Wanted to be fresh for the day, so instead of
waking at 4 AM to run for 2.5 hours, I instead start my run at 11:15 PM, run
for 2.5 hours, hit the sack at 2 AM, and wake at 6. Yes, that’s refreshing.
Such is the life of a runner. I spend the time listening to Mitch Hedberg.
Relevant to this discussion, as you’ll soon see.
We’re all out of the house at 9:09 AM. Fantastic
Fog joins us along the way. Visibility zero.
So foggy, that I notice flocks of birds are flying
much lower, staying beneath the clouds as they migrate. These are the things I
notice. I know I’ve got your attention so far.
The buses we pass are all headed our way. Silver
Spring and DC await!
The kids choose Ghost Dad from the 20+ CDs we
freshly bought, and brought with us for the trip. Judge not, lest ye be judged.
I like taking pictures of state “welcome” signs.
Beneath the Delaware sign, a cop has pulled over a speeder. Helluva way to be
welcomed to a state.
We pull into a 7-11 at the midpoint and switch
driving duties. I got the wheel.
The kids are now watching Cop and a Half. Hey, 80s
movies is what we’re familiar with.
We pass Blue Ball Road. We’re not even *in*
Pennsylvania, state of a million innuendoes.
The Eagle lands in Washington and we get a nice
preview of The Mall – post-inauguration and women’s-protest – en route to
lunch. We’re famished.
We pass the Washington Monument – I point out the
change in color one-third of the way up – and the Watergate Hotel. We try to
explain to our kids what exactly “scandal” means.
I notice immediately that traffic patterns are
weird here. Hmmm.
Char bar is where we land, one of few kosher
options in DC proper. Food is very, very good. Kids enjoy.
We cross the Potomac and head for Arlington
National Cemetery. We’re basically following President Trump’s
inauguration-weekend footsteps. A hard rain falls.
We observe the changing of the guard. Arresting and
deathly serious. My wife opines that it’s emotionally cold.
We pay our respects to JFK. We didn’t know Jackie
lost a child months before losing her husband. Gosh.
We drive past The Pentagon, the world’s largest
office building. Did you know that because of its shape, no single point is
more than seven minutes’ walk from any other point? That’s crazy.
Usually we spend a day or two in a vacation spot
before witnessing road rage, but as we exit VA back into DC, we see our first
traffic-induced middle finger. Feels like home.
We circle back around The Mall and slingshot all
the way back up to Baltimore to have dinner with an old friend of my wife’s.
Food and company is excellent.
We head back to DC. I have some monument-gazing in
mind. Kids revolt, demand to get back to hotel, as they’re exhausted. Having
filed a successful petition and protest, apropos to where we are, my wife and I
comply. We arrive at the hotel in MD and collapse.
Now, to quote Mitch Hedberg: “I can't tell you what
hotel I'm stayin' in, but there are two trees involved. They said "Let's
call this hotel 'Something Tree'". So they had a meeting, it was... It was
quite short. "How 'bout 'Tree'?" "No." "'Double
Tree'?" "Hell, yeah! Meeting adjourned!" "I had my heart
set on 'Quadruple Tree'" "Well, we were almost there!”
You’ll see the relevance shortly.
It’s cold and rainy in the deep, dark night, so I
choose paradise by the treadmill light.
In other words, duh, because it’s sloppy outside, I
do a 5k in the 24/7 hotel gym to start my day.
We’re out and about pretty quickly, and head to
Goldberg’s New York Bagels for a filling breakfast.
Kids watch Sgt. Bilko en route.
We try to get a peek at The White House as we head
towards The Mall. That’s not so easy. The Treasury and Eisenhower building
flank it to the east and west, a park with obscuring trees, statues,
scaffolding, and cranes protect it from the north, and clearly, they drive
pedestrians batty when attempting access from the south. Directional signs are
also confusing. Hmmmmmm.
We’ve taken the car, as you can tell, as opposed to
the train. Lots went into the calculus, but we made the right decision,
especially because of the cold rain.
We use a two-hour parking option, and alight from
there to visit the National Air and Space Museum.
My wife bumps into another old friend, two of ‘em
actually (how come I never get to?)! They used the train and are soaked to the
bone, validating our decision. Yay!
The place is Valhalla to me, but we can never
predict what would interest or disinterest our children. It’s always a
crapshoot, and we do our best guesswork. Well, this is what The Mall is for.
Everything is free, and if the kids don’t like something, off we go (Philly, we
hear, is like that too. We’re making plans).
The biggest mind-blower is the Wright Flyer. Why?
Because this ain’t no copy, this thing is no facsimile, it isn’t a mock-up, it
is the real deal, and it’s magic. My daughter wrote a book report on it for
school and was proud to pose in front of it. The boys? Moving right along.
