On the Train – 4

 

Washington D.C.
2/9/2011

Photo Credit – Complex.com City Guide

Hammer took me to Yum’s Carryout on 14th and U to finally try some mumbo sauce. Mumbo sauce is a tangy blend of duck sauce, barbeque sauce, and a third (secret) ingredient that makes it a DC-specific slice of culture. Go to any carryout in the city (Chinese carryout, to be precise) and ask for it by name. Ask for it on your fried chicken, your fries, and your dumplings. Hell, ask for extra sauce on the side, and dip whatever you want in it. The subtle blend of sweet and tangy goes well with anything. It was worth having fried chicken and chicken-fried rice for breakfast that morning because I got to taste that authentic flavor of inner-city culture. The juices made my palette yearn for more, new, things.

Just wait, my senses. Just wait for what’s ahead.

 

On the Train – 3

Washington, D.C.
2/8/2011

Union Station. Just like the many Metro stops in the city, the grandeur of its layout reminds me of that luxurious sense of space I felt the last time I spent a weekend in DC. My friend Hammer was on his way to pick me up, and following a moment to capture this sense of space, my peaceful appreciation of the station was interrupted by a homeless man who sat next to me. He looked at me with cold eyes and spoke at me with a warm voice until I turned to acknowledge him. My brother warned me about these types; it was just odd I would have to heed his advice so soon after leaving Brooklyn.

Despite my obvious aversion to eye contact, he continued the conversation. He spoke of hitchhiking from Florida to dispute the lack of recovery efforts being made to support the growing number of homeless veterans in the country. Underneath it all, he was planting seeds of guilt and sympathy in me. If he knew I was unemployed, perhaps he would not have led me on so much. “Are you a veteran?” He asked me, but we both knew the answer before I said anything. “Us veterans, we got to help each other out.” I did not feel like helping him out, unfortunately, and welcomed the text message from my good friend Hammer, telling me he was outside. I picked up my bags, wished him well, as well as I could, and left that awkward air for good.

A Weekend in DC – 1

It begins like a story, seat 19C and I’m too close to the stewardess’ ass which is uncomfortably moving thru the aisle, half-offering beverages to thirsty patrons at a premium. Nothing has happened yet, except the dull din of engines and circulated air. My headphones are still out of earshot at level eight. I close my eyes between the students, businessmen and hard bodies watching me as they pass on the way to the bathroom.

DC is where the American Nursing Society’s 37th Annual Members Induction Ceremony would happen. My mother was being inducted, and I had the opportunity to fly down. I will remember her accomplishment for all my life. I came for the ceremony, but I stayed for the reunions with college friends over a brief, two-day/two-night visit.

Night one, Friday, 7PM. My flight lands at Reagan, and there’s an exhibition by Slideluck Potshow in Georgetown. If we can make it there by 11PM closing, I hope to have a moment with the proprietor. My eyes should be closed; preserve the energy, slow down the blood, and deny these demons inside the privilege of idle boredom.

If I had one sentence to sum up the whole of my experiences in DC, it would be this: “I don’t know why I never considered living there before.” My social experience was a mash-up of events, and I was caught off guard. It was good: the Metro system with its well-funded substations, the automatic revolving doors, the blue glass art sculptures and jade garden walkways, the smell of clean city.

I hit the ground running that first night, like a quiet frenzy of positive energy. I met Hammer at Cure, the lounge bar at the Grand Hyatt where I was staying, and we talked for an hour over brews about life, since we last met, before meeting Levy and friend. We talked about jobs and job searches, music, women, money, and relationships. We talked about how badly we wanted to relive our Killington Weekend, and then Levy showed up with his friend Robbie who made me laugh.

We drank enough at Cure, the four of us, and decided it was best to move on before the older folks gave us any dirtier looks. Down 11th street we walked towards Chinatown, an urban golf shot from the opening gates.

Mambo sauce. I heard about it more than once during my trip, but never got around to have it. Hammer told me he’d take me to the best spot for Mambo sauce in all of DC the next time I visited.

We didn’t quite cross the threshold into Chinatown. We ended up at RFD’s, and sat in the center table, pulling back more drinks. They had a great beer selection. Levy toasted our reunion with shots of Jack, and that’s when the night began to tip. Levy told me about his return home from California, where he had spent the last couple years living with his now ex-girlfriend, making music and making a name for himself in LA. She was hot, but things went sour, and he left LA and came back home to save money and work on his music.

We got nostalgic about Boston as the booze took its course. They told me stories from their life in DC, stories that entertained me to no end. Listening and learning about their subculture happenings felt anthropological. I wanted to see more of this.

It wouldn’t happen that night, however. I drank up all the culture I could handle and ended up staying at Hammer’s place in Columbia Heights, sick with rot-gut and blacked-out memories. I had to put the pieces together quickly the next day: my folks called, concerned about where I was, and wanted me to come back to the hotel. Hammer reminded me about the two frumpy girls who met up with us as we left the bar, right around the time our friend Robbie was getting kicked out of RFD’s. He fell back in his chair and knocked our table over, all the drinks going down, and a laughing fit ensues that got the whole bar laughing and clapping and drinking. It was the Jack that did it.