Police Plane.

posted in: D.C., Day In The Life, Paean 1
Toy police car. Photo: John Baker.
Toy police car. Photo: John Baker.

My flight from Kansas City to Washington yesterday was remarkable, as in, “I am compelled to remark” on my flight. If only I had a blog! Hey, wait a minute…

Approximately 96% of the people on the KC –> DCA Southwest flight were police officers headed to National Police Week in Washington. I sat next to a chaplain, behind a cop, and to the right of an undercover guy (more on him in a second.) If they hadn’t all been in such a good mood, I would’ve been nervous. There’s nothing like a planeful of cops to make you second-guess your record. That parking ticket in ’99. I didn’t pay it. I didn’t pay!! Don’t take me away, officers! I’m a good citizen, I swear!

It was an unofficial party plane, man. People were calling to each other across the aisle with questions like, “Are you guys staying downtown or in Arlington?” and “Is Rick coming or not? No? What a [bleep]!” Our plane probably sounded a lot like — and I say this with love — a tour bus leaving that very hour from, say, Little Rock with a group of middle school students on their class trip to Washington, DC. It was all excitement, anticipation, and fun. It got more fun when the stewardesses started beverage service, if you know what I mean.

President Kennedy signed into law a remembrance day on May 15th for servicemen and servicewomen who have died in the line of duty. That was in ’62; the first National Police Week began in ’82. There are activities and memorial events held in the city during this time; more than 40k police come to Washington to participate each year. The cops and service-people on my flight were, not surprisingly, mostly Kansas City-based and would represent their state during these events.

I don’t know that I’ve ever met a more congenial, raucous person than the undercover guy sitting near me. Physically he was a tank. If I took a running leap and body-slammed him (I would never do this nor recommend that anyone do this) I would bounce off with a “ping!” and be dead. He was covered in tattoos and had a goatee. He was using chewing tobacco, too, which I had never seen someone do on a plane. When my purse fell into the aisle, he picked it up for me. When he saw a baby board with her mama, he said, “Here comes trouble!” He talked to everyone in a six-seat radius and everyone was entertained — even the chaplain, who could’ve done without the profane words the guy wove (seamlessly) into his vocabulary.

When we landed, the stewardesses thanked the police for their service over the PA and wished them a good trip. Thunderous applause. We deplaned and I entered the jet bridge and walked up the ramp. When I got to the entrance to the gate, I gasped.

There to greet the plane was a line of policemen and policewomen in full memorial uniform. They lined both sides of the gate, standing silently to honor the officers coming off the plane. The black of the cloth was midnight dark, the gleaming metal of the badges, medals, and stripes polished to a shine. Everyone wore their caps or helmets. I didn’t feel worthy to walk through first (I was sitting at the front of the plane.) I bowed my head and blinked my eyes to stop the stinging.

I realize America’s police are under scrutiny right now. There are problems — big ones — and they must be considered and we must be fearless in our examination of process and ethics in this piece of our government. Regardless, we are in debt to the vast, vast majority of our civil protectors  All around the airport, people were staring at the display, craning their heads to see, thinking there was a dignitary surely on the flight that had just arrived.

They were mostly right. But there were two hundred dignitaries, not just one.

Home Sa-weeeet Home!

posted in: Day In The Life 3
The Kennedy Warren, Washington, D.C.
The Kennedy Warren, Washington, D.C.

I found The Kennedy Warren building by mistake.

My apartment search began downtown, but I soon realized that in Washington, you get a lot less for your money downtown than in Chicago, far as I can tell. For about $2500 or so, you’re going to land roughly 600 square feet. (This is a lot of money for not a lot of feet, in case you haven’t apartment-shopped lately.) As is typical in an urban area, the further out you get, the more feet you get for the money, so explored the neighborhood of Cleveland Park, just a few metro stops from where I live now. I like the neighborhood — lots of trees, a popular main drag with intriguing cafes, an old movie house, and a sewing machine shop! I found a few buildings I liked and had an appointment to see them.

But I got turned around. I was headed the wrong direction on Connecticut Avenue and that is one long, diagonal street — not a great street to be on if you want to mix up your east-west because you got a long way to backtrack, girl. But sometimes what we think is bad is good (and vice versa) — and I’m pretty sure it was good that I got lost because I walked past a building that took my breath away. Let me describe it to you.

The building is massive. I have learned there are 429 units in the Kennedy-Warren and that it was built in the 1930s. A fountain burbles in the center of the cul-de-sac, producing this tall column of water that falls onto itself and into the pool. The building is Art Deco, so the lines are long and the details are graphic (I’m not sure that’s a very good way to describe Art Deco but it’s true, anyhow.) The color of the stone is blonde and there are so many green trees all around the courtyard that I felt like I was in a garden.

“Woooooah” I said, and wandered in.

A doorman opened the door for me and I walked into this head-slappingly gorgeous lobby. The interior of the KW is a throwback: it’s a slice of the past, chrome and sea foam green, chandeliers and settees. Wood. A mezzanine. I was looking around, mouth open, and sort of floated to the front desk. I asked if there were units available in the building and the lady said, “Yes, I’ll call the leasing office.”

