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A Failed Bucket List For a Soon-to-be-Former Washingtonian

We’re moving back to Los Angeles. Soon. Like soon enough that my chances of completing my “1000 Things to Do In D.C. Before I Die” is looking pretty grim. At summer’s outset, when a fall move back to L.A. was officially decided upon, my list began to take form.

  1. Take Charlie to the Air & Space Museum
  2. Take Charlie to the College Park Aviation Museum.
  3. Go see Hamilton on Broadway. Not a D.C. thing, but L.A. will not have $13 Bolt Bus rides to Penn Station.
  4. Bring Charlie to Fredericksburg like 12 weekends in a row so he could play with various cousins and doting adult relatives.
  5. Eat dinner at Jaleo with Andy. We’ve been meaning to. Small plates! Iberian-style! With octopus! It would be like our favorite thing.
  6. See a burlesque show at that place on H street. (Wait– Just looked it up. The Palace of Wonders, later renamed Red Palace, closed at the beginning of 2013. Double-damn!)
  7. Have a quality Sunday brunch with each of my beloved D.C.-area friends and colleagues. (Maybe at the Red Palace! Wait–)
  8. Host a swingin’ house-cooling party, for more quality time with beloved D.C.-area friends and colleagues.
  9. Read all my Real Simple and Sunset Magazines, which I’ve just been putting in a beautiful stack since Charlie was born.
  10. Bike trail!
  11. Take Charlie on the recently restored carousel at historic Glen Echo Park.
  12. Have a beer with Joe Biden.
  13. Get invited to a State Dinner. I don’t even care if it’s for a country known for their great food.
  14. Spot a bald eagle in my neighborhood, close enough to take an identifiable picture of it.
  15. Have happy hour at McClellan’s Retreat, because California will never favor me with a bar whose name is a one-percenter Civil War joke.
  16. IMG_2316

    This is a for real boundary stone, right? I found it in Friendship Heights. It’s a stone marking the District boundary, so I feel like even if it’s not official, it should get me points somehow. UPDATE: This is way too fancy to be original.

    Find all the District boundary stones. (I think I found one on my way home from the doctor’s last week, so just like 39 to go!)

  17. Take a solo trip to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. My previous visits have been tours with colleagues or youthful field trips wherein I had to keep my shit together. I just want to not tell anyone where I’m going one Tuesday morning and spend some time sobbing by the confiscated shoes.
  18. Eat everything delicious. Ben’s Chili Bowl was once high on this list, but Bill Cosby’s muraled face smiles at me every time I walk by. While that used to be charming, these days it puts me in no mood for a half-smoke.
  19. Go get my nose pierced with my friend Cynthia, like we swore a year ago (over wine) that we would.

As the summer has taken shape, my revised bucket list has become much smaller:

  1. Have literally 11 vein-repair surgeries on my legs, plus some ultrasounds to make sure said surgeries are working.
  2. Rest between those surgeries and allow you, my beloved D.C.-area friends and colleagues, to come over and drink wine with me in the evenings. Double points if you bring a casserole or entertain my child.
  3. Yard sale to end all yard sales! (This Saturday, August 20th. If you know me in real life, come on over and take four book cases, two sofas, two futons, and ~150 theatre books off my hands. I’ll provide the wine, and I’ll give you a sweet deal. Like probably free.)
  4. Pack. HOLY SHIT I HAVE TO PACK THIS ENTIRE GODDAMN HOUSE WORTH OF CRAP AND SQUEEZE EVERYTHING INTO AN L.A. RENTAL APARTMENT. And I’m not allowed to lift more than 10 pounds until September.

The comparison between these two lists kind of makes me want to drink myself into a coma and pass out on the steps of Smithsonian Castle. But I do have a pretty goddamned great list of the things I’ve done while I lived here:

  1. Worked on a U.S. Congressional campaign (from that time my cousin Adam ran as the Democratic candidate in VA-1).
  2. Visited all the Smithsonian museums, sometimes even getting paid to give tours.
  3. Lived on Capitol Hill. Like right on Maryland Avenue, no foolin’.
  4. Lived in Arlington, close enough to the National Cemetery (during the Bush administration) to hear taps in the still of the morning more often than felt reasonable.
  5. Been invited to the White House, as a guest, to greet a foreign dignitary. Therefore: Have occupied the same space as President Obama and (at the time) Secretary Clinton. I took pictures. It was great.
  6. Have on two separate occasions been close enough to Defense Secretary Colin Powell that I could have grabbed his butt. I OBVIOUSLY DIDN’T, but both times it crossed my mind that I theoretically COULD.
  7. Been in a room with Joe Biden. Too far away  for us to lock eyes and recognize our shared humanity, but still good.
  8. Stood at the foot of every major monument and felt feelings of awe and patriotism and purpose and responsibility.
  9. Visited the Korean War Memorial at night enough times.
  10. Spotted senators and cabinet members in neighborhood restaurants. (Usually it was Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, and usually he was wearing a bolo tie.)
  11. Birthed a baby at Sibley Memorial Hospital! That’s an advanced achievement.
  12. Lived, for a brief time, in the attic of a house in Alexandria that was older than the whole country. (Just by a couple years. It smelled like Revolution up in there.)
  13. Commuted on my bike through the Capitol grounds and down Pennsylvania Avenue. (I never managed to ride the bike back UP Capitol Hill, though. That was a life goal that I couldn’t quite manage at the end of any given work day.)
  14. Soaked in so many of the moments, saying to myself or to Andy, “How is this our life?”

