Between the Lines: And So, We Leave D.C. in the Rearview Mirror

So goodbye Golden Brick Road
Where the fops of Capitol Hill howl
I’ve had enough of The White House
And silk-suited dopes on the prowl
So long to the marble facades everywhere
And “Leaders” who just don’t how
My family is leaving the Beltway behind
Adieu to the Golden Brick Row-oh-od
Ahhhh ah ah ah ah…

By the time the July 4 fireworks briefly bedazzled before falling as ashy embers, a big, honkin’ moving van carried the contents of a three bedroom suburban D.C. home northward beyond the Mason-Dixon Line (for some reason referred to by members of me family as the Manson-Nixon line) up the I-95 corridor and east into New England.

And thus ended – for now, anyway – me fam’s 40+-years connection to Our Nation’s Capital.

And the way things are going, that’s long overdue.

On and off since the late 1970s, Yours Truly, or someone related by blood or marriage, worked and/or earned a graduate-level education in The District. No logic to it, just completely random. None of The Missus or my predecessors or their relations ever lived or worked in or near what the current Master & Commander, I mean, Commander in Chief, termed, not altogether inaccurately, as “The (still undrained, by the way) Swamp.”

Just happened, man.

Let’s travel back, shall we, to the late 1970s, when The Missus’s younger brother, Ron, possessed of a newly awarded B.A. in Political Science, went to work for the Federal Elections Commission down in, well, you know. Upon his invitation, me and The Missus braved the Joisey Turnpike and The Beltway in out diminutive Datsun to visit, for the first time, this strange land of monuments and mendacity. 

Awesome and impressive we thought, and did the wide-eyed tourists thing a number of times.

As have so many others, Ron wearied of Washington, earned a Masters in Health Administration and happily settled in New England.

But getting to know the place through him and hearing family members describe is as a “manageable” metropolis, motivated me to meet with then-incumbent, but now departed, Congressman William Carney in a Wading River eatery in June, 1983 after he called to discuss my leaving journalism to scamper south to D.C. as his new press secretary.

My Catholic-school aversion to neckties notwithstanding, he offered, I accepted and me and the fam moved to an Alexandria, Va. townhouse. By coincidence or providence, if you believe in that sort of stuff, we settled in the same rental community as had Ron. A bus and the Metro conveyed me to Capitol Hill each workday, where I drafted press releases, columns and newsletters among other largely partisan endeavors. 

Heady stuff for a guy in his late 20s.

The congressman survived a particularly difficult reelection campaign in ’84, but in ’86 retired after eight years representing New York’s First Congressional District. A lame duck needs no press, and so faced with the choice of jumping onboard with one of the other 464 reps – a lot easier than you might think – the fam and I headed back up thisaway and I rejoined the restless herd of ink-stained wretches.

A year or so later, a former D.C. coworker asked us down for a visit and we again viewed the Mall et al from tourists’ perspectives. Driving past the Washington Monument, the place became so very familiar once again. Voicing a thought better kept silent, I said, “You know, I could still do this!” 

Looking out the passenger side window, The Missus said in a flat, no nonsense tone, “Don’t  even  think  about it.”

But…

“DON’T  even  think  about  it.”

“Yes, Dear” went unsaid.

A year or so later, in the spring of ’88, brother Mike called with the news niece Julie was accepted into American University’s MBA program (Yay Julie!) and would I mind driving her down with her mom, Barbara, to help find housing. Of course. 

A quick and uneventful trip that Friday afternoon delivered us to the campus before the offices closed. Within 15 minutes, Julie had registered and was hired as a part-time lifeguard. Then, as we sat in the housing office scanning ring binders of available, but mostly less than desirable, places to rent, a man walked in and asked if he could list a basement apartment in a doctor’s house a block from campus.

I damn near knocked him over, grabbed the paper then, is sotto voce, said, “Hey, Barbara!” After a few phone calls, Julie had the perfect pad and lived there until earning her degree in 1990.

Throughout the ‘90s, though, D.C. was Kelly family-free, that is until 1999 when me sister Joan’s youngest, nephew Padraic, (that’s Patrick in the Irish tongue) also gained acceptance into American U. (Yay Pad!), not the business school, in the Washington College of Law. By coincidence or providence, if you believe in that sort of stuff, Pad rented the same basement apartment as cuz Julie. He lived there until earning his Juris Doctor degree in 2002.

Before he moved out, his landlord asked if any other family member needed a place. Not right then, but who knows?

He worked for a D.C. firm until 2006, when his career led him to Fairfax, Va., close to D.C. and its various courts, but beyond “The Beltway,” that often-cited, clamorous, kinetic border separating Washington from the Real World.

Back on the North Fork, son Ryan Patrick earned a biz degree from Stony Brook and went on to work for Merrill Lynch in Manhattan. Not to be outdone, daughter Caitlin earned her Ph.D. from The U. of Colorado in Boulder where she teaches biology. My beard went from red to white, although The Missus has yet to sprout a single gray hair. So unfair.

After completing Merrill’s management training program, Ryan’s career hinged on finding an open VP position somewhere in These United States. Such an opening did materialize in 2012, not in Oklahoma City, OK, or Birmingham, Ala. He applied and got the job in – that’s right – D.C., four blocks from the White House and right across from what was then the Washington Post’s sports editor’s office.

His spousal unit, Lindsay (nee Lessard) Kelly, rose to the VP level in the company’s Baltimore office.

Don’t, just don’t. I’ve heard enough of “You sure they’re your kids?”

And now, the denouement. Both son and DIL recently earned major promotions, in Boston. It pains me to share with you that theirs is a mixed marriage. Like his Old Man, Ryan is a dyed-in-pinstripes Yankee fan. Lindsay, who earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Rhode Island is a steadfast member of Red Sox Nation. 

Oh, what will become of me grandkids? Shae Mackenzie is five going on 15 and Finn Patrick just turned three. Will they pahk the cah in Havahd Yahd or embrace “wicked” as the universal adjective?

Who knows, maybe someday one or the other, or both, will develop Potomac Fever. Would surprise absolutely no one.

When me son recently lamented the ever-rising cost of raising a family, I uncharacteristically kept me own counsel, but couldn’t help but make an oblique reference to his future financial obligations and the chance of a return to Hollywood for Ugly People. 

“You know,” I said to him, “by the time Shae enters Georgetown, it’ll cost ya ‘bout a quarter-million a year.”

Oh, the look he gave me!

Beth Young

Beth Young has been covering the East End since the 1990s. In her spare time, she runs around the block, tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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