A rock from the moon does fascinate everyone, but
everyone’s raring to go.
So be it, back into the rain. Feed the meter, and
we trudge across to the National Gallery of Art, where - to my wife’s and my utter surprise – we
spend more time here than we do than at any other place we’ll visit during our
Why? Simple: they have these audio guides you hang
around your neck. They have kiddy versions and adult versions. Punch in the
number of the painting and a narrator gives you background information, and
details of the artistic elements. Wonderful! The kids soak it up!
Time’s up! Back into the rain. Feed the meter, and
we trudge across to the National Museum of American History.
The girls are enamored with the First Lady dresses,
the boys by recorded JFK speeches, and me by the Presidential Death section of
the museum. They have the hat Lincoln wore when he was murdered. It mesmerizes
me that it has been preserved.
I ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
Back out in the rain and off to the car, where we
witness the car in front of us get towed from its spot for overstaying its
metered time, presumably. Whoa, they mean business here!
I do a calculation of how far we walked today on
the grounds between the three museums: 4.5-5 miles. Yikes.
We head back to Maryland for dinner.
Kids watch Honey, I Shrunk the Kids on the way.
We land at Max’s and have a very good, very hardy
Burp; off to our hotel, where we chill for a bit,
then it’s time for the pool!
We arrive at the pool, and the lifeguard on duty
has an interesting story for us. See, a little girl was here and vomited into
the pool. The lifeguard removed the stuff, poured in the chemicals, which need
three hours to do their thing before the pool can be considered safe. How long
ago was that? One hour. When does the pool close? Two hours. Easy math means
we’re out of luck tonight.
This place of two trees is partnered with the place
across the street. I can’t tell you what it’s called, but there’s a house and
lumber involved. We can just tell them what happened, and they’ll let us use
their pool. Okay, cool. Can we take some towels with us so we don’t freeze to
death outside? Yes. Well isn’t that nice.
It’s 40 degrees and we’re in our swimmies and
meager towels, and if we attempt to go to the corner to cross at the light,
we’ll become human icicles, so we make an exception to our traffic-light rule
and scurry across mid-street together, and survive.
Upon landing at the hotel across the street, a
woman asks me, “Did you just come from an outdoor pool???” I say, “Ma’am, it’s
a long story.”
We also survive the trip back across the street, in
our wetter conditions.
Well, that was certainly a chavaya!
Showers, and I watch this new show “Hunted” with my
big boy (interesting, but it’s rigged for the hunters), and we conk out. Lots of
calories burned today.
Tuesday, January 24, 2017
Still raining, and still cold, so I start my day
the same way: with another 5k in the gym.
However, milk’s gotta be gotten because we wanna
eat quickly, head immediately for DC, and have a fun, busy day.
I run to a local CVS, which is open 24/7, but is
closed, which is interesting. Right across is a Whole Foods, which opens at
7:00 AM. It’s 7:01. Perfect.
We have breakfast in our room. I make me a good,
strong coffee, and we’re on our way.
As we roll on into DC, we encounter four posts in
the road, in a diamond pattern, with connecting lines drawn on the pavement.
It’s hard to describe, and even harder to figure out what to do with the blasted
thing when we encounter it. I’m telling you, this district is designed by
either willful conspirators, or blithering idiots, or both, directed by either
or both. Perhaps vehicular frustration is some sort of terrorist-aversion
maneuver. Who knows. The city layout is confusing.
We find some more good two-hour parking and venture
off to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing to experience the fastest tour on
Earth. The orientation film is longer than what the tour guide walks us
through. It’s like the place really wants to show off what they do, but they
don’t really want to give us too close a look. The place is cool, but a tease.
They don’t let you handle the paper, or watch a design crew at work. This place
can be organized better, and be a true experience, but I get it. Security
Interestingly, though, we spend better quality
educational time in the gift shop, which houses neat toys and lots of
We then walk past the Washington Monument (closed
for repairs until 2019) and the National Museum of African American History and
Culture (I don’t like the exterior. Rusty like the Barclay’s Center in
Brooklyn. Rust is not attractive. Rust reminds me of rusting things), and walk
towards The White House, and aim for the top of The Ellipse, which is the best
A Secret Service guy tells us the area is
inaccessible for the next 20 minutes.
We do the only thing we can
do: ask him if he can take a picture with the kids. He obliges.
(At this time, we later learn, someone had put up a
sign that said “Resist” on a crane behind The White House, and Secret Service
was likely dealing with this at the very moment we arrived)
We then have a quick snack, and walk through a
severely squishy Ellipse field to get the second-best view of the White House
possible, as we don’t have 20 minutes. Gotta get back to the car.
