Sunday, September 30, 2012

Weekend Update

It's Sunday night and, as I review my weekend activities for blog material, I'm feeling uninspired.  Which is kind of unfortunate, because it was a perfectly good weekend.  The problem is that I've been battling a headache all day, and I really just want to go to bed.  I blame it on the surprise pre-General Conference Fast Sunday. 

First, though, here's a synopsis of the latest end-of-September happenings:

On Friday, I joined my friend Jennifer for dinner at RedRocks Pizzeria in Old Town Alexandria before going to an event called As was Written.

Chanterelle pizza with mozarella
The pizza was tasty (though had I read the menu more closely I might have requested a less barbecue-like sauce) and the event was fun.  It was organized by some friends of Jennifer's and consisted of an ecclectic group of writers, poets, musicians and comedians.  They didn't hand out any programs (or at least I didn't get one), so I had no idea who anyone was or what they were going to do, but the website has a handy breakdown of the featured folks.  I thought the poet was fantastic, and the stand-up comedian and the Pakistani author were also strong.  The sketch comedy duo, on the other hand, was terrible (on a level that makes you embarrased for them standing up there).  Individual performances aside, I liked the down-to-earth, normalness of the event.  It wasn't a fancy, polished venue; nor was it an indie hipster dive -- it was just ordinary people showing off the stuff they like to do.  Kind of like a grown-up talent show. 

I spent most of the day on Saturday on my bike (another great ride out through Potomac, MD) or running errands in my car.  In the evening I met my friend Tim out in Fairfax, VA, to try out a restaurant that had recently been recommended by a guy I'd met on a recent trips to New York.  It's called BonChon Chicken and it specializes in fried chicken. 

I had no idea that Koreans did fried chicken, but it was delicious -- way more delicious than the usual pickled/fermented vegetables that I so often associate with (non-Michelin-starred) Korean food.  The chicken came in two flavors:  one was sweetish, the other really hot and spicy.  Both were great, though after a while I came to appreciate the non-hot version -- it's nice to be able to eat your dinner without gulping for water every thirty seconds.  The most unusual aspect was the ordering process.  Apparently it takes approximately forever to cook the chicken, so we had to call an hour in advance to place our order so that it would be ready within a reasonable amount of time after we arrived.  It worked very smoothly, and we didn't have to wait too long, but that's the first time I've had to call ahead to place a dine-in order.

Today was just an ordinary Sunday.  I went to church, got a new calling (Assistant Executive Secretary), did my hometeaching, and spent the rest of the afternoon working, napping and planning the week.  I'm feeling a little trepidatious about what lies ahead:  As ever, there's a ton going on at work, but I'm also heading into a mini wedding season (where, to be clear, the season is mini, not the weddings).  This Thursday I'm flying to Germany to attend the wedding of two friends, and then next week I'm flying out to Idaho for Mark's wedding.  I have no idea how I'm going to get everything done, and I'm hoping that a niggling cough will not get worse from the travel (especially given that I'll be singing in at least one of the weddings).  Still, I'm super excited to see friends and family again, and Berlin in October will be great (even if it's just for 36 hours).  But first, an early bedtime so that I can start the week fresh and well rested.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Charicature of myself

Do you ever have those moments when you realize that you're behaving like a charicature of yourself?  You know, when you do the sort of thing that someone who knew you might write into a scene for an exaggerated sitcom character that is based on you? 

Well, I do.  (Not the sitcom part, but the rest of it.)  Here are two real-life vignettes to illustrate:

Vignette No. 1

[September 2008.  Resort town on the shores of Lake Atitlan in Guatemala (easily one of the most beautiful lakes in the world). I'm on an extended vacation with a friend from law school.  We're looking for a place to have lunch -- we discover a cool, shady restaurant full of divans and cushions where people can lounge while they eat, soaking in the views of the lake.]

Kim:  Let's eat here.

Me:  No way.  There is way too much "hanging out" going on here.

Kim:  You realize that's what people do on vacation, right?  Especially when they're hippies.

Me:  Moving on!

Vignette No. 2

[Yesterday afternoon.  At work.  I take a few minutes to look at my personal email and glance at my Facebook newsfeed.  Think of the interaction between me and the screen as a conversation.]

