When business starts heading east, the innocent West Coast girl discovers that Washington, D.C. is pricier than San Francisco, Honolulu or even midtown Manhattan.
The lowest-tier rooms at power hotels are, on average, upward of $450 per night, minimum, plus taxes and fees (asterisk: "Rates may change during stay"). On-call town car (a taxi ride with the inevitable careening driver, can kill next meetings quicker than lettuce in a front tooth) -- around $3,000 for three days of business in a tight little trajectory near Capitol Hill, though it's nice that the 20 percent gratuity is included. Shielding the bespoke one in the back from the déclassé faux pas of obvious financial transaction, see. Oh, and then one does have to eat, power feed tout le monde, and so on.
Even after years of business there, we assume there's some kind of justification for all of this, it being sacred, above and apart, the nation's Alabaster City. We assume our place, or at least the place setting, among the Upper Chamber, Blair House and Family Quarters. We also keep on assuming because, if you have to ask, everybody will assume you, in fact, have no business being there.
So, yes, we assume it's all the very best: artisan this and Côte de Nuits, organic tender baby things, happy meat from boutique pastures, all hand-chosen, harvested and delivered mere hours if not minutes from whatever appropriate field or root or reef of Earth, superlatively prepared, plated not with generic plebeian squirts, but Zagat Jackson Pollock. Since cost-benefit authentication is utterly ill-advised if not impossible, basically the prettier it is, or is perceived to be, the pricier it is. (Just ask Kanye West.)
This was borne out this morning when most Americans padded in to breakfast, feeling more or less as though we might be about to sit down to our last meal, to discover that the one good thing to come out of House Resolution 8, As Amended (Fiscal Cliff) on New Year's Day was the uncertain surprise of the byproduct of Capitol colloquy, there on our plate -- the mess that finally landed at the bottom of the fiscal cliff, all reprocessed and packaged as something more familiarly found between two halves of toasted muffin, with a little processed American cheese, in a fun paper wrapper.
America got a rare continuing-coverage, front row seat to the great sausagemaking process known as major legislation. C-SPAN connoisseurs shed tears at high definition chamber shots. Drive-thru viewers kept asking why the thing not only took so long for McCongress to deliver but had trouble with the math on the receipt.
The answer is that, in my experience, nothing in Washington is either fast or cheap. Even when reconstituted, linked nice and tidy, and styled to look appetizing, a lot goes into this that we may just be better off not knowing too much about.
Remnants of rotten egg, apparently repurposed by Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham following the bullying of U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice from consideration for Secretary of State. Minuscule fleshy orbs that appeared to be what are politely referred to, usually in conjunction with lambs or sheep, as "fries." Peacock feathers, spleen and a strong ham aroma. Some inferred that an exotic rarity virtually unknown outside of Israel or France, spine, was in there. It probably would have helped make the final product more palatable.
Does it matter? As far as I'm concerned, seating average Americans in the Capitol, for once, if only this once, made the whole food fight worth the wait.
As Congress keeps toasting itself into another DUI and the rest of us surrender jingle bells for Nutrisystem, all America really needs in the way of a resolution this New Year is what we already know: pork byproducts, however fancy, are made of stuff that is, er, generally understood to not be good for us. Looking at Chef Boehner's Breakfast Special, giving up sausage doesn't seem too hard today but, given that only 8 percent of people who make New Year's resolutions actually end up keeping them, come spring America should keep its LifeAlert handy.
Photo illustration ©2012 Marie Woolf, www.woolfmedia.net