Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Xmas, DC, NYC, et al

Christmas Eve dinner was at our house this year. Our menu included spinach balls, stuffed mushrooms, butter lettuce salad, smoked salmon and potato chowder, Metropol bread, buche de noel cake, and jam thumbprints.

I watched my incredulous kids open the biggest present they had ever seen (a long coveted basketball hoop from Doug and Mary). Everyone sat at the table and ate and drank and ate some more. The fire was warm and the food was fine. We were all together, which was the only thing I wanted for Christmas this year.

Christmas Eve jammies were finished just in the nick of time. Sawyer's sneeze happened at the exact wrong time.

Christmas morning was cinnamon rolls and ecstatic kids and lots and lots of coffee. And just when I thought I could never eat again, it was time to go to Brent's mom's house for Christmas dinner. I regret nothing.

Just as the weary winter after-Christmas days began to drag, I boarded a plane with Clementine and flew across the country to see my best friend Amberlee in Washington DC.

I've been sort of paralyzed by photo options for this post, so I finally said screw it and just started uploading.

I also don't really know what to say about this trip that won't sound cliche. It was amazing/awesome/once in a lifetime? Surely I can do better than that...

So maybe I will just tell you that convincing Amberlee to drive us 7 hours through a torrential downpour so that I could see New York City was one of the best decisions I've made. And that walking across the Brooklyn Bridge with the lights of the city mirrored by wet pavement, Clementine snuggled into her stroller, camera in my hand, and best friend at my side, was a moment that I won't forget.

We stayed with Amberlee's friends in a tiny apartment where we climbed to the rooftop for a panoramic view of the city. We drank Six Point beers until we couldn't keep our eyes open. We went out for bagels and pizza and pickles from a "real" deli. We rode the subway, ahem, the train, and Clementine charmed even the most morose looking takers of public transportation. We saw Times Square and hated it. Rockefeller Center had too many people and so we pushed our stroller through the crowds and made our way to Central Park. But not before I popped into the Lego store...

New York was cold and dirty and breathtakingly beautiful. I felt small and insignificant and anonymous and alive.  My feet ached and everything was covered in snot and cracker crumbs. My face hurt from smiling. Amberlee spilled coffee all over her pants. Clementine's cheeks were rosy and her fingers turned to ice. We loved you, New York, but it was time to go back to DC.

Tollroads. Travel stations. Utz road snacks. A fruitless quest for Kandy Kakes. Changing a stand up poopy diaper in a New Jersey bathroom. Tomato pie. It had been a long time since Amberlee and I had been on a road trip together, and this one did not disappoint.

 Old Town Alexandria:

We stayed in for New Years and put Clementine to bed early. The evening was spent drinking wine and champagne, eating cheese and crackers and leftover pizza from New Jersey, and playing Phase-10. We missed the ball drop, which was fine with me.

New Years Day was brilliant sunshine and a trip to Baltimore. I had always wanted to make a pilgrimage to Edgar Allan Poe's grave (I am a big fan!) and Amberlee made it happen. Clementine did not bring the wine or the rose, in case you were wondering.

I had read online about the Poe House, where he had once lived with his cousin/wife which was now a small tourist museum. According to the website, the museum was closed and the reviews on this place were pretty interesting. The Poe House is in an apparently rough part of Baltimore, so reviewers were saying things like "Don't go there unless you have a bullet proof vest" and "We tried to go but the cops pulled us over and told us to get out of that neighborhood."

So naturally we went.

We tried to go to the Annabel Lee Tavern (I told you I am a big fan), but it was also closed for the holiday. So instead we went to a 24 hour diner which was supposed to have some of Baltimore's finest crab cakes. My pacific northwest dungeness crab loving palate could not stomach the Maryland blue crab, so it's a good thing I liked the Natty Boh so much.

It had been a long time since I'd lived out of a backpack. Since I'd slept the sleep of a person who has walked nine miles and woken to wonder what new territory I'd be covering that day. It had been a long time since I'd been so tired or hungry or so smashed into complete strangers on subways. I hadn't smelled city smells since I can remember, or felt that real raw, grittiness of urban life. It had been a long time since I'd washed city grime from my face and hair or smelled the subway on my clothes. And for Clementine, it was a week of firsts. She proved to us over and over again that she is a traveler, just like her mom and her mom's best friend.

I think this girl of mine will go far in this world. And if I'm lucky, maybe I'll get to go along, too.