My brother and soon-to-be sister-in-law:

Me:  What?!  No!  How does that even cross your mind?  I mean, okay, a twelve-minute power-nap under your desk might be okay if it's 8pm and you know you're going to be working until midnight anyway.  But skipping work!?  How will you get stuff done?  What if you're caught?  Where's the apostrophe?

[Choking, spluttering, scrolling down]

My uncle:

Me:  TWO HOURS?  Of just sitting there?  I know it's pretty, but -- oh man, I have GOT to get something done. 

[At this point I was basically in convulsions, so I put away Facebook and got back to work.  Whew.]

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Ugh, it's fall

I think I'm not a fall person.  When I was in school in Utah I liked fall because I associated it with the excitement of a new school-year and the fun of wearing sweaters.  Now that I just work at a law firm, I don't have new school-years, and I only wear sweaters on the weekends.  So that leaves me to appreciate fall on its own merits, which appear to be the following: 
  • Gorgeous, non-humid weather with rich colors from the autumn leaves.
  • Faded gardens and increasingly sluggish goldfish who may not survive the winter.
  • Dark, chilly mornings and evenings that break my cycling/running/workout routine and make me want to just stay inside and watch TV.
  • A feeling (let's call it "dread") that we're on an accelerating spiral to the frenzy of the year-end holidays and the January doldrums.
On balance, it's a negative score.  I really miss the heat and light and positive energy of spring and summer. 

Sigh.  Maybe the one-season climate of southern California would suit me fine, after all.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Ride: You're Invited

First, a quick update:  This weekend is the official six-month anniversary of my getting my new bike.  In the past six months, I have spent 78 hours in the saddle, traveled 1,225 miles, and burned 63,500 calories.  I've only slashed my leg once and crashed twice (I wrote about the first time but let the other one pass unmentioned).  Pretty happy about all this.

I rode all of those 1200 miles by myself.  Sure, there were other cyclists on the road at the same time, but I never rode "with" anyone else.  Not that there weren't opportunities to ride with others:  Cycling is not an inherently solitary sport, and there are lots of cycling clubs in the area.  For example, the bike shop near my apartment organizes evening rides every Tuesday for anyone who wants to come.  I just never went. 

At first, my keeping to myself was motivated by a sense of needing to get into shape and used to the new bike before riding with other people.  Once I'd gotten into shape and used to the bike, I found I also liked the flexibility of riding whenever I wanted, as far as I wanted, and as fast as I wanted, without having to worry about anyone else.  Even so, I thought it would be fun to ride with someone else now and then.

This morning I finally did it:  I met up with a friend of mine from work who is also an avid cyclist for a morning ride.  We rendez-voused in Georgetown and rode north into Maryland (up through Potomac, past the Great Falls, for those who know the area).  It was a great ride, and I really liked having someone else there.  There were a couple of times when we went slower than I might otherwise have preferred, but most of the time we went faster (probably out of a subtle sense of competition) and in general the lack of traffic allowed us to keep up a side-by-side conversation.  It was a lot of fun.

Thing is, I almost didn't do it.  At the last minute, two classic "me" things kicked in and would have sabotaged the plans if I hadn't realized what was happening. 

First, even though the idea to go riding with Chris this weekend was initially mine (I'd sent him an email about it a week ago), when he finally called to set up a time I hesitated.  I looked at all the things I wanted/needed to do today, and I thought about how much more convenient it would be not to involve anyone else.  Plus, I wanted to do a long ride and Chris only wanted to do a short one.  I like my independence and I resist encroachments; I fixate on my goals and I drop people who can't (or don't want to) keep up.  Fortunately, instead of just canceling, I took a minute and reminded myself of a princple that I've tried (with mediocre success) to incorporate into my life:  When I have the option of being social or solitary, try to be social.  Okay, I thought, let's do it.

Then the anxiety hit.  The things that make other people anxious (exams, say, or public speaking) generally don't phase me one bit.  I might feel nervous if I haven't had enough time to prepare, or stressed if I don't have enough time to do everything done on time -- but that's different from feeling anxiety about the activity itself.  The exception is sports -- or athletics more generally -- when other people are involved (you may recall how stressful my entry into the world of weigh-lifting was).

