Short Trip — Long Recap
What do I like about DC? First off, there’s art everywhere you go. For free. The National Gallery, which includes the Vogels’ collection (they’re in my book of heroes; theirs is a story worthy of its own post one day). The Hirschhorn and Corcoran, the Sackler and The Phillips Collection, and so many more. If art’s your thing, DC is a must.
What else? DC is a walking city. I don’t live in a walking city; I live in a city where you drive the quarter mile to Kroger. I’ve found that I adore walking cities — New York City, San Francisco, Chicago, DC. Walking blocks and blocks make you a part of the city, brings the city to life.
But the best thing about the DC area is it’s the home of French, one of my favorite life companions. Funny, honest, happy, adventurous, and one of the smartest people I know. Gracious manners, open heart, and an incredibly hearty laugh. We share passions in music and books and travel and grammar. I’m lucky to have been his friend for the last 15 years. I cherish the boy's soul. I wish he’d move back to Atlanta, but I do enjoy going up for my annual visit and having all of his attention focused on me.
I usually go to DC in the summer. Me, who hates heat and humidity, although I’ve lived in a humid city all my life. But every time I go to DC (and French will back me up on this), God blows out the hot and the humid, leaving me happy and relaxed in milder summer temps. I think God likes my visiting DC.
This year’s trip had another purpose: to see one of Renae’s photographs at the Greater Reston Arts Center, outside DC.
So, a quick recap of the last few days.
After the trials and tribulations of the flight to DC, we landed at National at 3:45 p.m., and I met up with French a little after 4:00. We were about 30 minutes from the gallery in Reston, a gallery that closed at 5:00. We dashed to the car … up the highway … through the faux world that is Reston … to the complex where the gallery was located. We, of course, parked as far away from the gallery as was possible, and had to stop several times to ask for directions, those directions always starting with a “go way down there” and accompanied by an arm wave indicating way down there. We burst through the door at 4:45. The gallery hostess was gracious and didn’t rush our viewing of the Languages of Silence show. It was juried by J.W. Mahoney, who recently retired from the Hirshhorn and is the regional arts editor for Art in America magazine (translation: The guy knows art and he selected one of Renae’s photographs for the show. I’m not surprised, but impressed and thrilled.). We got some photos of Renae’s piece, hanging on the wall as you walked in, already purchased by a GRACE board member — and checked out the rest of the work. I may be partial, but I have an eye for art, and Renae’s was by far the most interesting and evocative piece in the show.
The first purpose of the trip complete, we immediately moved to the second purpose: sending booze coursing through our veins. French and I walked a couple of blocks and slid onto barstools at Clyde’s. Fortified an hour later by cosmopolitans and Guinness, we decided maybe food wouldn’t be a bad idea.
The DC area is filled with remarkable restaurants, and my foodie friend French always selects a good one for us. Saturday nigh was Tallula, a restaurant in Arlington that boasts an impressive wine list and darn good food. Luck stayed on our side as we snagged a rare outdoor table. We amused ourselves with the baby burger (black truffle butter and red onion marmalade on a tiny hamburger bun) and two more appetizers. My entrée selection was the ricotta gnudi (similar to the gnudi I had at The Spotted Pig in New York last fall), with a nice pinot gris from an Oregon winery. Dinner was sumptuous, and the company was extraordinary.
It was now late, and the lethal combination of little sleep, long airport wait, and lots of alcohol sucked all energy from this old body. We went back to French’s and crashed.
French had an interesting suggestion for a Sunday adventure: Drive out to Maryland and sift the shore of the Chesapeake Bay for fossils at Calvert Cliffs.
But first we had to complete an arts-and-crafts project to build sifters that would help us find fossils in the water. French built the frames on Saturday, as I lolled buzzedly on the sofa. It was now time to cut out the screens and staple them to the frames. It seems I have a knack for snipping wire and stapling it to wood … except for that one time when I stapled-gunned my hand. We’re still not quite sure how I did it, but it did begin with my scoffing at French for holding the staple gun backward … which I then did, but I stapled, too. I really need to get my scoffing under control, since God seems to enjoy mocking me for my mean thoughts (see Saturday’s post).
