Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Columbus, OH

(I really wanted to title this post "Back Home Again in Indiana" with "Indiana" struck through and replaced with "Ohio," but Blogger does not support the strike through effect. Instead, I am copying off of Death Cab For Cutie's song Lowell, MA.)

I ventured "home" this weekend for Mark and Maya's wedding.

For the record, I could have been boring and flown from Reagan to Columbus non-stop, round-trip.

The following is a detailed account of my adventure.

Saturday, June 23

I began my travels on the #35 bus at 5:34am. I boarded at 22nd & Pennsylvania and got off at 1st & Independence, but not before having a pleasant conversation with the bus driver. This woman commutes from Baltimore to drive the DC bus on the 2am-noon shift. Talk about dedication!

I walked past the Capitol, Supreme Court, Russell, and Dirksen on my way to Union Station. The early morning light cast the most beautiful glow on the buildings, and I could hear birds singing. The peace was a radical departure from the area's usual hustle and bustle.

I arrived at Union Station and entered the line for train 126, WAS->BOS. This was my first time riding AMTRAK, and of course, I had no idea what to do. I eventually found my way to the coach-class car for passengers getting off at BWI and took a seat.

Fast forward a half hour: I barely heard the conductor announce that we were at BWI. A kind man reasserted my assumption that we were at my stop, and I followed him off the train. We chatted while waiting for the airport shuttle; he was in the Navy and headed to visit his parents in Providence, RI. Interestingly enough, three of this man's siblings went to Kenyon College in Gambier, just down the road from Denison University and my final destination, Granville.

The airport actually was already quite busy, but I had been smart and printed my boarding pass at work. I got through security in 10 minutes and contemplated catching an earlier flight. The BWI->ORD flight before mine was full, however, and I wouldn't have had enough time to leave the airport during my layover anyway.

I started to talk with a female soldier roughly my age headed back from Afghanistan. She had served as a carpenter in the Army, which she joined on account of friendly competition with her brother. I asked her how things were over there, and she replied that she generally felt safe. She and her Army friends were making the most of their 12-month tour of duty, doing their work and having a good time whenever possible. Unfortunately, my new friend had a little too much fun and was now five months pregnant. She felt absolutely terrible about leaving her comrades behind for a cushy desk job at an Army base in Seattle, but such is the military life.

I boarded the plane and ended up sitting next to a business communications professor from Johns Hopkins. She was traveling to Chicago with her husband; he would be attending a conference while she was free to explore the city. I told her that I was totally jealous.

We touched down at ORD, and I waited about an hour to take off for Columbus. The flight was uneventful, and the next thing I knew I was in Jim's arms :)

The two of us walked out of the terminal, and there was our chauffeur JOHN BEAR! The three of us left the airport, grabbed food at Arby's and Chipotle, and headed to Blacklick to visit my family friends Erin, Mike, and Emily.

Erin was my babysitter in elementary school. She was also the first love of RJ's life. We kept in touch after we were too old for a babysitter and even went to her college graduation at Bowling Green. Emily was born a year and a half ago, and I got to meet her for the first time last August. Here's a photo of me, Erin, and Emily (Erin's husband Mike had left to play golf):

After our visit, the boys and I headed to the Holiday Inn. We hung out for a few before getting dressed and going to the wedding, which was held at Bryn Du Mansion:

(I stole this shot of Maya and Mark from Brad's Facebook photos. Thanks Mr. Farnsworth!)

The receiving line was really long; this led to silly photo time with my favorites. For some reason, John and I look very cute in these photos while Jim and Neal look very peeved:

Jim and James then started to joke around:

James finally calmed down for two photos, one with Jim and one with Steph:

But now that James was serious, Jim had to be silly:

I also got a photo with Brad:

We finally went through the receiving line and into the reception. There was a huge lull between dinner and cake, so Jim, John, Neal, and I threw some frisbee:

We eventually went back to the reception, where more silliness ensued:

We left the wedding shortly after Mark and Maya did. Jim, James, Steph, and I hit up a nearby Ruby Tuesday's for burgers and beer to conclude a fun night.