So, right on cue, as soon as I was scheduled to go riding with another person I started freaking out.  The litany ran on loop through my mind:  I wouldn't be good enough, I'd be embarrasing, I wouldn't have on the right clothes, I wouldn't know the rules, I'd crash, I'd get there late, I'd do something stupid, I wouldn't have the right gear, I'd reveal myself to be a fraud and a poser, I wouldn't know the right hand signals, I'd -- well, you get the point.  This is the real reason why I hate gyms and team sports and prefer running and cycling by myself.  I genuinely wished I hadn't agreed to ride with Chris.

But I made myself get up and go, and it all worked out just fine.  As far as I know, not a single thing in my parade of horribles came to pass.  I was totally fine.  Riding with Chris felt easy right away and I look forward to doing it again.  Maybe someday I'll even be brave enough to go out on a group ride.

Weirdly, that's not the end of the story!  In a fit of cosmic positive reinforcement, I inadvertently found myself riding with a complete stranger on the way back home.  I'd left Chris and was doing my normal Arlington loop when I passed another guy on a bike.  Didn't think anything of it until I heard this voice from behind me shout "I'm going to call you Speedy because you're so fast!"  I chuckled and kept on my way.  A few minutes later I realized the guy was still right on my tail (I may have been speedy, but not speedier than him).  We continued that way for quite a while (there's that subtle competition again), until eventually we slowed and he pulled alongside me.  We chatted a bit.  He asked about my bike, told me about a detour he likes to take so that I he can see the "babes walking their dogs".  Turns out we have fairly similar riding philosophies:  "I just try to pass everyone I see and make sure no one passes me back."  (I was clearly sticking a wrench into that plan, but then he was doing the same to me.)  Then, while we were stopped at a traffic light, he reached into his pocket and handed me an envelope in a plastic bag. 

It was an invitation to brunch.  Apparently he's an economics professor at Marymount University who rides the trails every morning.  In the course of his rides he tries to get to know the regulars (each of them has a name -- White Helmet Guy, Skinny Intense Commuter Girl, Sean Connery Guy -- collectively, they're "Trailers"), and every year he and his wife invite everyone to a big brunch party so they can get to know each other's real names and share stories about their rides/runs/walks on the trails.  I was invited!   

I love this idea and would totally go.  Unfortunately I'll be out of town for a wedding on the day of the event, but I'm definitely going to keep my eyes peeled for "Friendly Fast Orange Shirt Guy" from now on.  Maybe I'll be invited to next year's do. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Those silly Russians

The theater season has officially begun!  Which means one of my favorite Friday routines is back:

Step 1:  Leave work early (i.e., at 6pm) and have dinner at Le Pain Quotidien while reading the French translation of a ridiculous "Swedish noir" crime novel.

Open-faced sandwich with avocado and prosciutto
(the prosciutto had been cooked so it was crspy like bacon -- SO delicious)
and a cup of vegan mixed vegetable soup

Step 2:  Walk over to the Shakespeare Theatre and pick up my tickets.  Last night my ticket came with a gift bag containing a special "we love subscribers" mug.  Aww.

Step 3:  Show time!  In this case, it was a production of Nikolai Gogol's The Government Inspector, a madcap satire that lampoons the corruption, hypocrisy, greed and loose morals of 19th-century Russian society.  This adaptation was hilarious and felt very current with today's American society (I'm curious just how many of those themes are in the original and how many were updated by the adapter).  I've never been a fan of Russian literature (essentially I feel an irrational aversion to the Russians that is equal and opposite to my affection for the French) but this show made me think I should revisit the question...

This is my third year as a subscriber to the STC, so seeing the "regulars" in the company felt kind of like seeing a bunch of old friends again. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

I never get tired of New York

Another quick trip to New York today.  This time to attend a dinner with law students that we are recruiting from Columbia and NYU.  Timing wasn't the most convenient -- there's a lot going on at work at the moment -- but it's basically impossible not to enjoy a trip to New York. 

