Thursday, October 28, 2010

Red Writing Hood: Permanent Record

So, this week's Red Writing Hood fiction challenge was to craft a villain.The story went in a different direction than I had anticipated, but I enjoyed this voice nevertheless.

I need some feedback. Believable character? Suggestions for where to go next? I don't want her to be a stereotype, and I appreciate your thoughtful feedback, as always.

Permanent Record 

I slump in the padded, orange chair, folding and refolding the hall slip. The empty desk in front of me is spotless, with the exception of a box of Kleenex, presumably for "releasing my feelings." There's also a manila folder with my name neatly written along the label.

Is this my fabled permanent record? I consider taking a peek--although aside from a few tardies to sixth period Geometry, it couldn't tell much of a tale. I cover my bases.

Besides, it's all a bunch of crap anyway. The "permanent record" doesn't mean shit unless you're convicted---and even that can get sealed once you're eighteen.

I glance once again at the hall slip,which summoned me to the office of Frankie Paris, school counselor. It figures I would be pulled out of ceramics---the one hour a day where I don't want to crawl into my eardrum.

God, I hate school. Moving from one room to the next, like worms crawling out of a carcass, only to fester and decay in another classroom. Geometry. Slither. Decay.  American Literature. Ooze. Decompose.

And now, here I am, surrounded by rah-rah posters touting scholarships and camps for "exceptional students." Yeah. Not me. A solid "C" student, I sit quietly, do my work, and hate everybody.

I glance at the clock. I've been sitting here in Overachiever Hell for fifteen minutes. Where the fuck is she? Why can't I just gargle a chainsaw and get this over with?

The clock ticks. I imagine my body breaking down her chair, like these mushrooms I saw eating away at this old stump in my backyard. I wish that I could break it all down, grind this entire place to dust. 

The bell rings--ceramics is over, and my normal self would be slithering to gym. I've been sitting that class out, lounging on the bleachers with the Muslim girl presently fasting for Ramadan and kid who runs stick-pins through his fingertips the entire hour. Bunch of fucking losers---but stick-pin kid has some good ideas.

Finally, the door bursts open, and Ms. Paris bounds in. "Kayla! I'm so sorry I'm late!" She smiles, in what is supposed to be a "aren't-I-adorable?" expression. Maybe it worked about ten years ago.

She's wearing a KHS Knights polo shirt and pleated khaki pants. Her blond hair is in a messy bun, held together by two pencils. Black traces of eyeliner nest in her crows feet.

This is my authority figure.

"So," Mrs. Paris says, "How are you, Kayla? I realize that we're halfway through your junior year, and we've never had a chance to chat. I try to talk to all my students."

I say nothing, returning to my hall-pass origami  Silence is one of the most efficient ways to fuck with adults.I know how to play it just right, tuning it like a passive-aggressive violin. If you hold onto it too long, the adults start blabbing on about "Respect" and "Looking them in the eye." Then you get a note in the permanent record. But if you hold it just a bit too long, it's a lot of fun.And very effective.

She coughs, awkwardly, and says, "So, how do you like your classes?"

"They're okay," I reply.

"Anything you want to talk about?" she asks, "Have you thought about your plans for the future?"

"Not really," I say. "Maybe college, I don't know."

She starts babbling about the PSAT and the SAT, about financial aid and early acceptance, all of which is stupid and pointless, because I'm not going to do any of it.

I've got other ideas. Not Columbine-crazy ideas.

My ideas are delicate and deadly. My ideas will soon take root. My ideas will slowly, with white-topped fury, break this place down until it is nothing but dust.

The Hobo, Serial-Killer Drag Queen Life

Because I am totally lazy inspired by my friend Erin, I am going to dash out a quick list of reasons I MUST leave the house today.

1. On Monday, I was at the gym, pounding away on the treadmill. One of the trainers, who happens to be my neighbor, came up to me as I was running, and asked me if I wanted to watch his child three days a week.

This is the most he has ever spoken to me. Ever. He's my neighbor, yes, but his family has always been  standoffish.

Perhaps because I couldn't stop blinking in shock, he added, "I mean, you're a stay-at-home, mom, right?"

Ah. You see, that explains it. Stay-at-home-mom=perfect daycare.

Clearly, I've kept the windows closed so he couldn't hear the screaming.