Saturday spending total: $9.34 (bus fare, tea, and a Chipotle burrito)

Sunday, June 24

Jim, James, Steph, and I left the hotel far too early at 8am. Steph had a 10:15 flight to catch, and she and James were the only way that Jim and I could get back to the airport. (Try $130 for a cab...)

Jim and I wanted to find something fun to do in Columbus before our 4pm flights. The welcome center at the airport was dark and empty, and the visitors kiosks were totally unhelpful. Our only option to leave the airport (beside a taxi, which we decided against for getting-back purposes) was the James Road bus.

The James Road bus cut through the Columbus ghetto and dropped us off at an obscure mall known as Eastland. (We did have the most kind bus driver on the way there; she couldn't get over how smart and how cute Jim and I were.) Eastland technically didn't open until noon; we were stuck wandering around Macy's (which opened earlier) for a good half hour. We continued to walk the mall's various corridors and hit the occasional store before getting lunch at Panda Express.

We took the James Road bus back to the airport, where I discovered that Delta had moved my gate to the completely opposite side of the airport from Jim's. Boo. We had planned not to go through security until 3, but the line exploded at 2:30. This prompted Jim to get in line and ended Jim-and-Sarah together time :(

There was no line whatsoever at the other end of the airport where I had to go through security. I did the usual drill, placing my belt, watch, and shoes in a bin and putting my backpack on the conveyor belt. I made it through fine and was about to grab my backpack when a TSA worker snapped it from right in front of me. She unzippered the main compartment, rifled through ALL of my stuff, and informed me that my "full-size iron" was a threat to national security. She continued to state that I had to ditch my brand-new iron or go back and check my backpack RIGHT NOW.

I was NOT happy. I stated to her in my most business-like manner that my backpack, with iron, had made it through security just fine at BWI. I pleaded that she should let me carry it on, seeing that it was barely a "full-size iron" anyway. No luck. Being the cheapo that I am, I grabbed everything essential, reluctantly checked my backpack, and went through security a second time.

Just then, Jim called me with the news that both of our flights had been delayed.

ARRRGH. GRRRR. ASDF. Welcome to Air Travel in America, 2007 style.

Jim's 4:10 departure had been rolled back to 5:00, and he was now in danger of missing his connecting flight. Meanwhile, my flight had a puny 15 minute excuse of a delay. I would still be able to make my 8pm train.

My flight then became further delayed, to 4:50. Now I was getting pissed.

All of a sudden at 4:15, we were allowed to board our plane. It appeared as if the Gods had smiled on us and we would be on time, or close to it, after all.

I was just about to get comfy in my seat when the flight attendant announced that we needed to deboard the plane. We had been bumped from our gate at JFK, and rumor had it that we were now not allowed to leave Columbus until 6.

Great! Fabulous! Yayyyyyy! Did I mention I was LIVID?

I also realized at this point that I left my train ticket in my backpack. DUH SAR. There was no way I would be making my 8pm train, and I wanted to make sure that AMTRAK wouldn't screw me over. I eventually found the customer service number via 411 and got everything squared away.

We boarded the plane for real at 4:45 and were in the air around 5:00. The pilot hauled ass, and we were in New York City before 6:30. We were earlier than anticipated at Kennedy and ended up doing circles over the ocean. (I did get to see the Empire State Building out of my window along with all of the other skyscrapers in Manhattan. Totally cool!)

We landed at 6:40. And sat. And sat. And sat.

A HUGE Air France plane was blocking our little Embraer from its gate. Thanks Air France.

I got off the plane at 7:00 and miraculously grabbed my backpack at the baggage claim five minutes later. I caught the AirTrain right outside my terminal and rode it to Jamaica, where I transferred to the Long Island Railroad (LIRR):

The 8:18 train to Penn Station positioned me for the 9:05 NYC->WAS Amtrak train. I arrived at Penn Station, and had absolutely NO idea where to go. Every sign I saw directed me to the New York or New Jersey subways; I didn't see an AMTRAK sign anywhere.

