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One day this month, I snuck away with a gal pal and headed back to an old haunt, Washington, DC, where I lived and worked for sixteen years.

I left Northern Virginia in 2000, when the hub-bub became intolerable. Having lived in a sleepy foothills hamlet for the past decade, a neighbor and I decided on an itinerary that included the Washington National Cathedral, The Smithsonian, and the Pentagon Memorial. I have fond memories of the National Cathedral, as it was entirely comforting following my mother’s death. The Smithsonian never fails to educate and entertain, and the Pentagon Memorial was a must see for the first time since 9-11.

Although we drove up in driving rain, the clouds parted when we reached the Metro station in Vienna.

Parking was simple, once we located the place, and although we did not receive a parking ticket upon arrival, we were assured by a Metro employee, that we would get one at departure. Oh blind faith. We hopped the next train into DC—first stop, the Washington National Cathedral.

One person we trusted as a seasoned commuter, directed us onto one train. While on the platform at Metro Center, a beautifully dressed male (reformed lawyer/lobbyist/now professor) chatted up my companion, and HE revealed that we were about to board the WRONG train. Tenleytown was where we needed to go. OK! Although I was thoroughly convinced that this lawyer/professor (with a wedding ring) wanted my companion’s number, we sweetly thanked him and departed before matters became embarassing.

At a run, down the stairs we flew, and up the other side just in time to zip on to Northwest DC.

A lot of walking in DC. The Cathedral was a mile away from the metro station, yet fortunately there was a Whole Foods Market just across the street, where we found cool drinks and a pit stop. This store is quite a change from our pretty WFM in Charlottesville.

The next challenge took us south on foot to look for a metro bus, which would save time and leather. We assumed that the all-day Metro passes would work on the metro busses, and thankfully the first driver waived us on when we showed him our train passes.

We were well on our way, in mild weather, to see the sights. The transportation was clean, the passengers pleasant, and the views impressive.

Feeling like travel pros, we reached our stop and hopped off the bus. The streets are WIDE in DC, and across the mighty artery stood the mightier Cathedral.

I was excited to once again experience the awe of its interior. Alas, that 6.0 earthquake in Central Virginia on August 23, left the Cathedral spires in shards and pieces. The entire building was enclosed in chain link fence…closed to visitors! Rats!!

While I hoped that we were seeing things in time-lapse, we waited for divine intervention. None came. So we watched and photographed each other, the broken building, and the brave men who walk…

the edges from defying heights. Gasp! All the king’s horses and all the king’s men will be needed to put this together again! How sad!

It took generations of master craftsmen from around the world to complete this masterpiece, and only seconds for Mother Nature’s wrath to dismantle the crown of glory. My old haunt visit must wait until another time.

On to the Smithsonian. The next bus driver—a woman—refused to accept our Metro train passes, so while we stood fumbling for money, she also failed to tell us that no change is given on the bus line. While we could have fiddled endlessly for exact change, I shoved a large bill into the kiosk, only to learn that I had made a handsome donation to the DC bus system. The stoic bus-woman never flinched, tainting what so far was a quite pleasant journey.

So be it.

This ride took some time as we wound around Georgetown and past the White House.

Fellow travelers/locals became more animated and talkative. Soon we were chatting like chums to each other about the equally damaged Washington Monument (cracked), signs of the times, and how DC has changed in recent decades. TT and I both received copies of The Examiner Washington from ethnic men eager to share.

When our feet finally touched terra firma, I was quickly reminded how far apart streets are in order to accommodate the huge buildings of this fine city. Destinations are not reached quickly while on foot. I felt dwarfed, yet determined to accomplish our itinerary in the remaining few hours.

One of my favorite museums is the National Gallery of Art, East Building. My favorite painting hangs there—and we needed lunch.

We shot across the elegant main floor of the West Building, through the Rotunda and East Garden Court, then descended to the concourse level where we found end-of-day offerings in the cafe. Pass. Another jaunt through the West Building Shop brought us to the Underground Walkway where standing motion was dazzling.

Alexander Calder’s brilliant mobile remains an old friend, constant and reassuring.

The memorable Zen garden, on the Upper Level, was replaced by ghastly piles of Buckingham, Virginia slate sporting the dirtiest windows in Washington. Totally uninspiring…

NGA bring back the Zen Garden!

I discovered this in the sculpture garden and LOVE, LOVE it.

Another long hoof (where are the horses when we really need them?) and we arrived at the American History Museum where this vegetarian demanded a photo.

Rich in diversity, this city, these museums, and its people invite the tourist to return over a lifetime, again and again.

Our final leg took us into Virginia to pay homage to the lost at the Pentagon. There the images were so powerful, I composed a separate blog entitled the thing about the Pentagon Memorial. Check the link in the category column, left side of this blog.

This tunnel provided the solemn stroll necessary to process the Pentagon Memorial’s impact. Accompanied by Pentagon employees returning home, we headed for a quick visit to the shopping mall and dinner.

When I lived in Arlington, places like this beckoned me regularly. As I walked here this day, I felt repulsed and wanted nothing.

When visiting a shoe store seeking slippers, I was told that nothing in the store was made in the USA.

The store next to it sold expensive infant clothing, and again, NOTHING WAS MADE IN THE USA!

Politics aside, I simply wonder what American consumers are thinking (or not) when purchasing high dollar retail items.

At least this kiosk offered fascinators made in the USA. A lovely Korean saleswoman arranged TT’s hair and coaxed a sale.

THEN we were off to find a memorable meal.

Directed to Pentagon Row, we walked through the parking deck, descended decrepid steps, ascended decrepid steps, to find an Irish Pub at the corner. The Guinness on tap was pure perfection—silk in a glass—

so following a mediocre fish and chips meal (one order shared), we opted to split another Guinness for dessert.

I think I could have stayed all night with another pint, yet the pitch of this popular joint was deafening and we gals needed to retrieve the car in Vienna and drive 200 miles home.

Therefore, we returned to the metro at Pentagon City, found the train to Vienna, and rode a packed commuter train into the suburbs.

The time was now 7:30 PM and both the train and interstate were jammed.

I asked one woman, what time she had to be back on the train the next day, and she answered, “8 AM.” When I asked her what kind of home/family life commuters had, she replied, ” I am single, so home life does not matter. I get home, go to sleep, and do it all again the next day.” These folks cannot all be single, and at 8 PM, most young children are already in bed. What has this country come to? These workers appear resigned to this lifestyle, as observed in this photo. Are all major cities in the US following suit?

This day of visiting one of my old haunts only reaffirms why I left Northern Virginia a decade ago. My schedule is one of my choosing. My life is filled with meaning and quality, nurturing images inspire me, while I am embraced by a supportive small town humanity.

We found the car quickly, yet there was no way out of the lot without a special pass—a pass never mentioned by the locals or employees of the train depot. As we drove about looking for a parking attendant, none existed. Finally at one exit, we spotted a local woman, standing out of the pouring rain, and she offered to let us use her pass, if we would give her a ride home—just a few blocks away. Our angel in disguise, indeed.

A long day, a telling day, and one to reflect upon.

As for my next trip to the urbane, it may be delayed for perhaps another decade.

To order USA made slippers go to www.sundanceleather.com

Copyright©2011 by Diane LaSauce All Rights Reserved