our nation’s capital


We’d been told it was too late for cherry blossoms, but there were lots of trees still in bloom.

For my birthday this year, my very nice husband took me to Washington, D.C. I’d never been there. Somehow I missed the 8th grade trip that every kid apparently takes (and, given that I attended three different schools in that year, it’s not all that surprising). It’s only about a five hour drive away from us here and we had a great time.

IMG_2144We stayed at a nice if quirky hotel, The Churchill. It’s up near Dupont Circle and our room was very nice. I picked it for its quirkiness — sometimes I get zoned out by corporate chain hotels — so I can’t complain too much about the air conditioning that blew hot air or the long narrow bathroom that felt like a maze. Our window opened wide to a fresh cool breeze and the water pressure was good. It worked out fine.

The Churchill was also right across the street from the Washington Hilton where we would pick up our Big Bus tour each day. It also just happened to be where Reagan was shot in 1981. Dave looked up the footage on YouTube and found the exact spot the Secret Service pinned Hinkley up against a wall, which was cool if you’re history dorks like us.

IMG_2148The Big Bus tour is a double-decker bus tour with numerous loops that will take you around the city. We’ve taken similar tours in New York and Boston and we’re big fans. I can’t do as much walking as I’d like to but this way, we get around to everything we want. You can get off at any stop or you can just view sites from the bus (which I cannot enough stress the beauty of in Manhattan, especially — you get to stay off the streets, away from the dirt, away from annoying people, and often have a better view above all the traffic). If the weather’s nice (which it gloriously was, this trip) you get to enjoy riding around outside all day. We had a two-day pass for DC and covered the whole city, all the memorials, Arlington, the National Cathedral, lots of Georgetown, the White House, the Capitol Building, and so on.

IMG_2103We spent most of our time off the bus at the Lincoln Memorial; that’s the one I most wanted to see. It was a lot of walking but worth it. It really is something, standing in that beautiful building and looking at that incredibly detailed and downright lifelike sculpture. There are crowds of people there all the time, but the throng is always in motion and you can walk right up to Lincoln and say hello. (He doesn’t respond, but it’s still nice to be friendly.) And as you leave and walk back down the steps you have the grand view of the National Mall before you. I felt a little like Forrest Gump, but Jenny or no Jenny, nothing in the world would have induced me to run into that murky water.

The first night we ate at a place called 1789, a small upscale restaurant with the snootiest of French waiters. I asked for the horseradish sauce (offered in the menu!) for my steak and he sniffed and said, with a disapproving shrug of his shoulders, “If you like.” He was so disdainful, it was actually kind of fun. We had a more congenial dinner at an Italian bistro on the second night, and we also had lunch at Good Stuff Eatery, a burger place owned by Spike Mendelsohn of Top Chef. I got the Prez Obama Burger; it was yummy. The milkshakes are good, too.

"Jenny, I'm glad we were here together in our nation's capital."

“Jenny, I’m glad we were here together in our nation’s capital.”

What we didn’t do: we didn’t visit any museums. On one hand we sort of wanted to, especially the National Air and Space Museum, the Newseum, and the National Archives. Those would have been amazing, but it was just too nice out — the weather was so gorgeous, and after the long cold winter, we just couldn’t bear to give it up to spend the days inside. I mean, just looking at the line at the National Archives (to see the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, I assume) was a big deterrent — we could’ve spent the entire day just standing in that. There are amazing treasures in the museums of DC, I know, but maybe that’s a focus for another trip. For this one, we just enjoyed the city.

All in all, it was a great birthday present and a fun trip. Visit over, the drive home was quick and included a stop at Wegmans. Who could ask for anything more?

post hoc, ergo propter hoc

Wednesdays on NBC  (9-10 p.m. ET)My husband and I have been doing a rewatch of The West Wing lately, which isn’t surprising since the show is how we met. It’s certainly not our first rewatch individually — each of us has seen the series several times, I’m sure. It’s our first rewatch together, though, and for me, at least, it’s been awhile since I last visited the Bartlet White House.

It was a great show, for so many reasons — the cast, the writing, the score, the setting. It ran for seven seasons and while I felt there was a bit of a slump in the penultimate year, by the end I would have eagerly signed on for a President Santos sequel. All good things come to an end, though, and in retrospect, maybe it ended just when it was supposed to.

Watching it now, I can’t help but feel there’s an almost naive optimism to the show that doesn’t entirely gel with the horribly divided, much more cynical political landscape we’re living in right now. It’s always possible I’m the cynical one, but it’s hard to imagine anyone in government being that idealistic anymore. Bartlet’s presidency was its own little Aaron Sorkin-esque Camelot, and you can’t keep the magic going forever. You know, Matt Santos was modeled after then-Senator Barack Obama. In the final episode of the show, we’re left hopeful, excited and eager to start anew. That’s how I felt in 2008, but sadly not at all how I feel about the landscape today. Am I more disappointed because this fictional show gave me real-life expectations that were unreasonably high? Maybe, but I think that oversimplifies how defeated I feel every time I see another bill trying to encroach on women’s rights, learn of another brutal regime we’ve chosen to sell arms to, or hear another politician trying to legislate hate. I wasn’t asking for a utopian made-for-tv world, just something a little easier to live with than this.

Having said all of that… this probably won’t be the last time I’ll rewatch The West Wing. Like a nostalgic alum, I’ll keep coming back for homecoming and reunion, checking out the old dorm, driving the new-show kids nuts, remembering when. I might be a lot more cynical about politics, and a little more pragmatic about the world we live in, but I’ll never fall out of love with Josiah Bartlet, Toby Ziegler, Leo, Sam, CJ, Josh, Donna or Charlie. In that sense, I’ll always be a Wingnut, and proudly so.