July 5, 1912
The Raleigh Hotel
Kehoe and Wilson
700-702 American National Bank Building
Our visit to Washington is almost over; we’ll leave on the evening train out of Union Station later this afternoon. Griggs, Crawford, and myself have most of the day to go about town and see the sights; Pic has advised me to see the Washington Monument before I leave. She lives in Pohick, only about an hour or so south of the City.
Mayes is working on a column on the Convention to go to press right away; he says we can expect to be back home on the 7th, perhaps later in the evening. But I probably won’t see him or speak to him until near lunch-time.
Right now, he’s holed up in his room, scribbling away madly. He has several of the important newspapers spread all round him on the bed, as well as hand-scribbled notes from small reporters’ notepads, and a focused, intense expression. This writing routine is a ritual with Mayes, every single day, at about the same time, like a priest practicing the daily office. And you should see him when he does this: I caught a glimpse of him the other day when Crawford made the grievous error of entering his room whilst Mayes was mid-scribble: He looked like a wild-man — unshaven, uncombed, intense — it was as if he was another person entirely swept up in what he was doing, as if he was only to be torn out of a deep hypnotic state. Mayes didn’t even answer Crawford, just stared at him as if he didn’t know who the hell he was. I’ve never seen Mayes like that before.
Walter, do you know: Mayes has filled about five of these notebooks at least. God knows what all he’s written in there. Since he is in another world when he writes like this; the words simply flowing out of the pencil onto the pages of these large, coarse paper notebooks he’d stashed in his grip, we (Griggs, Crawford and myself) know better than to disturb him.
It is nice for Mayes not to be focused on Griggs, Crawford and myself this morning for a change. Griggs and Crawford have already set off together to see some other Washington, D.C. attractions.
I begged off because I want to walk around and see things by myself. I haven’t been alone to think or anything like that in days; besides, I told them I would be up here, maybe living here for years within the next several months.
You know what I said earlier about Pic’s visit to the Washington Monument? She told me that when she and Walker were there, incredibly, there weren’t that many people around, that they were essentially alone.
She said it was a once-in-a-lifetime thing, especially seeing the city from the very top, and she was significantly moved by the visit. (I also learned that Congressmen can have private tours of the attractions without the crowds around; this is definitely one of the perquisites I plan to use regularly.)
I remember telling you how hard it was to be in crowded places; I admit now that Baltimore was especially hard. I felt as if I were choking now and then when caught up in crowds, particularly upon entering the Armory building. And how ironic now that I am in national politics that I have problems with crowds! I confided to Meade one day about how I do enjoy working a room of supporters, but how it takes every effort not to break out into a sweat or show I am uncomfortable — I admit also it helped having a flask along to ease that tension. He didn’t like that, but he said he understands and it’s not uncommon. Alas, he didn’t know how to advise me other than to perhaps take periodic breaks. I will have to take many breaks, I think; Meade reminded me I will be in a privileged position where I can step away periodically and no one will need to know the reason.
I met with Jeff Stephens day before yesterday. He was polite, professional, but aloof. He introduced me to the staff of several other congressional colleagues in neighboring offices, he walked me around to different caucus rooms, and so forth. We stopped by the the press rooms, which were somewhat empty; Stephens said the reporters were with the congressmen in their districts or about doing other things; however there was usually one or two writers in the press area at all times. I didn’t recognize the men in the press room, but after Stephens introduced us, they promised to contact me after I was settled in next year.
You asked me, before I left on this trip, if I was feeling the least bit intimidated about what lay before me, as a future congressman. As you recall, I laughed and said I’d have to have an understanding of what is expected of me before I could answer.
I’m not so naïve to think I’d have it all figured out just after this initial visit. Obviously, with Congress out of session, there wasn’t much going on anyway, but it’s what I learned from talking with Dannite Mays’ staff, Bryan’s staff, and others, that has me perplexed. Walter, I spent a lot of time simply talking with these fellows, one-on-one, while Mayes went about glad-handing other newspaper reporters who happened to be in House office building (promoting my candidacy, he said). I did what you told me, which was to mostly listen, ask questions, take notes, observe.
Honestly, I don’t know how anything gets done in Washington, at all. Of course, I can say that I know what is expected of me; that is, show up to vote, work on current legislation on the committees I’m assigned to, author bills and other important legislation for my constituents. It’s what the folks on the outside of the congressional office expect to see, a man hard at work at his desk, or on the House floor, or in and out of meetings, a sheaf of papers in my hands. Moving briskly from meeting to meeting, with very little time for chit-chat, but a polite nod and smile to visitors, especially to newspapermen.
But more than once, I was told that the congressman is almost immediately campaigning for the next term right after he’s sworn in. Grandfather used to say the same thing, years ago, when he’d reminisce about his time in Washington. I wish I had the sense back then to ask more questions about his experiences; I would learn so much.
I hear Mayes moving about in his room; I’ll finish this now so that I can post it before we leave.
I’m honestly not sure what I’ve learned during our visit; there’s much to think about in the next few months. I trust you’ll help me work through these things.
Categories: Book Congressman Family In Emmett's Words
Communication, Arts, and the Humanities
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