Potpourri: Mr. Mondo Goes to Washington

So, Clan Mondo went on another grad school scouting trip last week, setting out for College Park, MD, on Tuesday and returning home yesterday evening. Forthwith, a random recap, vaguely chronological in order.


We got on the road about nine Tuesday morning, and spent nearly the entire drive on the Interstate (26 E to 20 E to 95N, if you’re wondering). Mapquest said it should be about an eight-hour drive, which troubled the Spawn not a bit, as she downed her Dramamine when we set out, and spent the bulk of the drive  in suspended animation. Mrs. M laid claim to the back seat, and in the glorious tradition of summertime dads, I did all the driving, claiming my traditional prerogatives of control of the AC and stereo. The drive itself was pretty uneventful, with the exception of one panicked lane change on my part. By the way, there is a driver in North Carolina who really needs to get his brake lights checked. Or maybe installed.

As it turns out, we got to DC somewhere around 4:30, and because I missed a turn, we wound up going through the guts of town during rush hour. A lot of stop-and-go traffic as I tried to orient myself and pay attention to the mapbot on Mrs. M’s phone, but the upside is that the girls and I got to drive past the Washington Monument, the Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials, and within sight of the Capitol. I also noticed numerous buildings that headquartered law firms, unions, and assorted other bits of the governmental ecosystem. Eventually we came out of a tunnel and a minute or so later, discovered that we were in Maryland. Shortly thereafter, we found our base camp, the College Park Marriott, conveniently placed on the UMD campus.

By the time we got unloaded and unpacked, I felt about driving as the Lady of Shalott felt about shadows, so Mrs. M piloted us to a nearby Italian restaurant. It took us a couple of passes before we a) noticed the restaurant and b) realized we were supposed to park at the garage next door, but we eventually managed, walked in and sat down, to realize a few minutes later that we were in the bar section, and that if we wanted food service, we needed to go to another area. The Mondoville Hillbillies, we. Still, we enjoyed our dinner, and I hope you do as well, because you’ll be hearing about it a lot. (When we find a place that serves stuff the Spawn likes, we tend to go there regularly.)

We got back to the hotel about nine, and since the next day was the Spawn’s day to investigate the campus, we went through our nightly ablutions and slept as though we had been poleaxed.


The next morning, Mrs. M and I made a breakfast run, picking up a waffle from IHoP for the Spawn and some sausage biscuits for Your Genial Host. Mrs. M then drove the Spawn to her meeting with a professor in her preferred program, and then to a campus tour, while I lounged around for a bit. Once the Spawn was safely delivered, Mrs. M and I drove around campus, and to a nearby shopping center, where I had lunch at a Jamaican restaurant, enjoying spicy beef patties and a ginger-pineapple drink that may have been even spicier than the patties. From there, Mrs. M hit assorted department stores at The Mall at Prince Georges while I contented myself with people watching. Having said that, might I suggest to the mall’s proprietors that turning up the AC a bit might not kill them?

After that, we swung by the University’s Student Union for what we had read was a don’t-miss feature of campus visits, a trip to the on-campus ice cream parlor, the Maryland Dairy. Mrs. M went for a variety of toppings, while I, being a relative purist, went for the simplicity of a vanilla sundae with hot fudge, feeling that to be a better standard for evaluation. The student staffers were friendly and patient, and the ice cream was in fact excellent and inexpensive. Eventually, we met up with the Spawn (who reported that her interview had gone well, and returned to Ledo’s for dinner before getting back to our HQ. We wanted to start the next day early, so we called it a night in fairly short order.


Sure enough, we were up by 6:30 Thursday morning, and took the hotel shuttle to the College Park Metro station, taking the train to L’Enfant Plaza. I have to admit that I always get a kick out of taking subways — they make me feel sophisticated in a way that taking a bus just doesn’t. And again, it makes for good people watching.

