08 August 2006

Short Trip — Long Recap

Back home after a short trip to Washington, DC, one of my favorite U.S. cities. This was my fourth trip in the aughts to our nation’s capital, third summer in a row.

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.

Renae and Me

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.

The obligatory photo of a gull on a post, from our restaurant table

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

Calvert Cliffs, from the beached log

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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At 8/08/2006 06:39:00 PM, Blogger Dale said...

I just took the trip with you and I'm starving, for the food at Tallula, for the art (even though I never know what I'm looking at) and for new phrases like buzzedly on the sofa, very amusing.

It sounds like you had a very nice time. I've not been to DC but it's on that big list of things to do, places to see. Great going Beth.

At 8/08/2006 06:42:00 PM, Blogger Beth said...

Thanks, Dale. I liked lolled buzzedly on the sofa myself ... and there are no better words to describe my state at that moment. The wine list and baby burgers at Tallula are almost worth the trip. Plan a DC trip, and I'll hook you up with my DC guide.

At 8/08/2006 06:45:00 PM, Blogger barista brat said...

so glad you had a great trip, especially after that bumpy beginning.

just a question - first the knee, then the staple in the hand! how many more odd injuries are you planning on squeezing in this year? haha!

At 8/08/2006 06:50:00 PM, Blogger Beth said...

LOL! Brat, I have no idea. I have a huge, painful bruise on the top of my left foot ... and I have no idea how it got there. Life in my world is hazardous; good thing I have to sit most of the day at work.

At 8/08/2006 07:20:00 PM, Blogger Marni said...

I want to travel with you! You go to some awesome places -- and you aren't a tourist; you are a traveller...

At 8/08/2006 07:44:00 PM, Blogger Beth said...

I'm a tourist and a traveler, Marni, depending on where I am and whom I'm with. But I'm fun to travel with, so find us an escape spot.

At 8/08/2006 07:45:00 PM, Blogger Dale said...

I also meant to say Beth that I loved the photos of you and the art, I'm always taking pictures of people from behind if I allow them in the shot at all.

At 8/08/2006 07:48:00 PM, Blogger Beth said...

Dale, we meant to take more of me in front of art and buildings and interesting things ... but we forgot. Glad you enjoyed them.

At 8/08/2006 09:24:00 PM, Anonymous m said...

I can think of other descriptive words for you, Ms. Tourist Traveler....

At 8/08/2006 09:54:00 PM, Blogger Beth said...

I'm sure you can, M, I'm sure you can.

At 8/08/2006 11:55:00 PM, Blogger Writeprocrastinator said...

It sounds like a wonderful time was had by all! Yeah, walking is the only way to get to know a city. I used to yell at tourists in Venice when they said that they had only been to St. Mark's Square and the Grand Canal.

Are most of the D.C. restaurants primarily French-influenced, or just the ones that you linked in this post?

At 8/09/2006 02:26:00 AM, Blogger Beth said...

Oh, no, Write Procrastinator, the DC area is filled with just about every type of restaurant you can think of.

Did you once live in Venice?

At 8/09/2006 05:49:00 AM, Blogger NYCbeauty said...

Wow, I could "see" your trip as well. Thanks for visiting my blog and for your lovely comment...I'll be back!

At 8/09/2006 07:17:00 AM, Blogger Coaster Punchman said...

I'm glad God likes you visiting DC. I felt similarly about the place, and then I moved there and discovered it hadn't been God after all coaxing me. It was Satan. And then he stole my very soul. Bummer.


ps: you are now an official member of CPW!

At 8/09/2006 07:19:00 AM, Blogger Coaster Punchman said...

pps: Is it "stole" or "stold"?

At 8/09/2006 08:29:00 AM, Blogger Jamey said...

Sounds like a GREAT weekend!

At 8/09/2006 10:32:00 AM, Blogger Jeremy said...

All this culture makes me feel like I need to take down my Ghostbusters 2 "painting"?

At 8/09/2006 02:05:00 PM, Blogger Anomie-Atlanta said...


Beth, have you ever been to Philadelphia? I can think of a few odd places you may like to go.

At 8/09/2006 02:07:00 PM, Blogger Anomie-Atlanta said...

That statement didn't come across very well. I meant unique places. :)

At 8/09/2006 06:16:00 PM, Blogger Writeprocrastinator said...

"Did you once live in Venice?"

On the northside, not too far from the train station and also on St. Helena, which is an island adjacent to the main island. It is also one of the last valparetto (ferry) stops before the Lido.

At 8/11/2006 01:50:00 PM, Blogger Beth said...

NYCBEAUTY: Welcome to the comment box!

COASTER PUNCHMAN: Satan’s been spending a lot of time tempting my Baptist-bred soul these days, so he could very well be behind the weather machinations. As long as I’m comfortable, I don’t care. (And “stole” is correct.)

JAMEY: It was. Just way too short.

JEREMY: Take good care of that Ghostbusters 2 “painting,” my friend. It’s a classic, and will only appreciate in value.

ANOMIE-ATLANTA: I’ve only been to Atlanta for a couple of afternoons (decades apart). I need to spend a long weekend there; I always hear good things.

WRITE PROCRASTINATOR: You must tell me about your Venice days! One of my favorite places in the world. If I ever get married, that’s where I want to do it.


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