Weekend wrap-up: D.C., books & birthdays

newseumkatie_birthdayTo say the last few weeks have been busy would be a gross understatement (gross, I tell you!). Birthday season is always action-packed, but I’ve been enjoyed every minute of it! My baby sister turned 21 last Thursday and we made a trek to the Newseum in Washington, D.C. once more to check out the history of journalism and see all the cool exhibits. We had lunch at the Elephant & Castle — a British-style pub we love — and then had dinner at Clyde’s, which was awesome. Their fantastic blondie (and the birthday girl) are pictured at right!

Saturday was my sister’s big pool party, held by her boyfriend Eric! My grandmother’s “beer cake” was a huge hit, and I’m happy to say that I only had one slice — a serious achievement for me! I loved lounging with my best friend Nichole and meeting Kate and Eric’s great group of friends. Throughout the day, I even managed to actually A) put on a bathing suit; B) get in the pool; and C) participate in pool volleyball, all while barely keeping my head above water. (Hey, I’m only 5’2″. That pool was wicked deep!) 

poolI was proud that I’d “stepped out of my comfort zone” and made strides toward becoming a new, balanced and more relaxed me. I’m heading to another friend’s pool party this weekend, and I even broke down and bought a new suit! Of course, considering it’s almost August, I had a hard time finding anything decent . . . but that’s my own fault for being so inhibited for so long, I suppose!

little_china_pigYesterday found my mom, sister and I walking around an antiques show at our old high school, and logically my eye immediately went to any old books that seemed to be hanging around. I had a vague, ridiculous notion that maybe I’d find an antique copy of one of Jane Austen’s works at a crazy low price, but that didn’t happen! What we did find was a small, worn copy of a children’s book I haven’t seen or thought of in more than a decade — The Little China Pig. First published in 1969, my grandmother would read to Kate and me as kids from a copy that belonged to my mom and aunt! I got so excited when I saw it, and for $2 our china pig came home with us.

I’ve started a collection of kids’ books for my kids — all the unborn, not-even-a-remote-twinkle-in-my-eye ones. Is that strange? I just worry that when I have my own children, all of the movies, books and toys I loved will be gone — or, you know, selling for $1,000 on eBay. I want to make sure I have items like “The Little Mermaid” (my childhood favorite) and will be able to share that with my future family. Don’t worry — my stack of “to be shared with kids” items is very small. But I’m sure it’ll start growing in earnest soon.

Sweltering with inauguration fever

obama1It’s almost upon us — four days until President-elect Barack Obama takes the oath of office. By now, everyone is quite aware that inauguration fever is gripping the nation — and, specifically, my area. I’ve lived in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C. my entire life. Almost everyone I know has a parent that works downtown, or works downtown themselves. My mother has been a federal government employee since before I was born. On the good days, we’ve been to the monuments, walked on the mall, wandered through the plentiful and awesome museums, checked out the Capitol, partied over at the Newseum. Everyone’s been to shows, seen the National Christmas Tree, stood in front of the White House. I interned in D.C. for a summer in college, working at a daily paper. On the bad days, we lived through 9/11 and wondered if our friends and family were safe following the attack on the Pentagon.

A great many events have taken place in the nation’s capital since I was born in 1985 — and I’ve been there for many of them. I attended Bill Clinton’s first inauguration with my parents in 1993 and, to avoid getting crushed by the masses of folks who turned out for the event, had to be put my father’s shoulders in the crowd. That was a little traumatic! And by the sounds of things going down in the city next week, President Obama’s turn-out will be equally as dramatic and astounding. While estimates on the turn-out Jan. 20 were once as high as three million, I think that number has come down quite a bit. Still, I think Tuesday will be equally momentous for its

Eugene Robinson has a pretty interesting piece in the Washington Post this morning, asking the question on the lips of everyone in the metro area now — Will Washington survive the inauguration? The roads between Virginia and the District are closed. Waits to be able to climb aboard a Metro train on Tuesday are estimated to take about six hours. Road closures will probably exceed the streets we’ll actually be able to take. The idea of even bringing a car downtown is laughable. Hotel rooms are booked up all the way through Charles and Calvert counties in Southern Maryland, and absolutely nothing near the scene is available. Stories about folks renting our their homes in Alexandria and Arlington for thousands of dollars hit the news months ago. Security will be unbelievably strict, I’m sure, and the cold is going to be a little intolerable. Though if you’re crammed in the middle of a writhing mass of other attendees, it’ll probably be a little hot.

