I arrived in Washington last Friday morning, five days ago. It has been an extraordinarily busy five days, but I am mostly settled in at this point.
My first stop on Friday afternon after landing and renting a car was at the Georgetown Medical Center. (I tried to find a Dunkin' Donuts first, but to no avail.) I had an infection on my thumb for the preceding few days, and it looked like it wasn't getting better. I was given a prescription for pain killers and antibiotics, the latter of which I am still on.
I have learned an immense amount about the neighborhood and my program since arriving. For one, the Cato Institute apparently has an intern acceptance rate of 6%. They received about 500 applications for the fall season, and by my count, admitted 22 people. The program is populated both by college graduates and law graduates.
I asked one of the scholars at Cato how they select applicants to admit. He said they throw the applications down the stairs and pick a few up.
I am assigned to help the Cato Institute's Center for Education. Right now, I am summarizing articles on education in different states for a gentleman who is doing a paper and eventually publishing a book showing how public schools tend to create cultural conflict.
In case you're wondering what the picture is, there happened to be a debate down the street from the Cato Institute this evening between former Attorney General Michael Mukasey and former Congressman Bob Barr. In the picture are John Yoo, formerly the Deputy Assistant Attorney General under George W. Bush and author of the famed "Torture Memos," and Bob Barr. (I do have another picture with Michael Mukasey as well.)
After the debate, there was an opportunity to ask questions. One other intern from the program came to the debate with me. He happens to have recently graduated from law school and taken the bar exam in Michigan; he is now obtaining an LLM (Master of Laws) from Georgetown. He asked a question about an argument made by Bruce Ackerman that the Office of Legal Council be restructured.
Michael Mukasey's reply began with, "I want to express my sympathy to you for your inability to communicate Bruce Ackerman. Bruce Ackerman was a classmate of mine. He was never that confusing."
I was smart enough not to ask any questions. I could see that coming.
Outside of that, the people here are different than they are in Minnesota. If you talk to people you haven't met in Minnesota, they put on a front of "Minnesota nice" while internalizing a crippling amount of fear and nervousness over the fact that a stranger is talking to them. It makes for an awkward experience most of the time.
Here in Washington, people are happy to talk to you when you start conversations with them. The problem here is that they are abrupt, apt to lose interest and possibly walk away before you get to the point that you wanted to make when you approached them.
In any case, I am enjoying the experience immensely.