I hurriedly asked random store owners and security guards for direction. I made it to the AMTRAK portion of Penn Station at 8:45.

My heart sank upon seeing the customer service line. There was no way I would get to an agent before the 9:05 train left without me. The next train to DC wouldn't leave New York until 11:05, and all I wanted was to GO HOME.

Recalling that AMTRAK has a fairly liberal refund/cancellation policy, I called AMTRAK customer service on the phone and presented an innovative solution:

If I bought a ticket for the 9:05 train at the self-ticketing kiosk NOW, could I get my ticket for the 8:00 train refunded/exchanged/whatever later?

The answer was yes, and I soon had a ticket home in hand.

Two small disappointments included the fact that I had to take the regional train (not the super cool, super speedy Acela Express) and that since coach-class was sold out, I had to buy a business-class ticket. Outside of costing more, the latter actually was quite pleasurable:

The train ride home was calm and quiet. I got to see downtown Philadelphia and Baltimore from my window; the skylines of both cities were just lovely lit up against the night sky. I also got to add New Jersey and Delaware to my "States-I-Have-Been-In" list. (Stepping foot in counts, riding in a car or train counts, flying over in a plane does not. I have now been in 22 states, and I find it interesting that Indiana is NOT one of them. How can I have been to every state around its perimeter, but not the Hoosier State itself?)

One perk of having a business-class seat is getting to sit in the first car of the train. This is particularly valuable when the train comes to a stop and you're racing all of your fellow passengers to the taxi stand. (The Metro stops running at midnight on Sunday.)

I was fifth in line and got a taxi within seconds. The cabbie actually knew where Foggy Bottom was (be still my heart!); I walked through the door of Guthridge, completely exhausted, at precisely 1:00am.

What a weekend; what an adventure!

Sunday spending total: $295.00 (hotel room, iced tea, bus fare, AirTrain fare, LIRR fare, AMTRAK ticket, and taxi fare)

Old New Post

My old new post is up!

Make sure to look two posts before this one (oh chronological order) and check it out!!!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Stupid Internet Explorer

For those who are wondering, I had a new post up for five minutes last night.

Apparently typing half of an entry in Firefox and the other half in Internet Explorer completely messes up the formatting of an entry. Grrrrr.

I apologize for IE's incompetence and promise two postings in the near future.

Busy Week

Monday, June 18

After a rather uneventful day at work, the WISE gang ventured to Dukem, an Ethiopian restaurant:

Completely flustered by the restaurant's menu, I asked the waitress to bring me a dish of whatever was Sarah-safe. I ended up with dish number two - Dukem Special Tibs:

Cubed tender beef marianated with dukem sauce and sauteed with onion, rosemary, tomato, jalapeno, and a touch of fresh garlic.

The meal itself is served over injera, a pancake-like bread. To eat, you tear off pieces of the injera and scoop up little bits of food. No silverware required!

The restaurant also had traditional Ethiopian music and dancers:

On the way home from Dukem, I stopped at Giant. I had totally forgotten that this supermarket was under the umbrella of Royal Ahold, the Dutch company that also owns Tops (formerly Finast). All of the store brand packaging was IDENTICAL to Finast packaging circa 1995. The only difference was the Giant logo.

Needless to say, I found CRESCENT ROLLS and SQUARES MIX!!! The latter was particularly exciting; I grabbed the first bag I saw on the shelf, held it close to my heart, and screamed out "THIS IS THE BEST DAY EVERRRRR!" Luckily, no one seemed to mind ;)

Monday spending total: $55.61 (postage, dinner, and Giant run)

Tuesday, June 19

Chris and I started the day off by going to hear H.R. 6, the Clean Energy Act of 2007 debated on the Senate floor. I snapped these photos on the way to the Senate gallery:

Senator Bob Casey presided over the debate, and we got to hear Senators Jon Tester, Robert Byrd, and Pete Domenici speak.

