Sunday, March 07, 2010

D.C. scrambles

You hate it when your daughter says “oh-oh.” And you kick yourself for being relieved that it’s only a matter of a lost phone. Especially when it sinks in that a lost phone is a huge headache and a not insignificant expense. So you volunteer to retrace your steps for the evening – so that you can be the gallant one who, at the end of the day, reemerges with the lost phone and makes things right again.

How many times in their lives have you wanted to make things right again for them?! And how many times – as in this case – did you know that you probably would fail?

I reenter the bar where we had spent time earlier that day. The Passenger.



We had sat at the counter at a time that is apparently early in the life of a bar – between 6 and 8. And so we could sit and talk, and, as it is a place where you tell the bartender your dream tastes and she concocts a drink to suit your fancies, I could pour out my wishes and she poured them into a glass that had elements of fruit, but not sweetness, alcohol, but not gin, and a splash of color with homemade Grenadine. Or, was it home made pomegranate juice? No matter. Drinks should not be that tasty. Because it leads you to order a second.


Now , closer to midnight, the Passenger is so crowded that it’s not clear how anyone can spell out their dream beverage and be heard over the raucously told stories of fellow bar hoppers. The gentle voices may as well stay in the off mode.

Oh, and by the way, have you found an iPhone? No?

I move on to the restaurant – Central – a wonderful place with everything from gougeres to fried chicken. I had eaten a most wonderfully modern shrimp remoulade earlier...


Now, there is a late night hush. A few strands of conversation, the clatter of collected plates... No, no phone left by the table. None in the bathroom, none under the feet of the couple who had replaced us at our spot in the corner.

Outside, I realize that I had flown out of the house without my coat. One of those gestures born of haste and greatly regretted. I hail a taxi and give myself a good moment of tears. Failure is never pleasant and not especially at the end of a day, where you wanted to lull your child, even though she is not really a child, but you can pretend, to sleep with sweet thoughts of beautiful scenes from a day well spent.  

Mom, it’s only a phone, for God’s sake.

It had been a day well spent. And for once, the often fickle weather of a DC March played along.

Waking up, I looked out on clear skies. Warm enough to allow these two to take their break on the rooftop.


We walk up to St Ex on 14th, past this guy, setting up pansies for you to take home. So tempting, Only my home is not here and in any case, it’s probably too early for pansies in Wisconsin.


We sit at the counter by the window and eat eggs over cheddar grits. Why are grits so perfect here?


Fortified now. Off we go. And it is a long long walk, one that makes the leg muscles pleasantly ache at the end of it all. But we have so many places to recall and remember!

...from the Washington Monument, piercing and wonderful against the blue skies...


...up the Mall, past museums, were families pause for the warm sun. Or snacks. Or maybe both.

DSC02573 the Capitol, yes that one, that place of gridlock and scandal and occasionally something more palatable, but now blissfully quiet on this week-end day where surely everyone must be enjoying the peace and quiet of a perfect spring day.


...round to the back, past the Supreme Court. My daughter says - did I tell you? I went to hear an oral argument last week. Yes, she wore her gold bracelets and hoop earnings, and asked lots of questions. But today, only a sole fellow goes up the steps, up to the top and back again, as if this climb put him closer to the truth, or maybe just closer to a good view of the Capitol across the street.


... and onto the Capitol Hill blocks of older homes, made beautiful now, especially now when the first spring branches are getting ready to explode and the crocuses win the race for the speediest and the freshest flowers of the season.



We finish at her newest favorite – a place where she comes on trivia night, right here on H Street, in the Atlas district. In ten years, when I come back to D.C. to visit, this will be completely different, she muses.


Abandoned houses and storefronts even now are being gutted and taken over by enterprising types. A sandwich shop there, a coffee house across the street...

We pause over an espresso and hot cocoa. We call her sister up in Boston. Same time zone. It makes her seem that much closer.


Leaving this new for me neighborhood...


...we return to the familiar. Union Station, the edge of Chinatown, and home again. Home for a little while. Just a few more weeks of D.C. life for her. And one more day for me. One last scramble to create a final D.C. moment.