Things got off to an auspicious start when I managed to upgrade to first class on the high speed train to New York.  I normally ride in business class, which is perfectly comfortable on those trains, so I wondered what first class would offer.  Well, start with a private first class lounge, where they have beverages, comfortable chairs and a separate "first class" entrance to the train platform.  Then, once aboard, two very friendly attendants who help you with your bags, bring you beverages and a full meal, periodically check in on you to make sure you're enjoying your trip, and then pull your suitcase from the rack so that it's sitting by the door when your stop comes up.  I could definitely get used to first class...

Once in New York, I checked into my hotel, where I was promised a room with a view of the Empire State Building.

Empire State Building?  Check
Then headed up to the firm's New York office, where I spent the afternoon working out of a guest office with views of the Hudson River and New Jersey.  

Evening rolled around and it was time for dinner at Colicchio & Sons, a quasi-new restaurant in the heart of the Meatpacking District.  It apparently doesn't have a website that I can link to, so here's the review from the New York Times.  The food was delicious and it was fun to meet the law students and see some old friends from the firm.

Heirloom tomato salad
(tasty, but didn't have a wow factor)
Aged sirloin steak with mushrooms, potatoes and onions
(the strongest dish)
Apple tarte, some sort of sorbet, and a creamy thing with cinnamon
(the weakest dish -- either hard to eat or weird texture)

On the way home from the restaurant I discovered, just a couple blocks away, a shop with a bunch of Moroccan wedding blankets hanging on the wall.  I was happy to see that the ones I got in Marrakesh (which I still haven't blogged about with pictures) would hold up very well against them.  Plus, there's one of those diamond-patterned wool rugs that I tried so unsuccessfully to find in Morocco -- I may have to keep this place in mind for future reference...

And now back at the hotel, appreciating the night-time views of the Empire State Building.  Good night!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Happy (very early) birthday to me

Two weeks ago Lady called and said she'd sent me a box for my birthday (which isn't until November).  Days passed and no package arrived.  Then I got a nastygram from the front dest of my building demanding that I come pick up the package that had been there for, like, ever.  (Far be it from them to actually tell me that said package had arrived!) 

I had expected something little, but it turned out to be kind of enormous. 

With a box this big taking up valuable real estate in my living room (I half expected Occupiers to start living in it), I was relieved when Lady called to say that I could open the box any time.  Anytime I felt like it.  No need to wait until November.  If SHE were to get a box like that, SHE wouldn't wait.  Whenever I felt like it.  ANYTIME.  :) 

So I waited no longer. 

Yay!  Like any red-blooded American boy,
I've wanted a white soup tureen for ages.

Which means it's time to start planning soup parties . . . .

Saturday, September 15, 2012

In their shells

I've eaten snails before.  They're delicious.  But I've always preferred to eat them when they look like little brown things swimming in butter and garlic (and perhaps topped by an egg).  I other words, I've eaten snails, but only when they didn't look like snails.  Last night, while sitting on the terrasse at the French restaurant Petits Plats, I got brave and pried the little friends out of their shells with my own two hands (aided by these great little tongs made just for the purpose).  Yum!

The rest of the dinner was pretty tasty, too.

Beet and goat cheese salad
My entree:  Lamb chops with mashed potatoes and gravy
Amy's entree:  Duck confit with potato persillade
(as it appeared after we dropped my camera in the sauce... oops)

The Ride: Ah, September!

Whenever I talk about DC weather with people who aren't don't live here, we inevitably get stuck on the summers:  Why on earth would anyone consciously choose to live in a place where you regularly get temperatures in the upper 90s with 85 percent (or higher) humidity?  What a swamp! 

Yes, DC was built on a swamp,  And yes, there are plenty of summer days feel like you're sitting inside a dog's mouth.  But setting aside for a moment the possibility that someone might actually like that feeling (okay, not the dog part, but that intense feeling of heat and humidity -- I love it), let's remember that there are other seasons.  Such as autumn. 

Last week-end the summer heat broke and we've settled into that long, gorgeous stretch of mid-Atlantic autumn that will continue roughly unbroken (unless we get a hurricane) until probably sometime in late October or early November.  It's sunny, daily highs are normally around 80 and the lows in the mid-60s.  It'll gradually get cooler (sweater weather!) but we'll never get those drastic temperature swings that characterize mountain autumns; nor are we likely to get any surprise early snowstorms that rip off all the branches because the leaves haven't had a chance to fall.

