Envoys from Distant Lands

Last weekend, the Pundificator entertained two envoys from distant lands. They brought ceremonial gifts to symbolize the customs of their indigenous peoples.

The Pundificator’s mission was to introduce them to the swamp that is much in need of draining so they might return to share their observations with an increasingly angry populace. The four days were spent entirely inside the beltway that serves as a moat between the swamp and those who pay for it.

While the envoys gathered valuable experiences, the Pundificator learned more.

The envoys themselves were 25 and there was one of each gender. Both are in the Army — she as a second lieutenant in the National Guard and he as a first lieutenant in the reserves. She has been invited by our government to spend nine months in sunny Kuwait beginning in June. In the Army, both do computer and communication stuff but, in her heart, she wants to drive a tank. As a civilian she is a bank examiner.

Her father, who shared four years at St. Paul’s School with me in the early ‘60s, nominated them for the envoy role. My experience during that time could be described as “seeking adult approval” while his was punctuated by a never-to-be-forgotten walk up the aisle of the chapel with a spectacular Mohawk haircut. Whatever adult approval might have been on offer was immediately directed elsewhere, but I am pretty sure that was the point.

The contrast between our approaches to cold weather, all boys, residential education was an early indicator that our paths might not cross often and, indeed, since 1964, they never have; except electronically in emails and comments on some of the articles I have posted. I have referred to him as the Oracle of the Ozarks and he lives in Arkansas. We got close to an in-person week together on a proposed canoe trip on the Buffalo River last fall and there is always the possibility of the Gillett Coon Supper next January.

The details of swamp reconnaissance are best not described in advance but I did ask if there was anything in particular they wanted to see. Arlington Cemetery was the answer and that is where we went as soon as their flight arrived on Thursday morning. We saw the logical things – Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the JFK Eternal Flame – but the memorial to 1100 unknown Civil War dead was the high point. I knew I was in the presence of some serious EQ as I watched the tears roll down her cheeks.

Thence home for house presents, hostess greeting and clothes changing before lunch at a downtown club from which the country was pretty much run from the Civil War through the Kennedy administration. My street cred skyrocketed (always important if you are 70 and hanging out with 25 year olds) when I introduced them to Fox News anchor, Tucker Carlson, who was at the next table. Hard to imagine anyone more gracious about having his lunch interrupted than Tucker, who, as it happens, is rather a heartthrob of the Kuwait-bound tank driver.

A visit to nearby K Street, the lobbying capital of the entire earth, and a walking tour of the inauguration site on the West Front of the Capitol completed the sightseeing for Thursday.

Friday was the purpose of the trip. The envoys were on their first visit to Washington to see Donald Trump inaugurated. The Pundificator over-reacted to anticipated crowd size by leaving the car at home and walking to a downtown office overlooking the White House where we watched on big screens along with the about half the cast of Madam Secretary, who were there promoting “The Right to Bear Arts” for the Creative Coalition. Thanks to the generosity of the Managing Director of the firm where we saw the inauguration, the envoys went to an inaugural ball for the benefit of the same group. The Pundificator went to bed.

Saturday’s march was not the purpose of the visit so the envoys saw: Politics & Prose, Washington’s leading independent bookstore and a center of progressive thinking; Comet Ping Pong, a pizza place that was the scene of a shooting caused by the fake news of its being a child pornography emporium run by Hillary Clinton; and the Burning Tree Country Club, a corner of the swamp so powerful the beltway was re-routed around its golf course.

Dinner on Saturday featured a nominee for a significant White House position, his wife, who also has an off-the-charts EQ, and it was supposed to include the man who taught Donald Trump to tweet but he could not make it. Though quite mainstream in a Rockefeller Republican sort of a way, the conversation felt like Christians worshiping in secret to avoid persecution by Romans. The ideas – pretty tame as political ideas go — could not have been expressed among some of Washington’s more intolerant progressives.

Sunday included: Edgar’s Restaurant in the Mayflower, named for FBI Director, J. Edgar Hoover, who lunched there daily with Clyde Tolson, his deputy and his lover; the route from the Junkanoo night club to the Tidal Basin, followed by Fannie Fox and her gentleman caller, Wilbur Mills, who headed the House Ways and Means Committee until Fannie exited a moving vehicle and jumped into the water; and the three remaining war memorials on the Mall. On a rainy day it was interesting to see the red Trump hats interacting peacefully with the pink Women’s March hats outside of camera range.

