Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Returning, Revisiting, Reminiscing: Forever the DC Hobbit

Friday, June 3, 2005 - You can never go back... or can you?
My trip back to Washington began with yours truly waking up at 3:20 AM, showering, dressing, grabbing my backpack and leaving the house with an strong sensation of impending doom. The lightning in the northwestern sky didn't help.

I was at the high school at 4, the time we were all supposed to meet, and the lightning continued. The students were ready, as was I, and we only had to wait a few minutes for Mr. Otero, the art teacher and trip organizer who talked me into coming, to appear with some freshly-printed sheets of paper.

We hit the road in 3 vans, and after a few hours of music from my iPod and a breakfast stop at a roadside McDonalds we had arrived at Kansas City International Airport. The sky seemed eerily sinister, but we never saw any rain. Vans were parked, boarding passes were distributed, and the plane was loaded ten minutes early.

The pilot had informed us that a big thunderstorm was headed our way so he was trying to get us airborne before it hit. If he failed, we would either be stuck in Kansas City for a few hours or die in a horrible crash. Naturally, we found little trouble with accomodating his request.

Not long after takeoff, the pilot let us know we made it in time, and that the airport had just closed from the storm. I was worried until I remembered that we were going around 500 miles per hour away from it.

We touched down at DCA at the terminal farthest from the National Airport's Metro Station, and I learned just what I had gotten myself into as we walked the long hallways to the train. You see, I walked fast, as any Washingtonian does. If you're going somewhere, you walk with purpose and direction and by gum, you do it quick.

But my tourist hoarde was 100% Kansan, and like Kansans, they walked as slow as they could. Some made me wonder if they were moving at all. I spent the rest of the weekend walking, stopping and waiting for them to catch up, and repeating ad nauseum.

We got to the station and traveled to the Tenleytown Campus of American University, where we were to stay in the Capital Hall Dormitory. Mr. Otero had this all planned out, we were to take the shuttle bus to our dorm and unpack, so I let him lead the way. And then we missed our stop, which was only a block away from the metro station in the first place.

Twenty minutes later, after touring both AU campuses by bus, we got back to the offices and checked in to our rooms. I then took them deep in DC to the National Art Gallery; hey, they're art students, what would you expect?

Hours later, it was 4:00 PM, and the kids were whining for food. I had no sympathy for them, but their cries were enough to convince the chaperones into taking them to a McDonalds, the nearest one I knew of was at the Woodley Park Metro Station, so we went there and then on to AU to chill out for a little while and then go to dinner on campus, for they had already paid for it.

We ate, and after we regrouped at the hall, I took the group to see the White House, the Capitol, and the Supreme Court. We got all 3 branches in one fell swoop. Once that was finished, we returned to AU, but I got off a few stops early to run an errand at Woodley park.

What's funny is that when the train stopped, I was at the door and on the other side was a very surprised Iraqi man: Marwan Sadiq, my old roommate from my internship. I shook his hand, he picked his jaw up from the floor, and we exchanged friendly words and promises to make contact soon before going in opposite directions.

Finally, we got back to Tenleytown, but stopped at 7-11 for one of the students to buy deoderant. I had a slurpee; Sour Watermelon and Blue Raspberry = a fine way to end your day.

Saturday, June 4, 2005 - It wouldn't be Washington without Sleep Deprivation and Foot Pain
I was out of my room and ready to go a little after six, as was everybody else in our merry little group. We took the Red line to Woodley Park's McDonalds again, this time for breakfast. If you've been counting, that's 3 meals at McDonalds in less than 30 hours. Morgan Spurlock would be proud.

We ate and left, taking the Red Line to Chinatown, where we transferred onto the Green line that we took into Southeast DC to the Waterfront station. This was my first time to ever ride the Green line, my first time to ever need to do so.

We popped out of the ground, and I searched for a landmark that would tell me which direction to walk. Only there were none. We were at the intersection of M and 4 SE, I needed to see another street to know which way to the Potomac Spirit, our boat to Mount Vernon.

I'll be the first to admit it, I guessed wrong and wound up at 3rd street, turned the group around, and went the other way. We had no more troubles after that in getting to the boat.

The trip 80-minute trip downriver went without any trouble, and they dropped us off at the estate of George Washington for a 3-hour tour. (Say it: "A 3-hour tour, a 3-hour tour").

There were two real highlights to the place. The first was his mansion, where we walked upstairs while gripping the Walnut Bannister gripped by the Marquis de Lafayette and many of the Founding Fathers who came to visit and stay at Washington's home. You could literally feel the history held in that piece of wood as you ascended.

