Saturday, November 12, 2011

Wednesday: The Big Switch

Deb worked from home on Wednesday and we sat together at the kitchen table and worked on our laptops in companionable semi-silence.

I was trying to load my pictures onto her Shutterfly account and punctuated failed attempts with curses.

Chris was flying in at 8 pm and I was planning to join him at his hotel. The logistics were tough without a car and complicated by the fact that my suitcase qualified
for its own zipcode.
Debbie was kind enough to take me to the hotel in Arlington at great inconvenience to herself.

Mike picked Chris up at the airport and they had tapas for dinner at Jaleo.

I usually get homesick about this time but seeing Chris helped a lot.

On Thursday, I took the hotel shuttle to the Metro and headed into Georgetown on a
mission to take lots of pictures of old buildings.
Another long day of walking and walking. I was looking for interesting textures and was repeatedly attracted to the embellishments on the facades of old buildings.

I headed for the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, yet another site I have never visited. Along the way, I stopped at tiny Renwick Gallery, across the street from the White House and the home of a great arts and crafts collection. Renwick Gallery

How can you resist a crochet covered tricycle? The walls of the Grand Hall upstairs are covered with paintings.

I meandered to the National Museum of Women in Art. It is not a Smithsonian and costs $10. Anywhere else, I wouldn't have blinked but DC has me jaded.  I guess I'm not the only one: aguy was complaining about paying $10 to see just one Frida Kahlo.


My Childhood Lunch Box is in the Smithsonian

This is it. Amazing memories. The game on the back was the closest I ever got to owning Mystery Date.

I haven't been to the Museum of American History since I was in high school and I have to say it was disappointing.

I remember it feeling like an attic full of treasures. Now its treasures are well lit, beautifully organized and displayed. But they seem so few. A much smaller percentage of its holdings are on display and I miss the jumble of it.

About half the museum's exhibits were related to machinery and inventions which I think of as belonging to a museum of science and industry and which I find boring.

Here is Julia Child's kitchen so you can pretend you are Amy Adams.

There is Charley McCarthy and Jim Henson's first TV puppets.

Over there is Archie Bunker's chair, Michael Jackson's hat and the ruby slippers from Wizard of Oz and a Dumbo from the Disneyland ride.

But somehow the mystery and enchantment are gone.

I didn't stay long. As long as I was there, I went next door to Natural History.

I would rather see live animals in a zoo than taxidermied ones in a diorama. Bones are interesting, though. They make beautiful patterns.

I am not as enamored with dinosaur skeletons as most boys (even men) are but check out those teeth!

There was an interesting exhibit on race and a fascinating look at forensic anthropology called Written in the Bone that examines 17th-century bone "biographies" of colonists at Jamestown, Virginia, and in wealthy St. Mary’s City, Maryland. Amazing stories that made me feel just like Temperence Brennan.

 By this time I was tired. My feet hurt.

One of the best things about the DC museums is free lockers. I wore my winter coat, a sweater and a scarf but it was toasty inside. And the weather was gorgeous at lunchtime. 

Though by the time I ended up at the Sculpture Garden, it was cool and cloudy. Isn't this metal tree amazing?

I went to the National Gallery of Art, still free but not part of the Smithsonian. I was amazed at the collection: Rembrant, daVinci, Renoir, VerMeer. Every time I entered a new gallery, I'd be amazed. I was too tired to really appreciate it all though.

I took the Metro to Eastern Market (a terrifying challenge for me, even though it's so much like BART) and met Mike. We bought supplies at the market and then went to his apartment for dinner. His narrow stairs were daunting after about 10 hours on my feet.

My job was to peel the acorn squash. They have a deep grooves that the peeler couldn't reach. I finally sliced it and then peeled it. How I was supposed to do it? There must be a better way.

Mike made his own chicken broth for quinoa and roasted squash stuffing with turkey sausage, with a raw kale salad with lemon vinagerette. Delicious! I am so proud of his culinary abilities and feel inspired to try my hand again. We had a lovely time chatting with Mike's wonderful roommate Matt and and his girlfriend Liz. They walked me to Union Station and Deb picked me up in Bethesda. By then I was tired enough to crawl.

Tuesday in the District

Deb's wonderful neighbor, Anna, gave me a ride into DC on Tuesday morning. I meandered down to the mall.

I had the Mall to myself that early, not even joggers were on the path. It was peaceful and quiet and the leaves were changing colors thanks to the earlier cold snap.

The squirrels were busily gathering nuts and wondered if I was hiding anything.

