I took last Friday off to go down to our nation’s capital and visit with a couple of my best friends. The day started off early, around 4:30am, with a drive to the airport. The flight was just a little hop, barely an hour, and the sun as we came up was lighting the clouds beautifully – pink on one side and blue on the other. I read for a while (giving my mom’s copy of The Happiness Project a try), and on the way back down, there were awesome “god rays” shining through the clouds around Baltimore. Speaking of the Happiness Project, it’s a good book so far, very interesting and insightful, written in an amusingly homey way that I think a lot of housemoms or even women in general can relate to, regarding dealing with the clutter of life and a personal effort of change – and I think it avoids coming across as too preachy.
The train from BWI down to DC was pretty painless, although the heat and humidity made me think I should be seeing that beard moss from Florida on the trees, rather than the typical DC foliage. Maurice met me after I got my stuff dropped off at the youth hostel (really, I can’t understand why more people don’t use them – they don’t even have an age limit! It cost about $80 to stay within walking distance of the White House for two nights!) and we went to a tea shop for breakfast. Although the decor was Japanese, the food was more Indian inspired I thought, and although they had a wide selection of teas, it was too hot to contemplate anything but a delicious lassi to drink. The toasted naan and sweet mango chutney was really delicious too, simple but full of taste.
Next up, we wandered through the sculpture garden briefly before being driven into the National Gallery of Art by the heat and sweltering humidity. Washington DC is wonderful in that all the Smithsonian-run museums are free, so you can go there for ten minutes or a couple of hours like we did, without feeling guilty about tickets. We explored a few galleries on landscapes and American art and talked about them for a while, as well as various other topics. I miss having political friends around like I did in high school!
When we got tired of that, we went to a Chinese bakery, then a used bookstore, and a coffeeshop (a lot of the weekend was spent sitting and eating or drinking), to kill time before the afternoon soccer game between Germany and Greece. Watching the game and trying to explain to him what was going on through my limited (but growing) understanding of soccer was a lot of fun. It was an exciting game but not too exciting (ie. in a bad way), and watching it in a bar full of Germany fans was definitely fun – especially since Germany won.
After that we wandered over to the metro stop to wait for Maurice’s girlfriend before going to dinner at a very delicious Peruvian restaurant called El Chalan. I had a seafood stew which had little scallops, mussels, oysters, calamari, and even little cthulhu heads – it was delicious, although I only ate a few of the tentacled things. ^_^
Saturday I woke up absurdly early and realizing that the sun was just rising, I decided I should go out and take pictures rather than just going back to sleep. So I walked down to the White House and took some pictures on the way. It was already disgustingly humid and hot, but at least not as bad as later in the day.
I also found evidence that my dad was right all along! They do take down the National Christmas Tree after the holiday season and store it in the Oval Office! He always told us that that was why the room was round and that they had to cut a hole in the ceiling for such a big tree:
After that I wandered over to the EPA building where they have beautiful vaults covering the walkway.
I met up with Maurice and Diana at a delicious French café for brunch where we discussed the Euro crisis and the failings of our government – did I mention I like having politically-interested friends? – before going over to Maurice’s apartment to meet up with Eric and his girlfriend. This was a success and RPG characters were created.
Maurice, Eric, and I proceeded to help Lin create her character, since Diana was all set on hers and Eric and I had most of our respective character ideas prepared. Maurice had the scenario written up in a modified future setting of the Feng Shui rules. Once we got Lin established, Eric gave us a demonstration of his suave high-roller Gambler character’s charm:
Lin’s character was the party’s narcissistically brilliant Medic, which turned out to be somewhat overpowered in the weapons department – so a very handy character to have all around. I played a Journalist who was obsessed with conspiracy theories – she was convinced that the Space Commies were secretly running the galaxy (and probably that there was a Manchurian Candidate waiting somewhere in the wings). I had a lot of fun declaring that anything and everything was a Space Commie plot! Diana played a Private Investigator with some serious bad luck (that’s what comes of playing using the Game Master’s dice…) who nonetheless did a good job of setting things on fire with unusual tools. Unfortunately she failed to set the dry cleaner’s on fire after setting off a burglar alarm while trying to steal all of us space station uniforms. (I honestly can’t recall why we thought setting the dry cleaner on fire in response to the burglar alarm would be a good idea, but one of the primary rules of RPGs in my experience is: when in doubt, setting things on fire is always a good idea.)
I should mention at this point, that I think for the first time since I was really old enough to be playing, I was in an RPG group with more women than men – a highly exciting prospect as anyone who plays RPGs regularly knows. Not a common occurrence in geek circles!
The scenario was set on a gas-mining station somewhere in the middle of a barely-navicable “dark” nebula (due of course to the EM radiation, as anyone who has watched scifi knows). People had been disappearing and equipment was being shipped through the station without being properly logged – clearly a scheme by the Space Commies for some notorious purpose. All of us being investigative characters by nature (the Medic’s mother was one who had disappeared), we promptly managed to get into trouble with the portion of station security who were on the Space Commies’ payroll. After several incidents that culminated in the dry cleaning fire debacle, we decided to just smuggle ourselves into the smuggled cargo and go wherever it was going.
Luckily for us we made it successfully to the secret space station deeper in the nebula without detection (although it was close at one point) only to discover that it was an evil plot to build super-strong cyborgs out of the people stolen from the gas mining station! OH NOES! Of course, in a scene that reminded me some of the Incredibles, we had to fight one robot, and then a second, more improved one, while the evil mastermind watched from a high window, and then eventually fight the mastermind who was of course also an evil cyborg. Pretty typical RPG fodder, but that kept it simple for the two newcomers and I think everyone had fun – and it was really nice to get to play with at least a portion of my high school RPG group.
We spent a while after the game watching embarrassing videos of the guys and their friends as teenagers for the benefit of their respective girlfriends, and then went out for tasty pizza down the road. I really enjoyed meeting Lin, and seeing Diana again too. Sunday morning Maurice was kind enough to meet me for a while at the train station before I headed back to Rochester.