Virtual Getaway or Innocents Abroad (with Apologies to Mark Twain)

Recently, Hubs and I accepted family friends’ offer to keep the hooligans on the condition that we get away someplace nice. Initially, we entertained the possibility of bed and breakfasts in quaint, rural spots. I nixed that idea when I thought about the possibility of rain.

Aside: Mucking around in mud puddles is only romantic in movies.

Instead, we opted for a city getaway – more specifically, the city fifteen miles from our suburban home.

When two DC hotels that friends recommended came up at $400/night, we resorted to a different selection strategy. Hubs got out his iPhone and asked Siri for the nicest hotel within twenty miles.

Aside: This sounds like the start of a very romantic trip, doesn’t it? Somehow the universe, or at least Siri, could give us the answer for a perfect getaway.

I looked up the hotel online — 4 stars, over 9.2/10 customer rating, wine tasting hour, 1 ½ blocks from DuPont Circle Metro – and booked it.

The first glitch came when Hubs and I started packing.

Aside: Taking Metro into town sounded great. We could stroll through the quaint neighborhoods.

With this in mind, I pulled out a rolling suitcase.

What are you doing? Hubs asked.

Packing.

You’re going to take that thing on Metro?

Yep.

Can’t you just take a backpack?

I don’t have one.

Can you borrow your daughters?

You mean the pink and green butterflies from Pottery Barn Kids?

Silence

We’re not backpacking across Europe, you know. I can’t show up at a four-star hotel with a child’s backpack.

Silence

Suffice it to say, Hubs located a smaller rolling suitcase, which I lugged up and down escalators while trying to recover from the noxious train fumes.

We arrived at the hotel where men in uniforms greeted us and held doors. Keys in hand, we rode the elevator to the eighth floor and rolled through the halls.

“The décor’s rather masculine,” I commented as Hubs unlocked the door.

Inside the room, I studied a faux animal fur throw blanketing the foot of the king size bed with leather headboard towering above the mattress and illuminated night stands flanking it. I opened the closet, expecting white terry cloth robes, but instead found one zebra print and one leopard print robe, both size L.

Zebra or leopard, my dear?

Zebra or leopard, my dear?

“Which do you want?” I asked Hubs, thrusting the items towards him.

“Neither.”

After a brief nap, during which Hubs watched college football with the TV on mute, we consulted our phones for dinner options. The search results overwhelmed us. Maybe we could just stroll the neighborhoods and find a good spot.

On the street, we stopped to read menus on restaurants located in quaint row house until we heard a man yelling obscenities at a Metro official.

Aside: Suddenly, it seemed like a good idea to join the wine-tasting hour in our hotel lobby and consult our phones to locate one of DuPont Circles’ famed restaurants.

Inside the lobby, there were approximately three men for every woman. Nearly everyone spoke Slavic languages.

Aside: I realized that we weren’t the average patrons for this hotel about the time it dawned on me that we were in DuPont Circle on a Saturday night with no reservations for a Zagat-rated restaurant.

We were hungry and not huge on small talk, so Hubs and I returned to the sidewalk with a new resolve to try the Indian restaurant we had passed even though we couldn’t find it on Trip Advisor.

When the server/co-owner arrived, Hubs ordered Riesling, his staple.

Aside: I selected Pinot Grigio because it paired well with my shrimp entrée and because I like to pretend that I am more sophisticated than Hubs.

The woman returned with a glass of red wine and placed it in front of Hubs. I gave him a look; he signaled me to just ignore it. When the woman left, I leaned in to state the obvious: “That’s not Riesling.”

It wasn’t, but he didn’t want to deal with the language barrier that had led to the error.

This wasn’t the getaway I had envisioned, but I couldn’t fix that, so instead, I stood up and wandered over to the six bottles of wine displayed on a counter representing the menu selections. When the server saw me, she came over.

“This one,” I said, pointing to a bottle, “He wanted this one.”

The correct glass of wine arrived, as did the ho-hum food.

Later inside our hotel room, I scoured websites for local attractions, vowing to salvage Sunday.

After brunch at a local spot, we walked past mansions displaying flags and tried to guess which country each represented until we arrived at the Woodrow Wilson House. Inside, we viewed a 15-minute film about his presidency. European statesmen credited Wilson with bringing an end to WWI and adopted his idea for the League of Nations during the Treaty of Paris. Despite his hero-status abroad, Wilson was unable to convince Congress to join the group. His greatest achievement as a statesman was rejected at home.

