Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The DC Chronicles: Part II

While walking back to the hotel -- what was supposed to be a two or three mile journey -- we were stuck, yet again, in the middle of DC mayhem. We were wedged between an overpass and a highway off-ramp, facing our hotel, but with no way to get there. Another dead end. Our room was in sight, but the six lanes of highway and the 55 mph traffic was a bit…wait a minute…what…is…that…smell? Rachel? Are you smelling what I’m smelling? Cajun spicy goodness? Old Bay seasoning? Real-life adventure on the high seas broadcast weekly on the Discovery Channel? It is!!!

A Fish Market!

And lo! As the smell of fish wafted throughout the land, the clouds opened up.

This place was nuts. Apparently we had stumbled upon the most amazing fish market in the world (sorry Seattle), the Main Avenue Fish Market. Fresh crab was crawling in every direction, snapper the size of Smart cars, and shrimp so big you could saddle them up and ride them home.

It was almost dinner time and cars were beginning to pull up en masse for dinner (or take dinner home). The place was bounding at its shore-lined seams. Beautiful. Rachel and I, after what was once a sh*tty day, knew we had no choice; we were going to drag our family here…here to our beautiful oasis in the middle of an impassable cement desert. We looked at each other and smiled.

OK, so it wasn’t really an oasis. Anybody that’s ever been to a fish market knows that it’s not oasis-like, especially in the smell department. However, our day had not been entirely lost, so we declared victory: it was time to gorge ourselves in celebration!

We drug Ashley, Steven and the Zen back to our market and needless to say, Tenzin was in eye candy heaven. Crabs were flipping themselves over the side of the boat trying not to end up on a dinner plate, fishmongers were tossing and slicing filets, locals were barking out orders two, sometimes three people deep. He couldn’t stop staring! For his amusement, I even tried to pop an escaped crab back up in to a basket, only to find out that crabs can, in fact, readily access the area behind their backs. Tenzin giggled as I put a napkin over my bleeding finger.

We walked around for a while, perused the different floating markets, snapped some pictures, then decided that enough was enough…it was go time. Side note: Although one might not think ceviche when they think of DC, I would like to announce that the District of Columbia is, unbeknownst to most, the ceviche capital of the United States. I can’t remember if it was Ashley or Rachel, but somebody came back to our dinner box with a cup full of amazing. It was the second-best ceviche I have ever had, preceded only by the $5.00 mound of citrus heaven we ate in La Fonda, Mexico. The four of us sat on the docks literally inhaling food: ceviche, chowder, corn on the cob, scallops...anything we could find.

After about an hour of non-stop eating, we relaxed on the docks post-meal, suckling on our ice cream cones of victory. Tenzin was covered in about four gallons of watermelon juice and we didn’t look much better.

Chins were dripping and clothes were moist, we were all just a hot mess. I, however, had continued to wander the market for a little while longer, and even though I was full I could not resist the temptation. I proceeded over to one of the more popular vendors and bought two of the biggest king crab legs I could find – our dessert. They’ll steam them for you on the spot, so I waited my eight minutes and marched triumphantly back to camp. We all dove in, and in case you were wondering how good they were, check out the vegetarian:

It was seriously one of the best, if not THE BEST, meals I have ever had. And the best part? All of it was below market price. A meal like this would have easily cost $250 at restaurant in Columbus. At the Main Avenue Fish Market? About $50 for four and a half of us.

And to cap off the evening...

We made our way across the street to a hill, our bellies full and our smiles big. We relaxed there for a while and just took in the sights and sound of the fish market below. Trying to time a picture for posterity's sake didn't work out too well.

And contrary to my opinion of various other areas of the city, I'll take this version of DC any day.


DC Part II up by the end of the day. I promise.

Until then, enjoy some Bert & Ernie rhymes...

Friday, July 25, 2008

I need 20 extra hours in the day...

I promise that DC Part II is coming so instead, try to figure out what the heck Tenzin is saying. It's a combination of Mork from Ork and and Vietnamese.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The DC Chronicles: Part 1

Happy anniversary to me!!!

It’s official: over one month since I last posted!

It’s been far too long, so much so that it doesn’t even feel hurried to get one up. It’s kind of like turning in a late paper to a teacher; one day late and you still have a chance, two weeks late and there’s really no harm in waiting another day, right? Not that I know what any of that is like. All my papers were always in on time. I promise, mom.

For starters, Aunt Ashley and Uncle Steven flew out from California for a little DC vacation. Some of my friends from Peace Corps were gathering in our nation’s capital to send off Deb, our traveler-at-large, as she begins yet another journey to Montenegro with the Foreign Service. It’s an amazing job and all of us are truly jealous. Every two years she’s relocated to another exotic locale (OK, so maybe Poland wasn’t super exotic, but it’s still more interesting than Grove City).

Steven and Ashley had never been to the Capital, and likewise I had been but never been touristy. We thought it would be a great time to see the town, get some pictures, catch up with old friends, and taste the local libations.

DC is a hard sell for me. The whole city sparks an innate interest in my patriotic mind that makes me want to see and do everything around me, while a large portion of my brain lay shrouded in trepidation over the fact that, in order to get to DC, one must drive in DC. With this we were excited, albeit apprehensive about the trip.