One of the things I like about trips to bigger cities is that I get to see people reading. That’s much less common in areas without significant public transit — when you’re driving, it’s poor form to peruse Gabriel Garcia Marquez, for example. But even in coffee shops and the like, I saw people tucking into books ranging from bodice-rippers to Catch-22 and various chunks of non-fiction. Emerging aboveground at L’Enfant Plaza, we all went our separate ways, with Mrs. M heading to the National Zoo while the Spawn went to the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History and I stopped at a Starbucks, then walked a couple of blocks to the Air and Space Museum, where I hadn’t been in nearly forty years.

As I wandered around the building, looking at the aircraft and the exhibits on the history of flight and the exploration of space, I felt a mix of emotions — admiration for the pioneers, the Curtisses, Yeagers, and Armstrongs; pride in the quest for the moon that was one of the imaginative foci of my childhood; and sadness that so many of my people and our governors (a term distinct from leaders) have chosen to look inward instead of to the worlds beyond ours. I spent a long time looking at the lunar lander display; I hope that one day my daughter or her children will get to see something like it in action.


From there, it was back to the Metro, where I caught a ride to the Capitol South Station and walked to the Folger Shakespeare Library. The Spawn caught up with me along the way, and we relaxed in the lobby for a few minutes before we were greeted by Curator of Manuscripts Heather Wolfe, who was gracious enough to take a few minutes out of her day to talk to us about her job and what she looks for in the people she works with and chooses for internships (ahem.) I think the Spawn scored a point or two when she mentioned her awareness of the U of VA’s Rare Book School, as well as her hopes of attending same at some point. And after Dr. Wolfe went back to work, I looked at a nifty exhibit on codicology and restoration in the library’s Great Hall and chatted a bit with a docent, whom I greeted with one of my favorite bits of doggerel:

The decent docent doesn’t doze;

She teaches standing on her toes.

Her student dares not doze, but does — 

And that’s what teaching is and was.

She parted the curtain and let me see the Reading Room, where scholars were doing their things. She also showed me portraits of the founders, and mentioned that the ashes of those founders are immured behind the pictures as well. I can think of worse disposals.

After that, I walked a few blocks and had lunch at a place called Burrito Brothers, where I had a chorizo burrito the approximate size of a ’52 Plymouth. From there, it was getting a bit late in the afternoon, so I trekked back to Air and Space, where I caught up with the ladies, and from there to the Metro and back to College Park.


Side note: I did a pretty fair amount of walking and standing about over the course of the trip, and I discovered that a) the cortisone shot I received in my arthritic right knee has likely worn off, b) the anti-inflammatory I’m taking will only do so much, c) ingrown toenails do not spontaneously fix themselves, and d) limping with both legs is slow, difficult, and probably silly looking. Nonetheless, it is sometimes necessary.


The combination of late lunch, heat, and tired legs persuaded me to skip dinner that evening, but the girls went to the usual location and stopped along the way back to bring me a few bottles of Gatorade before bedtime and another early rising on Friday morning.


While the Spawn again had her own trails to blaze, Mrs. M and I stuck together for the morning on Friday. We got breakfast at a nifty little buffet by the L’Enfant station, and then started our peregrinations. This went pretty well, as Mrs. M had discovered a public transit route called the Circulator, which swings by all the popular attractions around the Mall and Tidal Basin. The electric buses are comfortable and efficient, and even come with USB chargers and onboard wifi. So we took advantage of the service and went to the stop between the Lincoln Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial, where I had some family business.

My mom’s cousin, James Michial “Jimmy” Moore, was killed on 13 Nov 69. He was younger than my daughter is now. My brother is also his indirect namesake. As I had been named for my dad and paternal grandfather, my folks wanted to recognize my maternal grandfather for the next kid. However, they didn’t really want to call him Milton — my grandfather’s name — so they kept the initials M. E (for Ernest)., and went with a more standard spelling of our cousin’s middle name, since Jimmy had been killed just three months before Mike’s birth. Hence, Michael Ernest Moore.

