The Not Boyfriend has been caught in a vortex of National Guard training and workouts and schedules that begin in the wee hours and end in exhaustion before many small children are asleep. After meeting my family, he was anxious to slip away, even for just a night, and told me he wanted to take me to D.C.
It's not far. Traffic in the nation's capital is horrendous and parking is scarce. But it's hard to complain too much when you're maneuvering through streets lined with memorials and historic buildings and incredible museums and other matters of importance. It is easier to complain when you just want to get there, though, when you're longing to luxuriate in a comfortable bed stacked high with pillows, to see sites you haven't seen in ages or ever, and to do it all with someone you don't see nearly enough.
It was the Not Boyfriend's first trip to D.C., which is funny for a man as well=traveled as he is, for someone who has lived in as many cities as he has. I've been there many times, but not since I was a teenager. We hadn't spoken much in the two weeks he's been in training. It all made for much anticipation of 24 hours together right there where decisions are made and people are honored and Sigourney Weaver was standing in the lobby of our hotel.
Here are the five things I loved most about this time around Washington, D.C.
1. The Lincoln Memorial. It does me good to stand silent and in awe of this enormous seated man, surrounded by his second inaugural speech engraved on the walls, massive columns and and crowds of people looking small and humbled. It's long been my favorite memorial, confident and quiet and peering out over the reflecting pool toward the Washington Monument. It's the first place I wanted to go, like a reset on all the things I think are important in my life now.
While we were there, we met entrepreneurs who asked us to model their t-shirts for their business Facebook page. We loved the message, that they were from Milwaukee, and that we were meeting up there for just a few moments in agreement about what should be next for this country.
2. Quaint neighborhoods. We stayed in a hotel tucked in Georgetown and took some time to walk down sidestreets, take pictures of the canal and winding wisteria and brilliant-painted brick, to admire the architectural details we both notice and adore. We packed a lot into our short visit and so veering off and away from the cars and foot traffic felt like the right balance.
3. Cobblestone. Rich with history, perfect for pictures, terrible for heels. Of course, I teetered over the cobblestone in platform sandals to dinner. But everywhere else, I wore flats and carried an arsenal of blister band-aids in my bag.
4. Vietnam War Memorial. I'm not sure I could ever capture what this war meant to the generations who witnessed it, protested against it, served in it, grieved it. Standing in the center where the two walls of this memorial meet, where the names of those who died or are missing in action both begin and end, is powerful, emotional, silencing. The design is simple, the names are overwhelming, and all of it, burrowed into the side of a hill makes it a place where even the most removed of us should feel the experience of that war.
5. The White House. Why does it matter where, as Lil E says, "Broccoli Obama" lives? Because standing in front of it, with crowds of people pressed to the surrounding gates and Secret Service at attention, has an energy. It feels alive and buzzy like things are happening there. Sometimes those things are silly pictures taken by freezing cold people in the rain in an attempt to feel like they are a matter of feet away from the president while signing international decrees or snacking on cashews and Diet Coke or somesuch, but still, it's alive.
6. Silly photo ops. There's a lot of staunchness and seriousness and contemplation and history here, yes. So it is good to laugh about why the Thomas Jefferson sculpture is caged or why so many men in their 60s are dining with models in their 20s, why the service is consistently bad at cafes and hot-spot restaurants, how the secrets of the city are kept by the door men and cabbies. Of course, it's also important to recreate the classic funny-ish photos of all the phallic places you will see along the footpath from memorial to memorial.
7. There's always more. We stopped into one Smithsonian museum, a place we'd normally spend hours walking around and absorbing as much as we can. But the admission is free (I'd forgotten that), which meant we could leave when we were ready, knowing we could always return for a second glance or longer stay. We only saw the new MLK Jr. memorial from the cab as we whipped back to our hotel. And I'd love to tour the U.S. Mint again, see some art, maybe take a walking tour. We didn't have time for everything we wanted to see, but we also didn't feel pressure to do it all. It's right there, not far. And it will be waiting for us, in all its glory and stoicism and silliness and cobblestones, to return. Soon? I hope so. With tennies that time. Plus, a small, curious child. And better recommendations for eateries with good service. Just a short drive and lots of honking and swearing at pedestrians away.