I'm going to say no, because I can barely be responsible for my own spawn.

I also need to stay out of the house, before another neighbor asks me if I would be interested in trimming his hedges or cleaning out his septic tank. I mean, I'm home, after all.

2. I need to go the library and return our borrowed copy of The Polar Express. It is far more terrifying than any Halloween flick.

It has led to my son's fascination with all things hobo---he wants to know about hobo fires, hobo clothes, hobo sticks.

If I want him to meet a hobo, I can always introduce him to Starbucks Bill, our local homeless gentlemen. My friend recently bought him a crossiant, a latte, and a newspaper. He thanked her and asked her where she was going.

"Work," she replied.

"Work?" he scoffed. "I haven't worked for twenty years."

He then asked her to get her real sugar instead of artificial sweetener.

There just may be something to the hobo life.

3. I need to finish off the Halloween costumes. We're going with a Curious George theme. Joel will be George. Obvious choice.

Owen is going to be the doorman.
Paul is going to be the Man in the Yellow Hat, and I am going to be...Professor Wiseman.
Somebody FedEx me a lab coat, stat! (See--I'm already in character).

4. I must leave the house because in a fit of generosity, I let Owen paint my toes and fingernails. I looked like a serial killer drag queen when he was done. Naturally, I'm out of polish remover.

5. Finally, I must leave the house because well, I'm just too awesome to keep within four walls.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Red Writing Hood: Like A Songbird

This week's red writing hood challenge was to describe your 80th birthday party.  I did it. Kinda. In my own fiction-y way.

I value your honest feedback.

Like A Songbird

The Reverend cleared his throat, and gazed towards his audience, "And now," he said, "we have a few words  from Angela's son, Walter Merchant."

Walter walked towards the pulpit, holding an envelope in his right hand. He turned to the audience, pushed his glasses towards the bridge of his nose, and wiped his forehead with a paper napkin. He cleared his throat, took a sip of water, and tapped the microphone gently.

"Hello," he croaked. "Thank you all for coming." He blinked repeatedly "It's kinda funny that Mom's birthday and her funeral are the same day." He licked his lips, and added,. "She always did like things to be just right."

His words hung in the air, then fell to the ground, like swatted flies

He reddened softly, and mumbled, "You know how she is, um, was. Everything always perfect."

Yes, the audience thought, always perfect. From her spotless white baseboards to her perfectly trimmed eyebrows, Angela Merchant was flawless. Even this funeral was perfectly tasteful. A simple oak coffin, closed casket. A single spray of white roses, and one portrait---the same picture the newspaper had used when she had stepped down from the bench. No tacky carnations, and certainly no wailing or caterwauling.

People knew better.

Walter cleared his throat again, and said, "Mother asked that I read this to you, in the event of her death." He smiled ruefully. "Of course she did."

The mourners laughed in recognition, for real, this time.

Walter began reading:

"Hello, friends and family. Thank you for coming. I trust everything is in order. As you know, this death isn't a surprise. When you're seventy-eight and the doctor says you have two years to live, trust him.'

'This is the first time my son Walter has read this letter. I made it clear to him that if the letter was opened in any way, my attorney, Michael Sullivan, had full authority to leave his inheritance to the National Rifle Association. I hope, for his sake, that he heeded my warning."

Walter paused, smiled to the audience and said, "Don't worry--I did." As the audience laughed, he turned back to the paper. He adjusted his glasses, and continued.

"Walter, did you just break from the script?" he read, his voice halting, then growing thick, like setting cement. He continued, "Don't do that Walter! Don't take this moment away from me, for God's sake. And don't look up to the ceiling and say 'Sorry, Mom,' either. Have some class."

Walter sighed deeply. He turned back to the page, and read, "I have a few things to say before I stop talking for good. I know that a lot of you didn't really like me. I made you uncomfortable. Now that I'm dead, I can say it. There were no chinks in my armor. My cocktails were better than yours, my dissenting opinion in Frankus vs. Oklahoma remains groundbreaking, and honestly, I looked a hell of a lot better than most of you."

Walter opened his mouth, then locked eyes with Michael Sullivan, Esquire. Her mother's attorney shook his head slowly, once. Walter nodded,  shut his mouth again, and continued reading.

"You know why there were no chinks? I didn't let it happen. I ran seven miles a day. I bought the good vodka. I studied harder, wrote harder, and worked harder than most of you did in a lifetime. I did what was necessary. And if you don't like it, I don't really give a fuck."

