A day in the life of this city -- well, much luck to the photographers in town who are trying to capture us (as you might say) for the enlightenment of the world.
They might start with a woman I shall call Mrs. S., who is 96 and is worried about some roses she ordered from California. They haven't got here yet.
"I can't get out so much now. But I have a rail thing that when I hang on to it I can pull dandelions."
She also has a new iris about to bloom, she thinks.
"Paid good money for it," she went on. "I can stand at the front door and see it and I have some good purple irises that ought to be divided, they're too thick."
Well, if you ask me a chapter on the life of this capital could well begin with Mrs. S. peering out the door to see how her new iris was coming along. The Vision of the Future. This capital is much interested in the future.
And then -- I am doing all the work for these photographers as you see -- for something completely different there could be a street person.
There was one on K Street, almost certainly still is, who had a way of catching your eye half a block off. One balmy night I noticed him in an overcoat and deliberately avoided his eyes as I passed him. Then I thought, why am I in so big a hurry? That guy clearly wanted to speak and I pretended I was unaware of it. So I went back and said, "Sorry, were you about to say something?" and reached for a couple of quarters, assuming he hoped for a handout.
"Yes, I was. I have been over to the White House to warn President Reagan. There is an invasion from Mars heading right for the White House. They wouldn't let me in. Somebody should tell him."
He got this warning through his teeth. The overcoat man, not the president. I thought once of phoning the White House about the Mars invasion and then thought the hell with it. If it comes the president will probably be surfing or visiting the Annenbergs or something and won't get hurt.
And then a sharp change -- you know how cameras leap about to something completely different. Suddenly we turn the page to a shot of David Acheson (about to wind up his task looking into the NASA problems) toward midnight, walking his fine black poodle, Gus.
He has moved -- and the Achesons also -- to a posh apartment and Gus has to use the back elevator. He is, however, a happy dog.
This little set of pictures would show, at one blow, a bit of Washington high life and a bit of wild nature. Or if Gus is not wild enough, they could get S. Dillon Ripley, former secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, in town with his wife Mary for supper with the Achesons. They were in Texas earlier in the day where they saw billions of birds in a short time including the perhaps uncommon yellow-something chat. Ripley also has some new wild Javanese peacocks. Wild kingdom, indeed.
Such a picture would show that people here are strongly into birds and wildlife and also can fly up from the Texas coast to dine with friends. High life and wild life in one swoop, you see.
Then to a Bethesda grooming place to see the world's most beautiful Welsh terrier getting trimmed for the summer.
The photographer would get there in time for the preliminaries:
"You got that good girl who makes terriers look sharp?" demands a dog person. "Because once she wasn't around and you made him look like a scalded badger."
"Yeah. She's here. He'll get a good trim."
And then -- the climax of the volume, I suppose -- a shot of the terrier emerging later, looking sharp indeed. Power cut. For this is a capital of appearances as well as substance. On the march. Feisty. Often breathtaking in beauty.
Then a switch to a gang of people. Say the Billy Graham Crusade with more people than you can shake a stick at. Don't know what his topic is. Probably equally fine on any topic at all. Last time I heard him on television was during the Profumo scandal in London. Fancy girl, you remember. Graham was letting Profumo have it. Valuable to the folk of Knoxville (I think he was preaching there on this occasion) who might otherwise have gone nuts and flung a lot of money at big-buck call girls, dropping 100,000 here, 100,000 there on riotous living.
Besides, the most attractive preaching consists of sharp warnings against sins that are sadly impossible to fall into. This would illustrate the deep spiritual aspect of the capital and you'd get a lot of great faces; careworn, perky, baffled, innocent, a whole range.
Then a rough tough biker type, clomping into a suburban tavern. Heavy metal and lots of hair. Naw, he can't have another beer because he promised Mom to put the cat out before midnight. This shows, well, that somebody has to put the cat out.
Then the Lincoln Memorial by moonlight. Reflecting Pool. No mosquitoes in it. Full of gambusia. Underwater light shows the little fishes darting about keeping things pure. And the camera captures the statue of Lincoln. (The loftiest dreams of the republic are tied to little fish who keep the algae down, get it?)
Then sunrise. We see the waves of dogwood. We can almost hear the slow movement of the G Minor. We once again see Mrs. S. She is holding on to the railing and pulling out the damned dandelions.
Life in the seat of power.