02 April 2008

Devotion in Vain and a Walk Downtown

Whether you needed to know it or not, I am a huge fan of The Daily Show (TDS) and its quasi-spin-off, The Colbert Report (TCR). I have been a fan since TDS's inception and a fan of Colbert's since back in the day when he was still considered "the new kid" on TDS.

For the past six weeks, last year's Colbert portrait (each year a new portrait of himself hangs above his fake fireplace on TCR's set) has been hanging in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. It hung in a place of honor, right above the drinking fountains in between the men's and women's bathrooms up through yesterday, April 1st. The portrait was featured at the Gallery only because the Smithsonian refused to take it, claiming it was not in fact a national treasure, despite Colbert's insistance that he/it is/are. Well, after seeing the massive crowds that the portrait alone drew to the Gallery, the Smithsonian changed its mind and stated that they would love to have Colbert's portrait hang in the Treasures of American History Exhibit at the National Air and Space Museum, starting April 2nd and ending April 13th when the exhibit closes.

This is my chance, I thought. I had avoided the Portrait Gallery, mostly because I think it would have been deadly dull to wade through all of those other less amusing portraits, dragging two screaming children along, just to get to Colbert's likeness. But the Air and Space Museum? One of my favorite museums of all time? Well that, my friend, changes the entire situation.

I had thrown around the idea of dragging PW to the Natural Science Museum as she loves dinosaurs, but after she freaked out at the Baltimore Aquarium and refused to look at even the smallest of harmless fish, I figured giant dinosaur skeletons might do the tot in completely. However, I know she loves aircraft--to an unhealthy degree I might add--to the point of sleeping with her toy helicopters ("hopdopters") and screaming at any and all aircraft in the sky. You throw Colbert's portrait from the show in there too, and that equals a trip downtown to the Air and Space Museum.

I called Stephanie (you remember Stephanie) and informed her we were going today to the museum and asking if she wouldn't like to join us. Oh, and her kids (Flopsy and Hunka Munka) could come, too. She attempted to weasle out of it, convinced getting lost at IKEA and eating meatballs in their cafeteria would be a much more enjoyable and worthwhile use of our time. I won the argument by insisting that getting lost at IKEA is something you do on a rainy day, not today. We can get lost in IKEA any damn day. The Museum is superb for today and today only so get your mind around it already.

We then haggled over details, like if we should make the kids ditch preschool to get an early start, or if we actually wanted them to learn something. We decided upon being good parents and chose to meet up at 11 to get Subway sandwiches for ourselves, load up the babies, load up our van, and then head over and pick up the kids from preschool by 11:30. After a few false starts, we were right on schedule picking up the kids. And that's when we stopped being on schedule. After previously forgetting her camera, her shoes and socks, her jackets, baby, feather pillows, camping gear, and other assorted essentials I'm sure she didn't tell me about, we had to go back to Stephanie's house to then retrieve Monopoly, a period map of the Battle of Gettysburg, an antique hutch, rare tropical fish, thumb tacks, a paper shredder, and an autographed photo of REO Speedwagon. Assuring me that there was nothing else from her house that she needed for our afternoon out, mostly because I'm sure the entire contents of her household were now within the confines of my van, we finally left for D.C.

We chose to drive the distance to Pentagon City Mall as it would allow ample time for the girls to eat their lunches and for the babies to (theoretically) sleep, and it would be a shorter Metro (subway) ride to the Smithsonian. We spent an inordinate amount of time feeding babies and trying to keep everyone else in the car once we'd parked at the mall. After a long but pleasant Metro ride into the city, we walked the distance to the museum. By that time it was 8p.m. and time to go home and go to bed, or rather it felt like it what with it taking HOURS just to get four children and their supplies going in one direction and without any fatalities.

The museum was entertaining as always, and I was pleased to see that they had reopened the aircraft carrier exhibit at one end. We went in as many exhibits as we thought the kids would enjoy to any small degree (thinking wisely to skip the WWI and II aircraft exhibits as we didn't think they would appreciate those as much as they should). We saved the Treasures of American History exhibit for last, mostly because I couldn't find it originally and Stephanie had completely forgotten about it. I eagerly trudged through the entire exhibit, small as it was, taking in every bit of pop culture history to be had. And then I came out of the exhibit. No portrait. I dragged PW back through the exhibit, now at a more fevered and frantic pace. No portrait. I asked a guy at the exit who looked like he worked there (which he did). He thought it was still at the Gallery and suggested I ask the people downstairs if they knew of its whereabouts. We followed his advice and went downstairs to inquire at Customer Service. Apparently I was not the first person to ask, either, as the guy laughed hesitantly, perhaps not knowing if I was going to kill him based upon which answer he produced. He said they had been informed just that afternoon that the portrait had left the Gallery and would arrive at the museum by the end of the week. I pointed out that "end of the week" does not equal "April 2nd." He noted such, but continued to insist that he had no involvement in conspiracies concerning this and could offer no further assistance to me. I couldn't help but wonder how it could possibly take three days to move a painting less than a mile, but I admit I am not privy to portrait delivery procedures. Perhaps they first needed to pack it in dry ice or a flour and paprika mixture before it could be transported properly? I would have just wrapped it in bubble wrap and thrown it in the back of a truck, but maybe that's why I'm not in charge of things like that.

