How the wind do howl….

If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you know I’ve been engaged in an adventure with my mother.  We traveled to Washington DC so that my mother could browse the Smithsonians until she dropped and then we would have dinner every night with my son. 

Last Friday, of course, it started snowing.  I nearly cancelled about 12 times, but kept thinking that once the storm was over, it would be okay, and we could go play.   On Sunday morning, they were thinking they might be able to get the airport open by evening, so we took our chances and headed out, laying over in Chicago, with a flight booked the next morning. 

Reagan Airport never did open that night.  We ate in a passably good Italian restaurant called Carlucci’s, where I had the roast chicken in a subtle, lovely broth:

Titanic was on television that night, so we watched that for awhile and then went to sleep early, so we could be up at 3 to catch our 6 am flight.  (Yes, I am a morning person, but my mother is not, poor dear.)  The airport in DC was still closed, but everyone was hopeful, and we uneventfully pased the rest of the day.  Miraculously, our bags actually arrived before we did, and were waiting when we got there.

There was a lot of snow.

but we were so happy to be there, we didn’t care.  We called Ian and he came over to meet us for dinner at  a vegetarian friendly spot called Busboys and Poets (who knows why?) and all was well.  

In the morning, the Smithsonian and the Federal Government were still closed.  There was a threat of snow, and tons on the ground, but it hadn’t started melting yet, so it was pretty navigable.  We pulled on our snow books and layers and headed out into the day.  Visited the International Spy Museum, which is like wandering around an espionage novel or many opening a bunch of boxes of Cracker Jacks.  We had it almost entirely to ourselves, ditto the cafe.  The weather was cold, but not intolerably so, and we headed down toward the Mall, which was quiet and beautiful in the snow.  We wandered by the White House, and along the frozen-solid reflecting pond (I have shots, but can’t show you until I upload the other pics from my real camera, not the cell phone).  We figured out the Metro well enough to find our way to Ian’s side of town and by the time we got above ground again, snow was going crazy.  CRAZY.  We were soaked by the time we got to his house, but I was still glad.  One of my little things is that I like to be able to visualize my kids in their environments, so seeing his house is a big plus.  (Also I got to kiss Hercules, the biggest cat on the planet. )

We ate pizza (New Haven style, which I’d never heard of, but was quite good) and then we headed home.  The Metro station was without power, so dark and creepy and I grabbed my mother close to me and didn’t let her out of my sight.  We were shipped off to the end of the line and then had to make our way back, and then slogged through the increasing snow to get back to our hotel, shed our wet clothes and fall into bed. 

This was the view from our room when we got up:

Yeah. We didn’t end up doing much.  I know you’re surprised. 

And my confession is that I was very irritable about it. I wanted my mother to see the Smithsonians.  I wanted to go with her to Julia Child’s kitchen, and I wanted us to have little conversations over tea and muse about history.    It was a holiday for me, too, and I honestly don’t have time for another one. There was a tiny bit of business worked in there, a single meeting with my editor (whom I adore!), and I had to cancel that, too.   

I would love to tell you that I’m always a good sport, but that would be a big fat lie.  By yesterday morning, I’d had it with snow and soaking wet clothes and feet and not being able to see a single thing we wanted to see or go to the restaurants we wanted to go to or even have a halfway decent breakfast.  There wasn’t enough space in my room to do any yoga.  Ian was stranded on his side of town, we were stuck in a hotel that only serves breakfast and we were facing the prospect of eating ramen noodle imitations for dinner. 

It would have given me great pleasure to bite off the heads of chickens and spit them out or something.  Something big and violent and disgusting. 

Instead I took my grumpy self to the fitness room and found space for some yoga, then walked (barefoot since I had no proper shoes) on the treadmill.  I told myself we were getting the thing we most wanted: time with each other and Ian.  We could make do with the herbal tea I had in my bag, and our books, and yogurts carried upstairs from the breakfast bar. 

And we would have.  But then some guys staggered through the front doors carrying six packs of beer, and a woman said there were rumors that Busboys and Poets was actually open, so we wrapped ourselves up like mummies and braved the winds to have a hot meal and a bottle of wine.  This is my mother, with the cafe behind her, and below is the cafe itself.  Really cool place.  Check it out if you go.  Excellent for the vegetarians in your world.

I grew quite fond of the place.  Shelter from the storm and all that.

We carried wine back with us, and ordered a movie to watch on the hotel channel, and then this morning we awakened to SUNSHINE! And melting snow.  The airport was open, so Mom’s flight was on time (we had sort of hoped for a bit of a delay).   We bundled up and headed out to see the city coming alive again. But on our rounds we saw this at the National Portrait Gallery:

And my mother shot the photo, laughing, saying she was going to take pictures of every museum she didn’t see.

