Archive for the Notes From The Hill Category

Remember This E-Mail is Subject to Review

Posted in In Harm's Way, Notes From The Hill on June 10, 2012 by Author Jennifer Quail

From: Alan Graves, Legislative Assistant to Senator Cannon
To: Elaine Gates

Hi, Elaine,

Just wanted to make sure you got home all right. I was checking out USAJobs and saw a few positions at Dept. of the Navy that might be interesting.

Let me know when you get back.

Alan

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From: Alan Graves
To: Elaine Gates

Did you get my last e-mail? I thought I’d send it from my google account since sometimes the Senate address has trouble. And you’re not on Facebook?

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From: Alan Graves
To: Elaine Gates

Just checking in….

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From: Elaine Gates
To: Alan Graves

Alan,

You sent that first one twelve hours after I left. The train wasn’t even to Chicago yet. I’ve barely been home for five minutes. You’re worse than my mother.

No, I’m not on Facebook. Or YouSpace or MyFace or Twitterbrained or any other “social-networking site.” But I’m home. And no, I wasn’t attacked by anyone or any thing on the way.

Elaine

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From: Alan Graves, Legislative Assistant to Senator Cannon
To: Elaine Gates

I’m glad. I mean I’m glad you weren’t attacked. I haven’t been, either, not that I could be with certain people following me all the time. I don’t SEE Val but I swear I can feel him watching me. Everyone in the office is starting to think I’m paranoid the way I keep looking over my shoulder.

I checked out the jobs site again. If you want I can ask around, too. I don’t know many people who work with engineers. If you want to still be an engineer. You probably qualify for veteran’s education benefits. I could look into that. You could get a doctorate, even. Like I said if you stay with me you don’t have to worry about rent so there’s no real rush to decide or anything.

Alan

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To: Alan Graves
From: Elaine Gates

You’re not paranoid if there actually is a vampire following you.

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From: Alan Graves, Legislative Assistant to Senator Cannon
To: Elaine Gates

If that was supposed to be reassuring, it’s not.

I’m attaching links to a couple of the universities in D.C., and the ones pretty close in Maryland and Virginia. I don’t know what makes a good engineering program, not that you’d have to study engineering. Like I said, you don’t need to worry about rent once you get back, so if you’d rather look at schools than jobs I’d be fine.

*

From: Elaine Gates
To: Alan Graves

Would I not have to worry about e-mails every five minutes?

The Walls Have Ears (and Eyes, Too)

Posted in Notes From The Hill, Private Thoughts with tags , , , on July 2, 2010 by Author Jennifer Quail

I should write this down, because if it turns out not to be nothing, I should probably have a record of it. We aren’t security, but we are supposed to be on alert for anything unusual. Of course, I’m also admitting that instead of going straight from the Senate-side meeting room where I had been sitting in on a pensions subcomittee meeting with the Senator (being chosen for that was still a thrill) I took a detour through the Rotunda. It may be one of the places in the Capitol I could always visit anyway, without needing the I.D. badge that lets me into parts previously unknown. But it’s the most . . . Capitol-like part of the Capitol, if that makes any sense. When I go in there, I feel as if I’m really working at the heart of everything. Much more than in my little cubbyhole at the Hart Building, anyway.

So I detoured there today. Being a weekday and not quite tourist season yet the crowds weren’t as bad as all that, so I could stand craning my neck at Brumidi’s Apotheosis of Washington without attracting too much attention. It’s my second-favorite piece of art in the Rotunda. I go through the Brumidi Corridor often enough I’ve sort of stopped seeing it, but the Apotheosis I have to make a special trip to look at. It’s like I imagine standing in a cathedral must be for people who believe in that sort of thing. Though now if an artist were designing it, I would hope they’d put in a scene, with the Science, Marine, Commerce and all, for History.

I said second favorite. My favorite piece of art in the Rotunda probably should be one of the sculptures from the Statuary Hall collection, or at least Trumbull’s The Declaration of Independence. It’s not. My favorite is another Trumbull, General George Washington Resigning His Commission. Washington is standing before the Continental Congress in Annapolis, bathed in a shaft of sunlight, with his lieutenants behind him and civilians looking on. It’s like the entire concept of civilian control of the military and a leader who willingly surrenders power to become a citizen again, like Cincinnatus, all distilled into one painting.

That was a little bit history geek, wasn’t it.

