Monday, July 25, 2005

Try The Buffet, Part 1

Es war endlich soweit.

Finbar arrived at BWI shortly before 8 p.m. Thursday. I'd been quite late leaving work, trying my best to get a Petition out before I left for the day. At the last minute, I realized that would never happen because I still needed a copy made of it and the copy shop wouldn't have the time to get it done before they closed. One of the girls in the office agreed to take it down on Friday morning for me if I had it tabbed and ready to go. I got into my car at 6:38 p.m. and hit the road, worried that traffic would make me late to get Finbar. I'd warned him that it would be a possibility and to just wait by the baggage claim for me, but still, it sucks to be waiting at the airport to get picked up and I miss him, so I didn't want to waste any of the time he would be here. Luckily, the traffic was thick, but not terribly slow. Mapquest steered me astray, but there were road signs that got me back on the proper path and I made it to BWI around the time his plane was scheduled to land.

I flew through BWI last summer and the whole place was one huge construction zone. I remember having that four hour layover and, not knowing exactly where in relation to the city the airport was, being too afraid to leave the airport. So I had a lot of time to kill and it turned out that there wasn't a heck of a lot to kill it with at BWI. No proper restaurants (though I did get a Charley's Subs meal) or shops (save the Maryland Souvenirs, all of which had variations on the "Crab" theme on them-- "I'm CRABBY in Maryland!"), so that four hour layover died hard.

The place is still a massive construction zone, but you can see things taking shape. There are more shops, though they are all behind the security barrier, making them inaccessible to the poor sap who is waiting to pick up someone whose flight is delayed. There are more restaurants as well, though they too seem to be behind the security checkpoints with the exception of some newsstands that also sell coffee and muffins. The check-in areas are shiny and well-lit, which is a major improvement over the strange, dim lighting that I found so freaky last summer. The coolest change, however, is in the parking garage.

Actually, it's on Level 2 of the parking garage. Each parking spot is equipped with a sensor hanging from the ceiling. When a car is parked in the spot (and therefore, under the sensor), a light on the sensor turns red. When no car is in the spot, the sensor lights up green, marking the spot as open. At the ends of each aisle there are signs indicating the number of empty spots in that aisle, so that you can decide whether or not to drive up the aisle. It's a brilliant idea; I can't believe it hasn't been done before.

We headed back down the highway in the sticky, dying day and ended up stopping for dinner at Lebanese Taverna" for dinner. The pita bread came to us straight from the oven, still steaming and puffed like little footballs. It. was. phenomenal. So was the lamb pie.

And then the Moment of Truth was there: Finbar met Will.

I said to Hulio once that Finbar and Will are a match made in idiot heaven. And I was not proven wrong. The two of them immediately hit it off and the level of humor went simultaneously downhill and up at the same time, getting progressively raunchier and funnier. I left the two of them snickering like 12 year olds in the solarium.

Friday, Finbar and I got up and went to IHOP. I love IHOP, yet I've never had the joy of living in the same city as one, at least not for long, since as soon as an IHOP opened in the City of Light, I moved away to start law school. I've been here in Rockville for more than two months and I only recently and quite by accident discovered that there is an IHOP less than a mile from the house. Less than a mile!! We stuffed our faces with Rooty Tooty Fresh and Fruity while discussing our plan for the day. The original schedule had called for us to be up, showered, dressed and out the door in time to stop in at the office with bagels so that I could introduce Barry to people, then back on the Metro and into the city to try to get tickets to tour the Capitol. It took us awhile to get moving and we didn't even make it to IHOP until 10:30. While sitting there waiting for our Rooty Tooty Fresh and Fruity, I gazed out the windows at the shops in the little strip mall. It was a virtual UN of retail; an Indian buffet, a Vietnamese Carry-out, a Mexican grocery, and a Persian bakery, among other shops and facing onto a busy street teeming with traffic.

After three or four cups of coffee and lots of BACON, we waddled across the parking lot to the Persian bakery to see what they had and maybe pick up a treat to take to the office. It was exactly the kind of place that makes Washington D.C. such a great place to live. The young woman behind the counter gave us samples of this amazing honey crisp and the next thing we knew, we were telling her to give us four pounds of whatever was in the display case. We boarded the Metro for the office, sweet hints of honey wafting from the box of cookies and climbed the Mt. Everest escalator. After a quick round of introductions, we got back on the Metro and headed for Capitol Hill.

I'd checked the guidebook before leaving and we were pretty certain that we were far too late to get tickets to tour the Capitol, but hope springs eternal and we hiked from Gallery Place to the Capitol Building, a grueling hike in the brutal summer sun and near-triple digit temperatures, dodging swarms of Boy Scouts running amok,only to get the bad (though expected) news and continue directly down the Mall to the Smithsonian.

All along the Mall, we encountered more and more Boy Scouts. All of them full of that twitchy hormonal teenage energy and whatever chemical reaction occurs when teenage boys get together in large groups, making them act like savage morons. How many times did I have to restrain myself from giving these young men a "good talkin' to"? About a million, that's how many. Just in front of the Smithsonian!

We saw at least 4,000 crucifixion scenes in the National Gallery of Art before Finbar petered out. He only lasts so long in an art museum, which is about fifteen minutes longer than I would last in a science museum, so I can't complain too much. We stopped in the Impressionist gallery before leaving. Finbar is a great fan of Monet and has several framed prints hanging on his walls.

Then it was on to the Museum of American History, where the exhibit on polio moved me to tears. It's hard to imagine the terror that must have gripped the parents of a child who wakes up and is seemingly inexplicably paralyzed, unable to move or breathe. One account described how a father raced to the distant hospital with his son spasming in his arms, but the child died before they could reach the hospital. How horrible that must have been! We also watched the conservationists working on The Star Spangled Banner, which was really cool. One of the things that I like about this particular museum is that it shows AND tells. You get to see the objects in question and there are simple, yet detailed explanations for everything. One of the things that I like least about this museum is that this makes parents think "Oh, it's 'child friendly', so my little Precious can do whatever she likes", which means that *I* petered out pretty fast. So, it was back out into the blast oven to see some monuments.



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