Cheerful and On Wheels

So I went to DC, alone, which I do not like because I’ve gotten used to traveling with Bob “Let Me Carry That Bag For You” Mayer, although I coped because it’s only a three day trip and I have my bright new cheerful red Vera Bradley carry-on and it has wheels. I’m thinking that may be my new criteria for what I will let into my life: Cheerful and on wheels.

For example, when I got to the hotel, I had Chinese food delivered because Chinese food makes me cheerful–my potsticker obsession is well documented–and it arrives on wheels, or at least I don’t have to go get it or, god forbid, cook it. Then there’s Tivo, the greatest invention since the internet; because of Tivo I can watch My Name Is Earl (cheerful) any time I want (on wheels). And of course there’s great reading in portable paperback, like Terry Pratchett. My favorite character from Pratchett is Susan, I would very much like to be Susan, but if I’m being completely honest here, the Pratchett character I’m most like is The Luggage, described at the L-Shaped Space website as “probably the most homicidal travel accessory in the world . . . . Philosophers at Unseen University have for some years debated the point of whether the Luggage actually thinks, or whether it merely feels. The remainder of the University long ago came to the conclusion that it simply eats.” Since I began my diet on January 1, I’ve gained six pounds. I simply eat a lot.

The day of the speech, I left the hotel early so I could scope out the Smithsonian because somebody wanted a picture of the puffy shirt, and the day was so gorgeous and the architecture was so amazing that I thought, “Well, I’m loving DC,” and then right in the middle of it all, while I’m walking through this pretty little park, I look over and see an obnoxious shiny black limo surrounded by guys in black suits and sunglasses with little earpieces in their ears. Well, it’s Washington, so no big deal, but I started thinking, if I lived in DC, I’d buy a shiny black car and get my friends to wear black suits and sunglasses and put one earbud of their iPods in whenever i traveled. I have friends who would do that, no problem. Gaffney, Brooks, Ramsland, Saul, Stuart, Dreyer who would insist on being armed, and Mayer who refuses to go armed. Doesn’t like guns. Always cuts himself on knives. So I’m thinking maybe that’s what all these guys are, just some goofball and his pals playing games, and then I turn around and I’m in front of the White House. Which doesn’t mean it’s not a goofball and his pals, just that it’s probably an official goofball and his FBI pals. And you know, they have wheels but they don’t look cheerful. So I discarded any plans I had to go into government work.

The White House itself was a disappointment, small and kind of shabby. Plus I’m househunting again and I have a real eye for windows, and I’d swear those puppies were single-glazed. Maybe not, maybe they’re bullet-proof, but it looked cold in there. And I decided if they put the White House up for sale, I wouldn’t even call the realtor to inquire. Congress, on the other hand, remains impressive. Well, the building remains impressive, and wouldn’t you think the people inside would try a LITTLE harder to measure up to the architecture? And then there’s the Washington Monument. Every time I see it, I think that if it was the Clinton Monument, the jokes would never stop.

Where was I? Right, crossing the mall toward the Smithsonian which is freaking amazing, by the way. The American History museum has, besides the puffy shirt and the ruby slippers, Julia Childs’ kitchen, and I’m pretty sure Cousin Russ had eaten there. Before it was in the Smithsonian. Anyway it’s a great kitchen, no granite, no cherry wood, just warm and bright and well-used. A real kitchen. Cheerful. And evidently on wheels since it was moved to the Smithsonian. My kind of place. Then I went through the sculpture garden–they have a station from the Paris Metro there, my absolute all time favorite piece of Art Nouveau RIGHT THERE, and then a couple of yards away Oldenburg’s Typewriter Eraser, so I had to pause for a few minutes while my head exploded with pleasure–and then I went on to the National Gallery and let me tell you, that’s a nice little art museum the country has there.