Anyway, I was standing in front of that painting, and the sun was just right from the windows up in the dome to light up the (huge) canvas. I was standing back for a better view, when I had the strangest feeling someone was staring at me. My first thought was someone from the staff had found me playing tourist. Or worse, a Member. Not the boss, she was still in the meeting, but there were plenty of members who’d know where I worked and that wandering around in what was technically the House’s territory wasn’t really in my job description. The next-least-appealing option was another Member’s staffer. Any of the Republicans and a few of my own side would have loved to get me in trouble for gawking. A quick cell phone picture and I’m on everyone’s Twitpic feed as the Senate Slacker. Or the tourist noob, which would be worse.

But as far as I could see, there was no one I knew or who’d know me. There were tours, there were Capitol Police being unobtrusively obtrusive, but no one appeared to be giving me a second glance.

Until I turned back to the painting, and once again felt like lasers were drilling twin holes in my neck.

I spun around, and this time I could have sworn I saw a shadow of . . . something . . . ducking behind the statue of Ronald Reagan (of all the people my native state could decide to honor . . . but I’m digressing again.) I took a step towards the statue but a tour group crossed between me and it, and when they cleared the center of the Rotunda that cranny appeared to be empty of anything except the bronze Gipper. After squinting in a way that probably made the tourists think I was visually impaired, I turned, slowly, back to the painting.

This time the eyes were somewhere to my left.

All I could see was the tour group, and none of them were looking my way. They were all staring up at the relief of the History of America that circles above the paintings and doors, and no one seemed at all interested in what anyone outside the group was doing. Yet I still had the increasingly deep conviction that somewhere in the Rotunda, someone was watching me. The feeling had gone from lasers to the hairs on my neck standing on end, and I was starting to think of all the ghost stories people tell about this building. Of course none of them were set in broad daylight in the middle of the Rotunda, but there’s a first time for everything, right?

I started across the Rotunda towards the Senate-side doors. Whoever found me so interesting was unlikely to have the kind of ID that would allow them to follow me into the not-so-public areas of the Capitol, let alone the exits they weren’t even supposed to know about. Despite the increasing feeling of being stared at intently, sending nervous tremors through my gut, I couldn’t help pausing one more time to peer up at the Apotheosis. When I did, the sun must have come out from behind a cloud or I’d stepped just where it was about to hit, because for an instant I was completely blinded by the warm, gold-white light. I had to close my eyes, and when I opened them again the sun must have gone behind a cloud because the light wasn’t in my eyes any more and I had the oddest feeling I was no longer being watched, either.

The weirdest part is I know whoever was watching me hadn’t left. But for some reason, something they’d seen, made them feel like they had to look away.

To be honest, I’m not sure if I’m more scared of the eyes, or what it was they’re looking at.

Take a Memo

Posted in Notes From The Hill, Private Thoughts with tags , , , , on June 28, 2010 by Author Jennifer Quail

To: Savita Dash, Senior Legislative Assistant to Senator Cannon
From: Alan Graves, Legislative Assistant to same

Vita,

Sorry about ducking out early on happy hour Friday. I’m not trying to be anti-social, I just couldn’t take being indoors any longer. The crowds were awful at the Hawk n’ Dove–I think they must advertise as the place to go to hear staff dish on their members. And anyway, and don’t tell Iain this or I’ll never hear the end of it and the whole Hill will know, the truth is I don’t drink. You probably notice I never really know what to order and I never finish it. Or even start it, really, that’s why I always sit by a potted plant if one’s around.

I might give it a pass this week anyway. For some reason I just need to get outside these days. You know I walked halfway home? As far as the Metro at Arlington Cemetery at least. The Mall’s not so bad in the evening. And I’m still star-struck enough I love looking at the Capitol lit up after sundown. I know, I sound like I fell off the turnip truck, but I still can’t quite believe I really made it. It’s a long way from Sacramento. A long way from the redwoods or the high desert or the Rockies, too, though. I haven’t really found any place to run or hike that doesn’t feel like city.

I know, I’m running off at the mouth again. I’m a lawyer, not a speechwriter. Anyway I just didn’t want you to think I was letting down the side or didn’t want to be social. Oh and let you know I did finish drafting a memo for herself about S. 426. I’ll need to get with someone from De Soto or Myers’s staffs before I send it up, though please if you set it up, not Barbara. I know she’s on our side, but that doesn’t mean I like being reminded that I’m still part of the white male patriarchy every five minutes. Not to mention all the Facebook invites to rallies I’m not going to attend and suggestions I become of fan of groups like Transgendered Tree Lovers Against Bovine Growth Hormone. Not that I have a problem with GLBT, environmentalists, or organic dairy farmers, but who has time to be upset about it all at once? I don’t even have time to sleep.

See you at work,
Alan