Poor Senator Byrd. At ninety years old, he is definitely showing his age. His speech had to be written in size 48 font, and he handled each piece of paper with an unsteady hand. Forever beloved by the people of West Virginia, he just won reelection to an unprecedented NINTH term.

But I must give Senator Byrd credit. He is still introducing legislation and fighting zealously for his constituents. He also likes to spell:

"C-O-A-L. COAL can become our lifeline." "We need to A-C-T. ACT."

After hearing enough energy debate, we took in the House gallery. Debate was ensuing over the Army Corps of Engineers, and we only stayed a few minutes.

We came back to the office, and I swear that I was going to do work when I stumbled upon the Senate Chamber Desks website. I never knew that furniture could be so fascinating. The desk that Senator Brown has right now, LXXXVIII, has previously been occupied by both Al Gore Senior and Junior as well as Robert F. Kennedy. How cool!

A bunch of us had planned to attend the 2007 Metro World Music Concert at the Kennedy Center featuring the Ska-Talites, Plunky & Oneness, Shaggy, and Wyclef Jean. Capacity was reached right before we got through security, so we were stuck outside the gate. The massive queue of people waiting to get in began to creep up inch-by-inch, and we soon were packed like sardines. Emily and I stayed for a little while before electing to come home and run errands. Bummer.

Tuesday spending total: $0.00 (YAY!)

Wednesday, June 20

Erica, Dave, Jason, and I scored free tickets to hear Hillary Clinton speak super early in the morning at the Take Back America 2007 conference sponsored by the Campaign for America's Future:

Following Hillary, we stuck around to hear both Dennis Kucinich (my homeboy!) and Nancy Pelosi speak. We hit up the exhibition, too; I scavenged a John Edwards '08 sign (that's what I got looking for your Obama sign, Tom), a Gore '08 pin for Kathryn, and a Democracy For America (DFA) bumper sticker. How's that for random campaign paraphernalia?

We heard a former WISE intern and newly-minted patent lawyer speak in the afternoon. I aspired to do work afterward, but...I bought Connie Schultz's new book instead! I had no idea that ...and His Lovely Wife was off the presses until my mumsy told me so. Oh yes, YOU HINDERED MY PRODUCTIVITY MOM! But I heart you for it :)

My original goal was to buy the book and read it during my upcoming travels. But, but, I let myself read one chapter. Which turned into two. Which turned into three. Before I locked the book in my desk drawer, not to be opened until Friday at 5.

Connie Schultz is fabulous. I'm so glad that the rest of the world figured that out and awarded her the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 2005. I've gotten to meet Connie a few times, and I want to be just like her when I grow up. I admire her so much for speaking her mind and being such a strong, beautiful woman and feminist.

But I digress. Connie is married to SHERROD, and the book more or less is about his 2006 campaign for the Senate. I am even more absorbed in the book because it is about people that I KNOW, campaign events that I ATTENDED.

Volunteering for the Brown campaign was so much fun, and I nearly cried reading Connie's account of election night. I WAS THERE when we saw the results roll in after a long, soggy day of GOTV. I WAS THERE when the room went silent and we watched Mike DeWine concede. I WAS THERE when halfway through his victory speech, Sherrod jumped up and down upon learning that the Democrats had won the House. I HELPED TURN OHIO BLUE!!!

I left work at 5:30 and had just enough time to walk to Dupont and check out a thrift store that had caught my eye. Secondi has to be THE COOLEST consignment shop ever. The store only stocks designer duds, and the longer something stays on the racks, the lower the price becomes. I tried on some really, really cute clothes and decided to splurge on a fun green skirt (at the nobody-bought-it price). I also went to a wine tasting at Best Cellars and picked up two bottles of vino: a New Zealand sauvignon blanc and a veltliner. Finding veltliners in DC is much easier than finding veltliners in Cleveland for whatever reason.