It's perfect weather for riding.  I went out on Saturday intending to do a long-ish ride.  It was a beautiful day, but I just didn't feel up for a ride.  I was tired and a little moody and just felt sluggish.  The first five miles were drastically slower than my normal average speed, and I was tempted to turn around.  It seemed a shame to waste such a lovely day, though, so I stopped trying to "train" and just went along appreciating the fact that I live in a place where everything is still green and lush in mid-September, and where people value fitness and outdoor recreation enough to provide bike paths and wooded parks throughout the metropolitan area.  Before long I forgot my tiredness, and my sluggishness fell away. 

I ended up having a great ride.  After that slow start, I averaged speeds on par with my best days from earlier in the summer, and over the course of the 55 miles that I rode, I even inadvertently set a couple of new standards for myself:  Without really even trying I did one five-mile stretch in 15 minutes (I've done fifteenish before, but this time I was only seconds away from breaking into the 14 minute territory), and my overall average moving speed was 17.5 mph.  Not sure how that compares with other cyclists, but it's a measurable improvement over my performance earlier this summer -- which I guess is all I can ask for, given the fact that I've had to squeeze in cycling between work and travel this summer.  Makes me feel good. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Invisible Man

On Friday night I went with my friend Danya to see a production of Invisible Man at the Studio Theatre.  I had gone into it with fairly high expectations:  The book on which the play is based is wideley celebrated; one of those "must reads" in high school English classes that I somehow managed to graduate without reading.  And the play itself had gotten good reviews. 

But I was bored.  SO BORED.  For three hours I watched the actors move about on stage giving what seemed to be perfectly fine performances of a script that was clearly meant to stir the audience -- and I felt nothing at all.  Zero emotional connection or response to play.  I just wanted it to end so I could go home and go to bed.

That's an unusual reaction for me at the theatre.  I go to the theater a lot, normally I'm able to connect on some level to the story and message of whatever play I'm seeing.  Part of the problem here, I think, was the fact that it was heavy material (race issues, identity, etc.) in very long form (three hours) on a Friday night after work (I was very tired).  But I also think that I just didn't care.  There were times in the past (notably in college) when the themes presented in this play were captivating, challenging and moving.  At the risk of sounding overly cavalier, I admit that my attentions and energies have shifted.  I feel a little like I've "been there, done that."  Not that the themes are not relevant to today's society, or that all of the problems of race relations in the United States have been resolved (heavens, when you live in a city like DC you know that's not true), but I'm less interested than I was before in spending my leisure time consuming art that grapples with those issues.  It's kind of like World War II and the Holocaust -- I've been to the Holocaust Museum in DC, I've visited sites in Europe, I've read books and watched movies and plays, and I feel like I've reached a certain saturation point where I just don't want to see any more.  There doesn't seem to be anything more to say.

Part of me thinks this is bad.  As a right-thinking person I should never tire of engaging with the challenging issues of history and contemporary society.  To say I've had my fill must be a reflection of my position of privilege; my status as the oppressor.  Maybe.

The other part of me thinks it's fine.  It's just life.  You grow and you learn and you care and you don't, and you realize that there's so much in this world that to care about and learn about and grow into or from that you just can't do it all at all times.  And so you acknowledge that there's a season for everything -- including dormant seasons when you focus on something else.  Such as when the play will be over so you can go home and go to bed.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Vampire Jammies

So, if you get bitten by a hot vampire, then you turn into a hot vampire too, right?  Isn't that the moral of all those Twilight stories?  Pretty sure that's right.  (Unless, of course, you just die -- but let's focus on the positive here.)

But what happens if the vampire that bites you is more "warm and cozy" than hot, and more "flannel pajama pants" than human?  Seriously.  Any ideas?  Cuz I sure don't know -- the legends are SILENT ON THIS POINT. 

