Tag Archives: not funny

A tourist in my own city

15 Oct

We’re having an amazing fall (read: 70 degrees and sunny) in DC, so I’ve been taking advantage of the weather by playing tourist. For my nerdy self, that means one thing: WALKING TOURS.

Last weekend I tagged onto a walking tour of Embassy Row, which felt a bit lazy since the starting point was a ten minute walk from my place. While it may sound dumb to take a walking tour of your own neighborhood, I wanted to do it because whenever I have visitors, I find myself making up stories in response to their questions. I thought it might be helpful to equip myself with a few facts for a change.

And man was I ever equipped! I learned a ton. Here are just two highlights to tease you into attending your own tour:

  • Embassy Row was originally called Millionaires’ Row and was where “new money” built their homes – and it became Embassy Row after the crash of the stock market, when many residents were forced to sell their homes (and foreign countries were the only entities flush with cash to purchase them).
  • Westinghouse lived here when the whole AC/DC battle was going on with Edison and he spent $1m of his own money to defend a guy on death row in NY to try to prevent the electric chair (with his current) making its debut (and generating some pretty horrible PR for his cause). It goes without saying that his house was pretty fantastic.

Excited from all that I learned on that tour, this weekend I signed up for a walking tour of Georgetown. Unfortunately, the guide had an artificially boisterous delivery style and over-the-top vocal projection, so listening to him made me cringe. I felt like a legitimate tourist as he yelled history at us on the otherwise quiet streets of Georgetown, so about halfway through the tour, when the group turned left, I turned right and walked home.

If I’m being fair, the guide was only part of the reason I bailed. My feet were hurting because I’d already walked seven miles that day because I’d stumbled upon something called “Do the Loop,” which was an art event in which several museums and galleries in upper Northwest opened their doors at no charge for the day. I used this as an excuse to check out the Kreeger Museum up on Foxhall Road, and I was impressed with the collection, which included many Picassos, Monets, Renoirs – and even a small Calder mobile.

As fantastic as the collection was, I was actually slightly more intrigued by the museum building itself, which had originally been designed and built as the private residence for the Kreegers (president of GEICO back in the day) – with the stipulation by the architect (Philip Johnson) that they leave it as a museum one day. Imagine living in a home designed to one day become a museum? It was fun to roam around and imagine decorating it for entertainment back in the 70s.

So… not much pith in this post, but if you find yourself in DC and looking for something to do, perhaps this will give you some ideas. And if you have an obnoxious tour guide, hopefully you’ll feel fine turning right when he goes left. Because he deserves it.

Perspectives on Christmas

26 Dec

Image Source: http://www.fantom-xp.com/en_35_~_Christmas_magic_laptop_backgrounds.html

At 14 and 10, my nephews are at challenging ages to shop for. When they were younger, I could hit an easy  home run by springing for the one gift on their wish list that they were sure even Santa wouldn’t bring.

Now, however, their tastes run more expensive. While I could afford to pull the “Crazy Aunt” card and get them the electronics they’re pining after, I don’t think it’s healthy for kids to keep up with the Joneses.

So yesterday morning, while we waited for my sister and her family to arrive at my parents’ home, I looked at their wrapped gifts under the tree and had second thoughts. I imagined them opening my presents, then looking at me with the eager eyes of puppies, convinced I had hidden their “big” gifts as some sort of game.

After gifts had been opened, however, I realized my second guessing had been ridiculous. Although we tend to go a bit sparse on the gifts compared to many, we were still surrounded by much, much more than most people in other countries would even dream of.

And – silly me – I’d forgotten: they’re not *those* kinds of kids. They appreciate what they have. So if there was disappointment, they did a good job not showing it and only expressing gratitude for what they had received. Besides, once we started playing some board games together (Taboo and Smartass, to name a few), the pile of “loot” was even less important.

~~~

Meanwhile, I wondered about another Christmas scene unfolding some 500 miles away.

Continuing one of my favorite traditions, my friend Betsy and I adopted a local DC family for Christmas. It’s a win-win-win as far as I’m concerned: I can indulge my urge to do some legitimate Christmas shopping (since I tend to either make donations or shop for my nephews online), spend time with a good friend, and do something truly in the spirit of the season.

This year a mother, a father and their two-year-old son comprised the Alexandria, Virginia-based family we had adopted. The program’s coordinator emailed us their wish list and included a note, “They’re a nice young family, working hard to make ends meet.”

So three weeks ago we walked to Target and picked out some nice outfits, toys, a few things for their home and a generous gift card. The gifts looked lovely when wrapped – enough to neatly fill the space beneath a tree come Christmas morning.

Although they’re down on their luck, I hope they were able to forget it for a day – and carry with them the knowledge that they aren’t in it alone, that people really do care.

~~~

Image Source: http://bloggingtothemaxey.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/coexist1.png

Then, as I got ready for bed to put an end to my Christmas Day, I happened to see a story on the news about Mitzvah Day in Detroit.

Talk about a lovely idea… Jews and Muslims work with church groups in the Detroit area and go around playing Santa, taking toys and meals to homes of the disadvantaged. As one man on the story said, “It may be as close to World Peace as I’ll see in my lifetime.”

~~~

Today we visited some friends who are hosting an exchange student from China. This was her first American Christmas, and although the family kept things low-keyed and only gave her two small gifts and a stocking full of toiletries, she kept sorting through the contents of her stocking, examining it all with quiet incredulity. Noticing her interest in all the gifts, someone asked if her family exchanged presents for any holidays.

Nothing like this, she said. Including birthdays, this was the most she had ever received in terms of presents.

And this is a kid whose family can afford to send her to the US in an exchange program. Not exactly poor.

~~~

So… for those of you who stressed about finding the perfect gift, or who are about to buckle under the weight of January’s credit card bills, something to keep in mind for next year:

The magic of Christmas doesn’t have to cost a penny. You don’t have to have a small child in your home to find it. Just be grateful for all that you have. Share with those who don’t have as much. And I promise: you’ll feel rich. It won’t matter what you put under the tree.

[And now, in my next post, back to your regular, snarky/pithy/biting programming.]