Walter giggled to himself, a nervous, girlish little sound, "Oh, Walter, I said, 'fuck,'" Angela's voice boomed from the page, "Get over it. Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!"

Walter continued to giggle, then found his place. He read, "Walter. I said get over it.  If you giggle one more time, I'm giving all your money to The Audubon Society. That is if it hasn't already gone to the National Rife Association. Sometimes I'm amazed that we share the same genes."

Walter bit his lip, his face red. He rubbed his hands on the sides of his pants, leaving sweaty marks. He took a breath, looked at the audience, and giggled once more.

"God," he said, "She really was a bitch wasn't she?"

The mourners said nothing. Walter stared out at the sea of black. They looked like a flock of ravens, waiting and hungry.

Walter slammed his hands on the pulpit, "Come on, people!" he yelled. "Did any of you actually like her?"   He felt so light up there, like his bones were made of air. "You're all still scared of her, aren't you? Don't be!"

He lifted up the paper. It felt so light, so insubstantial. Slowly, deliberately, he ripped it into tiny pieces. Released from the burden of her words,  the papers floated toward the ground, gentle and free. 

Walter stepped behind the podium, and walked out the door, whistling a tune, carefree and soft, like a songbird.

The Majesty of Soup

Happy. Just happy.

We went hiking today. The woods burst with little fireworks of wonder.. We saw bald eagles. Grasshoppers. We collected leaves in a little bag,  We held our breath and listened to the wind and the trees as they whispered their wisdom back and forth.

The kids hardly complained. This, in itself, is a revelation.

Later, I dropped off soup for my friend. She  is having a baby tomorrow. How odd to write such momentous words so matter-of-factly.

She's holding a comet in her hand, watching it with open-mouthed wonder, as it illuminates the sky, leaving a silken trail of light. She has seen its light for months. Tomorrow we will see it with her.

A new life! Not yet in this world today, but he or she will be tomorrow.

I can't wait to meet this little one.

The only way to address this majesty is to make soup. Really, the only way, sometimes, to address the majesty of this world, period, is to make soup. To create warmth and richness out of water and vegetables. To simmer, soak, stir, and taste. To eat until you are full.

West African Peanut Soup

(This yields a gallon, but can easily be halved).  

4 cups onions, chopped
2 tbl oil (peanut or vegetable)
1 tsp cayenne (or other ground chilies) 
2 tsp ginger root, grated
2 cups carrots, chopped
4 cups, sweet potatoes, chopped (up to two cups white potatoes can be substituted)
8 cups vegetable stock or water
4 cups tomato juice
2 cups smooth peanut butter
2  cups scallions or chives, chopped
sugar (granulated (optional). 

1. Saute the onions in the oil until just translucent. 
2. Stir in the cayenne and fresh ginger
3. Add the carrots and saute a couple more minutes
4. Mix in the potatoes and stock or water. 
5. Bring the soup to a boil, and then simmer for 15 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender. 
6. In a blender or food processor, puree the vegetables with the cooking liquid and the tomato juice. 
7. Stir in the peanut butter until smooth. 
8. Taste the soup. Its sweetness will depend upon the sweetness of the carrots and the sweet potatoes. If it's not there naturally, add just a little sugar to enhance the other flavors. 
9. Reheat the soup gently, using a heat diffuser (if needed) to prevent scorching. 
10. Add more stock, water, or tomato juice for a thinner soup. 
12. Serve topped with plenty of chopped scallions or chives. 

Vegetarian, unique, and delicious. Enjoy! 

(Check out other vegetarian recipes this week at Share a Spoon with adrienzgirl.). 

Think Tank Momma

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Cusp of a Miracle

My son, Owen, is right on the cusp of learning how to read. He knows all of his letter sounds, and is starting to blend together sounds and context clues. As I watch him, piecing together language like a weaver selects her fibers, it's hard for me to contain my excitement.

I know what it all means. I know that his world is about to become much grander. Soon, very soon, he will walk into the pages of a book. If he is lucky, and it is the right book, he will walk out changed.

It's a miracle.

I just finished Freedom by Jonathan Franzen. My friend had recommend the book, saying that when she read the final lines, she sat there, feeling such gratitude for this author, such incredible thankfulness that he brought this world to her fingertips.

