Monthly Archives: October 2008

The District Sleeps Alone Tonight


Nathan, enjoying a latte in the other Washington.

When it comes to trains, planes and automobiles, I’m like a wheat-colored linen suit. I pack easily, but I don’t travel well. Take me out at my destination and I’m rife with wrinkles and motion sickness, Dramamine hangovers and jet lag. Being away from my Systems and Routines makes me anxious. So I don’t leave home much.

I’ve been Back East only once since moving to Seattle; three years ago I flew to Massachusetts for an August weekend, in part to transport a cat. It was a whirlwind three-day tour of Plymouth and Cambridge, but I managed to see nearly everyone I knew in Boston. Since then, the astronomical cost of airfare, combined with my above comparisons to wilting fabric, have kept me largely stationed in the Pacific Northwest.

But I’m building a website for Nathan Bright Autumn Sky‘s new documentary film and the details are best communicated hands-on. So he flew me out to the other Capitol Hill, in the other Washington, for a few days of multimedia collaboration, fine food and sightseeing.

It was shaping up to be a monumental occasion. It was my first junket as a designer, my first trip to D.C. since the 8th grade, and my first visit with Nathan in more than four years.

Our past adventures took place mainly in New England. The last time I saw him was days before I left Somerville to venture West. An electrical storm seized the city and we sat on the dilapidated front porch of my old Victorian house, eating sushi and watching the lightning chase itself across the violet sky. Then I drove to Seattle and he flew to Guatemala. It was postcards and time capsules via the U.S. Postal Service for the next four years.

Speaking of the Postal Service, I had a minor epiphany on the Eastbound plane.

Knuckles clenched to white as the landing gear detracts for flight… I looked up from my CSS book, which had held me captive for endless hours, to see fields cut up into postage stamps below. I watch the patchwork farms slowfade into the ocean’s arms. I breathed in the recycled air, realizing the entire album Give Up is about this very moment – flying from Seattle to Washington D.C. Later as I’m wrestling with the window shades in preparation for sleep, trying to block out the streetlights perfectly angled onto my eyelids, I’m thinking in the livingroom late last night it was almost too bright to sleep.

The night is warm when I arrive and Nathan and I take the Metro to a sushi bar in an old converted house, with a sprawling roof deck open to the autumn sky, with strings of lights forming a makeshift ceiling, and the full moon casting a glow through the haze. We walk for miles through town, and I try to take in all the details. It’s exhausting; there’s so much to look at. So much to archive for writing fodder later on.


On Friday we get all scrubbed up and suited and head to the best cafe in D.C. that has killer espresso served on tiny crystal plates with animal crackers. The huge windows are framed with bentwood art noveau flourishes. I order the item I have missed quite possible more than anything else: a bagel. A toasted sesame bagel, with cream cheese and lox.

We are there to do work before meeting with the media people at the non-profit. I look up at Nathan in his gunmetal pressed oxford shirt, about to dive into his latte, and I start cracking up. We’re sitting there with our matching 17″ MacBook Pros open back to back, drinking espresso and looking so intolerably yuppie that it kills me. It kills me because I know us. I know where we come from. And it ain’t here.

The non-essential I was most excited about was a giant hazelnut iced coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts. Admitting this openly in Seattle would get me drawn and quartered in short order. Many people tell me I can buy Dunkin’ Donuts ground coffee beans in the grocery now. Apologies, but it’s not the same. We had to wait in line for a long time to get it, but once my hands were wrapped around that ginormous tub of iced hazelnutty goodness, I could feel the actual joy racing through my veins. I took a long swallow and then smiled: Mission Accomplished. My work here is done.


Some tidbits from out on the town…


Just — DON’T. Okay?


And for all the NW naysayers, here’s the true identity of your precious “Dreyers.” Now you can stop making fun of me for always calling it the wrong name.


Second floor: wooly mammoths, ladies lingerie…


Hi. I live in Capitol Hill. No – the other Capitol Hill – in Washington. No – the other Washington.