What did the envoys from distant lands learn from their visit to the swamp? I don’t know. You’d have to ask them. I tried to show them that many of the things they have heard about Washington are true. Some are even quite funny. But I also tried to show them that there are few dates more important than January 20, when we transfer power from one side to the other peacefully.

What did the Pundificator learn from the envoys? The progressive bigotry that calls those who don’t live in the two coastal ribbons of blue “deplorables” is certainly misplaced with these two. I know any number of sophisticated east and west coasters who would be delighted if their own children were as capable, enthusiastic and interesting as these envoys from distant lands.

Frank Sesno, a former CNN anchor and White House correspondent, also spoke at the inauguration reception. He is the author of “Ask More: the Power of Questions to Open Doors, Uncover Solutions and Spark Change,” which advocates actually listening to the answers to questions rather than using them as gotcha swords.

Seems like we could all do with a bit more of that.

10 Responses to “Envoys from Distant Lands”

Temple Grassi, January 27, 2017 at 9:09 pm said:

You didn’t mention their visit to Prince’s Court


Haven Pell, January 28, 2017 at 6:08 am said:

Some things only happen in movies (because they are scripted) and some things only happen in Washington (also because they are scripted, which is another word for rigged), but occasionally — oh so occasionally — a few things happen as you hope they might. This is one of those.

I had hoped you would make exactly that comment as you have opened the door to adding a lengthy section to an already lengthy story.

Why include Prince’s Court on an insider’s tour of Washington? There are three reasons.

1. The Envoys and the Mohawk guy had politely googled me and they were kind enough to ask to see it.

2. Earlier in the visit I had showed the envoys the Washington Hilton, where Reagan was shot. I told them I would introduce them to Dr. Wesley Price, one of the doctors who treated Reagan when he arrived at GW Hospital (“I hope you are all Republicans.”). Dr. Price was hosting his annual tournament and we watched the finals involving two people even younger than the envoys who were not even alive when the court was built. The lads put on a heck of a show.

3. It has been 2 1/2 years since I wrote about the importance of court tennis to world politics and here is a link to that story https://www.libertypell.com/tennis-court-oath-june-20-1789/. A gathering in a court just like the one where the envoys stood provided the origin of the terms “left” and “right” as they are used in politics throughout the world.

Thank you Temple for giving me the opportunity to add a few paragraphs to a story without making it seem too long. I had hoped someone would and I was pretty sure it might be you.


Ashley Higgins, January 27, 2017 at 10:17 pm said:

“What did the envoys from distant lands learn from their visit to the swamp? I don’t know. You’d have to ask them.”
They told me much of what they learned. The major piece of knowledge was that Mr. and Mrs. Pell are the most wonderful people they have ever met. The second piece of knowledge was how to make risotto like Mrs. Pell’s. The rest was related to me chronologically as being of equal albeit subordinate knowledge, and they included the trip to Prince’s Court.
Thank you.


Haven Pell, January 28, 2017 at 6:09 am said:

au contraire, thank you.

“I know any number of sophisticated east and west coasters who would be delighted if their own children were as capable, enthusiastic and interesting as these envoys from distant lands.”


Russell, January 27, 2017 at 10:35 pm said:

Visiting Arlington National Cemetary and K Street on the same day entails a spectacular risk of cognitive dissonance.



bill gordon, January 28, 2017 at 2:59 am said:

Well done, Mr. Pell. Undoubtedly you provided an experience these youngsters will never forget, one which may be the inspiration for continuing service to their country after fulfilling their commitment to our military. We can only hope so.

You are now the Pundificator Mentor.


Haven Pell, January 28, 2017 at 6:13 am said:

Separately, the “tank driver in training” has been connected with a former Prince’s Court President now serving in Kuwait with the Sate Department.

That is how the word worked when it was run for about a century from the club where they lunched with Tucker Carlson.


Russell, January 29, 2017 at 2:53 am said:

I hope shad was on the menu.


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