18 April 2009

Feeling gravity's pull

The salient points:

Stayed at: the Willard. Yes, the Willard. If you don't know the Willard, you should.

Best view: from my hotel window: the White House, the Lincoln Memorial, and Arlington House.

Hands down best moment: 1) my 50-year-old cousin M. shrieking, "YAY!" and jumping up and down like a 5-year-old when we arrived for Easter dinner. 2) The daughter nearly leaping out of her seat as we made the final approach into National at sunset and she caught sight of all the monuments and the Capitol lit up for the night.

Best quote: 1) "You look like them," the spouse marveled, as I stalked down Pennsylvania Avenue at quitting time. True, but my trench coat is a rich ruby red rather than grey, taupe or black. 2) "You look just like her!" the son said when T. brought out the Janis Joplin album, and that was before the son heard the story.

Best weather: Freezing rain all day Wednesday followed by a picture-perfect spring day in the 70sF on Thursday.

Uncomfortable moment: Weird, poorly performed presentation at Ford Theatre on April 14. I thought we were just getting an NPS ranger talk. Would have preferred it.

Running joke: Department of Agriculture and Tulips. Tulips everywhere.

Biggest disappointment: After talking up the Hall of the First Ladies at the newly reopened Smithsonian Museum of American History, I discovered they now only have about 10 dresses on display. Out of chronological order and displayed with artifacts from different first ladies. It was poorly curated and made no logical sense. In fact, that could be said for all the exhibits I visited there. And bizarrely, through the entire war section, the Revolutionary War bit was beautifully done, while all the other wars lacked explanation and context.

Funniest, pure Washington moment: the man stationed at the end of our hallway one morning, complete with earpiece, pretending to read the newspaper. His counterpart the following morning was completely thrown when we all laughed and said, "Good morning."

Odd moment of epiphany: Arlington National Cemetery. I've never been there to sight see, I've only been there for funerals. Two of my grandparents, my aunt, my older brother and other family members are buried there. Seeing the typical tourist chawing it down as just another consumable was really distressing. I am a fourth generation Washingtonian, which is not something I really think about, but it hit with tornadic force right about then. Also when both M. and T. asked me at separate times when I was "moving home." Meaning the District.

Moment of pure luck: walk-up tickets for the Capitol tour. Which was also the WTF moment, although I knew about it before I got there. I remember when "walk up" meant walking up all those stairs and in the front door.

And it was all, inescapably, home.

Go listen to some good music: "Feeling Gravity's Pull" from the album Fables of the Reconstruction by REM. I know this doesn't exactly do the trip justice. I'm still in post-travel shock.

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