I immediately put the book on hold at the library. And indeed, when I read it, the book changed me. It made me want to be a better person. It want to smell my sons' hair, and take walks with my husband.

After reading this book, I put the reusable bags by my front seat, so I would use them when I shopped---no more excuses! I bought a thermos so I would stop wasting so many paper cups at Starbucks. I ate carrots at lunch instead of leftover Mac and Cheese.

Dudes--this book made me consider birdwatching.

If that is not a miracle, I don't know what is.

I dream of reading books with my boys someday. They are different than the books I imagined reading with my fictional daughters. I don't expect my sons to get all that excited about Anne of Green Gables.

But I do expect that they will be moved by the gorgeous fatherhood of Atticus Finch. I know they will grow up with Harry Potter. I hope they also love The Westing Game, and laugh with the Wimpy Kid.

I'll even tolerate Tolkien if gets them to worship the holy alchemy of paper and thought.

I hope that someday, when they are mired in adolescence, and I am hopelessly uncool, that we can still talk about books. I hope that the words of authors can still bridge those gaps, and momentarily, at least, make us both human.

We aren't there yet, but we will be soon. Today, I sat with my son and turned the pages, encouraging him to sight-read a few words from one of those "my first" books.

As I watched Owen sound out "Ha-p-py" and then cry out, "HAPPY!" joyous in his discovery, I want to yell it right back.

"He is READING! And I. AM. HAPPY!"

After all, how often do you discover the entire world?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Red Writing Hood: My Own Worst Enemy

This week's Red Writing Hood challenge is to:  

"Think of a person you don't like, and describe what you might say if you had to share an elevator ride together. Then describe what happens when the elevator breaks down. For six hours."

My Own Worst Enemy

I wonder if there are security cameras in elevators. I hope not.

I mean, yes, I suppose they would be useful for the muggings and assaults. I can get behind that, to a degree.

But yet---there's something about the sealed momentary isolation, that pregnant pause between floors.

Especially when you're alone. Like that day. Especially when you're typically accompanied by two knucklehead boys, who view elevators as the perfect venue for cage fighting. Like most days.

I hummed to myself, enjoying the rare elevator ride without bloodshed. Then she skulked in. Her beaky little face and beady brown eyes sucked away my peace like a Dyson.

It seems like she's been with me my entire life, much like a mole or an unfortunate skin tag. I run into her everywhere---during my daily commute, in the morning, during lunch, even at my kid's birthday party.

I swear, she even finds her way into my dreams. 

I pushed the "close" button and busied myself with my cell phone, pretexting (my word for "pretend texting") to avoid eye contact. .

I continued to type to nobody, writing, "IhateherIhateherIhateher," when I felt a sudden thump, and a sickening grinding of gears. Stuck. 

I rolled my eyes to myself, continuing to pretext. She watched me, smirking.

"You think I don't know what you're doing?" she hissed, "What are you hiding from?"

I lifted my head up, and gazed at her thin upper lip, stained with cranberry lip gloss. It may have looked good twelve hours ago, but now it highlighted the geologic decline of her face. "I don't have anything to hide," I replied, "Like you said, you know exactly what I'm doing."

She grinned, "Yeah. You're hiding from me. You know I'll tell it like it is." She laughed softly to herself, "I know why you hide behind that phone."

"Um-hm," I said. I turned to my phone. No service. I sighed and waved my hand in the air.  "Well, enlighten me, Oh Wise One."

She sat down on the floor of the elevator, crossing her long legs, her right foot kicking idly. "You know that you don't really have anything to say. You know that it's a lot easier to comment about the weather on Facebook than actually call somebody with that fancy phone."

"Hey!" I said, "Maryland is now a hands-free state! I don't call anybody because I do not drive distracted! And when I'm at home, the kids are always demanding my attention. I really can't use the phone."

She shook her head slowly. "Really? That's a nice story. You know it's utter bullshit."

I stood up, pressed the UP button, once, twice, three times. I exhaled heavily, then griped, "What the fuck is going on with this elevator?"

"We'll be here for at least six hours," she replied. "Leave it to you to choose this one."

I laughed, "We'll you're here too, Einstein."

She stepped closer to me, "Yes. Of course I am. Why wouldn't I be?" Her brown eyes narrowed. "You need me here."