Which leaves me with quite a conundrum, because I woke up this morning with what I instantly diagnosed to be a vampire bite -- and the only thing other than me and the blankets in my bed last night were my pajamas.  The only possible conclusion is that my pajamas are vampires and I'm about to learn the effects of their bite.  So far, though, I haven't felt the slightest thirst for blood; nor have I started sparkling in the sun.  As for my teeth, they aren't even a little bit pointier.  I admit, it's a tad disappointing.  I'm starting to suspect that the hydrocortisone cream that I put on this morning is an antidote to vampire venom (in which case, you can add that to your anti-vampire emergency preparedness kit along with your crosses, garlic and wooden stakes).

Then again, what if the bite wasn't from my vampire jammies after all, but instead from a radioactive spider?  Hmm.  Kind of creepy to think about having spiders in my bed, but if I get a superpower out of it, maybe I'd be okay with it just this once . . . . 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Adding to my success with late-summer blooms, I'm delighted to see that my jasmine plant has blossomed again. 

The plant had blossomed once earlier in the summer, but I was in Morocco and so was unable to enjoy the flowers and their scent.  I was afraid I'd missed my chance  -- but no!  There are a handful of buds in development, so I'm hopeful to have a steady string of blossoms for the next week or so.

The flowers are incredibly short-lived -- they fall after only 24 hours -- but they stay lovely for a few more days after falling, so I bring them inside and breathe in that intoxicating fragrance for as long as it lasts.  With the possible exception of gardenias, there's nothing better than fresh jasmine on a warm summer's night.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Teya's Texts

I called Ashley to chat for a few minutes as I walked to the grocery store today after work.  Shortly after we hung up, Ashley sent this text:
Teya just told me "You were NOT talking to Uncle Jason! You need to go to his house and tell him sorry for calling him!"
Ha!  I love the mind of a three-year-old.  Of course, they're welcome to drive down from New York anytime to "apologize" for calling me... :)

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Back to normal

Heather left early on Wednesday morning, and I spent the rest of the week trying to get back to normal.  Except for a few "down" weeks (when I worked 16 hour days), I have been hosting house guests or traveling (for work or vacation) since early June.  It's made for a fun-filled summer and many great memories -- but summer is over now and I'm looking forward to settling into a more normal routine. 

But what is "normal"?  Well, the last half of this week felt pretty normal.  I put in a robust (but still reasonable) number of hours at the office.  I went to the gym in the mornings and on some short bike rides in the evenings.  On Friday night I went to a friend's house and ate delicious grilled vegetables and lamb (pictured below) while enjoying his superb pent-house views of the city.  I did a longer ride (55 miles) yesterday morning and spent the rest of the day running errands, cleaning the apartment and doing laundry before going to a movie.  Church this morning was uneventful.  This afternoon's nap was the best I've had in months. 

All that seems kind of normal, right?  I think so -- but maybe that's just wishful thinking.  Because after that delightful nap, I got online and have been making more travel plans.  I'll be in Idaho for Mark and Erin's wedding in October.  The weekend before that I'll be in Berlin for Quynh-Nhu and Nikolas's wedding.  Sometime before that I'll be going back up to New York to wine and dine the law students we're recruiting.  In the meantime, work will continue apace (and probably pick up -- partners have been clamoring for more of my time for weeks now) and the theatre and dance seasons will start again.  Before you know it, we'll be into the holiday season and a whole new round of travel will begin:  Thanksgiving in Las Vegas! Christmas somewhere out west!  Grandpa's 90th birthday in Utah!  Post-New Year's trip to New York to see Les Troyens! 

Sheesh.  I'm feeling a little daunted just writing about it. 

Which is why I need things to be "normal" for a few weeks.  Just long enough for me to get bored of the routine and feel excited for the next adventure. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Rivers and Plantations

For the last day of Heather's visit to DC, we decided to leave the museums and monuments behind (even if we'd tried, we wouldn't have been able to see them all) and get out of the city for a while.  We started the day with a drive up the Potomac River to see the Great Falls.  From the placid looks of the river as it passes DC, you'd never suspect that these falls were only a few miles up-river.