As I was walking through the Constitution Gardens, a flock of Canadian geese came in, scaring away the ducks. Another sign of fall. 
I was alone at the Lincoln Memorial (except for a couple of park rangers who seemed determined to wreck my photos. Suddenly large buses disgorged a multitude of teenagers paying more attention to their cell phones than their surroundings. Time to move on.

A group of veterans was being honored at the WWII memorial but I was more intrigued by the spiderweb decorating one of the eagles.

There is a lot of construction on the Mall as they renovate the Reflecting Pool and repair the lawns. I am used to seeing the Mall full of tents and people as it is during summer months.

Sunday and Monday

After a delicious breakfast of Eggs a la Bill, I drove the kids back into town. I hurried back for Olivia's Halloween piano recital.

All the kids were in costume. It was adorable - and terrifying! 27 kids bumbling through interminable medleys?

In truth, it wasn't bad at all. Each piece was about two minutes long. And some of the older kids were really good. Olivia was first and performed faultlessly. She didn't look nervous but she says she was.



Monday was Halloween and Olivia had no school (teacher work day). So we went to see Puss In Boots (NOT 3D). Olivia dressed all in light orange, wore her boots and her mom's hat with a feather so she looked like Puss. I taught her how to remove her hat with a flourish and bow. Adorable!

The movie was very cute but Deb thought the story got in the way of the entertainment and Olivia actually fell asleep. She said she couldn't sleep the night before so it can't be all blamed on the script. We changed seats right before the show started and apparently Olivia left her hat behind. As we were leaving the theater, she remembered and thus began a half hour of searching the theater, running up and down to different lost and found spots. Finally, as we had given up all hope, an employee ran after us, waving the hat. Whew!

But the drama took its toll on an already tired Olivia. Even though she had begged for Thai shrimp before the movie, once it was ordered she just wanted to go home. She rallied enough to want to go to the book store but crumbled once we got there. Home, please!

All did not bode well for a late night of trick or treating followed by an early morning return to school after a long weekend.  But after an hour or two of "chillaxing" in front of the TV, she led the neighborhood kids in a race to every house. After she got her loot, she'd yell, "Thanks! Next house!" The highlight was a full-sized Hershey Bar. Her Slytherin pillowcase was bulging by the end of the night.

Long Time Gone

I arrived in DC about 4 in the afternoon on Oct. 28. Bill and Olivia met me in his chick magnet pickup truck. I was dragging a huge suitcase since I was going to be away from home for ten long days, my longest time away from home in many years. Also Chris's first time home alone in the lifetimes of our cats. Would they survive? Would he?

Next Iron Chef: Olivia
When we arrived at Hotel Kuran, Deb put us to work right away making cake pops. You mix baked cake with canned icing to make balls that you freeze. Then you poke a stick in and decorate with melted icing that tastes like paraffin. Fun, if not the most delicious treat.

Next day, all hands on deck to decorate the house and cook for the imminent party. I made brownies and immediately washed the bowl so as not to be tempted (to the chagrin of  the non-allergic around me). Deb made poached salmon and baked brie. She really goes all out for this party: orange and purple lights, bats, ravens, skeletons, spiders everywhere. Even scary guest towels in the bathrooms.

I had to ship my Elizabethan costume with its many petticoats and massive hooped skirt ahead of time since I didn't want to pay Virgin Airlines $25 for an additional suitcase.

I borrowed Debbie's car to drive through the untimely sleet and snow to pick up Mike and Liz. Thank god for GPS. We also picked up some gluten-free vodka so Mike could make me cocktails.

Olivia was not really happy to see Mike in his card sharp duds. She was overjoyed, thrilled, ecstatic. She is his biggest fan, more than even Robin's mom.

Olivia was a natural Draco Malfoy with her white blond hair. But she was Draco from the later books where we learn that he's not all bad. Deb was a swashbuckling pirate. 

Despite the fact that I hate parties (especially ones where I don't know everyone), I had a great time. I enjoyed chatting with Mike and telling Liz (who was a pirate for the evening) all the good stories about Mike growing up.

Mike supplied me with drinks. The third one was straight vodka. He wanted to see if I could tell. I could and he drank it.  
I was not the drunkest person at the party, though. In fact, except for Bill and Liz, I may have be the soberest over 21.

The kids were confined to the basement because of the horrendous weather. Mike and Liz ventured down a few times, against the advice of the parents, and reported that it was like a scene from Lord of the Flies.
The parents stayed far away from their kids and drank wine and chatted and relaxed, pretending for a short time that they were still childless.