Barry Smith: Washington, D.C., and me |

Barry Smith: Washington, D.C., and me

(NOTE: This is Barry’s final installment from the road.)

I’m home from my trip ? my big trip to the nation’s capital and New York City, two places I have now officially been.

Below are some random bits of thought, observation and experience that I couldn’t find room for in my dispatches, but it seemed unfair to deprive you of these nuggets just because of the limitations of linear thinking.

So …

? The cab ride from Dulles airport to the hotel was a long one. I wanted to sleep, as I hadn’t done much lately, but our driver wanted to talk. He was Iranian, and was interested in improving his English. He’d hear a word on the radio news broadcast and ask me what it meant.

“Vigilant,” he’d repeat from the broadcast. “What is this ‘vigilant’?”

I’d explain as best I could. Then he heard the word “turf.”

“Turf? What is ‘turf’?”

I tried to explain through sagging eyelids as he apologized that his English wasn’t better.

“Ah, turf. Like jurisdiction?” he finally said.

I was about to spout off with the standard “Hey, your English is a lot better than my … uh …” but I realized I don’t actually know what language it is that he speaks. Iranese? Is that a language? Persian? Sanskrit? I wish I could blame this lack of basic knowledge on sleep deprivation, but I know better.

Instead I just say, “Yes, jurisdiction.”

? There is a list of rules posted in the hallway of the Pentagon Center Mall. Rule Number Four reads: “No pets, live or dead, are allowed on premises except for seeing eye dogs.” OK, now how did the dead pet thing become a rule? Someone must have actually brought a dead pet at some point, right? Otherwise it wouldn’t require mentioning. Were dead pets in vogue at some point in D.C.? Like, it was real chic to carry around a decomposing boa constrictor or something? Or did a blind person drag in a deceased seeing eye dog unknowingly? I was about to ask someone, but then I noticed that they had a Borders.

? I made my wife visit the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum with me. I’m not real big into air or space, but as a guy I can appreciate wingspans and warheads without getting too technical. She was bored, and soon got grumpy, calling it the “Penis and Warfare Museum.” I began to explain that the only reason nuclear missiles are so phallic is because of the aerodynamic design of the penis, but then I noticed that she was no longer standing next to me.

Her interest was briefly sparked at an exhibit of some of Amelia Earhart’s personal belongings.

“Nice jacket,” she said.

Then, as a way of getting even, she made me go to the Botanic Gardens.

? Since returning from my trip, I find myself jingling change in my pocket and using the expression “vis-à-vis” a lot. My friends tell me I’m not the same.

? My idea for a time and money saving approach to airport security: “Attention passengers. For your safety and for the safety of those flying with you, we ask that you not leave your luggage unattended. Also, please refrain from hijacking the plane and piloting it into a national landmark. Thank you.”

? Back to the Air and Space Museum: There was an astronaut’s toothbrush on display. One that had actually been in orbit. One that had brushed the teeth of an actual astronaut as he circled the Earth 30 or more years ago. And I couldn’t help but notice that it was in a lot better shape than the toothbrush I used that morning.

? Our flight from Denver to Aspen was a turbulent one, even a little bit scary. The big storm was moving in and the air was full of pockets of whatever it is that makes the plane lurch and dive and shimmy.

I held my wife’s hand, looked her sincerely in the eyes and said, “I just want you to know that I love you, and that’s all that matters.”

I wasn’t sure if I was going to die, or if I was going to throw up on her, but either way I figured I was covered.

[Barry Smith’s column runs in The Aspen Times on Monday and Thursday. His e-mail address is, and his very own Web page is at]

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