Briana and Heather kept asking for details of our holiday in D.C., and I typed it up then never posted it. So here you are, girls.
So we drove first on Friday to D.C., which took longer than it should have because you have to factor in diaper stops as well as pit stops. A good mommy could probably time them to coincide, but I’m not that smart or well-disciplined. We got to the city at dusk and Ashley handed me the map and asked me to find Rhode Island Avenue, which our hotel was on. He hadn’t bothered to write down the directions and the map was for the entire Eastern seaboard. On the back, though, was a little blown-up square about the size of my palm for D.C. with roads so tiny you needed a magnifying glass or a severely near-sighted navigator. Fortunately I’m the latter and despite a tiny tear in the crease which compromised Pennsylvania Ave and headquarters of the Obama family, I figured it out.
When we found our super gorgeous hotel, we had to give the truck to the valet, who was maybe Cambodian. I was hot and teary and crumbly from all the sesame crunch and ladyfingers I’d been sharing with Annie, and we had about a thousand suitcases. He asked us where we were from and made a little conversation while he was waiting for us to unload. We had one of those rolly luggage carts and the lobby was super swank, complete with a clan of Jews who were weirdly dressed and shepherded by clearly expensive women. I was intimidated and broke down in the elevator because the rolly cart got stuck in the doors briefly. Ashley, alarmed, wanted to know what the matter was and I sobbed that the valet only wanted to know where we were from because it was clear we were country bumpkins who were crumbly and totally out of our element. I wept that we stuck out like sore thumbs with our grubby baby and that we were no better than entertainment for the hotel and they should be paying us. Ashley told me I was being ridiculous and I had almost achieved equilibrium by the time the elevator reached our floor. Then we walk into our room and the first thing Ashley does is take a big refreshing swig out of a water bottle on the desk. I screamed NO and he yelled WHAT! and I sobbed that it was the overpriced water and got very hysterical about being country bumpkins who didn’t even know that the water bottles were very expensive in hotels and how we couldn’t afford it. Poor Ashley. He said I was just overwrought and in a new place and we’d go down to the lobby and have a few beers. So we did and I washed my face and I dressed up and downstairs the women smiled and I saw some real country bumpkins and felt much better.
We did as many museums as we could the next day. It was so much fun! The weather was insanely hot, hot and humid like N’Goundere, and all the cement and asphalt just soaked up the heat. The city was gorgeous though. It was really clean and pale and the heat made everything kind of hazy. We walked everywhere since our fancy hotel was only five blocks from the White House, which, intuitively, is the center of everything. Ashley asked if I wanted to go to the Mall and I tossed my head and said I’d come there to see the history and the museums and I wasn’t going all that way just to shop and I was disappointed in him and that I hoped the baby would imbue my cultural values as she grew up and he let me go on awhile before informing me that the Mall is the name for all the Smithsonians. Also I learned that there is more than one Smithsonian. I just thought that it was one gigantic building. We went to the Museum of American History first, which was probably my least favorite of all. It was very confusing and the first bit I wanted to see was the African American section, which only featured costumes of jazz singers and some stuff about Rosa Parks, which I already knew. So we skipped through that and saw the real original American flag which was wildly popular and a billion people were in line. (Oh I forgot to say that there are security guards everywhere, naturally, and they scan your bags and things when you’re entering. I was impressed and started thinking about that recent news story about the women terrorists that no one suspected, then about how nobody would ever suspect me; basically I got nervous and acted very guilty when the guard asked me about the bottle of vitamins in the diaper bag.)
Oh yeah, so we stood in line to see the very first American flag, the honest-to-goodness self-same one that Francis Scott Key saw fluttering, which inspired the Star-Spangled Banner. The line moved very slowly and there was audio of “Rockets,” and my favorite, a “Ship at Anchor.” Just lappy water sounds, presumably for any blind visitors. The flag itself is way huger than you might think, bigger than at a car dealership, and obviously it’s very worn-out. There are only thirteen stars and bits have been snipped away for souveniers for lucky settlers. It was made by a woman and her daughters and a servant girl and there was a picture of the blueprint of her house and the outline of the flag over it, which was far bigger. Towards the end, they took it to a bar where presumably they sipped stout ales while plying their needles. Which would be exactly my angle. I’d call up Briana and Maria, say, Ladies, this is getting ridiculous. What say we loosen up, who cares if the stitches get a little crooked? (Which they were. I looked.) My gran used to say, a knight on a galloping horse wouldn’t notice. She does come from a different era though. I’d like the knight to stop. That’s the point. I really only go by her advice when painting my nails.
There was a bunch of other stuff in that Smithsonian, most of which was dull. Cultural icons and whatnot. Judy Garland’s red slippers and Olympic ice skates. Oh, there was one exhibit I really liked, which was all about paper folding and popup books. The things they can fold! It’s unbelievable! Oh and downstairs there was a section for kids which was about famous inventors which I liked. Kevlar is some amazing stuff, let me tell you. You can make it into just about everything, including snake-proof boots. All the mommies left their kids’ strollers outside that exhibit and I kept trying to get Ashley to let me switch out our sticky Graco stroller for something really nice, like a Peg Perego or a MacLeran, the Chrysler of baby strollers. He wouldn’t let me.