In the end, I suspect we will remember other things—the utter silence of the mall under the falling snow.  The quiet camaraderie of braving the elements and a trip that turned out to be something other than what we expected.  I will remember our time together.  Me & my mom.  Me & my son.  My son & my mother

Have you ever had a crazy trip?   Tell us about it in the comments, and I”ll choose someone to win a signed copy of The Secret of Everything.

23 thoughts on “How the wind do howl….

  1. Jill Q.

    Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry you saw D.C. in these conditions. I’ve had some crazy trips, but I actually just lived through the same craziness. My husband, my one year old and I have been snowed in for about a week out in the Maryland suburbs. We went without power for 36 hours (one of the lucky ones really) and it was mostly a fun adventure, but we had our moments. I really worried about my son once our inside temperature dropped into the 40s and 50s, especially at night when we essentially bundled him up like a a bag lady, put him to bed and hoped for the best. It doesn’t help that my husband actually missed (!) being work and doesn’t handle being housebound that well. Plus he loves his electronics and Internet. Not a pioneer type. When our electricity came back on, it was definitely a happy moment.
    But I’ll try and remember what it was like to wake my son up early in the morning, making sure he was okay, and all of us bundling under the covers together to stay warm. Then we all had breakfast together, something that never happens. Oatmeal at sunrise. It was a special family moment. My son loved the whole thing. The cold didn’t seem to bother him and he had Mom and Dad’s undivided attention since we had very little to distract ourselves with!
    You must come back and see Julia Child’s kitchen when you get a chance. It’s fabulous and they play little clips from her show. I hadn’t seen her show before and I had no idea how funny and off the cuff she could be. I suggest late spring or early fall, less humidity in the air or falling out of the sky.

  2. KellyJ

    When I was fourteen, we lived in Middle Georgia where it never snows. That March, we heard snow was coming to Tennessee, so my parents packed us up and drove us to Chattanooga for a fun, snowy weekend. We ended up in a real, mean blizzard. Feet of snow, our hotel door buried, people stranded… it was scary. All we could see was snow, and those of use from the deep south are not used to embankments. People were driving into ditches and getting trapped in their cars. My dad wrapped chains around our big Suburban’s tires, loaded up the truck with supplied bought at the first open WalMart we passed, and drove us home. We were the only car on the interstate for hours. Then I saw a small station wagon jutted out of the median, and begged my dad to stop so we could help the stranded people. He stopped, and he and I and my brothers grabbed shovels and dug the car out of the snow. Inside we found a young couple and their newborn baby – they had just left the hospital a few hours before. I’ve never been so proud of my family. We drove the rest of the way home feeling happy, but when we finally pulled into our driveway we saw that it had snowed at home the whole time we’d been gone – we had no power, and our neighborhood was frozen solid.

  3. Gina Black

    Barbara, I can’t see the pictures. When I look at your source they are linking to somewhere in google mail.

    I’ve had several crazy trips, some good, some not so good. There was the time the car died (completely) on the way to the SILs wedding. That was a bad one.

    Here’s a good one: Just last weekend the DH and I spent 3 days in Pismo Beach which wasn’t really crazy, but rather silly since it’s only an hour away. We ate rich creamy clam chowder and walked along the windy bluffs. Sat next to a hot fire and knitted to the rhythm of the pounding surf. Found just the right chimena at a nursery in Los Osos. Explored the magnificence of Montana de Oro. Most of all we remembered how much fun it is to play together.

  4. Barb

    We are notorious for having problems with hotel rooms. Practically every time we stay at a hotel there’s something that’s bad enough about our hotel room that we have to change rooms. It’s not as though we’re really picky either; it’s stuff like: It’s pouring rain outside and there’s a leak in the wall of the room that has water pouring down the wall – it was like having our own water feature in the room. One time we were in a hotel in Scottsdale that, once it became dark outside, the walls literally started crawling with bugs. There were hundreds of them. At another hotel, the toilet did not work AT ALL. Another time, the bathtub did not work.

    One time we stayed at a B&B in Las Cruces, NM. The B&B was right on the corner of an intersection; it was literally right on the corner. There was the B&B, 12 inches of sidewalk and then, the street. Oh, and did I mention that the street was on a truck route? So, all night long there were big rigs squealing their brakes in order to stop at the traffic light at that intersection. This B&B had an old water bed. Every time one of us moved there was a tsunami in the bed. My husband got sea sick. Luckily, I’d taken a Dramamine due to driving all day, so I didn’t get nauseous. We were laughing so hard, we were crying. Too bad we didn’t get any sleep at all. Then, the “special” soaps that the B&B sold and used in their bathrooms gave my husband a horrible rash. And I’ve not even mentioned the beautiful bathroom in which the cabinets were spray painted a nice shiny silver. Needless to say, this B&B no longer exists.

