I couldn’t have picked a more opportune time to be a Rappler intern than during midterm elections
WASHINGTON, DC, USA - It isn’t the midnight train to Georgia, but the Amtrak train rolled into Washington, DC, a few minutes into a new day. There is an odd feeling walking through Union Station at that hour.
All the shops were shuttered, even the ubiquitous McDonalds. The cavernous halls of the station echoed with my wife’s shoes striking the pavement. It’s almost like an old Twilight Zone episode, you kind of expect to emerge into a different time zone before going out into a cool autumn night.
Any minute now, a fairy should pop out of one store. Or Harry Potter would come out waving the death wand. Union Station, which sits beneath the Capitol Dome of Washington, looks magical in the shadows of midnight.
The 18th floor room overlooked the Washington monument a few blocks away. Lights blinked across the Potomac river. The city seemed subdued a few weeks after Barack Obama won his second term as President of the United States.
A Filipino who owned a souvenir store inside the hotel struck up a conversation the next morning. I asked him how did the place look like election night and the morning after.
“The Latinos and the other Asians were smiling, almost jumping (for joy),” the Filipino said. “Many of the whites were frowning.”
The shop owner said they have to carefully gauge if a white customer loves or hates Obama. “Pakikiramdaman mo. Makikinig ka kung galit sa resulta ng eleksyon (You feel them out. You listen if they are mad at the results of the election),” the owner said.
We hooked up for lunch with former Reuters bureau chief Lito Katigbak at the members only section of the National Press Club. He greeted the waiters in Spanish. In a way, he reminded me of my father. Their generation learned to speak Spanish.
He missed the old ways of doing journalism, the resourcefulness one needed during the pre-internet days when getting a story out can be an adventure. We swapped lore on how to file without a laptop.
I remember going to a summit meeting of Pacific islanders and the laptop would not work. The only thing that functioned is a teletype machine where you fed a spool of dots and dashes and it came out in the Hong Kong regional desk.
We went back to the hotel for a meeting with a diplomat friend. But the person called late that afternoon to beg off because something came up and he had to go to the airport.
Having little else to do, I drifted into the store and looked through the remnants of the coffee mugs and T-shirts from the recent election campaign. I began looking through the souvenirs from Mitt Romney.
His grin and perpetually coiffed hair stared at you from the mug. Later that night, the news came out that Romney blamed his loss on Obama giving Latinos, blacks and other minorities “gifts” to vote for the President.
Former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich had the best reaction to that one and simply called it “nuts.” He told KLRU-TV station in Austin, Texas: ”First of all, we didn't lose Asian-Americans because they got any gifts. He did worse with Asian-Americans than he did with Latinos. This is the hardest-working and most successful ethnic group in America - they ain't into gifts.”
What was striking was how quickly other Republicans slammed Romney for the remarks and ran away from their erstwhile Presidential standard bearer. You always got the sense that Romney looked down on ordinary people.
The next day, we met with friends in Georgetown. We walked around the narrow streets of the area, filled with tony shops that reminded one of an old European city.
“It’s like Boston,” the wife said. “It has a lot of these nice little shops.”
We got picked up by relatives that evening. We drove to Virginia for a sushi buffet and exchanged stories. My niece had lost a brother two years ago this month and she was still grieving for her mother, who passed away several years ago.
We then swung by the house of another nephew, whose son was camped out in the living room. We then visited the cozy studio apartment where they were now living in Alexandria, Virginia, after they sold their house.
All the time, we were taking pictures of one another. We promised to see each other during the Christmas holidays.
There is only one thing I hate about Union Station when catching a train back to New Jersey. The gate opens up about 20 minutes before the train leaves and the lines are totally chaotic. They have all these announcements about security and cannot even get a decent line going.
Under a brilliant sun, the train began to move exactly on schedule at 12:25 pm. We slipped north into Maryland and then crossed the Delaware river back into New Jersey. We were soon back home. - Rappler.com