Self-stapled … and sober
Sifters completed, hand bandaged, and water iced, we headed out for Maryland, taking the Nick’s Trip route. French has XM radio, so the soundtrack was varied and superb — Americana, 1980s New Wave, classic rock, alternative, bluegrass. The 90-minute drive allowed us the luxury of deep, philosophical, from-the-heart conversations: whether or not Chrissie Hynde is hot (I think so; French used to think so, but now thinks she’d frighten him), comparisons of our witty conversations with Scott McCaughey before a Minus 5 show, possible romantic connections, and other important issues of the day.
We stopped for lunch on Solomons Island, a beautiful spot on the river in Maryland. And what do you eat while in Maryland? Crab, of course. We had crab sandwiches, crab balls, and mushrooms stuffed with crabmeat. And some rum drinks (did you know you get a quick buzz if you haven’t had much rum in the last year? ‘Tis so.) We had a nice table on the patio overlooking the water, so it was hard to get up and get going. But get going we did.
Calvert Cliffs is a perfect spot in this world of ours. To get to the beach, you take a two-mile hike through woods largely untouched by man (just a few planks, service roads, and mile markers). It was so quiet. And green. And peaceful. Just a perfect hike.
We made it to the cliffs and the shore of the Chesapeake, and spent a couple of hours playing along the shore. The sifters worked well, and we found pieces of fossils and water-worn rocks. There were two kids playing near us, fascinated by our sifters, so I let them play with mine while I relaxed and watched on a fallen log. When you live in a landlocked city, you forget how peaceful waves washing ashore can be, so I wanted to get lost in that for a while.
French and little Julia looking for fossils
We headed back down the trail around six … pointed the car toward DC … had more deep discussions about hot rock stars and good books and favorite songs … and simply enjoyed each other’s witty take of life.
Booze and blood loss and beach romping had worn us both out, so we stayed in Sunday night, ordering a pizza and watching a DVD. Just like we used to.
Monday’s calendar was penciled in as culture day. The National Gallery had disappointed me last summer when I popped into the East Building to pay my respects to one of my favorite pieces of art — Chuck Close’s Fanny/Fingerpainting — only to find that it was in storage (art museums often rotate their permanent collection since they don’t have room to display everything).
Fanny/Fingerpainting (Chuck Close, 1985)
So we had to go by the National Gallery so that I could once again gaze upon Close’s astonishing use of fingerprints — yes, fingerprints — to create this huge portrait of his mother-in-law. Sadly, oh so sadly, Fanny/Fingerpainting is still undeservedly stuck in storage. French and I opted to check out the Henri Rousseau show in the East Wing. We were both underwhelmed with the Rousseau collection on display, other than The Dream. I’ve always enjoyed The Dream (once had a watch with it reproduced on the face) and I liked the Rousseau work I’d seen at Paris’ Musée d'Orsay, but these paintings were flat and boring. Or maybe I just wasn’t in the mood.
Henri and I share a dream
I was restless, so it was decided that a long lunch was in order — after, of course, I picked out a bauble at the museum’s gift shop. Art museum gift shops always have the best baubles, and they’re a good reminder of the day. I found a nice pair of earrings, and we grabbed a cab.
We lunched at the Hawk ‘n’ Dove, a well-known bar in Capitol Hill. Damn good hamburger — and they actually serve it rare if you request it — but skip the gazpacho. French regaled me with tales from his recent trip to Italy, and we talked about Paris and Rome and other favorite cities. We then wandered the neighborhood streets until it was time to go back to French’s place and gather my luggage.
I made the return flight — the flight I would have preferred to miss, so that I could have taken up more of French’s time. It was marvelous to get away … but now I feel a little lonely without French by my side.
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