I wandered through it without a plan which was perfect for that kind of day. The Cezanne exhibit is up–every time I think of Cezanne I think of what he said about Monet–“He is only an eye, but what an eye!”–and wonder if anybody will ever say, “That Crusie, she was only dialogue, but what dialogue!” and then I realize I’m being conceited again–and you know, Cezanne just does not do it for me. He paints like literary fiction. So I wander around in the nineteenth century because that’s my century, both as an art major and a lit major, and hit this huge painting called “The Favorite of the Emir” by Jean Joseph Benjamin Constant. And I thought, “My God, that’s Liza and Min!” Turns out I write like a nineteenth century painting. Well, here, look for yourself, although this is not a good reproduction because the colors in the original are really electric, gorgeous rich cadmium reds and golds and deep ultramarines:

I love the look on Min’s face, particularly given the title of the painting. You know exactly what she thinks of the Emir.

I stayed until the museum closed and I had such a great time just walking around discovering things, and the day was so beautiful and it make me think that maybe sitting in front of a computer screen making things up was not a cheerful, moving way to live. Of course, that’s how I pay for dog food for the herd, so I can’t give it up, and I wouldn’t want to give it up, but I thought that maybe what I needed was to lift my head up now and then and participate in the positive and portable, the things that keep me happy and moving and light on my feet. I figure this is right up there with “fluid and unpredictable,” my former mantra and one which has led my near and dear to refer to me as erratic and irritating, but hey, it’s my life.

Where was I? Right, the Smithsonian. So I went and did the program, answering the softball questions Pam Regis lobbed at me (and what a sweetheart she is) and met some lovely people, and then Kathy Seidel said, “Come on, I’ll drive you to dinner,” because I was eating with a bunch of WRW people and I love that chapter so everything was good. Except Kathy couldn’t remember the address of the restaurant. (I’m skipping over the part where she made me walk across a field in kitten heels because it would be tacky and ungrateful of me to mention it.) So for the next hour, Kathy and I crisscrossed Washington while I made wisecracks and laughed really hard and she made wisecracks and illegal U-turns that put us in mortal peril (“They’re legal in DC,” she said, “Was that a cop?”). At one point I said, “It’s all right, I’ve lived a full life,” and she said, “Oh, good, shut up,” and then I said, “It would have been nice to see my grandchildren though, assuming Mollie ever has any,” and then she said something cruel and started to turn the wrong way down a one way street, and I said, “NOT THAT WAY, NOT THAT WAY!” and then laughed until I cried. Shortly after that, I started to sing about Charlie on the Boston Transit and Kathy, of course, joined in because she is a woman after my own heart, and I have to tell you, getting lost in DC with Kathy Seidel was the most fun I’ve had since I went to Cocoa Beach and saw the clams. Dinner was great, too, we did finally get there, but driving through DC laughing with a pal is the best.

I’m telling you: Cheerful and on wheels. That’s my next tattoo.

23 thoughts on “Cheerful and On Wheels

  1. (-: From the outside, it looks like your career is cheerful and on wheels. Heck, with your schedule, it’s on wheels, rails, wings and possibly the odd kitten heel or two. Thanks for a lovely post! It cheered up my Monday!

  2. I grew up in D.C. and I think I could live at the Smithsonian. Did you see the gemstones and the Hope Diamond? I remember being a little disappointed at the Hope Diamond. I had high expectations and here it wasn’t all that big. The mummies were fun, though.

  3. Did you get a chance to see the Peacock Room in the Freer? raises interior decor to a whole ‘nother level.

  4. What a fabulous posting! And “cheerful and on wheels”? A very worthy mantra.

    Hope you continue having a blast!

    ~ Carolyn B.
    Collierville, TN

  5. Thanks for a truly uplifting (if I can use that word without reference to Incredibra) Monday morning starter. So glad you didn’t post that one to oblivion.
    Love the picture of Min (though I’m wondering about the iceberg in the background).

  6. Loved this post, not least because it brought back days of strolling through the Smithsonians when I lived in the DC area. Since I was raised there I was totally shocked when I travelled and found out that other museums charge admission. And is it a coincidence that one of my favorite writers wants to be my favorite Pratchett character?