As it happens, there were several James M. Moores who died in the conflict, and we went to the wrong panel at first, before I eventually found the correct one. While I did that, Mrs. M went to the Lincoln Memorial to drop in on a fellow Kentuckian who made good. I don’t remember Jimmy — I was four when he died, after all, and may not even have met him, as he would have gone into the Army when I was even younger. But I knew several of his brothers, too many of whom also left too soon, and I’ve seen his grave, in the cemetery where many of my maternal relatives rest, and now I’ve seen his name at the Memorial as well.


After Mrs. M and I caught back up, we got a bonus. William Harris, my friend from undergrad, and his wife were in DC on a trip with their kid, and we were able to meet up for lunch (and to celebrate their anniversary — way to go, kids!). We went to a BBQ place near the National Archives, and spent about 90 minutes getting caught up on family, our trips, and the other niftinesses of life.


After that, and since we were in the neighborhood, Mrs. M and I went by the National Archives to look at original copies of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. From there, Mrs. M decided to go take a gander at the White House, but I was in the mood for a deeper dive and spent the rest of the afternoon ambling around the Archives, checking out the exhibits in the Public Vaults. The exhibits include digital displays of various aspects of U.S. history, with supporting documents. It appeared to me that the most popular of these was the one on Project Blue Book, but I was actually more tickled by the one on the juvenile delinquency hearings of the 50s, including a recording of Al Capp arguing that perhaps the medium most deleterious to the nation’s youth was the Congressional Record.

The Archives were hosting another exhibit as well — this one on the Vietnam War — and I found myself wondering a bit at the synchronicity of it, given my morning’s travels. The Universe provides. But I was running low on time, so I didn’t get to spend as much time as I wished before meeting back up with the girls at L’Enfant.

Upon our return to College Park, it was one more run to Ledo’s, where I got a medium carnivore’s special pizza, with crust and cheese providing a useful substrate for a number of pork products — fitting for the DC area, I think. After that, the Spawn and I chilled at the hotel while Mrs. M explored a local Wal-Mart, not realizing that she had once more crossed into DC, although she had only traveled four miles. Her return concluded the day.


Saturday morning, we packed our bags and my leftover pizza and set out for the eight-hour drive back to Mondoville. Alas, a traffic jam of indeterminate cause between DC and Richmond added two hours to our journey, so we wound up rolling back into our home driveway around 7 last night. I finished my pizza, read a little bit, and went to bed around eleven, waking up again at 11:30 this morning. And here we are, and I realize I have other stuff I haven’t mentioned yet, but there are other blogposts in my future, I hope.


So, for the TL;DR version. The Spawn was greatly impressed by UMD’s program, and it may well now be her top choice. It would not be difficult to spend a great deal of time exploring the museums and galleries of DC, so if the Spawn winds up at UMD, I likely will. As it is, I saw the merest fraction of a sliver. The food at Ledo’s is pretty good.

And beware of I-95.

And for some appropriate music, here are DC-based garage revivalists The Hall Monitors.

See you soon — likely tomorrow!

About profmondo

Dad, husband, mostly free individual, medievalist, writer, and drummer. "Gladly wolde he lerne and gladly teche."
This entry was posted in Alternating Feet, Culture, Education, Family, Music, Politics, Why I Do What I Do. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Potpourri: Mr. Mondo Goes to Washington

  1. Jeff says:

    Sounds like a great (if whirlwindy) trip! If you start coming up here semi-regularly, plan on lunch.

    Glad you got to get to the Folger and roam around some of the other museums as well. You could spend years exploring and re-exploring them. I was rather clueless and green when I moved to D.C. at 23, but those museums are where I really fleshed out my knowledge of history and art. (Thanks, taxpayers.)

  2. JOHN LOPEZ says:

    My best advise is to go north on I-77 to I-81 then into Merryland & the Land of Lobbyists! Avoid I – 95 like a tight pair of shoes. Welcome back to The Berry!

  3. Pingback: Potpourri: Revising and Extending Edition | Professor Mondo

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