He's spent the last nine months recovering from injuries at Walter Reed and has been driving again now for two months. He picked me up at my hotel and we headed out to a nearby Mexican restaurant. After a short detour caused by an unexpected flight of stairs ("welcome to my world"), we tucked in to a great meal and lots of talk. I knew a lot about him from our mutual friends, but was still impressed by what a great guy he is. Thank you for the hospitality... and everything else.
Later it was on to the FReep in front of Walter Reed where I finally got to meet Gunn Nutt, which I'd been looking forward to forever. As noted here, it started pouring the minute the FReep started so it was WET. A Soldier offered me his OEF cap to keep my head dry but I'd rather get rained on than have hat hair.
(Gunn Nutt not only live-blogged the conference but has a great wrap up - just keep scrolling.)
At the FReep I also met bloggers Laurie and Heidi, and lots of others including FReepers BillF, Albion Wilde, Justanobody, and tgslTakoma.
Not much Pinko action at this rainy FReep, especially after a group of soldiers went down the block to talk with them. In spite of the weather, the atmosphere was great with passing drivers honking their horns and waving in support. This was something I've wanted to do for a long time, and was a real honor being out there with this dedicated group that I've read so much about.
Next stop on Friday evening was Fran O'Brien's. (Thanks Albion Wilde for the ride!)
The bar at Fran's was absolutely rocking, and I just waded in. I can't remember who I saw first, it's all a blur. I met Holly and Pam, who are as wonderful in person as they are on their blogs. I had a great time talking to Carol, and met Some Soldiers' Mom and her fabulous husband. There were two boisterous, cigar-smoking guys - one wearing a kilt (sorry, Taco, but a skirt by any other name... ) and one (thankfully) not. Then I heard a voice say, "Hi MaryAnn" and it was Matt.
The atmosphere was... incredible. There were diners doing the limbo under a crutch. I saw Paul Wolfowitz sitting at a table. A Marine at the bar desperately needed his missing right arm to complete the hand motions for a dance, and yelled "arm!" His wife (also a Marine) stood behind him and provided the arm, matching the movements of his left arm with her right. We were all hysterical, and Capt B said it was the most awesome thing he'd ever seen. Later, she 'lovingly' offered him a cigarette. Each time he opened his mouth for it, she quickly attempted to stick it up his nose.
In the Ladies' room, a young woman at the sinks holds her hand out to another. There's an engagement ring on her finger. "Oh, honey, I am so happy for you!", says the second woman. They embrace. "Of course", the first woman says, "we're going to be here a while longer. He needs to have another 4 inches removed from his stump. The femur has deteriorated." "Oh, I know how that is."
It's like a big family, where everyone can just be themselves.
Or, to quote FbL, whom I also had the pleasure of meeting:
I understood, in a way far beyond the intellectual way I had before, that Fran’s was a treasure beyond description.
Please read the rest of her post on the evening here - she says everything far better than I can.
The Capital Hilton Hotel, where Fran's is located, is throwing this treasure out into the street by cancelling their lease. This coming Friday will be the last dinner Fran's will be able to host for our wounded soldiers.
Read FbL's posts on this travesty here to find out what you can do.
See also Save Fran O'Brien's Steakhouse.
More on the rest of the conference later, I'll be on a plane tomorrow.