  5. Monica

    Our best hotel adventure was when our youngest was a year old. We decided to take an impromptu trip down to Portland, Oregon. Little did we know we’d be sharing the city with 12,000 Shaklee folks in for a convention. No rooms anywhere near town, except for the one hotel in the industrial part of town. Your standard chain, all was well, we thought. We weren’t worried that our view was of the back side of a warehouse area, they seemed to be already closed for the weekend. Oops, that view was of the night loading dock for some super trucking company. All night long we enjoyed the back up warning beeps of the trucks followed by the kerchunk when it latched on to the trailer, then the revving engine as they upshifting their way out of the lot. The child slept fine, his parents did not.

  6. SueD

    My craziest trip was the time we went on a canoeing camping trip in Algonquin park. We paddled two lakes, portaged once, then set up our camp. My kids were 10 and 12 at the time. We ate a quick lunch, then my kids and I went looking for wood. I heard my husband yell “bear, stay back,” and I thought he was joking. The bar had ripped through one food pack, and stolen the other. I’ve never put my food packs in trees in the middle of the day, and was stunned that a bear would be so brazen in the middle of the day. It was a Yogi Bear moment. I pictured he and Booboo waiting for each canoe to arrive at their home bringing lunch.

    My husband was intent on getting the food back, and used the canoe paddles to create noise. The bear dropped the now destroyed food pack and ran. He came back to the camp site twice. By that time, we’d packed up and were in the canoes. I whispered to my husband the words Chef’s words from Apocalypse Now “never get off the boat. Never get off the fucking boat.”

    I still ate the M& M’s even though they had bear spit on them.

  7. SueD

    Oops, should have proofread that a bit better.

  8. Barbara Samuel

    LOL,Sue, on eating the M&Ms with bear spit. Love that story!

    These are all great. It makes me happy to read them all. My mom went back ahead of me and she had a very good time anyway (she was so much better than I at what CR calls “happy realism”!). I lassoed a bus to get me out of DC, where it was sloppy and nutty as everyone tried to get back to normal, and landed in a very cute boutique hotel I managed to grab for a song on travel site. It’s really nice and I have a great view and tomorrow, I suspect, will make it all worthwhile.

    Keep those stories coming! I’ll draw a name when I get home

    Anyone else having picture issues?

  9. Tony

    Yeah, no pictures are showing up on my Firefox browser.

  10. I can’t see pictures either. :o(

    I don’t know about how crazy this trip was, but we went to D.C. a couple of years ago, leaving our rottie and Australian shepherd at a very nice Petsmart kennel.

    Three days into our trip, the kennel calls and tells me they cannot get the Aussie to eat anything. They tried every food in the shop, including cat food, but she refused it.

    I was frantic and we were ready to fly back early when I decided to try one last thing. Chelly loved liver and rice. So I called my best friend and placed my “order”.

    This wonderful friend made several bins of liver and rice, and raced over to the kennel. The kennel staff assured her they would feed Chelly, but she refused to leave. She said: “I promised Chelly’s mommy I would make sure she ate. I am not leaving until I see it for myself.”

    They relented and showed her and Chelly to a special room where she finally ate to her heart’s content.

    And the rottie?
    Two weeks later we stopped by with the dogs, and the staff came out of the woodworks to say hello to Tank. Apparently, he was the life of the party while he was there. No one is talking about what made him so popular. hmm…I think Tank had a better time than we did.

  11. Ruthie

    Can’t see the pictures either. Barbara, I can’t top your story. I’m from the East Coast so I can truly sympathize. I’m just sorry your trip was so disappointing.

  12. I can’t see the pictures either. I use Firefox too.

  13. Marjanna

    I can’t see the pics, either 🙁 Then again, I am driving around IN this snow! I have about 8 feet piled up at my window from clearing the parking lot and only one way out of the building cos the snow from the roof was pushed off hte back! But I did actually go out and drive today. Yikes! DC and MD just are not used to this (and more to come on Monday)

    My vacation story (cos really, I was off work last week cos of snow, but that’s not really a vacation or a tragedy) was flying out to Phoenix to see my sister… and have her leave 2 days later for a business trip to Orlando. So instead of the Grande Canyon and Sedona, I got her widescreen tv. And I thought, hey, it is AZ in Nov, doesn’t that mean warm weather? No! It means the 50s and 60s!