After the film, Hubs and I toured the house. The highlight for me was seeing the coat made of kangaroo with a wombat collar, a gift to Wilson from a European admirer. The tour guide pointed out pictures of Wilson wearing the coat and commented that no other American president had a coat quite like this one.

While I studied the coat, I tried to picture him wearing the thing to Washington events. Did Mrs. Wilson ever try to make him wear something more conventional? Maybe he, like us, was simply in the wrong place.

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Things I Carried Home

Tuesday we returned from our 10-day journey to the West mostly intact. “Mostly” is the key word here.

Aside: Mostly, I held my shit together during the trip. There was that one incident when we finally arrived in a hotel room one block from Ogden City LDS Temple, and I started yelling expletives at my children as soon as the door slammed shut. They were fighting. We’d been in the car together for six hours, the rolling suitcase weighed 49.5 lbs. (my husband is a Boy Scout), and we were at day 5.

Hahn Vagabonds

Hahn Vagabonds

Unpacking our suitcases in the safety of my own home reminded me of a grad school writing assignment. The esteemed Alan Cheuse asked our class to describe a room, a person, or an object without including commentary. I’m sure there was a profound lesson in writing that I failed to grasp because I had to redo the assignment.

Aside: I’m a non-fiction writer; I thrive on navel-gazing. Also, my MFA diploma is safely on the wall, so I am I’m going to break the rules again, Alan.

Mixed in with the dirty laundry, these objects emerged: 

  • The Fault In Our Stars sounded like a quick read for a vacay, but I ended up reading by the bathroom light in the hotel room late one night and sobbing myself to sleep. My mother has congestive heart failure and pulmonary fibrosis, so a novel about a lung cancer patient probably wasn’t the best choice for this particular excursion that involved pushing Mom around in a wheelchair and changing oxygen tanks every two hours.  
  • Disposable booties from touring the Ogden City LDS Temple (disclaimer: I did not actually save these, but I wish I had because they were far more interesting than the tract I picked up during the tour). Growing up in Utah as a non-Mormon, the temple had an invisible DO NOT TRESPASS sign posted on it. Only Mormons in good standing can enter. The exception to this is during open houses for new or remodeled temples when the public can tour a temple before the consecration ceremony. Throughout my childhood, Mom did her best to convince me that these spaces were sinister. Nonetheless, I could not resist the invitation that coincided with our vacation. While I sat with my children and husband waiting for the tour to commence, I reminded myself to take deep breaths because I was good enough to be in God’s presence.
  • Receipt from Rooster Restaurant on 25th Street in Ogden, Utah. Back in the day, this particular street was associated with hookers and drug dealers; however, the downtown area has since undergone a revitalization. While walking to dinner with my best friend from high school, I passed an “adult” shop to have dinner at this hip watering hole. Utah has long boasted microbreweries and coffee shops as a certain counter-cultural badge of honor. Spending two hours with my wonderful friend provided so many chances to laugh and reflect on my rich life is as a mother, wife, and writer. The two vodka tonics also helped, which brings me to the item that should have come home in my suitcase:
  • Bottles of @FiveWivesVodka I’ll admit that I only ordered that brand for bragging rights, but damn if it wasn’t tasty. I’ve been lighting up twitter with my praises for the distillery in Ogden, Utah in hopes they’ll send me a case (or at least a bottle). A bottle could help relax the back spasms that started the morning after we returned home when I reached into the suitcases to sort dirty laundry.

Back to Zion

I’m out and about collecting material for future essays and blog posts. This involves a trip to the home where I grew up in Ogden, Utah…or at least the parts of it that are still standing.

Aside: My kids think they’re going to visit their grandma, but really we’re on an archeological dig to unearth my high school yearbooks and other incriminating material.

I have tickets to tour the Ogden City LDS Temple on Friday morning. IMAG0894While I’m busy, please check out Heather B. Armstrong’s (@dooce) piece When in Utah. She captures so many aspects of life in the Beehive State.

Aside: She also has at least 1.5 million twitter followers and makes a six-figure salary as a mommyblogger…not that I’m jealous or anything. She apparently isn’t afraid to offend her grandfather who follows her blog. (Hello, Grandpa. Thanks for the follow!)  

Aside to the Aside: Heather, in case you’re reading this, I need a literary agent for my memoir manuscript. Help a fellow Gentile out!