Besides my advanced age and the fact that I don't work in politics, another complication to my becoming the next ultimate Washington insider (UWI) is that I don't like being around people. I dread it. I just want people to know who I am.
I am starting small, taking what invitations I can get. If I get invited to something, anything, I go.
As I said last time, I don't know many people in D.C. yet, and the ones who do invite me places don't necessarily want me in their homes. So I go to the cattle-call cocktail parties. I mean, technically I'm invited for a reason, but I want to go to the ones that are achingly exclusive, like just a couple of billionaires, a few actors, a presidential candidate and me. In somebody's private jet, too, not in some one-bedroom apartment in a "transitional" neighborhood.
The first invitation I got (OK, asked for) when I moved here was from MediaBistro, for their media-people mixer, where there is strictly no networking allowed! No networking? That may fly in New York or someplace "cool," but I've found that D.C. folks take the most shameless approach to careerism; in fact, it's the lifeblood of the city in a charmingly, disarmingly natural way. At one cocktail party recently I saw an old consultant guy handing someone a résumé with his business card paperclipped to it and saying "Just call me if I can ever be of assistance." That's my D.C.
I went alone to the MediaBistro mixer at Left Bank, and nobody wanted to talk to me. So, for my next one, at Lounge 201 on the Hill, I took along a gregarious friend. Knowing how sad it felt to stand alone with a drink in one hand and a yo-yo in the other, I made sure my friend and I sought out the lonely and talked to some of them.
Except the ones from the Washington Times, of course.
Then, an out-of-town friend invited me to a fundraiser at MCCXXIII on Connecticut Avenue for the New Organizing Institute, which trains political organizers to take maximum advantage of technology.
You know you're not an insider yet when you get invited to events in your own town by visitors.
The first thing I noticed was no one had name tags. At the MediaBistro parties, people wear name tags with their name and affiliation, so at least you know who you are "not networking" with. I guess someone here thought name tags were "uncool." This required even more talking, and elevated the risk that at any moment I could be talking to another nobody like me.
Then I experienced a first for me in D.C.: I saw someone I already knew. He was talking to a guy who was referring to Mayor Giuliani as a "c***s***er" when I walked up. I interrupted them to talk about me, and I accidentally said I was seeking to become the ultimate Hollywood insider. Oops! Well, they do call Washington D.C. "Hollywood for ugly people."
There were several hundred people there, a great success for the organizers. But it just reminded this social climber of the futility of trying to meet (and rank) everyone in a room. It's like they say: You can't boil the ocean (I know, I know: Give global warming time to work.)
Next function: The Michigan State University NCAA Champion Hockey Team is being honored at a reception at the Rayburn House Office Building, and as an MSU alumnus living in D.C., I am invited!
When I got there at 6:10, I went through security, and Mr. John Conyers was at the top of the stairs in front of me with an entourage. See, that's why I went to this thing -- It's in the Rayburn, the Halls of Power, there might be members of Congress there with whom to hobnob. (On this page, click on the photo link at the end of the paragraph of text and go to photo #14 to see me!)
I ran into an acquaintance at this one, too. I'm undeniably becoming the UWI. Her coworker was telling me how George W. Bush physically assaulted him at a campaign stop during the 2000 election. I wanted to hear more, but I was furiously taking notes like "that blind man is wearing the exact same shoes as me" (true story), yo-yo'ing and eating the lunchmeat out of the croissan'wiches on the buffet, throwing the bread aside.
I had made a note to myself that I would only write blog posts about my brushes with history and my big leaps toward becoming the UWI. Well: Eureka! Guess who was at this hockey reception in the Energy and Commerce Committee room? REP. BART STUPAK (D-MI)!
Do you want in on the ground floor on this UWI thing? Then get those cocktail weenies ready (no buns, please) and invite me to your next D.C. function. I may just show up. OK, I will definitely show up. TheUWI[at]gmail.com.