    Enjoy the rest of your stay around here! I hope you get to the museums. I am a big fan of the Renwick (near the white house) and the Freer (East Asian art, on the Mall).

  14. I can’t see the pics either…I tried on IE too and nope.

  15. Diana

    It’s truly been weird here in DC for us locals as well. We are so not used to this. My son in law was deemed “essential” and held hostage in a downtown hotel Tue thru Fri while my daughter was stuck at home bonding with her new rescue cat. Tomorrow afternoon she’ll be in her lab in the Natural History building. It’s a public exhibit “Written in Bone” with the story of the Jamestown Colony. Stop by and ask for Nikki if you are in the area. Hope you get to enjoy some of the fun stuff in our city. Come back and visit us when the cherry blossoms are out!

  16. Barbara Samuel

    I tried a fix on the pics. Let’s see if it works.

  17. It works on firefox…thanks Barbara!

  18. Ruthie

    It worked!

  19. What an indomitable spirit you have! Glad you had a good trip with your mom, after all. Hers is the only picture I can’t see for some reason.

    My craziest trip? While in my mid-twenties, a friend called and asked if I might be willing to help her move. She needed to know right away because she’d found a job and apt in CA, where I met her in high school. I had nothing else to do, so I flew out to her parents’ place in Virginia Beach planning to drive cross-country over the next week, just us girls. We packed up her tiny, rattly Kia with all her worldly possessions, including her plants (which I made her take out because there was already NOT enough room in that car for us, our things, AND her cat). We headed west, aiming for San Bernardino and traveling along the southern border of the US, barely stopping to look at anything besides spending a few short hours at the Grand Canyon. The crazy part? I had no idea my dear friend was suffering from major anxiety and depression and had begun chain smoking cigarettes like the Marlboro Man. “But these are clove cigarettes,” she said, “so they’re better,” while I hung my head out the window, swallowing flies. She was so frantic, leaving home for the first time, she could never figure out how to stick to her vegetarian diet. Too much fiber. Unable to stomach salad, she ended up eating hush puppies, French fries, and ice cream all week and then FELT even crazier. I tried to listen and let her process and thought things were getting better until we got to Needles, CA. We’d sneaked the cat into the hotel room that night, and in packing the car up in the morning, couldn’t find the cat! She was gone! In the vast, vast desert of Needles! There is nothing around this hotel but sand, and after hours of looking, calling animal control (who practically laughed out loud), and alerting the hotel, we had nothing, and my girlfriend was about to lose her mind. It was only through the kindness of a hotel maid that we found kitty. She was curled up in the backside of a hidden panel in the entertainment center in our room, safe and sound. By that time, I was beginning to lose MY mind. I had already begun driving extra hours until I dropped each day to get us home faster, and I sped as fast as possible the rest of the way. Unfortunately, my friend didn’t last long in her new home. She had rented the apt in SanBern, sight unseen, and what she didn’t get to see (the barbed wire, the drug dealers and prostitutes on the corner, and the smell of dead animal in her new place) probably would have changed her mind anyway. I felt so horrible leaving her there, dropping her off with her stuff (she had to wait for the moving truck) so I could drive the last several hours home. But I was also so relieved when it was all over.

    My friend is wonderful now, in VA, and we are both glad we survived the adventure of that week.

  20. Shannon

    I love a good storm. I find them exciting and I can hardly sit still when I feel one coming through the air or as news travels and brings word of one coming. I lived in Texas for a year and a half, and miss immensely the erotic thunder storms in the heat of summer they have.

    I have lived in the mountains of a small town where the snowstorms make all giddy and eager to head to the bars to visit, and share over beers. My fondest memory of a storm was a wind storm that hit the Pacific Northwest. My husband and I had then, a three year old son. So many tree’s came down that day we were without power for three days. We all slept together to keep warm and at some point in the three days we were eager too… well you know tight quarters, warm cozy covers, the child is sleeping and he suggested we have another baby. I had to make a choice right then. The choice is a great kid who is now sixteen that loves storms as much as I do.

  21. Barbara Samuel

    That really is one for the books, Melissa. It speaks to your friendship that you are still friends!

    Mmm, Shannon, I love a happy ending. 😉

  22. Barbara Samuel

    Sue D, you won the drawing. Email me at awriterafoot @ with your address.

  23. Darline Schmiege

    Put a little dish soap with h2o in a spray bottle and spray them off. It will kill the bugs without harming your plant or the environment.

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