Calamity Jane does D.C. Jul20


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Calamity Jane does D.C.

I haven’t checked with Ali on this, she might have a few key objections, but if I could plop us down in history at any time and place, I’d like to try our hand at the Great Oklahoma Land Rush and homesteading. Ali would have on her best fashionably functional dress, sinched in at the bodice and skirt puffed out with a petticoat. I’d have to go more the Calamity Jane route with a tailored leather vest and fringed chaps and of course a killer cowgirl hat.

We’d be sitting astride our antsy mares waiting for the starting gun to fire, right next to Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise. We wouldn’t bother with a wagon, those things got their asses kicked by all the hills and sharp turns. No. We’d be on fast horses and the gun would crack and then we’d race our faces off to stick our flag into the grandest, most beautiful piece of untouched land, with trees and a creek running through it. And then we’d work.

(If you haven’t seen the movie Far and Away from 1992, or if you haven’t seen it in a long time, go rent it. It’s worth two hours of your life. Tom and Nicole are so young and their characters are so wonderfully flawed, but funny and lovable. But back to me.)

Calamity-Jane-sm FREE LAND! We’d sweat and cry and struggle, plant our fields, tend our livestock, and build our own home. I’d call Allison a corker a few times a week and she would make fun of me and all the new hats I’d buy. And we’d live the hard, but glorious version of the pioneer story. To make it really work though I think we’d need to borrow a little magic from a couple of other movies as well. From Matrix, we’d need the thinga-ma-jiggy that downloads instant expertise into your brain. A jujsh of construction and farming, please. Then when a drought, tornado or famine hit, which ever came first, Ali would click the heals of her rhinestone studded boots three times and we’d be whisked back to 2013 to the local KOA where we’d left the RV.

If only life were like the movies. Wink!

I know most of that is utterly impossible, I can’t even ride a horse unless it’s standing mostly still. And the land part, even if you moved it to today and put a house on it, is naively romantic, but I think it’s OK, maybe even important, to hold on to a romantic view of yourself. You should also spread some of it onto your partner, like icing. I want and need to believe that I am still capable of great things, hard work and passion and that I can survive failure with flair in the pursuit of these. And so can Allison. Without that outlook, the rest of my days seem pretty lack luster. I’ve always felt that dreaming is harmless, almost nourishing, if done in the right way.

But instead of a time-machine plopping us into the empty plains of Oklahoma, an airplane plopped just me into Washington, D.C. Well, it was actually into the suburbs of Northern Virginia. My aunt Meg and my cousin Gaelyn picked me up at Dulles International Airport that afternoon and we drove into Leesburg, VA to meet up with my mom and dad. It had been too long since I’d seen my parents, even longer since I’d seen my aunt and even LONGER since I’d seen my cousin and my uncle Brendan. It was all very exciting.

We had Gaelyn to thank for this family rendezvous, since it was the event of her graduation from high school that called us all together. Ali was having a similar family pow wow in Portland, thanks to her cousin Hannah also graduating high school on the same day. So there we were, 3,000 miles apart after being together 24/7 for 3 months and in big sprawling cities after wilderness and small western prairie towns. Hmm. This should be interesting.

Our family plan was to get the girl graduated out in Loudon County and then drive into the big city, Washington, D.C to stay for a couple nights and see the sights. I grew up in Virginia, with D.C. just a 40 minute drive away so it’s familiar to me, but I think the last time I’d been there was the summer after I graduated from William and Mary. A LONG TIME AGO. I was looking forward to seeing the monuments and a museum or two. But first the graduation.


Meg, Brendan and Gaelyn live out in Middleburg, VA which is horse country. There are heaps of rolling green hills, barns, trees and creeks, and narrow dirt roads, some of which lead to perfectly situated hilltop wineries. Much like a runner would carb-load for a big race, I gorged on the quiet countryside. I ate all the peaceful mental-calories I could, before I would need to burn them all to get through my upcoming immersion in our loud Nation’s Capitol. On graduation day we celebrated with Veuve Clicquot Champagne. Oh the Yellow Label, my favorite!

The next morning we successfully caravan-ed two cars into the city by taking a couple of toll roads and parkways. I drove my parent’s rental car and my aunt followed me to the National Cathedral for a visit and a lunch stop before we checked in to our hotel. Lunch was pretty good, but paying $22 (PER CAR) to park for 3 hours at the Cathedral was painful. After lunch it was time to wind our way downtown toward Dupont Circle and the Embassy Suites. Here is where we dipped into “shoot me now” bad. Suffice to say I missed the turn onto the hotel’s one way street several times, and nearly took out a bike on one of the trips around the block. There was a lot of construction that I could blame, but mostly I was just out of my element, the sounds, fast cars, big busses, and people in crosswalks. You know how when you toss a ball at a baby, their eyes are all big, arms are out ready to catch it, but the ball bonks them in the face. That was me, wide-eyed and short on motor skills and that damn street bonked me in the face four times before I caught it!




Luckily the hotel had a FREE Happy Hour, all the wine and beer and Blue Diablo’s you could want along with chips and salsa and cheddar gold fish to keep you upright. The four ladies beelined to the bar and got busy on a marathon talking-fest, while Dad found himself a basketball game on TV in the room. We spent the whole next day trying to see as much of D.C as we could, but it was super hot. We melted outside and re-formed ourselves in the air-conditioned museums several times, doing our best to hit the highlights, but you simply can’t do it all in a day.

Washington Monument  closed and in scaffolding for repairs from the earthquake.

Washington Monument closed and in scaffolding for repairs from the earthquake.


Korean War Memorial

Korean War Memorial

I really wanted to see the Declaration of Independence, but the line stretched around the block, and I could spend more time at several of the other museums, so I may have to talk Allison into another visit once we get to the East Coast in the fall. A cooler average temperature, and picking a subway station outside of town to park at and ride in should help. But my absolute favorite part of the whole trip was the talking – life, love, kids, friends, moms, college, mistakes, jobs, books, siblings, dreams and more. We covered it all – Mom, Meg, Gaelyn and I – making up for lost time.