Later in the evening, a bunch of us decided to go Nighttime Monument Hopping:

Taking nighttime photos is so complicated. I'm sure that Jim will show these up when he comes to visit. Regardless, I want a collapsible tripod for Christmas.

Wednesday spending total: $93.96 (...and His Lovely Wife, skirt, and wine)

Thursday, June 21

I had a super lazy morning. After lunch, free ice cream was to be had at 1776 Eye Street; we ventured over there ASAP to meet Erica and Jason:

I managed to snag free passes to the sneak preview of "A Mighty Heart." The movie was incredibly intense and inevitably depressing. I was engaged throughout the film and felt like I had been in the theater for four hours rather than 100 minutes. I would recommend this movie; the message sent by the lives of Daniel and Mariane Pearl is both thought-provoking and profound.

Thursday spending total: $0.00 (YAY!)

Friday, June 22

The majority of the WISE gang went to a lunchtime NIST briefing in Rayburn. We got to hear William Jeffrey, the director of NIST speak along with Representatives Phil Gingrey and David Wu.

I snapped these pictures of Bartholdi Park on the way back:

I ran a few errands at Union Station before coming back to the office for a bit. After work, I met up with fellow members of the Case Alumni Association at RFK to watch the Indians battle the Nationals. I had an excellent pulled-chicken sandwich and got to meet several very interesting Case alumns. One gentleman worked at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, and another was an ex-Case swimmer from the tdc3 era. The latter's wife was super involved with the Dartmouth Alumni Association and promised to invite me to their DC summer events as well.

The Indians played lethargically and lost by a score of 4 to 1. BUT, I got my picture with Teddy, Tom, George, Abe, and the GEICO Gecko:

Yes sir, yes ma'am. Milwaukee has sausages, Pittsburgh has pierogies, and Cleveland has Sugardale hot dogs. Not to be outdone, Washington has the Presidents:

Friday spending total: $40.25 (Borders run and RFK outing)

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Saturday and Sunday Snapshots

I took 106 photos on my camera this weekend. Whew!

I hope you enjoy the following snapshots that passed muster!!!

Saturday, June 16

I somehow managed to get up in time to catch the early tour at the Kennedy Center. We started off in the Hall of Nations:

A flag is displayed for every country with which the U.S. has diplomatic relations.

We then entered the Grand Foyer:

The sixteen gorgeous crystal chandeliers were a gift to the United States from Sweden. The mirrors, likewise, were a gift from Belgium.

At either end of the Grand Foyer is a Millennium Stage:

There is a free theater performance on one of the Millennium Stages EVERY day. How cool!

We then saw where George gets to sit when he goes to see a performance at the Opera House:

Pretty cushy. I photographed JFK's bust, located in the Grand Foyer:

We then entered the Hall of States:

Guess what? Each state (annnd the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, Virgin Islands, and Northern Marianas) has a flag displayed.

We got to go on the roof to conclude our tour:

Bye Bye Kennedy Center:

I also took a picture of THE Watergate Building while I was on the roof. Oddly enough, I frequent the Safeway located in the basement of the complex:

After my morning at the Kennedy Center, I met up with Ariel at U Street. We got lunch at Busboys and Poets and wandered around the U Street/Shaw neighborhood.

U Street/Shaw is the "historic heart of the city's African-American community." Duke Ellington grew up and started his jazz career here:

The two of us did some window shopping as well as real shopping at Home Rule and Go Mama Go!. The latter is one of THE COOLEST stores I have been to in a long, long time. It has a very hippie, Coventry-like feel and sells beautiful plates, cloths, art, etc.