Despite this disappointment, we still had a wonderful time at the Air and Space Museum and I believe the girls did as well. Before heading back to the Metro, we made one last bathroom stop, the 57th of that day so far. It now being 5 at night, and rush hour in D.C., the subway was packed. And broken. Many, many angry (and some stinky) commuters, crammed together in each car, in a non-progressing train without A/C, with more angry commuters trying to stuff their bodies into each car at each stop, and all while Peanut wailed his tired, hot, and hungry little head off. Our fellow commuters amused themselves while they waited by smiling at Peanut and then glaring at me for bringing him. After three weeks, we finally arrived back at Pentagon City. When it became obvious that we would not get the children home before their bedtimes, let alone dinner, we chose to eat dinner at the mall. A healthy round of our favorite game "Sit Down and Eat Your Pizza Or Else" and 102 more bathroom breaks later, we finally got to the car. Another hour taken in packing said car and 20 minutes of Stephanie trying to convince me that we could indeed leave the mall parking lot using our credit card instead of waiting in that silly 13-car-long line, and we were on our way, and thanks to me, down the wrong freeway. Fortunately, it joined up with the right one eventually, but at that point it seemed as though we couldn't possibly NOT go down the wrong road. I mean, really. And then Peanut started crying and didn't stop until we got home.

Traffic wasn't nearly as bad as it should have been (although it was 7:30 by the time we got home) and after only an hour's travel time (which is excellent time, actually) we made it, none the worse for wear and all in one piece.

Yes, the lack of Portrait was a grave disappointment, but I was delighted that I was able to see artifacts that I had always managed to miss at the American History Museum, mostly because they would see me making my way towards these objects and quickly announce that the museum was closing in two seconds. So I finally got to see the ruby slippers and scarecrow costume from The Wizard of Oz, Edison's lightbulb, Custer's coat, Helen Keller's watch (did she need to know the time or something? Why? Did she need to be somewhere?), the Greensboro Woolworth lunch counter, the Lone Ranger's mask and a silver bullet, and C3PO and R2-D2, which were worth the entire trip by themselves. Oh, and we had a lovely time with Stephanie, Flopsy, and Hunka Munka as well, despite their forced participation in my brilliant and cunning plan.

Will I make it back? After all that, I BETTER get a Colbert Portrait picture out of this, so yes. Some time between the "end of the week" and the 13th. And I hear next week will be rain-free, too. Perfect day for a jaunt to the museum. Again.


Benteti5 said...

I find it funny that Colbert was in the air and space museum because that is what seems to be located between his left ear and his right and that's the word.

Misty D. said...

And I will need this picture, because then it will be my picture of the day. Two of my favorite people in the world in one picture! Fantastic!

Stephanie B said...

So, how did you know I've been to an REO Speedwagon concert? Actually I caught the drummer's wrist band - that's right I was in the mosh pit. Did I mention I'm only 28?

Abby, I may send you alone next time.

Abby said...

Steph, I wouldn't ddream of forcing you to attend the second time around, especially since I was only going to rush in, take a photo, and rush out. Maybe this time I'll let PW ride the carousel for being dragged along the second time. Peanut can just suck it up.

And you'll be blogging about this event as well I hope? Two sides of the story are better than one and I wrote mine with that in mind. So do it.

Ryann said...

I love how you exaggerate the trip. It sums up many of our jaunts into DC. Maybe one day if we're brave, we could meet there! In fact, we'll be there bright and early for a walk around the tidal basin and then a picnic breakfast Sunday morning if you're interested!

Abby said...

"Bright and early" are words that hold no place in my personal vocabulary. Plus, we have church. Otherwise, I would love to meet up with you! If you're itchin' for a photo of the Colbert portrait, I can guarantee I'll be there at some point for that. My only deal is that Peanut won't take a bottle so my schedule revolves around feeding him myself.