WASHINGTON – It is that sane and glorious time when the nation’s capital dispenses its human cargo to places of origin and locations of respite.
“I don’t know why everyone leaves,” I remarked to my neighbor. “There’s so much great parking.” (Don’t muddle; it’s a joke.)
There is, indeed, great parking, as well as less traffic. With the political contingent largely gone, the Hill is as quiet as a morning after and “normal” people are dining out.
Most awesome: One has time to think.
August, often viewed as the end of things – summer, vacation, camp and children underfoot – marks for Washingtonians the arrival of peace. The usual, rapid chatter becomes a low, slow hum. Fewer sirens stab the air and the ever-present helicopters finally buzz off.
In this near-sudden silence, one realizes that Washington is more often Fallujah than Paris – a war zone where armies of reporters, pundits and politicos wage war with words in theaters of green rooms and bunkers of makeup.
What’s that sound? Ah, cicadas. Would that Washington would burrow beneath the toil of urgent matters and keep quiet for years at a time. August is good for dreaming, too.
Look at me. I buried the lede and almost forgot everyone’s favorite part of all: Journalists leave town, too. When the three branches of government shutter the windows and lock the doors, what’s left to do?
(The car-alarm coverage of Donald Trump may provide a hint.)
Alas, where Trump goes, the media go. Rumor has it he’s heading to Iowa so it’s off to the Hawkeye State we go. Friday morning, Chuck Todd of Meet the Press was reporting from the Iowa State Fairgrounds in a groundhoggian image of what these days we call “authentic.” The real people of America will soon enough let us know what they think of all this and that.
Personally, I wonder what they think of all those Trump buses stationed in Wal-Mart parking lots around the state – sans The Donald? For Trump, you see, Being There isn’t actually required. The name is all.
Look, Trump’s in town! Even when he’s not, really. When he does materialize, equal parts Liberace and P.T. Barnum, folks will show up if only to lay eyes on the real McCoy. Will Trump press the flesh? What a disgusting thought for a reputed germaphobe. Will he kiss babies, those messy little bundles of orificial emissions?
Such are the musings of an August morn – and a clear indication that my own vacation begins in just a few sentences more. For your indulgence and patience, I will share a secret I’ve kept mostly to myself the past year or so. It has to do with my absence for several months last summer and fall, which some of you may have noticed. If not, you are forgiven.
My syndicate issued an explanation to my then-500 newspapers that I’d had an accident and would be taking a break to recover. I wasn’t eager to share the details for reasons that will become apparent. Basically, I slipped and fell down a steep staircase in May 2014, which resulted in a concussion – more aptly named a traumatic brain injury – that put me out of work and circulation. It was, indeed, traumatic, as well as terrifying. Thanks to months of therapy and many helping hands, it is over.
My mentioning it now has to do with two things: One, I’m back to my old self, more or less. My goal was to return to two columns a week and to reappear on news shows before I admitted that for a long time I didn’t know who I was. My editors, Alan Shearer with the Washington Post Writers Group, and Fred Hiatt, editorial page editor of the Washington Post, were both anchor and sail, keeping the boat afloat and buoying my spirits until the brain had finished its business.
Two, I’m about to enjoy time off that I can consciously experience. Last year, I had bought a book titled No Time to Think. And then suddenly I could neither read nor think. This time, I can and shall do both.
I will also continue work on a book I’m writing about what happened to me. My hope is that others might benefit from what I experienced and from what I learned about friends and family, seasons and time, rhythms and essence. It was quite a trip, about which more to come – in good time.
Meanwhile, enjoy the cicadas – because you can.
Kathleen Parker’s column is distributed by The Washington Post Writers Group.