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Washington Odyssey

What an adventure. On January 3rd, 2017, my family was invited to attend the swearing in ceremony of my sister Claudia, as the NY 22 member of the House of Representatives. Yes this is a family first. No other family member that I can recall has made it to the federal level in politics. My political efforts have always been on a county or city level. Our dad was a State Supreme Court Judge in NY but never got appointed to a Federal court. I wish he (and mom) could have been alive to witness this. I’m sure both would be incredibly proud.

When Claudia announced her candidacy last year I have to admit, I wasn’t that excited. This was her second try. However, as the campaign progressed, we became aware that she had the lead in most of the polls, and her chances were excellent.

The enormity of it however, didn’t really hit me until I was sitting in her office, (yes her congressional office) in the Cannon building, looking out the window at the Capitol dome. “Wow. My little sister is now one of the country’s decision makers, and in a big way.”

L to R: Claudia, Betsy, Will, “Alex” (from the Hyatt) and me. Sunday night at the Park Hyatt for a family reunion of sorts.

We came up a few days early, to sort of a family reunion. The winter flu had attacked several of us but we fought valiantly to join the family party, of course.

Will, Betsy and Jack had flown in from Vail, CO. Bob, Rose, Kyle, Marianne and Laura had come down from Sherburne, NY and Stasia joined us later. Julia came down from Boston. Cousins Debbie and Dory arrived with family in tow. Cousin on my mom’s side, Andy Cooley, was there with Claudia and kids.

Throw in many of the key workers in the campaign that were invited and you have a big party.

If you are familiar with my family you can probably guess that this was a noisy, rowdy group that pretty much took over the lobby of the Hyatt. I think Kathleen is getting used to them finally, although Sophie and Grace retreated to their phones, unable to keep up with all the conversation.

Sophie made quite a hit later in the week, but we’ll come to that in order.

Even though I was also fighting that nasty sinus flu, I managed to stay up past 11 (which is now late for me) to talk with my sisters. I did however, sneak away for an hour to do the stationary bike in the Hyatt exercise room. I could see that Washington was going to be a trip with lots of food, and I didn’t want to start off the new year with an extra five pounds.

Sophie coping with the noisy Tenneys

Monday was an unscheduled day for us, intended to be used to sight see in Washington. Uncooperative weather forced us to seek indoor venues, as it was mid 40s and a cold drizzle all day long. We chose to walk over to the Air and Space Museum. This was our last long walk. We chose to learn how to “Uber” later. That was also an adventure.

Air and Space was not what I remembered from 17 years ago. Yes some new exhibits but when did they start charging for everything? In 2000, when I last visited, everything was free. Kind of disappointing.

We ended the day with a family dinner at Carmine’s Italian, with a reservation for 33 (yes 33) people. Good thing Carmine’s serves family style! The food was fair to good (We Uticans are very picky about Italian food of course), but it certainly came in large quantities. Glad I had hit the exercise bike for another hour that morning.

Most of us went to bed rather early, as we knew tomorrow was a busy day on The Hill for us.

I got up at 6:30am and hit the bike again for another hour. Then over to the Hyatt free breakfast, which is phenomenal by the way.

Later that morning, the gang assembled at 512 Cannon, Claudia’s new office:

The door to her office. L to R: Dave Townsend, Kathleen, Sophie, Grace, Me, Trey Cleary (Claudia’s son)

Lots of pictures were taken next to the sign, and of course we couldn’t be the exception. Claudia was off doing “congress stuff” so we were entertained by Margaux, Hannah, Teri and some very young looking interns. I was impressed with how well they dealt with us, as the “mob of Tenneys” is not known to be easy to manage.

We took over the office. Grace is talking to her cousin Stasia. Shannon is Trey’s friend on the right, and Mike Friedel(?) on the left.

Bob, Trey and Kyle enjoying the office. Hannah is in red, one of Claudia’s super competent staff. She and the others did a great job of making us feel like VIPs

Laura takes the congressional desk with help from Kathleen and Sophie

We entertained ourselves by watching the re-election of Paul Ryan as speaker on C-SPAN in the office. Something tells me I will be watching this channel more now. Biggest thrill: When they finally got to the T’s, Claudia stood up and spoke very loud and clear, “Paul Ryan!” The office erupted in applause.

Claudia is upper right, just left of the “LIVE” graphic. It isn’t him, but I thought the guy in front of her was Chris Chistie.

We were taken to another, larger “waiting room” with larger monitors, to watch the official swearing in on the congress floor. There were several motions going through, and a lot of screen hogging by the Democrats. You could tell they were not too excited about their prospects in the next two years.

We were not allowed to witness the official swearing in live, as the congress hall was too crowded already. It was still pretty nice in the waiting room, with still MORE food. I don’t have any pictures of it, but it was right next to the Statuary Hall, which is the foyer for the Congressional Hall.

Following that, we were taken on a guided tour of the capitol building, which I highly recommend. The history was stunning and a bit overwhelming. You can check my Facebook album “Capitol Pics” for more on that.

Next it was time for “the picture.” This is a ceremonial swearing in picture with Ryan Paul. She was already sworn in that morning, but this is the chance for the family to get involved. Here is where Sophie gets her 15 minutes of fame. At some time during the day, one of the Congressmen’s sons decided to “DAB” for the camera and was stopped by Ryan. It got a lot of press on all the news networks. However, a few of them left the story with a shot of the photo below, referencing Sophie as “the girl with her arms crossed”, wondering what she was protesting? For the record, she was cold. If anything, she is protesting the fact that the air conditioning was on in the capitol when it was 42 degrees outside. Yeah I didn’t like it either!

This is a different angle than the one being shown on the networks. I don’t know why I was making that goofy face

We retired to The Capitol Hill Club for an excellent reception, with even more food, and even some beer and wine (no craft beer though. Points off!) We stayed a couple of hours. We finished off the night with a hot chocolate in the Hyatt restaurant, which was my favorite place to eat by the way. Quiet, comfortable and excellent service.

Sophie and her new best friend, her cousin Alex, in front of a statue of George Washington – this was on the Capitol tour

On Wednesday we had some time before our flight, so we visited Claudia in her office. I managed to get about a half hour of her time to do some quick video interviews, which I will hopefully be able to show here as soon as they are cleared. Stay tuned.

The flight home on jetBlue was great. My favorite airline for sure. Many thinks to our neighbor Judy for picking us up, and brother in law Patrick for taking care of the mail and the cats. It was a great trip, but as it is with all trips, it was also great to be home.

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