Washington, DC

A history lesson

This week in Washington, DC prior to heading to NYC to meet friends for Donna’s 60th birthday, is an add-on. If I’m going all the way to NYC, and have never been to DC, why wouldn’t I make a side-trip of it? Craig has been and has neither the time nor the inclination to join me so I am travelling alone.

I land late in the evening. It’s dusk at the airport and dark by the time I get to the first transit change. I have neither a map, nor a phone with GPS, and I am taking trains and buses in to a hotel close to Dupont Circle. I’ve brought written directions but no F**k**g map!! I manage to get from the bus to the train at a station in some eerily deserted suburb. It’s even the right train, thanks to the man I had to ask. I am stupidly vulnerable, on my own, with my roller bag, in an unfamiliar place at night. Why didn’t I take a cab?

I get off the subway a few blocks from my hotel. The plan had been to walk, but the street signs don’t really mesh with my written instructions. I have to ask a few people before someone directs me to the Kimpton. Once in the room, I have a major anxiety attack. Am sure the hotel is going to start on fire in the night and I will be alone to deal with it. Maybe I’ll sleep through the alarm and die a fiery death.

The next morning I am in full-on anxiety mode. Short of breath, tachycardic, sweating, jumpy, upset belly. So fun!

I soldier on to a cafe in a big bookstore close by. The books calm me down and I manage to eat. I do a walking tour of the main sights around the white house, the capitol, the mall, Lincoln memorial, Jefferson memorial, various war memorials, etc. One day I do an open-top bus tour, losing a scarf to the wind, turning a corner.

I get off the bus at Arlington National Cemetery. Wander around for an hour, and catch the next bus.

There is a Whole Foods market nearby where I indulge in a take-out salad at the end of the day. Eat dinner in my room, watching TV. Not entirely comfortable out at night alone.

One afternoon I spend in museums and art galleries. Newseum is remarkable and I find myself thinking about how much Craig would like it. The Andrew Wyeth exhibition at the National Art Gallery is so captivating that I come home with the poster. Called “Looking Out, Looking In”, all of the paintings feature a view through an open window. Mostly prairie scenes.

I leave DC on an express train heading north. It’s been a good couple of days in this historic city and I’m glad to have come. But the emotional response to traveling alone was worrisome. I can only assume the anxiety and accompanying symptoms are part of some kind of PTSD post Budapest & Boston. Worsened by the lingering concussion and whip-lash issues.

Before Budapest and Boston I had not really realized how easily and quickly disaster can strike. Of course, I knew in an abstract, conceptual, theoretical kind of way. But never having had direct experience of it (apart from the hepatitis in India) I was naive about the possibility of a travel disaster actually affecting me. Budapest and Boston relieved me of my innocence. Not enough for me to stop traveling though. I guess I’ll have to put up with the occasional bouts of anxiety in order to continue to satisfy my curiosity about the world. And maybe I will stop trying to make traveling alone work. It doesn’t, not for me.

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