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Opinion | Trump Furloughed Me. Should I Take Up Pole Dancing?


A few of my neighbors ask if I’m affected by the shutdown. I say not yet. I’m off work, but my pockets are O.K. for now. Most of the museum staff is furloughed like me. But skeleton crews are still at work, some unpaid.

The Matisse cutouts still have to be rotated in and out of light; the Van Gogh has to be guarded.

We call the people doing this work “the Essentials.” That would be a great name for a band, I think. I imagine seeing that on iTunes. Then I think that if this goes on for much longer, I’ll cancel my Apple Music subscription.

The first week of the shutdown, when we were still open, the museum got a call from someone who had tickets to the National Museum of African-American History and Culture that had been bought months in advance. The caller had Grandma come up from Georgia to see it, but the museum was closed when they arrived. The caller was glad that the National Gallery was open and had an exhibition of photographs by Gordon Parks to enjoy.

The gallery was closed the next day.

President Trump gave a speech on television saying that the shutdown is all about the “wall.” I remember that last month he tweeted that “most of the people not getting paid are Democrats.” When I heard that, I thought about how many of the federal workers in Washington are African-American, which I think might be how the president meant it to sound. Funny, we tend to see ourselves as American citizens who have a right to pursue happiness — which is kind of hard to do without a steady income.

My wife, Tracie, is getting ready to go to her job as a massage therapist. She started her business during the recession, when I was laid off from a nongovernment job. She usually works four days a week, but is adding extra hours during the furlough and thinking about adding an extra day.

I pick up my mom and take her to get some medication. Her senior center had a field trip to the National Gallery scheduled for Monday. Now, of course, it’s canceled. Since there are no other free museums open, the whole outing is off. It’s probably for the best, my mom says. Another trip to the casino instead isn’t great for the group’s savings.

I’m making decent progress on the DVR — 70 hours left. That’s a lot of TV. It probably is time to cut the cord.



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