Washington and its surrounding environs has been wonderful to us, and now it’s time for what’s next.

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Why Santa Is the Worst

Hey, kids! I'm that saint you like!  (Russian icon from first quarter of 18th century. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.)

Hey, kids! I’m that saint you like!
(Russian icon from first quarter of 18th century. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.)

Santa is a damnable and damaging lie. There, I said it. And I go about my business all like, “Well OF COURSE Andy and I are in total agreement that we shouldn’t lie to our child about a magic man who sees him when he’s sleeping, judges his inherent goodness, and then deems him to be more worthy of merit-based toys than poor kids, thereby conditioning him to believe that poor people deserve to be poor and that it’s totally appropriate to subject yourself to round-the-clock surveillance in exchange for material goods.” But then I’m reminded that Andy and I are hippies, because even when I tell my most godless pinko friends that we’re not going to encourage Charlie to believe in Santa, the reaction has never yet been, “That’s appropriate. We do the same with little Johnny.” There’s been some mild shock or disgust, but it’s generally more of “I’m confused and sad for all of you, and question your fitness as a parent.”

Let the record show that Andy & I both fucking love Christmas. It’s merry as all get out, and there’s little I enjoy more than sentimental tradition. And we’ll talk about Santa, with the main data points being:

January 3, 1863 cover of Harper's Weekly, illustrated by Thomas Nast. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

January 3, 1863 cover of Harper’s Weekly, illustrated by Thomas Nast. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

– Saint Nicholas was a 3rd century Greek dude living in what’s now southern Turkey. Our best historical records indicate that he was punk rock.
– Thomas Nast popularized the modern American image of Santa Claus during the Civil War with his illustrations for Harper’s Weekly.
Coca-Cola sealed the deal in the 1920s by FINALLY getting us to associate Santa with buying stuff.
– We put out cookies & spiked egg nog for Santa on Christmas Eve because it’s a fun tradition and mommy likes spiked egg nog. We should put out some vegetables for the reindeer too, because reindeer are adorable. (Also, incidentally, delicious. This is what you learn if you order the venison at a Norwegian restaurant.)
– The gifts are from people who love you and put thought and effort into what might make you happy
– Don’t tell the other kids. They’ll learn in their own time, and they may feel sad or betrayed when they learn the truth. You don’t want to be the instigator of anyone’s sadness if you can help it.

While I was upset to learn that Santa wasn’t real, it was nothing compared to witnessing my little brother learn the whole thing was a sham. I can’t remember how old we were; I’d put him at about first grade and me in fourth grade. We got to my grandma’s house, and Ryan got really quiet, and then a little teary. When my parents were able to get him to say what was wrong, he said that when he visited Santa, he’d asked for a puppy. He hadn’t told anyone else that he was so badly hoping for one, trusting that Santa would take care of it if he’d been good. And my brother, in my recollection, was always kind and considerate. So as he was crying, trying to figure out if he was not good enough or if something else had gone wrong, my parents took him down to my grandma’s room and had The Talk with him. I don’t remember him saying anything afterwords, but I felt terrible about letting him believe the lie after I’d learned the truth. But I was so sad when I learned myself that I didn’t want to spread the sadness to him.

We’re both fine, BTW, and know that it was a lie conceived in the spirit of holiday fun. And it was a different time. The only reason you would have discouraged your kids from believing in Santa is if it was disallowed by your cult. But 30ish years later, income inequality in the U.S. is A Thing, we seem to have a bit of a surveillance state in the works, and critical thinking skills are not valued by adults the way I’d like them to be. As such, Santa’s time is up. And I’m not going to pay $45 to get a picture of my son as he’s compelled to sit in an elderly mall-worker’s lap.

Though, I heard that there are real reindeer if you go to the Santa at Arundel Mills. I would probably pay $45 for that picture. Reindeer are magical.