The pedestrian countdown lights in this city are
not uniform. Some are 20 seconds, some 30, some 50, and many other variables. I
suppose not knowing when pedestrians cross somehow confuses terrorist
activities. Can’t ram that building if you can’t figure out when pedestrians
will clear the way for you. Something like that, maybe? Who knows. Getting
around this place is frustrating.
We get back to the car before the city has a chance
to tow us, and we have some homemade sammitches for lunch.
Off to visit the two men I admire most: MLK, Jr.,
My wife parks ingeniously between a forklift and a
smart car. Impressive work.
Now I always say that to truly experience
something, you need to see it in person, and set your own eyes upon it.
Prior to arriving here, I didn’t quite get the MLK
memorial. Carved out of stone? Half a sculpture? What’s he holding? Why’s he
facing that way?
But then, immediately upon setting my eyes on
everything at once, the entire grounds, that I understand how gorgeous, and
relevant, and beautiful it is.
The thought behind everything, as fashioned, is to
represent a salient sentence from his “I Have a Dream” speech. I suddenly
realize what the note is that he’s holding, and why he’s facing exactly the
direction he gazes upon. Now I understand. The execution is breathtaking
(though slightly flawed: the likeness is far from perfect, and other quibbles).
I won’t tell you what the sentence is, and how the sculpture represents it. You
have to see it for yourself.
Fully inspired, we head back onto the mall, past
the DC War Memorial (overly simplistic), the Korean War Veterans Memorial (My
children don’t know about this, nor do I think this it’s generally taught in
school. It truly is the Forgotten War.), the Reflecting Pool (I tell my
daughter to remember this spot, for when she’ll see Forrest Gump), the Vietnam
Veterans Memorial (I think this is almost too powerful for young children.
There are people always present who are in lots of pain - as has been my
experience), and finally reach the grand and awesome Lincoln Memorial (At the
foot of the memorial is no marker to declare from where MLK made his famous
speech. I think this is an oversight).
I take the time to admire the statue, read the
speeches again, and truly take in the place. I encourage my kids to read the
speeches too – at a bare minimum the last paragraph of the 2nd
inaugural speech; a thing of beauty.
While there, my daughter’s Fitbit hits 10,000 steps
for the day. She’s delighted, and shows me the little fireworks.
We depart, and bump into another wave of runners,
who are all over this city in droves. I love it. It strikes me that this mall
from end to end – that is, from the Potomac to the Capitol - is 3 miles wide, with
green spaces north and south and over the bridge into Virginia, and all
different kinds of distance permutations can be drawn up and enjoyed. Perhaps
I’ll take partake one day.
We alight unto the National Building Museum, which
is a place completely opposite what we thought it would be.
Thought: a building featuring architectural
exhibits and accomplishments within, which sometimes stages grand events, like
Is: farkert, as they say in Yiddish. It’s an event
space, into which was retrofitted a museum.
The architecture: wow. The contents: meh.
We head off from there to the National Portrait
Gallery, which we have high hopes for, but the kids are not enticed, and are
quite antsy, and they don’t have the good audio thingies. We at least try to
get a glimpse at the presidents’ portraits (Obama isn’t in yet! Much less
The real stunner is The Four Justices (http://npg.si.edu/exhibit/fourjustices/
My daughter, who also wrote a book report on Ruth Bader Ginsburg, poses for a
pic in the empty spot on the couch. You never know!
All the traffic peculiarities I’ve been warning
about? They come to a head. As we slingshot around The Mall and towards MD for
dinner, chaos ensues. Two lane highways suddenly become one; exits are suddenly
closed; there is no signage explaining any of this, and cars are whipping all
around us. If not for my wife’s astute handling of the wheel, we could have
gotten in big trouble, but survive.
We pass the Watergate hotel again (Oh look! There’s
Forrest Gump’s room!), and we explain to our daughter why everything ends in
“-gate” these days.
And now for a little surprise for the kids.
They know we’re headed back to MD for dinner, but
we don’t get very far before we pull over. Their Spidey Senses tingle, and they
don’t stop asking what’s going on, until we arrive at:
We deserve it, what with our calorie-burning by
walking all over the place (six miles for the day). We dig in and enjoy, and
the kids are satisfied.
They watch Honey, I Blew Up the Kids on the ride.
Man this “I Can Make Your Hands Clap Song” is
Besides for runners and awful traffic layouts, this
city is filled with creative license plates. We spot STPTXTN. Heh.
We arrive at Siena’s for dinner, and eat hardily.
Food is very good. My wife meets another old friend.
We chill back at the hotel and
head to the pool again. Always an adventure.
A cockroach welcomes us upon
entry. My wife points it out to the lifeguard.
Stay classy, place that involves
Another roach is waiting for us in
Lovely. We have our fun anyway.
Back in our hotel room, I watch “Chopped” with my
daughter, and we all crash.
