulles, and I had just enough time to get there.

Unfortunately, I hadn’t allowed for the ENDLESS CIRCLING OF LAX I had to do when I missed the exit off the 105. I somehow missed the last exit to LAX, and ended up on the four-lane road to Dockweiler Beach. I promptly U-turned, but couldn’t quite get back to the airport after that. I couldn’t get back off the 105, and ended up changing to the 405. Then I was lost around the Howard Hughes Mall, driving around Inglewood, almost in tears from stress and fear of missing my flight. Finally, by using the GPS on my G1 phone, I was able to Google Map my way to LAX. Let me just say, the freeways down there are easier to get lost on than they should be for their proximity to a major American airport.

I did make the flight, barely, and managed to even nap for most of it. I only woke up periodically when the pain in my knees woke me – I’m 5’10, and when I origami myself into a coach seat, the seat in front hits my legs when it reclines. Then, suddenly, I was on the ground, taking the ridiculously ineffective Dulles shuttle system (a sort of double-wide bus that goes between terminals), and awkwardly wriggling into my suit in a none-too-clean restroom before calling my driver to pick me up.

I used to be proud of my ability to hit the ground running when I landed in a new city. The last time I was in DC, I managed to figure out the transit system from Reagan Airport to the CODEPINK house I was staying at. But this time, I was at Dulles, and I wasn’t in the city for a protest – I was here as a representative of an ad agency. And it was raining. And I had open shoes, with exposed skin on my feet. So I gratefully jumped into the SUV that was there to drive me into the city, and watched traffic stop and go in the non-carpool lanes. I remember passing signs for Leesburg and wondering – did that town name have anything to do with Robert E, or with his father, Harry “Light Horse” Lee? I may be seeing it from the windows of an SUV, and not from the DC light rail system, but I’m still fascinated with what I think of as “old America” and how the history of it still shows up in the names of places. (Leesburg has nothing to do with the Lee family, according to their website.)

My driver brought me to the hearing location, the “National Transportation and Safety Board Conference Center”, in L’Enfant Plaza. I had forgotten that Pierre L’Enfant was the architect of DC. I also am totally disoriented in that city, still – I think I knew it well enough after my visit in 2005, but it’s been four years and a lot of other data, and I think my brain deleted that data in favor of Los Angeles maps. I was disorientated from the moment we crossed the Potomac into the city, even though I was fascinated and reminded of Washington’s origins in Paris. Like Philadelphia, DC is most influenced, design-wise, by the Paris of the 1800s, by the Age of Reason street layouts and buildings.

I went through the day of hearings, and afterwards was fortunate enough to catch up with my dear friend Deena. Deena, for those of you who may not remember, was one of my first new friends after I moved here. I was in a Ralph’s, ten days into my life here in California, desperately lonely, and missing my friends in Vancouver. I started chatting with the girl behind me in line, and we got along well enough that she gave me her phone number in sympathy, remembering what it was like when she had been new in town the year before. Through that meeting with Deena, I met most of my friends here in L.A., and it’s still a legendary event in my friend circle here. Deena herself, after creating a network of friends and bringing us all together, left for a trip around the world in 2007, and then moved to DC when she got back. She’s missed. I was so happy to see her – it’s been just over a year. We had about 90 minutes to catch up, which we made the best of. I left her at the HealthCentral Network party, after a few glasses of wine, and jumped in a taxi back out to Dulles.

Several hours, and a Virgin America flight later, I was back in L.A…exhausted. I planned to sleep on the flight home, but was never quite able to manage it. Instead, I did some minimal work, sampled the absinthe cocktail (less potent than its Bar Sinister knockoff) and played with the VARed entertainment console. Finally, I found myself back at LAX, picked up my car from the parking lot, and sped home to crawl into bed with my husband. It was an eventful and productive trip, work-wise, but a very long 24 hours. At least I got to sleep in the next day, since I had planned to take it off to spend with my mother. Not that “sleeping in” is an option the way it used to be – not with a Benjamin.

And that was my adventure to DC. It was a very different trip than the last time I went, and a much more…respectable…journey than the last time. Although, I do wish I had had more time. I would have liked to finish visiting the Smithsonian.

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