Monday, October 20, 2008

DC in words, part 2

On Saturday, we showered, got dressed, had breakfast, and headed outside. We hadn’t planned to go to the National Aquarium, but since we saw it on our way to the Smithsonian, we decided to go in. It was the only attraction that cost us money, so of course it was the one we liked the least. It was pretty dinky, although there were a few cool things, including an enormous octopus.

“Hey, G,” I whispered, pointing at the tentacles waving sinuously through the water. “I saw a hentai like that once.”

“You are both disturbed and disturbing,” G said, shaking his head.

Next we went to the Smithsonian Natural History Museum and spent almost two hours in the gems and minerals exhibit. The Hope Diamond had a huge crowd of people around it, but I managed to jump up and down and catch a quick glimpse. There were some really amazing things in there, including some bizarre rock formations and a gorgeous diamond and turquoise tiara, originally owned by Marie Antoinette, that had me pressing my face against the glass and drooling covetously. We also looked at the bones (uh huh huh) before taking our leave.

We walked from there to Chinatown (which, according to R, locals call “Chain-A Town” because most of the traditional shops and restaurants have been driven out by places like Urban Outfitters and Hooters), and by the time we got there, we were insanely hungry. Unfortunately, there was a hockey game at the Verizon Center that night, and every restaurant was packed assholes to elbows with boisterous Washington Capitals fans in red jerseys. The shortest wait we were quoted was an hour. We stopped to watch a chef making noodles, and as he twirled the dough and stared at my chest (though, to be fair, he might not have been admiring my breasts---gloriously ample as they are---but trying to decipher my weird Japanese t-shirt), I turned to G and said plaintively, “I’m so hungry.”

“I know, me too. Maybe we better leave Chinatown and find something further away.”


“No cake!” he said firmly. “Jesus, that dessert last night wasn’t enough? We’ll find some real food.”

So we started walking again, and outside of a tiny, fortuitously named place called Eat First, a stooped Chinese woman looked at us and said the magic words: “Come in, no waiting.”

When we sat down, I looked at the menu and said, “Hmmm. Do I want the baked frog stuffed with pig intestines, or do I want the cold shredded jellyfish salad?”

“Oh dear god,” G said, turning green around the gills.

“Yeah, um, lemon chicken for me.”

And oh my god. This tiny, unassuming place had the BEST FUCKING CHINESE FOOD I’ve ever had. Despite the lemon sauce generously ladled all over the chicken, the skin managed to stay crisp and hot. And that sauce! It was the perfect mix of sweet and tart, and complemented the chicken perfectly. It was a huge plate, and aside from a couple of pieces I generously gave to G, I managed to finish it all (and a bowl of rice, and a Coke, and two cups of green tea, and a fortune cookie).

On Sunday morning, we got Madre into her wheelchair (she had hurt her hip the day before) and headed to the Smithsonian. We walked around several art galleries, and then we went back to the Tagliapietra exhibit because G thought his parents would love it, which they did.

Our next stop was the National Zoo. It was on a hill, so G worked up quite a sweat pushing the wheelchair around. It was pretty late in the day by then, so most of the animals were hiding (including the lemurs, which gave G serious sadface since those are his favorite), but at least we got to see the pandas. Afterwards, we got dinner and then went back to the hotel for the night.

And on Monday, my portion of the trip drew to a close. Padre and G packed up the car, and we headed off to the airport. We stopped at a botanical garden on the way, and they had such a gorgeous selection of orchids that I was tempted to spirit one away in my purse. Then they dropped me off at the airport, where I hugged everyone, gave G a big kiss, and went inside.

My flight was pretty uneventful. I had a window seat, which I ordinarily like, but I had to ask my seatmates to get up when I needed the bathroom, which always makes me feel bad. The food selection was expensive and unappealing, so I ate the blueberry almond granola bar and bag of white cheddar Cheez-Its I’d brought. The movie was Son of Rambow, which I wouldn’t have minded seeing, but in order to see the screen I had to tilt my head at an uncomfortable angle, so I said eff it and alternated between sleep and fiddling around on my DS. When we got closer to LA, we hit some nasty turbulence due to the Santa Ana winds, so I whiteknuckled the armrest and waited for it to pass.

Once at LAX, I went to the bathroom, bought a bottle of water, and then rushed out to the curb to wait for the Van Nuys flyaway bus.

And wait.

And wait.

Oooh, there it is! No, wait, that’s the one for Union Station.

Ooooh, finally! Nope, it’s the Westwood bus.

People were beginning to shift their weight from foot to foot and stamp the ground like uneasy cows. I had to pee again, but I was afraid to go inside lest I miss the bus. Finally, a woman called the station on her cell phone, and we found out that the buses were delayed because parts of the freeway had been closed down due to the wildfires. When the correct bus finally arrived, the driver told us that she had four seats available, and she randomly stabbed her finger at four people. (There was no actual line, just a mob.) “You, you, you, and you!” she barked.

I was the final “you”, and I would have rejoiced except that a mini-riot broke out. People started screaming and shouting, and the driver (a sassy black woman, as the Van Nuys bus drivers tend to be) said, “Hey! Hold up! There’s another bus about five minutes behind me, so you all better calm the hell down because I am NOT in the damn mood.”

So, about two hours after I arrived at LAX, with an empty stomach and a bladder full of whiz, I was on my way back home. The traffic on the 405 was surprisingly light, to my relief and surprise. At one point, I looked to my left and saw the fires in the hills, which was eerie and a good wakeup call. I mean, yeah, I was starving and I had to pee and I was going to get home late, but at least I still had a home.

Well, I hoped I still had a home.

When we got to the station, I walked right past my car because I didn’t even recognize it; thanks to all the ash on top of it, it looked more gray than blue. I threw my bags in the trunk and drove home, a trip that should have taken 30 minutes at most but took over an hour due to traffic. Finally, I pulled into my parking spot, went inside, showered, got into bed at 11PM, and set my alarm for 6:30AM.


So yeah, that part sucked, but at least the rest of the trip was awesome. I got to see G2, R, Madre, and Padre, I got to spend lots of time with my sweetie, I saw lots of cool stuff, and I ate lots and lots of delicious food. The weather was perfect and practically every attraction was free. Doesn’t get much better than that.