The second highlight was the pigpen; because it was poorly maintained. So poorly, in fact, that four of the black piglets dug their way out but stayed close to the fence, near to the sow. It was really special because all these city kids -- this being the first time they saw a farm creature with their own eyes -- would creep up and try to catch them.

The piglets would squeal and run a few feet, only to be stalked again until the parents made their kids move on and let others have a chance. Even Mr. Otero's son Isaac gave it a few tries.

Soon enough, all the paths had been walked, all the sights had been seen, and our minds grew bored and our bodies weary and we wound up waiting the last half an hour for our boat to return.

Burgers and drinks were sold to the students for lunch on the trip back, but I chose not to eat. I had other plans, but they come in later. We got back to our dock, went back to the Subway with a stop at a nearby Safeway because the chaperones and a few students wanted to buy drinks. From the length of time they took, I could've sworn they'd eaten a meal in there.

I took them to the Museum of Natural History, and set them loose as I really didn't care to see the place, and neither did my feet. I noticed the National Archives building nearby and circled it in search of the entrance wanting to see the Declaration of Independence.

However, when I got back to where I started and realized the large crowd there was the line to get in, I chose to skip the documents. Instead I walked over to the Ronald Reagan Building, boarded the train at the Federal Triangle stop there, and took it to McPherson Square, which is near my old bureau at Scripps Howard.

Scripps is closed on weekends, so I didn't try to go up. Instead I went to the wonderful chinese restaurant in the basement, the one I'd eaten at so many times during my internship, and had a platter of fried wontons and a coke in memory of good times gone by.

After that, I walked to the Farrgut North Station on the old route I used to get to work every day this spring. I looked to my right at the Washington Post with hope between Vermont and 16th on L, then looked over my left shoulder while crossing 16th at the White House. It would be the last time I'd see that building.

I took the Red line back up to American University to go to bed for a while, and discovered at least 5 fresh blisters, four of them on my left big toe.

A few hours later, the kids returned from their museum and we all went to dinner. That went without disruption, and after returning to our rooms I guided the troupe down to the Mall where we visited the WWII Memorial, the Lincoln Monument, and the Vietnam Memorial. Whils sitting on the steps of Lincoln's monument, I called Marwan and had a chat. Turns out he had a friend in from Baghdad and couldn't hang out. Oh well. By the time I got back I had a slight limp but was still walking faster than anyone else.

Sunday, June 5, 2005 - Ditching the Students, once and for all

I meant to get up early in the morning and pack, only I didn't hear my alarm. Instead, I was broke to the world of the fully conscious by a few knocks at the door and Mr. Otero telling me that everyone was waiting on me.

I packed up my entire backpack so fast I'd have made a Marine Drill Instructor proud, or least I like to think so.

I took the motley crew back down to the Mall, where some got off to see the monuments again and others chose to go straight on to Union Station, a mall and train terminal by the Capitol where they'd finish off their time in Washington. I went back to Woodley Park, hoping to make 10:30 Mass.

I got there at 10:35, and discovered that it's actually 10:00 Mass. Then I thought of Taft Bridge, my old favorite place to walk. So I crossed the sucker, took a few pictures, and crossed it back and discovered just how hot it was that day: I was covered in sweat.

Fortunately, few things seem to dry a person off like cool Subway air. I took the Red line down to Metro Center, ate a slice of pizza and some sushi, and bought a Counting Crows CD.

I then got bored, and took the Red line out to Silver Spring Maryland and then took it straight back to meet up with the Kansans. I was thirsty, drank a bottle of Ice Tea that tasted good despite being sweetened and lemon-flavored. (I'm a bitter-tea type of guy).

We left Union Station a little after 2 and I took them to the National Airport Stop, and realized I'd dropped my Metro Pass on the ground. I guided them through the airport all the way to their terminal, and one of the students let me have his pass because he sure wasn't going to need it anymore.

I then rode back out to Woodley Park and met with Jody Beck, my old supervisor from Scripps. We had coffee at a nearby Starbucks, which was interesting. Up until then, I always had black coffee, and only when it was cool outside. It was steaming hot that day, and Starbucks had a menu of cold drinks set up. I had never ordered anything at a coffee shop before.

It gave me an idea: Starbucks should set up a menu dartboard for newbies and daring regulars. Just pick up a dart, toss it, and that's what you drink. Hey, let's face it, your odds of liking whatever you order are just as high if you stand there for ten minutes trying to figure out what you want, or why the smallest cup is called a "Tall," a medium is called a "Grande," and a large is calle a "Venti" or something.