We went next to the Museum of Natural Science and stood in line with the United States’ entire population of Boy Scouts. Turns out it was the Jamboree weekend, which may or may not have anything to do with Boy Scouts. I don’t know. I do know that I never want to see a brown uniform again. (It also looked hot for that weather. I guess anything that isn’t bare skin was too hot for that weather actually.) They tripped constantly over the stroller and neglected to hold the heavy doors open for us. I’ve got a good mind to write to some troup leaders. There was a particularly dense population of them at this museum and they were swarming all over the dinosaurs. I wanted a picture with a T. Rex but gave up because it was compromised by Boy Scouts. We saw some cool fossils from North America, which is where most of our fossil record comes from, possibly because we have food to eat and can spend our time digging holes for fun instead of digging holes for water. We saw bronze cavemen and Annie was terrified of them. She cried and made everyone laugh. Lucy was smaller than I remember (ha! maybe I’ve grown?) and I loved the pictures of other homos. Homos Etcetera should be the official name for everyone but Sapiens. We didn’t spend tons of time there because Clay was driving up from Chapel Hill to meet us and his sister Amy. We found them in the courtyard of the Portraiture Museum and ate at a diner Amy suggested. Amy was very tanned and very sweet. Clay was his usual irreverant self. We all wanted to go to this new Spy museum, which is privately owned and thus costs money. Amy explained that it was built by former spies on the assumption that if our government had done it, they would have left out all the good bits. We got tickets for 6 o’clock and went to a restaurant in the meantime that Amy liked which served everything made out of chocolate. It was called Chocolat, like that horrible French movie. The waitress had a tan to rival Amy’s and a wart on the side of her long French nose. Clay and Amy got some dessert platter because it was Saturday and Clay doesn’t diet on Saturdays. That’s an understatement, actually, but I won’t go into details because he is a surprisingly private individual. I fed the baby little bits of dark chocolate and Ashley objected and I said, “But it’s Saturday!” — and he said, “She’s not on a diet, she’s a baby!”
The Spy Museum was wild. We spent ages in there and saw all these sneaky little cameras mounted on Bic pens and lighters and bombs in cigarettes and penknives and things. Amy was like a kid in a candy shoppe. She had an understandably proprietary air because she’s been there some dozen times. There was advice on disguises, like, “put a pebble in your shoe,” which I had never thought of even though I do think about disguises quite a lot. Mata Hari sucked as a spy but she was the hottest to date, so she gets all the fame. And then there was a lot about modern-day spies like the Rosenbergs. I got a pen disguised as lipstick from the gift shop and the others got posters. Here’s a picture of an Aston Martin. I wish I’d got one of Clay’s drooling face.
Since we’d only eaten six times that day and it was Saturday, we went next to another of Amy’s favorite restaurants, a tapas place which was just loud enough to drown out Annie, who was getting pissed. My feet were killing me because all day I’d worn flat sandals about the width of cardboard with what David Sedaris calls a “negative heel” where you’re actually taller in your stockinged feet. We ate tons of delicious food then Clay and Amy took the metro back to her place and Ashley and I walked about a thousand blocks back to the hotel. The city is even more beautiful and pale-colored against the night sky and there were all these furniture shops with fantastic sofas and animal chairs that made me think of my friends.
We walked to the metro the next morning and I was in tears because I was thinking about how I can’t dance and Ashley got me a croissant and hot coffee which cheered me up. We shared a car stuffed with Boy Scouts who cut in line when we were getting off. I wanted to push one pimply boy into the tracks. We went to the Museum of Air and Space and Ashley knew everything without even reading the placards so we just rushed through and I tried to get him to buy Annie a miniature space suit in the gift shop but he said something clever like the price was out of this world or something so we just rushed to the next museum, which was the Museum of Art which was far and away my favorite so far. It was fantastic! It was gigantic! We flew through it because Ashley looked at the time and said we had to hurry because checkout time was noon and our hotel room cost 800 dollars a night (we didn’t pay that, because he’s Priceline King). We saw a real Da Vinci and rushed and I felt like a philistine and I felt judged by all the security guards so I kind of perfected this apologetic/reverent grimace which made me feel psychotic and probably looked that way too. We rushed and rushed and got back on time. I wanted to drive past the White House after checking out but we got stuck in traffic because of the parade. I loved this painting by Botticello, which Joe Romeo perceptively tagged as The Boy.Isn’t it just?! It’s an Italian ancestor of The Boy!
Then of course we drove north to upstate New York, which still blows my mind at how cool that makes me sound. That was brilliantly fun, and we had amazing weather, the kind of weather that makes you feel like a good person, and Annie met her first kitty friend, Kitty Gaga, and ate carrot cake and really I wanted to stay on vacation my whole life. But I would have missed Iris and Robyn too much.
Which reminds me, Bri, when you coming home? I want to go with you to museums and D.C. and a fancy hotel and everything else.