Wednesday, January 25, 2017
The weather has warmed up a bit, so I finally
venture out for my 5k. I meet all the nice homeless people and run over the
MD/DC border and back (I make sure to take a picture under the sign. Neat).
CVS rejects my bathroom requests, Giant accepts.
That’s where I’ll buy my milk, thank you very much.
We bid our hotel farewell. Before we exit, my wife
heads to the front desk to complain about our roach companions. They comp our
parking. I suppose that settles the roach problem the hotel has.
I’m telling you, the city planners are functionally
Back in DC, we pass through the embassy area. I
show off my flag recognition skills to the kids. Yay me.
We arrive at Ford’s Theater.
Now remember when I said that to truly experience
something, you need to be there, to feel it with your own eyes?
This place is like that, on a whole ‘nother level.
The museum is on the small side, but filled with
excellent information on Lincoln’s presidency, and everything that led up to
the fateful day.
They have the actual weapon used, they have a
pillow with the president’s bloodstains still visible upon it, they have
details of the much larger conspiracy (of which I was ignorant), and they have
something truly arresting: two timelines, side by side, of April 14, 1865; One of
Abraham Lincoln’s day, and one of John Wilkes Booth’s day.
Ford’s still stages productions throughout the
year, and the president’s balcony is preserved as it was, with most furnishings
intact. That’s where the president got shot. Here is the stage onto which Booth
jumped and broke his ankle. This is the place that history took a massive turn.
You’re also allowed access to the balcony. Your
viewing point is right where Booth stood as he fired his shot. The president
sat. Right. There. The experience is eerie. Do you smile with the scene in the
background? Difficult to figure out the mood (which is slightly uplifted by a
site employee asking me about my Everett Aquasox cap [I like the froggy] – man
they’re friendly and inquisitive here!).
We’re then led across the street to Peterson House,
where Lincoln died nine hours after his fatal wounding. The first room is where
the First Lady sat, receiving updates of her husband’s condition. The second
room is where Secretary Stanton directed the investigation. The third room is
where Lincoln died. I gathered all this in, and, staring at the bed, I dare
say, I became emotional, and after my family moved on to the next room, I
remained for an extra beat, feeling the history as best as I could.
The rest of the museum walks you through the
aftermath of the event: how the news was reported (some in big type, some in
teeny-tiny), the arrangements of the many funerals (the first of which was on
my birthday – that gave me a start), and the manhunt that ensued before Booth’s
Quite the immersive experience.
Stuffed with more knowledge of history, we head to
the eastern part of The Mall.
First stop: The Supreme Court, swarming with more
exterior cops than any other building we’ve seen so far.
Our arrival is perfectly timed with the next tour
available of The Court Chamber. In we go!
For the half-hour talk, our kids are perfectly
behaved, taking it all in – because truly, what happens here is fascinating,
and important (duh!).
During the Q&A session, my wife asks why
cameras are still not allowed in this setting, and why, in today’s day and age,
sketches are necessary to convey the proceedings.
The answer is because the justices consider it
invasive and distracting.
Mmhm, so why can’t we take pictures now?
Impressed – and impressed upon - by the experience,
I tell my wife I just put it on my bucket list to attend a session here,
because it would blow my mind. She advised in turn that she just did the same!
We’ll be back!
We have sammitches again for lunch, as we ambulate
towards The Capitol.
We take a looooooooong walk around the entire
building (I notice runners circumventing too. The grounds are that big), snap
some pictures of the Inauguration Aftermath (So nationally traumatic, I’m
putting it in caps), take our official vacay selfie with the little flags my
wife packed, and attempt to land ourselves a tour of The Capitol before
Not so fast, we need to contact our Senator or
something. Okay fine, next time, so we go through security just so we can use
the Capitol Bathrooms before leaving (I’m perfectly happy using any of the
thousands of porta-potties, but my family is not quite used to the idea), and
we head back towards the car, parked in a lot this time.
As we take our leave, I take a quick poll on
everyone’s favorite part of the trip:
Daughter: The 1st
Big boy: Anything to do with MLK/Lincoln.
Little boy: The 1st
Me: Anything to do with MLK/Lincoln.
We grab some pizza bagels from Goldberg’s New York
Bagels before we go. My wife takes a business call, and with the kids stuffing
their faces and watching King Ralph (This is a kids movie? The language!),
there’s some peace and quiet. I take the wheel.
In Delaware, we make a rest area pit-stop, and
surprise the kids with some Carvel. Wife at the wheel now.
Upon arriving at my front steps, I find a package
waiting for me. Nestled within is my medal for the - how fitting! - Virtual
MLK, Jr. 5k, which is the first race victory of my career in my 21st
year of running.
And that story needs an entirely different writeup