The drive down went pretty well, all things considered. Rachel and I only work half-day Fridays, so we got off of work and headed straight home, packed some last minute items, and hopped in the car by 1:30 pm.

It was great to see Ashley and Steven as we drove through the mountains. Steven, being a native Californian, couldn’t get over the leafy greenness of the hills. I guess when you’re used to dry climate, with a random snow cap or two thrown in for good measure, the forested hills of Appalachia might look a little different.

Steven rode shotgun while I drove, with Rachel and Ashley flanking Tenzin in the back. Little man was a champ! Ashley discovered the Thornburg Family claw toe secret, feeding him Fritos in between his toes and watching him put them in his mouth, yes, with the Fritos still between his toes. The hilarity continued with a pacifier, and possibly even a gummy worm or two. Then it was time to “Eat your leg,” where we figured out if we told him to eat his leg he would, in fact, begin to gnaw on his calf. I think somebody is coming to an age where he understands what it means to get a laugh, because Tenzin was more than obliged to show off for his west coast family.

We made it to DC in good time, checking in to the L’Enfant Plaza by about 8:30 pm. It’s a great (see: cheap) hotel located right on top of the Metro, which made travel super easy over the weekend (with the exception of Saturday, but that’s another story). Tenizin’s always been a big fan of mass transit in general, not because of the many social and environmental benefits therein, but because it’s daredevil time for an almost two year-old. Think about it…at his age, a motorized vehicle means, well, basically a five point harness and a nice view of Mommy and Daddy’s ever-graying hair. Pop him on a subway or a bus and it must feel like flying! Now if only we could teach him to stop licking the poles, we’d be golden.

We got to go out the first night and meet up with some of the PC people at a local pool hall, played some shuffleboard, told embarrassing stories (most of which at my expense), and caught the last subway before 3:00am. Ashley stayed back at the hotel room with Tenzin, undoubtedly postponing the decades before she’ll ever want to have children again (he can be a little bit of a handful).

It was so great to see everyone. Steven kicked some butt until the drinks caught up with him. Meanwhile, I habitually sucked, that is, until the drinks caught up with me. Unfortunately I think we were teammates for a couple of games, so that strategy didn’t work out so well.

The next day was a little bit more difficult. Not because of the previous night’s festivities, but because while the AM was fine, the PM reminded me of why I hate this town. That morning, while sucking down every Powerade within a three mile radius, we walked to the Smithsonian Castle, and then on to the Air & Space Museum. Great day so far.

Then, Ashley needed Ethiopian food. Being the visual forces of strength that we are, Steven and I figured we should go along for the ride “just in case” (‘cause nothing says don’t-mess-with-us than a surfer and a pasty mid-westerner). Little known fact: Ashley is very picky about her Ethiopian food. I think Steven and I traveled a Metro-aided marathon in search of the proper restaurant. We finally gave up just three blocks shy of her intended destination and ducked in to a pub for some grub.

By this time, Rachel was back at the hotel with Tenzin and in need of a break, so I left Steven to fend for Ashley and headed back to the hotel. This is where things broke down. Our hotel sat right on top of the Metro, but had two stops in which to exit. When I got off the Metro, I was –literally– exiting on the wrong side of the tracks.

As I wound my way around the little-known Napping District (how can homeless people sleep in the sun on an 85 degree day?), I had sight of our hotel, but unfortunately, could not get close. As soon as I thought there was a break in the road/bushes/train tracks/nappers, I would end up at a dead end. The kicker: my angry fa├žade must have appeared to make me a local, because other lost tourists were asking me for directions (what does that say about the appearance of the locals?).

About an hour and a half later, I had finally made it up the stairs to our hotel. Yes, an hour and a friggin’ half to walk less than football field. The construction crew working on the hotel added to this time, seeing as the whole back section of the hotel –the section I had been trying to reach– was roped off and impassable. A flashing of my breasts had gotten me nowhere, and I was forced to walk around three entire blocks to access the front. By this point, I was fuming.

We were supposed to be meeting up with Peace Corps friends in about an hour, but I was in no mood to be on the road. I get to a certain point where I know I’m not going to be any fun to be around and Rachel is about the only person that can put up with me, so I decided to be a party pooper and back out of the reunion dinner. While it was unfortunate that I didn’t get to see some of my old friends, this might have been one of the best decisions I have ever made.

I got in to the hotel and asked Rachel if we could “just go.” I didn’t care where, why or how, I just knew that we needed to go. We walked down to the Metro and I asked Rachel to pick “North, South, East or West.” I don’t even remember which way she chose (one of the downfalls of blogging one month after-the-fact), but as soon as we got on we pointed to a stop and decided that THAT was the one. We exited in what looked to be the wrong side of the tracks (again), but it didn’t matter. I saw signs for the waterfront and we just kept walking…arm in arm…working off all the bad juju I had collected through the day.

Out of nowhere it rose, like a coconut Phoenix from the fishy ashes; a tiki bar! I’m not sure where or why it was positioned where it was, but this was undoubtedly one of the weirdest location for a rum bar that I had ever seen. No matter though, Rachel and I were geeked up to just be out on the town. We sat and threw back some drinks, talking realty and mortgages with an awesome older gentleman named Novell, and called it a night with a long walk home. It was a hefty distance, but it was romantic nonetheless.