  7. Not an iceberg — some lovely town on an island in the sun, eh?

    I love the National Gallery — one can turn a corner in the gallery and be surprised by the most lovely thing or by something that makes you say “what were they thinking?” My favorite is the Salvador Dali “Last Supper” and the actual Van Gogh painting of white flowers is so much better than all those crummy reproductions. Even the casual visitor like me can see that.

    Sounds like a wonderful DC-kind-of-day, the kind that make you forget that there are stupid things going on within walking distance of wherever you are…

    thanks for the morning smile.


  8. Glad to hear from ya, babe! Thanks so much for the Monday morning smiles, and for a reminder of one of my favorite paintings of all time – tried to get my ex-husband The Artiste to paint something similar on our dining room walls, and he wanted to put in donkeys. Which might be classified as cheerful and on wheels in someone’s alternate realite. Geez. Some people.

  9. As always, great post, but – househunting again? Didn’t you just finish getting this one all figured out?


  10. The Luggage is my favorite Pratchett character, but the one I am most like is The Librarian.


  11. This is what I tell myself post New Year diet resolution. I’m not gaining weight- it’s “creative muscle.” Like if you go to the gym (which I also hear is good for you) you can gain muscle weight. I’m just gaining creative muscle from all the deep thought I have going on in here.

  12. Never seen the attraction of Susan. Can’t abide her. Be Granny or Nanny, I say. Or, in a pinch, Angua. My absolute favourite however is Carrot, with Vimes jostling for second place with the witches.

    I’m always surprised that Americans like Pratchett so much. The viewpoint, voice and the jokes seem so very English to me. Maybe that’s why? Part of its charm for me is its familiarity; I know people who talk in exactly those rhythms and I can clearly picture them in the stories.

    Anyway, this is all off-topic, sorry. Want a painting where you can see what the subject’s thinking – try Manet’s Olympia.

  13. “Charlie and the MTA”! Glad to see someone else knows that song. Any time it shows up on one of my mix CDs or my personally programmed Launchcast station, people give me a weird look and ask me what the heck the song is. Good memories for the Kingston Trio.

  14. Being in NZ it’ll probably be some time before I ever get to the Smithsonian, but wow! It sounds great.

    Loved the iPod security squad… I have one of my own when I do the grocery shopping with my two teenage girls.

  15. Wow…now that’s what I call A TRIP. We were planning on visiting D.C. last up to Dover, stayed overnight in the casino, got up and was getting ready to go to D.C. when it started pouring..all up and down the east coast. We had to cancel our trip to D.C., but at least I got some gambling in!

  16. Susan is great! My favorite character from Pratchett is a toss-up among the Luggage, Angua, Granny, and Vimes.

    Sounds like you had a great trip in D.C.

  17. Like to think I’m a fairly patient person, but I am now addicted to reading this blog, read all the back passages and it’s been over two weeks since last blog by Jennie. I am going into serious withdrawal and the only thing that helps with these pains is Dove ice cream with the ganache….and I can no longer button my jeans!

    Help – please write soon!!!

  18. Okay reading the blogs is what keeps me going until ‘The Book’ comes out. So glad you enjoyed DC. And yeah so many people think that about the White House. Sorta like “is that it?” and “but that’s not the front, right?” and then you have to explain that it actually looks better from the rear so that’s where all the photo ops are and yes this very plain boring side is the front. *sigh* But glad you enjoyed some parts of the city. Pity you didn’t come in April because the “Cherry” (get it?) Blossoms are about to pop and really that would have been perfect. So time it better next time. And let me know you’re coming and we’ll go for to-die-for Asian fusion style noodles.

  19. This post reminds me strangely of one of Jane Austen’s letters, in which she writes of having been to a gallery show, and having found a picture of “Mrs. Bingley” there, but despite her efforts, couldn’t find one of “Mrs. Darcy.” She decided that Mr. Darcy probably wanted to keep any portrait of his wife to himself.

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