To be honest, my trepidation about visiting Washington D.C. started back in June when we visited Chicago. Walking around the corner and seeing the big dumb name of our current president on a big beautiful building just made me cringe. I knew that feeling would be magnified in D.C. but I have such fond memories attached to the city, including a 9th grade school trip where we got to roam around semi-unsupervised around the capital for 3 days. Besides, I was morbidly curious as to what it would be like now.
In addition to loving the city itself, my good friends Carlton and Kellie live in Capital Hill and had invited us to stay with them. They are some of the nicest and most fun people I know, so I was very excited to catch up with them and for Sarah to get to know them. We had switched the order of Baltimore and Washington D.C to catch them before they left to attend a wedding in Canada. I’m so glad we did. It was really great to spend time with them. Carlton and Kellie’s location provided the perfect launching pad for our museum and monument bonanza. We could work in the mornings and plunge right out into the D.C. swelter in the afternoons.
We toured around Union Station and the Mall on our first day and spent a bit of time at the American History museum. That visit was cut shorter than anticipated because the entertainment wing was closed for renovations. I was bummed we didn’t see Fonzie’s jacket or Archie Bunker’s chair but we did get to wander through the gallery of First Lady’s inaugural gowns. That was like watching a timelapse video of the fashion trends of the last two centuries. They didn’t have Melania’s dress on display yet. I was heartened by their wait-and-see approach.
The next evening, our doting hosts took us to picnic at the capitol and watch ‘The President’s Own’ United States Marine Band perform. I guess they knew Sarah would be there because they dedicated part of their set to Australian composers. As the sun set behind us, the sky behind the Washington Monument turned bright pink. I forget how pretty a city our nation’s capital is when I haven’t been there for a while.
Though they had a brutally early flight to catch, Carlton and Kellie guided us around some of their favorite memorials, including MLK, FDR, Jefferson and Lincoln. We got back to the house exhausted, thankful and feeling a little guilty that they still had to pack. I guess they kept their eyes open long enough to fill their suitcases because by the time we woke up, they were on their way to Canada, leaving us with a hand drawn map of the area, some tips on things to check out, and their bikeshare keys.
We decided to give history a rest and to check out some art at the Smithsonian Gallery of American Art. I chose the least bicycle-friendly route so by the time we got there we’d be exhilarated and filled with the will to live, just as one should be when one views art. It worked. We both really enjoyed the museum. Also it was nice to view exhibits that didn’t involve Slinky asking me history questions that I really ought to know the answer to.
That evening we met more friends, Lindsey and Chris, for dinner at their place. We had a great time catching up on old times and learning about mythology from their daughters, who are far too bright for their single-digit ages. We had such a nice time that I forgot to take any pictures. So you’ll have to take my word for it, they are beautiful people inside and out.
On Friday, Slinky and I took an actual day off of work and biked over to the White House and Ford’s theatre . The Ford’s Theater tour contains two parts: the theater where Lincoln was shot and the rooming house across the street where he actually died. The museum itself was a bit all over the place, but the talk by the ranger was informative and interesting. Even so, I was having trouble keeping my eyes open so I decided to skip the second part and cycle back to the house. Slinky, ever the better traveller, toughed out the long line.
When she went to retrieve a bike for the ride home, her key fob wouldn’t unlock one. She worked out that one of us hadn’t properly docked the bike on the last trip. Hot and stranded, she called me. Back in my air conditioned splendor, my mind flashed to the little sign on the bike that said failure to return it would result in purchasing said bike for $1000. So I quickly hung up on her. OK, that last bit didn’t happen. I called Kellie in Canada and she assured me that if it did cost them a grand that would count as both my birthday and Christmas present. She made some calls and straightened everything out while Slinky made the long walk home. I watched Crossroads with Ralph Machio on free to air television. We all made sacrifices.
Our last night in DC was spent at the sculpture garden listening to live jazz and dangling our feet in the fountain. The band’s 12 minute vamp on Donna Summers’ ‘I Will Survive’ eased the pain of leaving DC with so much left unseen and undone. I’m sure we’ll be back but it was still tough to go, to walk out the door, to turn around and not be welcome anymore.
Thankfully we weren’t going too far and had more good friends to visit with in Baltimore.