Much earlier this year we took a trip to Washington D.C. and I wrote a series of blog posts talking about viewing my father Edward Reep’s World War Two art work at the Army Art Archives, visiting the National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian to view my father’s work in their collection, and a whole series of posts involving a particular painting of my father’s titled The Shrine and a successful effort to get it on permanent display. I also talked about our visit to the Newseum and seeing the Berlin Wall, which was so interesting since we had just viewed my father’s paintings at the Army Archives of that very wall, which he painted when he was temporarily commissioned brigadier general and sent on special assignment in the 1970s to paint the wall before it fell.
All of that was tremendously exciting but it’s not why we went. We went for a tribute to Richard Holbrooke, the diplomat who died last year. For those of you unfamiliar with Holbrooke, you can check out his resume here. Besides being an Assistant Secretary of State, the person who brokered the Dayton Peace Accords, and many other seemingly impossible achievements, he was to us Dick Holbrooke, our in-country Peace Corps director while we were volunteers in Morocco in 1971-1973. So we went to Washington to honor him and the founding of CorpsAfrica, a sort of in-country Peace Corps by and for country nationals, by establishing a fund to support the Morrocan in-country director in a pilot program.
We only heard about it a week or so before the cocktail party reception and that was sure a new kind of thing for us to do – say, well, ok, let’s just do this, fly across country for a cocktail reception. We stayed at an interesting place – the Hotel Harrington. It was very old, in fact, Washington’s oldest continuously operating hotel. I might call it marginal but I also think I’ll stay there again because it was cheap and within walking distance of everything – including a Forever 21, H and M, Macys, and other shopping. We rented a car for an afternoon to go to Fort Belvoir, the Army Art Archives, but other than that, we walked. (We did not brave eating there.) I will say that I left lots of clothes in a closet and they mailed them to me, no charge, for which I was very grateful. Especially when they arrived and I saw I left many more than I remembered.
We enjoyed the reception. We were the only volunteers from our group who came although one of the staff members attended. We did have the honor of meeting Rachad Bouhlal, the Moroccan ambassador to the United States and it was his first official function- he had just arrived in the U.S. His easy, friendly manner belied the sophistication and knowledge these diplomats have. Besides having a degree in mathematics, speaking three languages, serving as the head of several government agencies and the ambassador to several countries including seven years in Germany, this man is a pilot and founded a wildlife film festival in Morocco. Sometimes I feel like I’ve spent my life sleepwalking.
We did urge Ambassador Bouhlal to visit us in Bakersfield. After telling him we lived two years at 38 bis Hassan L’Oukili in Oujda, we told him Bakersfield is like the Oujda of California – under-appreciated but full of interesting things and actually, agriculturally important to his country. Or potentially so.
So that’s about it. We did have a lovely dinner at the home of friends Larkin and Katie Tackett and their children Maya and Ben. They have just recently moved to Austin where we will visit them again as we are driving through there in a couple of months.
Finally, I again saw my friend Jack Duvall. That is so odd. We went to high school, graduated in 1964, may have seen each other 30 minutes in the intervening 40+ years at reunions (I’m sure that’s an overestimation), and then last October when I went to New York for Occupy Wall Street I heard someone call my name and it was Jack! We had dinner together several times. Since he lives in Washington, Mark and I had dinner with him again. I’m not complaining since Jack was always one of my favorite people. I guess leaving California was the key.
Mark and I walked back to our hotel. It was quite cold, the walk was brisk, but who could complain? We had scenery like no other. It was a splendid trip. And finally – six months later, that concludes the blog posts about this trip! It’s about time.