A Weekend in DC

Despite living in New York City, a lot of my obsessions – namely the West Wing and the Watergate scandal – are Washington, DC-based. Before this weekend, I hadn’t seriously been to DC in five years, but I’d been mentally planning a trip ever since I finished the West Wing pilot. Kind of on a whim, my friend Brooke and I decided to go on Friday, and the trip was so fun. One of my favorite things about New York is how quickly you can get away from it to spend the weekend in other amazing cities.

I watched All the President’s Men on the bus ride down, partly because it’s the perfect preparation for a DC trip, but mostly because I never remember to update the media on my iPad and the movie has been sitting there for years. I hadn’t watched it all the way through in awhile and had forgotten that it’s perfect. What I had really forgotten is how fabulous Hal Holbrook is as Deep Throat. He is perfection in this scene.

Speaking of Watergate, I got to see the actual Watergate complex this weekend, which was cool but a little anticlimactic. Besides a “National Register of Historic Places” plaque, there is nothing commemorating that building’s place in American history. I know only a small moment of the scandal that took its name happened at the actual Watergate, but there could at least be a little sign honoring it as the birthplace of the suffix we now use for naming scandals in this country.

I promise this trip wasn’t a weird Watergate pilgrimage for me, but I did find one other fascinating item related to it in the American Presidents wing of the National Portrait Gallery. The hall is filled with portraits of all the presidents, but the most intriguing was this Norman Rockwell painting of Richard Nixon. Norman Rockwell! The man whose paintings generally depicted jolly, happy scenes of innocent American life painted the president who would seem to least embody that innocence.

bignixon

The painting was done in 1968, before Nixon’s presidency, but even then, Rockwell had to “intentionally flatter” his appearance because regular Nixon wouldn’t look so good in a Norman Rockwell painting. Rockwell did other paintings of Nixon during his political career, but I was fascinated to see one included among majestic paintings of American heroes. I’m fascinated that these paintings even exist, because with the benefit of hindsight I can’t imagine a starker contrast between the way the public perceives an artist and the way it perceives his subject. 

Watergate obsession aside, the Portrait Gallery was amazing. I loved examining all the presidential portraits, but those of FDR and Bill Clinton were my favorite. I could easily go back and spend an entire day looking at other wings of the gallery and exploring other Smithsonian museums. I’ll just have to make another trip – I could stand to watch All the President’s Men again, anyway.

Familiar Faces

Over the past few months, I’ve perfected the Readers’ Digest version of my life story to share with the new people I’ve met in New York. You know: “I’m Paige, I’m from Oregon, I was a journalism major, I work in the PR department at Sports Illustrated and since you asked, yes, Portlandia provides an accurate description of my hometown and yes, my school’s football team has a lot of uniforms.” I can’t even count how many times I’ve shared this surface-level information about my life since I moved in June.

The conversation has gone deeper with several people, and I’m beyond grateful for the new friendships I’m forming. But I’ve gained a new appreciation for the people who’ve known my story for years, and a few of those people made their way to New York over the past couple weeks. I was so excited to see familiar faces.

First visitor: Sarah. Sarah was my roommate in our sophomore year, but we go back even further: Fall term of our freshman year, we were in the same J201 class (the most introductory of the introductory journalism classes). She went the broadcast journalism route while I did PR, but we had a few other classes together along the way (including a hip-hop class just for kicks…we have skills).

Nostalgia photo: Sarah and me at the Oregon-Arizona State game in 2009:

Anyway, her older brother is in a graduate film program in the city, so she took a few days off from her job as an assignment editor at KATU (she’s a boss) to visit him, and I was lucky enough to crash their party for awhile. We spent Sunday walking the High Line, exploring the West Village and eating pizza, and I met up with Sarah and her sister (who’s also a boss and was in the city rehearsing for a touring show she’s in) for dinner after work on Monday. ‘Twas a blast.

Grace, Sam, Sarah and I on the High Line:

The next weekend brought two more old roommates to town, and these two actually got the pleasure of sleeping on my couch.

Kate and I were roommates for most of my freshman year (my first roommate transferred at Christmas break) and when I think back to the awkward Facebook chats we had after finding out we’d be roommates, I can’t help but crack up…”I’m so excited to be your roommate! How is your break!” etc. We’re way past that now, and I’m proud to call her one of my best friends from college. She got married in March and moved with her husband, TJ, to Boston in May. While I still haven’t made it up there to visit, I often find comfort in knowing that one of my closest friends is just a few hours away (when pretty much everything and everyone else familiar is on another coast).

Nostalgia photo: Our house formal, June 2009, when we were roommates:

Shannon and I were never technically roommates, but we’ve been housemates since my sophomore year – both in the giant co-op I lived in through junior year and the smaller house with six others we lived in as seniors. We had quite a few classes together since she was also a PR major, though I probably spent as much time raiding her closet as I did sitting in class with her – she needs a fashion blog. Anyway, Shannon went to stay with Kate for a week, and they came to New York for a long weekend (arriving really late on Thursday night and staying through Monday morning).

Oh, and Shannon nostalgia photo: Modeling the last Autzen-Stadium-student-section arm stamps we’d ever wear at the Pac-12 Championship game last year.

Bonus nostalgia photo because I miss college: Shannon and me at graduation, in front of said senior-year house:

It was Shannon’s first time in New York, and Kate hadn’t been since high school, so I loved sharing my favorite parts of the city with them. On Friday, we walked through Central Park, explored various neighborhoods and enjoyed the rooftop beer garden at Eataly:

Kate, our photographer, not pictured here.

I work from home Saturday afternoons and evenings, managing Sports Illustrated‘s Twitter feed, so after a morning pilgrimage to Citi Field (Shannon is a huge baseball fan, and her brother played in the Mets’ farm system for awhile), Kate and Shannon set out for a day of exploring on their own. On Sunday, we bought rush tickets to Chicago on Broadway – while Broadway shows are always breathtaking experiences, I was underwhelmed, but that’s probably because I adore the movie version and judged the play too harshly against it – ate brunch on the Upper West Side and did more exploring. We ended their visit by watching Wonder Years re-runs and eating takeout in my apartment Sunday night.

Kate and me waiting in line for Broadway tickets.

The three of us walking beside the Hudson on a gorgeous, sunny Friday.

These visits were refreshing. Going from a world of familiarity to a world of unknowns is exhilarating but stressful, so after nearly four months, returning to a bit of that familiarity was just what I needed. Thanks to Sarah, Kate and Shannon for venturing to NYC…and if you’re reading this in Oregon and need some time away, my couch has your name on it.