In the joyful chaos that erupted following Obama’s election last November, I’d actually harbored delusions of getting down to attend a ceremony or check out the parade. My dad was one of the first to petition our senators for tickets, but we weren’t chosen in the raffle.

So where will I be on Tuesday while history is being made 30 miles from my house? Right in my little office, peering at CNN on my computer screen. I’m going to see if I can get permission to stream the inauguration speech! Or find someone with a TV. Despite all of our economic troubles at the moment, it’s still an awesome and exciting time to be an American. And it’s exciting to be in Maryland, too. Even though I’ll be planted at my desk chair typing furiously, my heart will be down in that crowd Tuesday!

And whether or not our area will “survive” the inauguration next week? That’s a little up in the air, too. Mom has to be back in the city Wednesday morning, as do thousands of other workers. We’ll see if the ticker tape has cleared up by then . . .

D.C. dallying at the Newseum

In the thick of the heat and humidity associated with a summer in Washington, yesterday dawned bright and hazy — but we were undeterred by the overall mugginess. My mom had scheduled a photo safari to venture around the city taking pictures with a new camera, so my dad, sister and I traveled over to the Newseum while she was in “class.”

Armed with our trudgy GPS and my dad’s vast knowledge of all roadways in the Metropolitan area, I drove us into D.C. and managed to secure a parking spot remarkably close to the Capitol — and the National Museum of the American Indian — my mom’s destination. I was fairly impressed that I got us downtown myself — even if Dad and Gisella the GPS directing me where to go.

hazy Capitol

hazy Capitol

I interned in the city two years ago at a daily newspaper and absolutely loved getting up early, meeting a friend at the Starbucks below our building for coffee and hot tea before sinking into my desk chair on the fourth floor, flipping on the ol’ Mac and getting to work on the day’s newsmakers. Even at 20 and with limited experience working for a paper (or working at all), I took a lot of pride in what I was doing — and learned something new constantly.

The city afforded me all of that — a broader view of the world, a sense of importance as I managed to constantly bang out stories on deadline, a new understanding of what my mom, a federal worker for the past 28 years, experienced every day.

But for all the time I spent in D.C. that summer from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, I never once hopped into my own Corolla to speed down the Beltway and cruise into town myself. The commuter bus that carries us all in from the suburbs did all the dirty work for me. I just napped and listened to my iPod or teared up while reading chick lit books — most notably Sight Hound.

So driving us into town and over to the Newseum was a pretty big deal for me. And the museum is awesome. I think I was there a few years ago when it was still out in Virginia, but the D.C. location is pretty amazing. Particular points of interest, for me, included the special display area on newspapers in the digital era and the high terrace overlooking Pennsylvania Avenue. While we were wandering about, me snapping photos like crazy, we happened to run into none other than George Stephanopoulos at the Newseum filming his Sunday morning program “This Week.” He gave us all a hearty hello and shook Kate’s hand before hopping over to the terrace to film an outside shot for a show segment, the Capitol in the background. Pretty awesome!

Mr. George Stephanopoulos

Another terrace view

I can’t wait to download all my photos from the weekend, but now I’m back at the ol’ desk gathering information for ongoing projects that have nothing to do with daily newsmakers or political advisors and everything to do with canned copy and necessary proofreading. But I can dream…

And here are a few more photos from my Sunday in D.C.:

Kate walking up to the National Museum of the American Indian

Kate walking up to the National Museum of the American Indian

Pieces of the Berlin Wall at the Newseum

Pieces of the Berlin Wall at the Newseum

On the terrace overlooking Pennsylvania Avenue

On the terrace overlooking Pennsylvania Avenue