We passed the Freemason's "House of the Temple" during our stroll:

We eventually reached Dupont Circle:

We chatted for a while and enjoyed the shade before walking down Connecticut Avenue. We peered in more shops and restaurants before reaching the Metro station:

I got home just in time to catch Ted Gup on TV and engage in more fun and frivolity with my roomies. We headed up to Adams Morgan for a hot Saturday night! We started off at Asylum, where Saurabh shot this vibrant photo of Emily and me:

Chris was (again) meeting some of his 80 billion friends at another bar down the street. After pushing through crowds of people to reach our destination, Emily and I decided that this bar was too packed and too trashy for us. Being WISE girls (ha ha ha), we headed to Tryst, where we snagged prime people-watching seats and enjoyed the best sangria ever. We eventually met up with Saurabh, and the three of us rode the Metro home at the early hour of 2am.

Saturday spending total: $21.00 (Home Rule purchase, garage sale purchase, and assorted alcoholic beverages)

Sunday, June 17

I realized early in the morning while taking the Metro to Church that so many of my loyal readers have never seen the inside of a Metro station:

Did I mention that I like the Metro? Anyway, I went to Mass at St. Joseph's on Capitol Hill. This church reminded me a lot of Cleveland's Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist. The concrete "beams" criss-crossing the ceiling were eerily similar, as were the blue backdrop and stars painted in between them. The music was a lot better than last week, and I sat behind a very official, politician-looking type. (I came home and flipped through my guidebook containing photos of each and every member of Congress hoping to identify him. No such luck.)

I snapped this photo of the Thurgood Marshall Federal Judiciary Building on my walk back to Union Station:

I chilled at the dorm before venturing to Arlington National Cemetery with my roomies. This is the view approaching the main entrance:

Behind the main gate structure, you can see Arlington House, the Robert E. Lee Memorial.

Here is a view inside the cemetery:

After passing numerous graves, we reached the resting place of President John F. Kennedy (along with Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and the couple's two infant children):

Quotes by JFK were engraved in stone to create an observation deck of sorts near the gravesite. I photographed the slab containing the Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country quotation, which I feel to be his most famous and poignant:

We then visited the grave of Senator Robert F. Kennedy. I photographed the slab of stone containing my favorite quote by my favorite politician:

Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.

This quote actually has been credited to the Greek tragedian Aeschylus but not found in any of his works. RFK made this remark in his famous speech following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4, 1968. Many say that his words prevented the people of Indianapolis from rioting that very night.

RFK's grave was simple (per his wish): a plain white cross and unadorned white stone.

Not all of the graves at Arlington are uniform; this shot shows some more ornate headstones:

We visited the Tomb of Unknown Civil War Dead, containing the remains of 2,111 Union soldiers:

I snapped this photo of Washington, DC from the front lawn of Arlington House:

We proceeded to tour Robert E. Lee's home and the adjoining slave quarters. I learned two most interesting facts:

1. George Washington was Martha Dandridge Custis's second husband, and
2. Robert E. Lee was NOT an evil man.

Growing up in the North, every history textbook I encountered made Robert E. Lee out to be the biggest bad guy EVER. I never knew that his loyalty to Virginia simply trumped that of his loyalty to the Union. He lived a fruitful life and served as the president of Washington College (now Washington and Lee University) in his later years.

We then reached the Memorial Amphitheater, where official ceremonies are held:

On the other side of the amphitheater is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. We sat in silence and witnessed The Changing of the Guard:

Finally, we visited the memorials to the astronauts aboard space shuttles Challenger and Columbia (pictured):

Chris, Emily, and I decided that four hours wandering around the cemetery just wasn't enough for the day. The three of us proceeded to visit the United States Air Force Memorial:

I snapped this photo of Washington, DC and the Pentagon from the base of the memorial:

We walked right by the Pentagon on our way to the Air Force Memorial. I'm pretty sure that the side pictured above is where the plane crashed into the building on September 11. The coloration of the stone in the middle varies from that on the extreme right and extreme left. Adding further validity to my hypothesis is the fact that the Pentagon Memorial is being built adjacent to this side of the building.

Finally, a cute photo of Emily and me at the Air Force Memorial:

My roomies and I came home, rehydrated, and CRASHED. The end.

Sunday spending total: $29.00 (CVS run and a present for Puppy Wuppy)


And there you have it. My weekend in precisely 33 photos :)