Note the bird

After soaking in the rugged natural beauty of the falls (and watching a kayaker make his tenuous way up the stream), we went into the village of Potomac, Maryland, for a bite of lunch and a peak at the mansions where the "villagers" live (it's one of wealthiest zip codes in the country).  From there we left the modern mansions to see a historic one:  George Washington's estate, Mount Vernon, is south of DC on a much broader and calmer stretch of the Potomac River.  It was the least crowded I've ever seen it, and so we had the nearly undivided attention of the docents.  We asked a lot of questions and learned more than I had in previous trips.

When a freak rain shower hit, we took refuge on the
veranda and watched it blow over the river

After visiting the plantation, we drove into Alexandria, Virginia (which is between Mount Vernon and DC, on the Virginia side of the river) and explored Old Town.  I didn't get any pictures, so you'll have to believe me that it's one of the cutest little old red-brick colonial towns ever.  We spent part of the time on the main commercial streets, window shopping and munching on pastries that we got from a bakery.  The rest of the time we spent in the residential sidestreets peeping into walled gardens and front living rooms where the owners had conveniently left the curtains open.

The rest of the evening we spent in less touristy fashion:  We stopped at a Mens Wearhouse to look at the clothes I'm supposed to rent for Mark and Erin's wedding (or, rather, to look for ideas that we can propose as alternates for what I'm supposed to rent for the wedding).  And then we went home, did some yoga, made a simple dinner, and then laughed our way through a few more episodes of New Girl until it was time to go to bed.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Labor Day

Labor Day is one of the better holidays for visiting DC -- you get the benefit of a holiday (no commuter traffic, parking regulations aren't enforced) but it's late enough in the year that the masses of tourists are gone (yay!).  This means we had the place essentially to ourselves.

Capitol Tour
We started with a tour of the Capitol Building.  I had reserved tickets ahead of time, so we didn't have to wait in line quite as long.  It's not a very long tour (it was more comprehensive prior to 9/11) but it's still great to see the interior of this impressive building.  It's a building that lives up to the hype.



Library of Congress
In my opinion, the LOC is the most overlooked building in DC -- it's gorgeous.  I always make sure it's on the list of Things To See whenever I have people in town.

Main reading room

Botanical Gardens
The Botanical Garden is my favorite of the Smithsonian museums.  It's little and full of lovely plants.  The orchid room is the highlight.


American Indian Museum
This museum has a cool building and a good cafeteria, but the collection itself is pretty ho-hum.  We went for the food.

Navajo taco
National Gallery - East Building
The East Building of the National Gallery has all of the modern art. Some pieces are funky and hard to interpret. Other pieces are really cool and fun.


National Gallery
Our first visit to the National Gallery on Saturday was far too short to see everything, so we went back for a more fulsome visit.  Saw pretty much everything -- after seeing the Prado this summer in Spain, it was nice to see that the National Gallery's collection held up pretty well. 

Taking a break in the atrium

Hirschorn Museum
The Hirschorn normally has all of my favorite Rodin statues. Unfortunately, they were redoing the floor that normally displays those statues, so we couldn't see any of them. As a consolation prize, however, we got to see an installation by a prominent Chinese artist -- it was a series of animal heads from the Chinese zodiac encircling the central fountain.


Air and Space Museum
After all the art of the National Gallery, we ran across the Mall to the Air and Space Museum.  We glanced at the planes and spacecraft that were visible from the main corridors, but we were less interested in doing a full visit of this museum.  Instead, we got a snack from the McDonalds that occupies one end of the building -- it wasn't delicious, but it prevented death by starvation!

Lunar landing module


Arlington National Cemetery
The Arlington National Cemetery closes two hours later than the Smithsonian museums, so we were able to get in a full day at the museums and still have time to visit the cemetery.  It's an impressive place, much larger than you might expect.  We were too late to get into the Custis-Lee plantation house, but we did manage to see the changing of the guard ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  The precision of that ceremony was astonishing -- the timing of the three soldiers' movements was flawless. 

Thai Square
Heather has been working on being braver with the types of food she eats ever since, well, ever since she was born.  Apparently Jordan convinced her to try Thai food recently, so I decided to continue in that vein by taking her to my favorite Thai restaurant in the DC area.  It was delicious (as always), and I think Heather liked it.