The drinks were ok, but the conversation was much more fun. Jody worked for the Washington Star during the Watergate Scandal, and can honestly say she broke at least one story on the Watergate break-in that Bernstein and Woodward didn't have at all. Seriously.

Towards the end, I asked about meeting the new interns, who had just moved in that weekend, and letting them pick my brain. Jody loved the idea, and told me how to recognize them when they got back from the store. (She said that one of them, a girl from Khazakstan named Nadya, would be wearing a "Future President" T-Shirt)

We parted ways with a hug, and I went over to my old apartment and called the Scripps rooms to see if they had gotten back yet. No answer.

So I sat down, put on my shades and headphones, and did some people watching with all the traffic of tourists on their way to the National Zoo. I enjoyed it very much, but after half an hour I was tired of waiting and walked over to my old church and dropped in for a bit of prayer.

When I came back, there was a girl walking out in a shirt that said "Future President." Yes, it was Nadya, and we got along great from the start.

The lesson, of course, is to never underestimate the power of prayer.

Nadya and I walked down to the store so she could buy a phone card and then we went back to her place.

Hmmm... That sounded dirty.

Cleaner version: we walked back to the apartment and she introduced me to her roommates, and I let them pick my brain for about an hour. Nadya was very nice, she even got me a glass of lemonade and I didn't even have to ask. Nadya gets an "A" for effort.

At 6:45, I walked down to the other apartment, introduced myself to the other 3 girls, and let them pick my brain for another 45 minutes before going to church. I left my contact information with the girls, and enjoyed Mass. After that I ate dinner at my favorite Woodley Park chinese restaurant: the Violet Garden.

A plate of noodles, a Pepsi, an Egg Roll and a fortune cookie later, I said goodbye to Woodley Park again knowing full well I might never see it again. 45 minutes after that I was at my friend Scott's place in Wheaton, Virginia to stay the night.

Scott was out of town for an unexpected but important reason I am not at liberty to discuss, which really means I don't know but want to sound cool about it. Thus, his roommated let me in. He went to bed, and I could tell quickly that the entire townhouse was in bed as well. I spotted a couch with a pillow on it, and turned in.

Well, sorta. I was exhausted to the point of collapse, but for some reason, I couldn't sleep a wink. I stared at the ceiling for five hours before actually falling asleep.

Monday, June 6, 2005 - Farewell to the city and the love of my life, at least I left before I had to go

I woke up an hour before my alarm was supposed to go off and stared some more. Scott's roommates were silent, the area was peaceful, the temperature was fine. I should have slept like a worn-out baby.

Whatever the case, I felt well-rested when I awoke. In fact, I had trouble getting to sleep that night back in Kansas.

I showered, shaved, and left the same time as one of Scott's roommates so he could lock the door behind us. I mean, what kind of guest lets theives into his host's home?

I rode down to the airport, got my ticket and went through security without trouble. I read my post while waiting for takeoff, boarded at the appropriate time, and went home on Midwest Airlines. Midwest, by the way, bakes chocolate chip cookies on the plane and gives two to each passenger after handing out drinks.

I'll do some trip analysis later on.

-30-

4 Comments:

Blogger Vicky Hawthorne said...

Sour Watermelon and Blue Raspberry - fine choice - not too sweet, decent legs (especially if you used the plastic glass), a nice dry finish and it turns your teeth a funky color if you don't use the spoon/straw.

I hope you write more soon. Retelling the adventure one post at a time is torture!

10:27 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

sounds like a great trip. I am from Kansas City, Kansas but i now live in Maryland for the last 2 1/2 years less than 80 miles from washington dc, and yet I have only been to dc once, and then all i did was drive around and look at the monuments and historical buildings from my car. some day i hope to go back and do it up right.

12:40 AM  
Blogger Vicky Hawthorne said...

Thanks for finishing the tale. The romantic in me was hoping for a Logan/Nadya hook-up. Bummer.

Loved the narative; nicely done.

4:56 PM  
Anonymous The surprised Iraqi said...

Salutes from the Capital,
Howdy Logan,
Again, you surpise me, i was bord and had nothing to do, so i thought of googling my name and see what is happening with it. totally surpised to find it here, well, at least it's better than to find it on a watch list. isn't it?

Not much is going on, and DC is as beautiful as you left it. Beleive it or not, i quit smoking, in fact, i became an anti-smoking advocate....

What is happening with the photography talent? work? girlfriend (if any)?

Buzz me when you are in town, just google and you'll find me...

Cheers,
Marwan.

2:16 AM  

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