Sunday, March 29, 2009

AcadeMama Goes to Washington City

*hat tip to Lauren Berlant, from whom I ripped off part of the post title

When I left College Town on Wednesday, I had no idea that it would take longer to get from College Town to Richmond, VA (27 hours) than it did to get from Home State City to Doha, Qatar (26 hours). The first flight got delayed because of mechanical difficulties, which made me miss my connection in Houston. After getting a seat on the next flight out to Richmond (7:00 p.m.), I then got to sit on the runway for 2 hours (air traffic backup and rain), where our pilot then "timed out" and informed us that it would be a violation of FAA regulations for him to take off. Upon returning to gate 30 minutes later, the doors were not opened, and we were kept on the plane another half hour, while they called around to see if we could get another pilot. No food. No water. No bathroom. Finally, after almost 3 hours, I couldn't hold it anymore--I am 8 months pregnant after all--and I asked if I could run to the restroom at the gate. They let me off the plane for a potty break and some fresh air, and about 20 minutes later they let everyone else off. This is about 10:00 p.m. For the next two hours, they try to find a new pilot, tell us they've found a new pilot, continue to push back the departure time, only to ultimately cancel the flight at 12:30 A.M.(!!) and explain that they can't put anyone up in a hotel because it's wasn't their fault---it was weather-related difficulties. Skipping ahead....I finally got to bed in a hotel room a few miles down the road at 2:00, with a 6:00 a.m. wake-up call so I could make the next flight out to Richmond the next day.

Oh yeah, my flight was scheduled to arrive in Richmond at 2:00. I was scheduled to present my paper at 2:30. Forgive me if I was skeptical.

Somehow, I made it in the hotel door at 2:20, checked my luggage with the concierge, and sat down with my panel with five minutes to spare. The presentation went very well, though my paper wasn't as "clean" as I'd planned it to be. I just ran out of time, energy, and battery power to make the minor changes it needed.

My first ASECS was a really great experience. It was like being at a rock concert where all my favorite bands are, except this was the academic nerd version ;-) I met several scholars whose work I've long admired and who are heavy-hitters in my field. I had lunch with one of my committee members and, for the first time ever, had someone tell me they'd been referred to my work on one of the playwrights I study in my dissertation (WTF?). I'm really glad I got to go to this conference before moving overseas.

I headed to D.C. on Friday evening, where my (child-free) uncle and aunt took me in for the rest of the weekend. This was my first time in D.C., and as much as there is to see, I only had a short amount of time. The cherry blossoms are starting to bloom, and the tidal basin is simply a stunning display of pink everywhere! Our first stop was the legendary Ben's Chili Bowl, where everyone from Duke Ellington and Barack Obama have stopped to enjoy a chili dog or a half-smoke. The atmosphere was better than any TV show could try to represent, and the food was great....standard diner fare, but better because of the music, the people, and the history.

Next, we hit the Smithsonian Museum of American History, and I saw Dorothy's ruby slippers, Julia Childs' kitchen, and Seinfeld's puffy shirt. I really wanted to see the Ladies of the White House Room, but the line for it was the longest line in the museum, stretching down and around several halls and one flight of stairs! I got E a pair of her own ruby slippers in the museum shop, and I got H some freeze-dried ice cream (what the astronauts eat), so I think they'll be happy. Unfortunately, my back is in pretty bad shape these days, and almost any amount of walking results in super swollen ankles and feet. As usual, I was over-ambitious about what I thought I could do for the day, so I ended up having to ask if we could just sit and rest for a while to give myself a break.

We finished the evening with dinner at Obelisk, a Zagat-rated restaurant that has a fixed-price five-course menu like nothing I've ever experienced. I ate everything from octopus marinated in citrus and cilantro to squab to smoked swordfish belly (my fav) to chocolate-apricot cake with German whipped cream. I'm lucky to have such a great aunt and uncle, because everything was their treat, including the homemade crepes with Nutella my uncle made for breakast this morning!! Seriously, I could get used to this treatment :)

But, I'm ready to see my kiddos and get back to work on my diss, teaching, and preparing for the new baby. Oh, and relocating halfway around the world. Now let's just hope I shaken the bad travel karma that's stuck with me for more the past week! And when I get home, the passport and travelling shoes are getting put away for a while.


kenandbelly said...

Glad you had a good time in DC-- it sounds like your hosts really knew what they were doing! The things you saw (and ate) are among the things I miss most about that city.

Jennie said...

Let's get this straight, you prefer smoked swordfish belly to chocolate-apricot cake with German whipped cream?

AcadeMama said...

Jennie: Good point...Okay, so the swordfish belly was the Best in Show and New Food category. The chocolate-apricot cake was beyond divine, winning the category for Best Dessert I've Ever Had :)