Posted: Jan. 20, 2005


Weather or not, Castle is going 

U.S. Rep. Michael N. Castle was the only former governor who went Tuesday to Gov. Ruth Ann Minner's inauguration in Dover, a former two-term Republican paying respects to his Democratic counterpart.

Castle also will be the only high-ranking Delaware official attending both the gubernatorial swearing-in and the presidential one today in Washington.

As much as Castle thinks inaugurations are vitally important for the state and the Republic -- he calls them "that moment of hope and also a moment of celebration" -- like everybody else, all he can talk about is the perishing cold.

He stuck out the hour for Minner's ceremony on the platform in front of Legislative Hall. It was rigged with some sort of heating system, but who could tell?

"I put my hand on the register, and I didn't feel a thing," Castle said.

He expects to be slightly less uncomfortable in D.C. with somewhat warmer temperatures and less wind predicted -- but for a longer time. Like other members of Congress, he has to be in place early and expects to be outside for two and a half hours or so.

Castle is sticking strictly to the official oath taking. He skipped Minner's inaugural ball and will do the same for the parties tonight. "I'm doing nothing social," he said.

In Dover there was something of a parlor game going, as the veterans of multiple inaugurations ranked them in order of cold. Minner's second swearing-in was right up there, although Castle and a number of others thought his own first ceremony in 1985 was colder.

Minner did not want to get into comparisons. She said she has been to inaugurations colder than hers -- which was why she had no qualms about holding it outside.

The distinction of the coldest ceremony in the last 30 years probably belongs to Republican Gov. Pierre S. du Pont's first inauguration in 1977. Robert L. Byrd, a lobbyist and member of Minner's kitchen Cabinet, was a Democratic legislator back then.

As the time approached, Byrd was at the old Dinner Bell restaurant on State Street, and it was as close as he got.

"That was so cold, I didn't go. I stayed in the bar," Byrd said.

Driving in Afghanistan

When Richard S. Gebelein, the Superior Court judge in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps, returns from his year as an army colonel in Afghanistan, he is unlikely to be impressed with even the worst story of Delaware beach traffic.

Driving in Kabul is not a pretty sight.

In an e-mail from to Delaware Grapevine, he describes the daily commute to the office:

“The Judge Advocate Office is on the second floor of a container building. We share offices, and my office mate is the chief of Operational Law, an army reservist on a six-month active duty tour. We have computers that require a great deal of attention due to the high level of sand and dust. Copying facilities are limited. There are shower facilities in the building, which is extremely important.

“On account of the buildup of staff at Combined Forces Command-Afghanistan, a number of people must live off the compound. I am one of those who live in a so-called safe house about a mile from Kabul Compound.

“The safe house is a large house that the army rents and is in a residential community. There are several together in a sort of compound, as all large houses here have walls surrounding them.

"The safe houses are protected by civilian guards, as are most buildings in Kabul. Depending on the threat level, those who live in the houses are assigned to do guard duty, as well.

“Our house has about 16 people living there. There are two bathrooms, so the shower at the office takes added significance. As the staff continues to build to its authorized strength, we will be getting more folks in our house. This will probably mean some will live in the common areas.

“Most everyone is out of the safe house by 0630 hours and on their way to Kabul Compound or to the embassy, as some work there. A portion of the people work nights so they would be coming in as the rest of us are going out.

“The ride to the compound is always a thrill. There seems to be no solid rule as to staying on your own side of the road. There is one functional traffic light in the city. Most major intersections have traffic police, although they frequently do not come on duty until after we are at work.

“Drivers must be aggressive or they will never get across streets or out of driveways. The road in the morning is often filled with donkey carts that are carrying away waste from the houses in residential neighborhoods. I do not believe having an accident with the carts would be pleasant.

“There are several local drivers who have been contracted to shuttle people from the safe houses to the compound. In addition, a number of sections have assigned vehicles, usually small SUVs to blend in with the local traffic, so getting a ride is fairly easy. On occasion I get to drive the JAG Ford Everest.

“I will have to relearn sane driving when I return home.”