Saturday, November 23, 2013

The White House, The Honor, The Oysters

Yours Truly is pictured here, in a self-portraitly fashion, at the South Lawn of Our nation's icon of elegance – The White House.
What I was doing: leaving The White House solo whereas I walked into The White House with a small group of fellow media people and reps from other arts orgs/awardees also being honored.
Yesterday was warm and sunny but when I was departing, after filing my images from the press bunker within The White House, there was a mistiness in the air and when I turned back to look at it from the circular driveway, parts of it were obscured by a soft fog.
As a longtime champion of CEPA Gallery and its photo-centric mission, as its enthusiastic board president, and as a nearly lifelong member of the press, I am so very thrilled about the award that CEPA Gallery received yesterday at The White House: one of twelve organizations spotlit for work with after-school arts education programming.
The award's official name, National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award, was created to say HIPHIPHOORAY to Art and learning, a rare moment when creativity is above all other concerns. Creativity, out in the world, is not, sadly, a usual thing.
We at CEPA learned of the award in the summertime and in August YT jetted to D.C. with Lauren Tent and Sean Donaher for three intense days of what I dubbed "Protocol Training." We networked with other awardees, wrote a preliminary press release with assistance (and sweat) from a D.C.-based P.R. firm, and came up with a media plan of attack.  We spoke throughout about our organization, and YT was incredibly inspired by the other groups, especially Write Girl in Los Angeles.
We were informed – and re-informed – that we were not to share the news except with our board members and few trusted individuals. It was rigorous and we all left with thick binders of information. Leaks, we were told, would mean a black limo would be parked in front of the building.
In D.C. at Protocol Training I asked Lauren if she had in mind a student who she thought would be a great rep, and she said that she had two. When she told me about Jose Lagares I was impressed by him: knowing no English, he came to CEPA to learn photography, persevering to learn those skills while also learning the twists and turns of the language. His work is good, he has a strong style and I could see him becoming a photojournalist.

During the awards ceremony YT was sniffling with Joy, and then I realized that on the press risers the women to my left and right were also crying. Then I recalled how Kevin from Metropolitan Group said that there were hardly any dry eyes in the house during the NAHYP awards event, something I didn't recall until I was wiping tears away between frames.

During the last moments of the ceremony YT was crouched down and editing my images to email them tout de suite: my flight was in a few hours and I was slated to be leaving from Dulles which is a very considerable commute away. Note to self (and for You): always fly into D.C. via Reagan, an easy Metro ride from the city. I asked the Buffalo News D.C. correspondent Jerry Zremski about wi-fi at The White House and I took over a small desk just outside the Briefing Room where earlier, as we were in a holding pattern after media pre-set, Jay Carney was rebuffing questions by the media and YT heard him state that it was not his, nor any press secretary's job, to define Due Process.
After confirming with Zremski, it was obvious that I had to change my flight immediately.
A woman behind me, working at another small desk, said "You will never get a flight, it's FRIDAY, it's D.C.!!!" and I waved her off.
As I was sending out my images of the proceedings, I was on hold with United, and while I was on hold, I trotted off the the ladies room around the corner expecting (correctly) that I'd be on hold for a considerable length of time.
I laid out the scene for Kat, the kindly United lady: award ceremony, board president, press, later start, program running later, commute, etc. etc. and she put me on a flight at 8:00 PM from the preferred airport – to Newark.
So, leaving The White House in the soft fog, happy, and pleased I returned my press badge outside the security check-in structure on Pennsylvania Avenue, swiping it and dropping it into the metal box.
I pushed open the first gate, and then the second and looked back toward The White House which is so spectacularly white when you are next to it you can smell the fresh paint.
Actually, while down in the subterranean media holding area below the South Lawn which is near the kitchen, a painter emerged in full-length Tyvek suit.
I looked to the area where Moroccans had been either protesting or welcoming their king, it was difficult to tell by the signs and the voices, and walked through the park to meet Sean at the bar of Old Ebbitt Grill, a historic wonder of reconstructed wood imbued with history and worthy artifacts and taxidermy from Teddy Roosevelt, for oysters and a celebratory drink. Or two.

Then it was a jubilant float to the Metro, a wait, a train, another train, a third train, and a walk through the Upper West Side for a snack and more social media posting from the circular hotel room at the Belleclaire.

It was A Day. What a day.
In the words of First Lady Michelle Obama: "just keep on having fun."