Fast forward. I go with the agent to see a one-bedroom. 800+ square feet and not as expensive as downtown. The floors are wood. I’d be on the 10th floor. The cabinets in the kitchen are all the original ones from the 1930s (repainted, clearly.) The building is immaculate. And as I mentioned in my last post, my windows look out over (and into, practically) the Klingle Valley below, which sits directly beside the building; it’s also close to the zoo, which is appropriate for me, I think. The leasing agent gal said that when she lived there, she could hear the bleating of the zebras when the wind was just right. Zebras, people. Zebras.

Oh, and the building has a bar in it. Yeah. A bar-lounge. And there’s a movie room where they play classic movies once a month. There’s a ballroom. And my favorite room so far is the South Lounge, which is decorated like your cool, bachelorette grandmother’s living room. There’s an Art Deco pool on the 11th floor. There’s a patio on the roof. And did I mention zebras are my neighbors?

I applied and was approved. There’s a month of free rent for new tenants, which is good. When I went the other day to turn in my deposit and my lease, I went to look at my unit again and I just stayed in that empty place for a little while. It was quiet and full of light and I knew I had made the right choice, at least for now.

Look, it’s another move. And it’s gonna cost money. I’m bringing my stuff from Chicago. It’s real, and it’s on. But my sister’s wedding comes before the move. That’s the focus now — the wedding is Memorial Day weekend, which is basically tomorrow — and at this point, after this year, I have the tiniest belief that things tend to work themselves out.

Hillwood: “Where Fabulous Lives”

posted in: D.C., Tips, Travel 0
I'd like a grilled cheese, please. (Photo Credit: Hillwood Museum & Estate)
The Dining Room at Hillwood. I’d like a grilled cheese, please! [Photo Credit: Hillwood Museum & Estate.]
I stood in line waiting to board my first flight of two today and my heart sank for a moment, thinking of landing in LaGuardia and maneuvering through New York’s soul-sucking taxi lines. Then I remembered that no, Manhattan was not where I was headed, that I would sleep tonight in a fluffy white bed in the District of Columbia. I was so happy, I mouthed Michael Jackson “shamone” and did a tiny version of the Thriller low-snap with the stanky leg. Possibly I did this all this out loud and more visibly than I intended, which would explain why suddenly I had more room in line.

I’ll only be in town a few days — New York for a nasty procedure on Friday, Chicago for Christmas — but I have sworn to avail myself of a Christmas-centric D.C. delight before they’re all over. I have many options. There’s the Russian Winter Festival, but that would make me miss Yuri terribly, so I can’t go to that. There’s a Norwegian Holiday Toy Train exhibit at Union Station that I will totally go to because I live two blocks from Union Station and I come from a long line of Vikings.** I could go to various tree-lighting ceremonies, but I want something D.C. specific. Serious research is rewarded; I found a neat thing to do on Saturday afternoon.

The marketing message for Hillwood Estate, Museum, and Garden is “Where Fabulous Lives.” Nice work, slogan people, because that’s darned good. Hillwood, located inside the city in its northwest quarter, is indeed an extremely fancy place. The person who bought it and made it that way was Marjorie Merriweather Post. You know the Fruity Pebbles you ate for breakfast this morning? Yeah, she was that Post. Her father started the Post cereal empire in 1895 and when he died, it was Marjorie — an only child — who took the reigns and actually made the whole General Mills deal happen. Marjorie was brilliant, clearly, and beautiful, and she had taste like Coco Chanel had taste, though it seems she was far more pleasant at a dinner party.

Marjorie bought Hillwood in 1955 and planned from the start that it would eventually exist as a museum. There are vast gardens, Faberge eggs in lighted, inset, cherrywood shelves, staff quarters — all the stuff you would expect from a billionairess’ fifth home or whatever Hillwood was for Marjorie. And during the holidays, the curators do a lot of neat exhibits, including a showing of Marjorie’s collection of Cartier jewels that “inspire” the decorations all over the house. I think this means that there are either real diamonds or excellent facsimiles hanging from Christmas trees in every room. They also said something about Cartier dinnerware for heaven’s sakes, all set up at the dining room table.

It’s not the crazy wealth I’m interested in seeing. It’s seeing sparkly things. It’s seeing what a woman’s home looks like when she can buy everything in the world but knows better. I’ll go to Hillwood to get into the Christmas spirit, D.C. style, and perhaps I will mark the occasion by purchasing a commemorative Honey Bunches of Oats pin at the gift shop.


**This is actually true. I’m half Scottish, half Norwegian, which should mean I have the soul of a Norse god and an iron constitution. The former is clearly true; the latter must skip generations.

I Move To D.C. Tomorrow Morning.

posted in: D.C., Travel 0

This morning, I walked from Avenue A to 11th Ave (that means I walked the width of the Isle of Manhattan) got my U-Haul “kidnapper” cargo van, and then drove back to Avenue A. I had never driven a car in Manhattan before today. It was cool. I was all right. I even parallel parked. Cranking the wheel back and forth to get it right was so intense my biceps hurt by the time I got in the spot. I need a massage.

I move to Washington, D.C. tomorrow morning. I’m counting minutes.

Or I would be counting minutes if I wasn’t currently coasting on a ladylike amount of pinot grigio. Never blog when you’ve split a bottle of pinot grigio with your older sister — or when you’ve split a bottle of pinot with your sister and then gone ’round to the pub across the street from the apartment to have one more glass each while a jazz quartet plays in the back of the house. Never, never blog when this has happened. Who knows what silly, unladylike things could happen.

Tomorrow night, we sleep in Capitol Hill.

Race ya.