lost, for a little while


destination: d.c.
April 16, 2011, 11:26 pm
Filed under: trips

The Lincoln Memorial

I drove into D.C. filled with hope.

My fingers were crossed that I’d enter the city limits and feel that click of the universe shifting into place; I’d see the skies open up and hear a voice from on high bellow out “LISA, THIS IS IT. THIS IS WHERE YOU SHOULD BE.”

My search would be over. I’d finally have a clear idea of where to move next, and would get to live out the next stage of my fantastic life within close distance of family and friends. For once, I would know for sure what the hell I was doing.

I didn’t get any cosmic signals, but I did get some pretty good pizza.

My brother, Matt, was acting as my host for this trip, and my first night in town he took me out for dinner and drinks with a couple of his friends at Piola, an Italian restaurant in Arlington. I later found out that Piola is a chain, but it’s only in a handful of cities in the U.S. and this was my first encounter with it. It felt both classy and laid-back — much like our dinner combination of wine and pizza (I went with the Italia) — and was a great spot for happy hour drinks and lazy evening conversation. I’m hoping to cross paths with another of its locations in the near future.

For the next few days, though, I was kind of on my own. My brother and all of my friends in town are gainfully employed, and therefore were not available for spur-of-the-moment wandering in the middle of the week. This wouldn’t be much of a problem, ordinarily, since D.C. is filled with plenty of things to see and do, but I quickly found out that I’d seen and done all the cool stuff the first time around, when I lived there for a summer. All that remained were my third-string attraction picks.

A small slice of the WWII Memorial

The World War II Memorial was swarming with school groups when I arrived, all of them frantically taking pictures with their Kodak disposable cameras. As I did a loop around the memorial, I found myself wondering what they saw that was worth taking pictures of, as well as “Who buys disposable cameras anymore?”

I always believed that memorials should be dignified and evoke some sense of awe and respect for the subjects they celebrate. While there’s certainly nothing overtly tacky about the WWII Memorial, it is, in a word, busy. There are fountains and plaques engraved with quotes; there are statues of eagles and columns dedicated to each state that participated in the war; there are gold stars to represent the fallen soldiers, and bronze wreathes to represent industrial and agricultural strength. There is, basically, a lot going on. It was distracting, and I’m not sure I ever really took a minute to stop and reflect on what I was looking at, as well as what it represented.

Korean War Memorial statues

The Korean War Memorial was haunting. That’s really the best word I can use to describe it, and if you go see it, you’ll know what I mean. The statues of the soldiers seem to rise up out of the ground and are forever frozen in place, mid-step as they trudge toward the enemy with weary faces. The wall beside the statues has faces carefully etched into the stone, but done so in such a delicate manner that the images appear and disappear as you change the angle from which you’re looking, like ghosts. It stuck with me long after I left.

The Lincoln Memorial was packed, this time with Chinese tour groups and parents desperately trying to corral their kids into taking a family photo on the steps. For a moment, I wasn’t sure that I was in the right place. When I got to the top of the stairs, all I could see were more people, but once my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I saw him. Our 16th president, Mr. Abraham Lincoln. It was a lot smaller than I had expected, and I felt kind of gypped.

No matter — onto more places! I must see all that D.C. has to offer!

The Air & Space Museum, it seemed, was more for people who actually have an interest in airplanes or space. (And at $5 a pop, I couldn’t even bring myself to purchase some space ice cream — which, to this day, I still crave, at times.)

The National Museum of the American Indian jammed all of its artifacts into small displays out in the hall, while the actual rooms were filled with pictures, art, and stories of contemporary tribe members. I had been hoping to learn more about the history of the tribes and walked away disappointed.

Not all was lost, though. I split up my wanderings with various meet-ups with friends for lunch or drinks, relishing the chance to see so many people in one place. After each catch-up sesh, however, I’d feel a little more frustrated with myself. Despite the handful of museum duds (for every bad one, there’s two good ones), D.C.’s a great city. I love the historical feel of the buildings, the public transportation that even I can manage, and the many small parks that help break up all that concrete. So with all that and friends close at hand, it begged the question: why wasn’t I itching to move here for real?

Springtime in the city

I walked aimlessly on my third day and, despite the underwhelming experience with memorials I had the previous day, decided to check out the Jefferson Memorial. D.C. was in the middle of its short-lived cherry blossom season, and the banks of the tidal basin were covered with them. I sat on the steps of the memorial, more interested in the boaters in the water than the statue that loomed behind me, and finally came to a conclusion: just like I can’t force myself to care about this memorial, I also can’t force myself to want to move to D.C., no matter how much sense it might make.

I had one more day left before moving on; rather than try out any more reject tourist attractions, I gave in and spent the rest of my time doing what I really felt like doing:

I rearranged my brother’s apartment.

I’ll let him decide whether or not this was a good thing, but here’s what I learned while in our nation’s capital: (1) I don’t care about politics or the government; (2) if you’re going to eschew the Metro and walk everywhere, don’t wear flip flops; (3) Chop’t is the simplest and best idea ever; (4) it’s not always important to try new things; and (5) I really love interior decorating.

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