The Road to the White House (and Other Streets in the D.C. Area)

When Scott Miller announced another tour on the Amtrak Crescent route (which runs from New Orleans to New York), it seemed like a good idea to check in with a friend (and, through my badgering, a fellow Miller fan) to see if he wanted to hit the Miller show at the Iota in Arlington. And he did (another friend in Delaware begged off because one of his brothers was celebrating his 30th birthday that day...I guess water isn't thicker than blood). Then, a week before the show, I thought to check the Washington Nationals site to see if they were in town that weekend. And they were.

Thus, a weekend trip was born.


I had planned to get an 8 a.m. bus from the Port Authority, and I did in fact make it there on time, but the line was long and I figured I'd just wait for the 8:30 or 9, whichever I made it back in time for after picking up breakfast. When I got to one of the few empty seats on the 8:30, one with the least amount of leg room on the bus, I rethought the wisdom of my decision. That is, until we were just outside of Baltimore and I saw a Peter Pan bus broken down on the side of the highway, with the passengers all congregated on the shoulder waiting for another bus to pick them up. Now, I can't be sure that was the 8 a.m. bus, but, at the moment, I chose to believe it was and thus mentally patted myself on the back (though I could have physically patted myself on the back, because, really, such behavior on a Greyhound bus wouldn't have aroused much suspicion).

I made it into D.C. with less time than I'd hoped, because the 8:30 stopped in Silver Spring, where we stayed for about a half-hour because we were, according to the driver, "ahead of schedule." But the only city left on the schedule was Washington, and since no one in their right mind would take a Greyhound the 20 minutes it takes to get from Silver Spring to Washington, our layover was a little confusing. But, and this is a good rule to know for travelers, there's no point in arguing with a Greyhound bus driver. You're not gonna win.

Anyway, I had to meet up with my friends in Alexandria before their daughter's soccer game, so I only had about an hour for sightseeing. Thus, there was only time for a saunter up to the White House, interrupted only by a street fair, a few seconds of picture taking, and a brief flirtation with going to the Newseum, until I saw that it cost $20 to get in, in a city where most of the museums are free. I hope you enjoyed this metaphor for the state of the newspaper industry. Now for some of those photos.

I underestimated the train time to the Franconia/Springfield stop (even though I'd made the trip before) and wound up cutting it a bit close, but I made it in time for the soccer game. I split my time between watching the game and hanging around with my friends' other daughter as she showed me all the things she can do by herself at the playground now that she's a "big girl" (almost 3). She also asked me where the cupcakes were, so apparently I've developed a reputation. Alas, I didn't bring cupcakes this time. She seemed to be OK with that.

Back at the game (Dragons vs. Green Lightning, or at least I think that was their name...I didn't buy a program), I got a nice taste of suburbia, as I watched a Bluetoothed woman (I've yet to meet anyone who wears a Bluetooth who doesn't seem at least a little crazy) frantically ask the other parents, "Who brought the snacks? Where are the snacks? Who was in charge of the snacks?" I was too scared to see how the situation was resolved, but at game's end, there were indeed snacks.

The game was followed by dinner with two more friends who stopped by on their way up north with their son, who now scrunches up his face and begins weeping when he sees me, thus joining a long, storied line of people who have the same reaction upon sight of me. I tried not to take it personally, but if he thinks I'm gonna put up with that and still get him gifts, well, he's probably right, and also very astute for a one-year-old.

Soon it was Miller time at the Iota in Arlington, with Paleface, friend of the Avett Brothers, opening up the show. I hadn't seen Paleface in awhile, and he was just as good as he was the last time I saw him, so that was cool. Scott Miller was also as good as ever, aided and abetted by what I think was five shots of whiskey. The between-song banter got progressively stranger with each shot, but in a good way. He did a bunch of songs off his new CD, "For Crying Out Loud" (go buy it), a healthy smattering of old tunes, and "People Rule," which has a great on YouTube (the "brutish and short" visual being the best part). And, along with his usual mockery of northern Virginia (he's from the southern part of the state), he also included his thoughts on babies, who, he said "eat up money and make your friends disappear" (before his sweet lullaby, "For Jack Tymon"). Plus, it was all professionally filmed by a blog, and the first effort is already up on the Internets. Check it out. And let's all hope you won't be able to see me in the background of future clips.

The next day brought our trip to Nationals Park, my first time at the still pretty new stadium. It was pretty nice, with cool, if slightly odd statues of Washington baseball greats greeting you as you walk in the main gate. And, at the time we walked in, the storied presidents (of the Presidents' Race that takes place at every Nats home game...see Sunday's here) were mingling with the crowd, too.

The game itself (against the Phillies) wasn't anything to write home about. The first inning seemed to take about five hours (and, though it was slightly less than that, the sluggish start assured that we would have to bail early, because my friend had the year-end party with the soccer team to attend), and there wasn't really too much great baseball on display. But aside from that (and the preponderance of Phillies fans who made the trip), it was a good day at the ballpark.

Actually, another rough moment took place at The Pit, where you can get pit beef or pit turkey. I was excited to find no line when I got there, save for two women. Unfortunately, the second woman, the one directly in front of me, didn't belong in a ballpark.

"Yes, I'd like one turkey sandwich with everything and one roast beef very rare."

"Well, ma'am, this is all we have right now" [points to quarter-full tray with beef that's not so rare, but which had just been sliced in front of us]

"Oh, well that doesn't look very good. That just looks like ends."

"No, it's not. We just cut this."

"No, no. I want it rare. That's not rare."

[Cut to me, attempting to remove the many moles from her neck by staring right through them]

"Well, we don't really have anything rare right now."

She sighs. "Well, I just think if I'm gonna pay $11, I should get what I want."

Then, there was much hustling and, to the servers' credit, they bent over backwards to get this woman the rarest meat they could and were nothing but nice to her. I would've squirted the bottle of horseradish aioli in her eyes. And that's why I've ruled out a career in the service industry.

After Crazy Rare Beef Lady left satisfied, I did finally get my order (turkey...it was OK), and then stopped to get a "curly W" pretzel, because I was intrigued. The pretzel itself wasn't anything special, but props must be given for creativity.

We left after the seventh inning, thus missing the Phillies retake the lead on their way to victory. But I wound up with an empty seat next to me on the bus ride home, which was a fine ending to a busy weekend in Washington, D.C.

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