May 2007. I’ll never forget the intense anticipation of my walk to The White House one sunny May morning eleven and a half years ago. I was young, excited and in the midst of my first trip across the U.S. as an independent adult. I was on my way to see America’s most famous building in the flesh, a place that had been home to the likes of JFK, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and… at the time of my visit… some guy called George who could barely form a coherent sentence. I’d been staying with a friend at the swanky Envoy Apartments on 16th Street, so it was a straight thirty-minute shoot down to the north lawn on Pennsylvania Avenue.
May 2007. It was pretty quiet that morning, just myself, a modest gaggle of loitering tourists and a crazy man wandering around with a box on his head that read: Me For President! I’ve never been much of a political animal, but I do follow the news to keep myself abreast of world events. So when box man strode over and asked me if I’d endorse his quest for the presidency with a supportive signature, I agreed that based on current affairs he probably deserved a go in the Hotseat. “Thank you Mr. Stanley Bowles!” he chirped before trundling off.
May 2007. There was a strange atmosphere that day as I wandered around the complex to take in the building’s various angles. I remember spying a lone sniper pacing across the roof looking like he was more than ready for action should the opportunity arise. I also came across a pair of meathead cops (crew cuts, square jaws) who, without taking the time to think it through, I foolishly tried to engage with. I’d only asked whether Mr. Bush was currently in residence and the responses I got seemed wholly unnecessary. “Why are you asking this sir?” “Don’tcha watch the news sir?” “What is your business in the city sir?“ What is your current address sir?” They were still barking at me when I lost interest and walked off.
May 2007. Concepcion Picciotto, one of America’s most famous protestors, was also there that day at her landmark tent station. Affectionately known to locals as Connie/Conchita, I was staggered to learn that she’d been camped outside The White House for over twenty six years!!! As the primary guardian of this colorful anti-nuclear vigil, Connie greeted me warmly that morning in her crackly English, kitted out in her signature dress and headscarf. Although clearly something of a local hero, Connie’s mental issues, believed to have stemmed from the breakdown of her marriage and estrangement from her daughter, are well documented. Over the years she contributed to a high profile anti nuclear ballot and appeared in the award-winning Michael Moore documentary Fahrenheit 9/11. She died in January 2016 at the age of 80 in the city’s N Street Village, a non-profit organization for homeless people.
May 2009. When I went back to DC two years later on a guy’s vacation with my old friends Steve P and Steve C, they naturally wanted to swing by The White House. So here I was again, this time at the South Lawn and with Barack Obama as the country’s newly appointed president. The shot’s jovial feel is typical of anytime I get together with Steve P. We’d been talking crap for hours, our nonsensical ramblings including an imagined scenario where Samuel L. Jackson hosts The BBC’s flagship TV program The Antiques Roadshow. “Shit Mavis, that’s one sexy mother***ing vase!”
We’ll never be invited back.
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