Wednesday, July 11, 2012

this capital of ours

This has been quite the work trip.  The class is interesting and entertaining, which says quite a bit considering it's a government contracts pricing class.

Yeh, I know.  I'm a dork.

The better part of the trip has been the emergence of my inner explorer. 

Whenever I travel alone, I make all of these plans in my head about the places I'll go and the things I'll see.

But I never go anyplace except to my classes and back to my hotel.  I usually eat in my room. 

Not this trip. 

Before I left home on Sunday, I was unable to locate one more two ounce empty bottle, so rather than try to sneak my big bottle of lotion onto the plane, I figured I'd just pick up some of my favorite lotion at a store someplace.  As soon as I settled into my hotel room, I headed back downstairs to ask the concierge where I could find a drug or grocery store.  She graciously marked out my path on a map and I set off on my own, in a strange town with a map and my new explorer personality.  And I walked and walked and walked and walked.  And walked.  The drug store was closed.  So I walked to the grocery store.  I had to walk in through the parking ramp to get into the store. 

Did I mention it was hot and humid that day?  102 degrees and at least 237% humidity.  I do not know why it wasn't raining.  It should have been raining big hot raindrops.

The parking garage was hotter still.  Maybe 140 degrees and more humid.  The inside of that Safeway was a cool, blessed relief.  I didn't want to leave.  So I wandered around, gathering up groceries.  Diet coke, lotion, double-stuff oreos, and advil.  Eventually, I forced myself to go through the check out and back outside. 

On the way back to the hotel, explorer me found a restaurant that served Mediterranean grilled delights, so I got mine to go and hauled it backed to the hotel with my groceries.  The inside of that restaurant was hotter than the parking garage.  Before I could eat, I had to drop all of my stuff, including clothes, so I could cool off in the shower.  Cool water never felt so good and grilled chicken in a pita with other stuff never tasted so filling as it did after my walk, shower, and adventure.

I headed out for class the next morning and afterwards, decided I was obviously capable of another adventure.  I donned my tevas and picked up another map from the concierge, this time one of the subway, and headed back out.  I got myself onto the subway and got myself off at the Smithsonian stop.  I then walked and walked and walked and walked and walked again.  I saw the Washington monument, then wandered around until I stumbled upon the Martin Luther King monument.  Next I found the Roosevelt monument, followed by the Jefferson monument.  Before too long, I was back at the Washington monument, but somewhere along the way, I came upon some puddles on the sidewalk, which seemed to call out for my overheated feet to splash in.  So splash I did.  My feet were happy.  I was happy. 

After the Washington, I moved along toward the WWII memorial.  At some point along through there, I realized that splashing in puddles is not a good idea when one is walking and walking and walking.  Blisters began to form on my feet.  My feet started to hurt all over, I couldn't even tell where the blisters were, but suspected I might be walking on two massive foot-sized blisters.  I gave up and took off my tevas and walked barefoot on the grass alongside the pathway until I got to the Lincoln memorial.  I thought for a bit that I might be able to calm down my feet if I could just get into that reflecting pool?  Not this trip.  There is a big fence around the pool while it undergoes renovation--which I think means there were so many people there over the 4th last week that they had to drain it to get rid of the e-coli.  So a part of me is grateful that the fence prevented me from soaking my blistered feet in that murky water.

In what I consider to be one of the most miraculous moments of this trip, a taxi appeared directly in front of me as I passed the Lincoln and headed to the roadway.  By this time, I had no idea where I needed to walk to find a subway entrance.  I only knew I wasn't going to be able to walk much further, and I looked up and to my relief, there was a cabbie who recognized my faint hand gesture as a call to him to take me home. 

Which he did.  And I gladly paid him $15 for the $8 fare.

I managed to find my way into the little store in the lobby of my hotel where as I hoped, I found packages of over-priced bandaids for sale.  Well, some may say overpriced.  I say not.  They are amazingly sticky luxuriously fluffy blessings on a toe on one foot and on the ball of the other foot.   Totally worth every penny and definitely the best bandaids I've ever purchased, thank you Mr. Marriott for only stocking the best.

As soon as I got back into the air conditioning of the hotel and purchased my bandaids, I decided to eat dinner in one of the restaurants in the hotel.  So I did.  I went in to the no-reservations required restaurant, sat down near another woman who was alone, struck up a conversation with her, enjoyed a fine meal, and then gingerly made my way to the elevator and back to my room, where a nice bath and soft bed comforted me and my bandaged feet to sleep.

I have to admit that yesterday I allowed my explorer to rest her tender feet while spending the evening in my room. 

Room service tip:  hotel meatloaf is nowhere near as good as my own home-cooked meatloaf nor is the apple tart as good as homemade.  Which was enough to encourage the explorer to head back out tonight.

After class, I took the subway to the federal triangle stop.  Did I mention that my new classmate friend and I went shopping today at the mall at lunch?  Bought me some new shoes.  Sandally, flipfloppity--two pairs, one pair metallic with an awesome blossom on top and the other pair in a nice mustardy shade with a wee bit of a flower on top.  Both perfect for walking. 

Which I did today.  Took the subway to visit the folks at the White House.  I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that after exiting the subway, at every turn I walked the wrong direction.  I fell back into that thought process that says I can find stuff in unfamiliar towns without using a map.  That isn't a big deal if you're in a car (although you can go a lot further a lot faster in a car).  Walking the wrong way over and over and over (as in one block down, two blocks back over and over) can make one cranky, unless you happen to be an explorer who is wearing new sandals. 

So eventually I found the White House.  It looks a lot bigger on TV.  And there's a nice black wrought iron fence all the way around with locks on all of the gates.  Or at least on three sides.  I got tired of trying to find a way in, and it was getting close to dinner time and I didn't want to interrupt the family time inside. 

Me and my metallics were feeling pretty good still so we walked on over to the Washington monument again.  And on to the WWII.  Those sentences would imply that those places are all just a hop, skip, and jump apart, and that would be wrong and not true.  The metallics and I did a lot of walking and they started to get tired so we all sat down on a bench in the shade and changed into the mustards. 

That was inspiration, that's what that was.  The mustards had just enough oomph to get me to the Vietnam memorial.  Just before we turned on the path to it though, I noticed a large bronze statue of a woman holding a wounded soldier.  It was the women's vietnam memorial.  Did you know several hundred thousand women served in Vietnam?  Mostly nurses.  That statue was so completely overwhelmingly moving.

My shoes and I moved silently down the path to the Vietnam memorial wall.  Everytime I see that memorial, I am overcome by the hundreds and thousands of soldiers who died in that war.  Today, I also found myself wondering what we will do to honor the lives lost in the past ten years.

As I walked slowly back towards the road beyond Lincoln, once again, the miracle of the taxi occurred.  My slightly uplifted hand was enough to stop that sweet cabbie who delivered me safely back to my hotel.

Dinner tonight was a big fat bacon cheeseburger in the hotel restaurant, followed by a soothing bath and into jammies and bed for me.

This week so far has been incredible.


Shi said...

These all sound like some awesome adventures! Wish I could join you!

Lisa B. said...

p.s., that was Lisa B., so I don't know why it says "Anonymous." Boo!

Lisa B. said...

man--I had another comment above that one...stupid Blogger.

Okay: what I said is: a big adventure is just the ticket. Have you seen The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel? I think it would speak to you--it's about this very impulse you describe. I love this post.