Saturday, October 3, 2009

Yes, I Can (Washington, DC)

Don't misinterpret the title of this post. It isn't "Yes, I Can ... solve health care" or "Yes, I Can come up with a solution to the morass in Afghanistan". I have opinions on both but unfortunately the guards outside the White House were less than willing to let me into the West Wing to share some of those views with the President. No matter. Instead I am settling for "Yes, I Can ... give out the first edition of the Poorman Walking Awards" (or "Poories") to honor the people, places and podcasts that have helped make this first leg of my journey such a rollicking good time.

I would take out my tuxedo t-shirt but it has become horribly wrinkled in the bottom of my bag, so instead I'll just emcee in my normal outfit - shorts, sweat stained polyester t-shirt and dorky looking sun hat. Maybe my appearance has sometime to do with the sparse turnout for this event. Didn't the honorees get the memo that I would be handing this prestigious award out at the Starbucks on the corner of Colesville & Woodmoor in Silver Spring? Well, as my Dad said at an similarly sparsely attended church service at Harare South, "Wherever two or three are gathered ..." so off we go.

The "Poorie" for Favorite Imaginary Friend on my Journey goes to ... Bill Simmons.

Bill Simmons works for ESPN, he's also named the Sports Guy and he writes a comical sports column. He must be a popular dude. Sorry. Out of habit I lapsed into the intro for his podcast which I recite with great flair each morning when I listen to him. At the beginning of the month Bill told his listeners September would be the Month of the Podcast and he delivered. There was only two or three days where I didn't have a BS report ready to fire off at 9:30am after my hour of walking in silence. He is releasing a 600 page Book of Basketball in late October so the frequency of his podcasting is probably going to slow down due to his publicity tour. But he and I will always have September. Well, at least I will. He has no clue who I am.

The Poorie for Most Thought Provoking Interview goes to ... Terry Gross and author Karen Armstrong on NPR's Fresh Air.

Terry's easy conversational style along with Karen's insightful views on religious yearning and the need for renewed focus on compassion made for podcasting gold. It sort of goes without saying that they were not present to accept their award. I hereby propose that the three of us meet in New Orleans and continue the conversation over Jambalaya. My treat. Forty-six minutes with these two simply wasn't enough. Karen's latest book is called, "The Case for God" and if you are interested, click this link to listen to Terry's Interview.

The Poorie for Best Constructed Storytelling goes to .... This American Life's September 27th presentation of "Return to the Giant Pool of Money."

You know how I know this was shear genius? At the end of the program even I, a confirmed financial neanderthal, felt like I understood a big part of the global financial crisis. That is not an insubstantial feat. Ira Glass, Adam Davidson and Alex Bloomberg could not be here to accept their award. But if they ever find their way to Silver Spring and have a caffeine craving, the barista Jamie has been instructed to give them each a free Pumpkin Spice Latte. Limit one per honoree. There might still be a giant pool of money, but the Poorie Award Committee hasn't found it.

The Poorie for Most Endearing Small Town goes to ... Cranbury, NJ.

Cranbury narrowly edged out Red Hook, NY and Ellicot City, MD to capture this coveted prize. The Mayor of Cranbury Pari Stave did not return my call but I have no doubt that the huge uptick in tourism from receiving this award will make him the toast of Central NJ when he takes his seat at the next Middlesex County Solid Waste Advisory Committee. Speaking of which, you can't say you've truly partied until you have gone to the Advisory Committee's Christmas Party. Did you think Vegas came up with "What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas"? It was originally "What Happens at the Middlesex County Solid Waste Advisory Committee Christmas Party stays at the ...." well, you get the idea.

The Poorie Lifetime Achievement Award goes to .... Benjamin Franklin, the Father of the US Library System.

I don't know what I would do if there were no public libraries. I would probably just curl up on the road somewhere and cry. Libraries are like my oasis. They have shade, comfortable chairs, electrical outlets, free wifi, open bars. That last one might be an exaggeration but it is no exaggeration to say that libraries are almost a daily part of my existence on this journey. So to Benjamin Franklin I say thank you. I will never again make jokes about how you were attracted to much older women or how the whole key-on-a-kite story is a fabrication.

The Poorie for Favorite Lunch Spot goes to .... Panera Bread

Two words: Free wifi. Two more: Tasty sandwiches. A final two: Spacious seating. That is all you need. Panera figured out the equation and my hat is off to them. Starbucks and McDonalds take note: Just offer free wifi already. Stop with the ATT exclusive contract and give the people what they want - unfettered access to good, clean bandwidth. In fact, I would like to throw my aforementioned dorky sun hat into the ring to become the national spokesman for universal free wifi. The campaign for universal health care might have hit some speed bumps but I think universal free wifi is one we can all get behind, dems and republicans alike.

The Poorie for My Favorite Hosts goes to .... all of you.

How could I choose between over 30 people, friends and strangers alike, who for an evening opened up their hearts and homes and welcomed a weary traveler in to rest, relax and recharge? So clear off that mantle space Mary Emma, Dick & Margaret, Jude, Ginger & Pete, Nick & Bert, Brian & Diane, Maura & Pete, Pat, Bruce & JoAnn, Kathy & Chris, Jerry, Cherie, Steve, Roger & Carolyn, Claire, Karen & Don, Janet & Joyce, Martha & Yang, Cathy & Peter, Oswaldo & Vilma, Angela & Gabe, Julie & Robert, Ann & Jack, Dale & Eileen, Janice & Udo, Amy & Tom, Eric & James & Diana, Crystal & Salimah, Colleen, Subrata & Amelia and Anitha & Howie ... all of you have a shiny, glamorous Poorie award coming your way. Um, wait a minute. I've just been informed that we don't have the budget to send you all an award. To add insult to injury the barista has just told me that this table has a 1-hour limit during peak coffee hours. I guess that means the Poories must come to an end ... for now.

I hope that all of you who have come into contact with me on this journey know that - in the absence of any expensive hardware - you have my enduring thanks and appreciation. The second leg of my journey - Viriginia and Eastern Tennessee - awaits. Come mid-November I hope to be back here again thanking a new group of friends, both real and imaginary.

Editors Note: An honorary Poorie goes to Claire Julian who took the official publicity photo of me in front of the White House. She claims that it wasn't her fault that the top of my head got cut off. Apparently at the last second I must have sprouted an extra inch right as she clicked the shutter. I, for one, believe her.