"No," I said. I swallowed hard. "I really don't. I've worked pretty damn hard to avoid you."

"Yes," she said, "That's it exactly! You avoid things. You don't call people. You don't make plans. You let your friends slip away. Why do you do that?"

I sat there, staring at the floor of the elevator, willing it to whisk me up, up, and away. I twisted my wedding ring, and noted that my pinky was trembling slightly. "I don't know," I mumbled.

"You do too," she answered. "You're avoiding again."

"Whatever," I said, turning my full attention to a hangnail.

"Dammit, Helen!" she said, "You wear your issues like a thrift-store poncho. If a friend doesn't call, it's because they hate you. If you don't get enough comments on your blog, it's because you are a terrible writer. If the world is not shitting glittery rainbows every time you open your mouth, it's because you suck. Is that about right?"

I said nothing. I turned to my hangnail, tugging gently, twisting the loose skin back and forth. With each tug, I felt a fresh jab, another reminder.

"Fine," she said, "Avoid some more. Don't engage, build up your little electronic walls, and watch your world grow smaller and smaller. Just don't take me with you."

I chuckled softly. "Don't take me with you? I am you. You're along for this ride, like it or not."

"That may be," she said, "But I'll fight you. I'll open your wounds. I won't make it easy for you to disappear."

She jutted out her chin, and held out her hand.

I really hope that they don't have cameras in elevators. I hope that there isn't some bored security man, wearing a pretend badge and a three-day-old beard in some room. I hope he isn't watching me, talking to myself, at the mirrored walls of a stalled elevator. I hope he doesn't see that hand, half outstretched, half contained. Stuck in-between. Nowhere.

I would hate for him to see my own worst enemy.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


In my oh-so-illustrious blogging career, I've discovered a few truths about comments.

1. People will comment if you write about your vagina.

2. People will comment if you write about embarrassing crushes. (Especially if you admit your lust love for Benjamin Linus and Malcolm Gladwell.)

3. People love to share their opinions about painting and home repair in general.

In light of this, I thought I would tell of the time my vagina repainted my master bedroom under the watchful gaze of a post-coital Michael Cera:

I find this guy nerdy-hot, and even I find that mental image shudderific.

(Although I do wonder how a vagina would paint a bedroom. My guess is badly.)

This incredibly long buildup is to let the one reader who might care about such things know that I've finally completed the home repair project I blogged about on March 23, 2010. 

The room used to look like this:

I'm not sure what was most offensive about this room....the One Day at a Time inspired comforter, the 80s-fabulous lamp, or the lovely bullfighting picture. Let's not forget the CORAL paint sample on my wall. 

There may be additional reasons why we don't have a third child. This is not a room conducive to sexy time.

This paint sample and all the related ugly-ocity remained festering in my room until Tuesday. We bought a duvet cover, painted the room, and now retire to this: 

It is still a work in progress. The lamp is too big for the corner bookcase, and I'm not sure that the curtain will stay. But now, at least, I don't feel like I'm living in a set from Boogie Nights

Since I'm totally getting my Martha Stewart on, let me tell you about my other attempt at houseness. 

My kids and I go on lots of walks. During these walks, Owen collects rocks, leaves, and other organic materials and takes it home for his "treasure box." We now have three of them: 

These are the three vases from the three bouquets of flowers I have been given  in my entire life recently.

The far left holds bits of coral found along the banks of the Chesapeake. The far right holds various treasures, including rocks, Sweet Gum Balls, shells, rocks, and rocks. I plan on using it to maim any midnight intruders. The one in the middle contains the acorns found on my front steps. 

These three treasure boxes remind me that it doesn't take much to find wonder and beauty in this world. It doesn't take too much to make your kid happy. It isn't that hard to make things pretty. 

That is, unless, you're picking up the acorns with your vagina. That's a whole other story.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Three Meals in the Life of a Marriage

Monterrey, California

I sat at a table with my husband of two days, watching the fog billow out like a skirt. As I held a glass of California Chardonnay, by the stem, like I had studied, I watched him gaze towards the water. Seagulls cawed in the distance, as the waves, one stroke at a time, sculpted the rocks. He smiled to himself and inhaled deeply.

When we had discussed places to honeymoon, Monterrey seemed to be a logical choice. We could drive there, and Paul knew the place well---he had lived there for a year when he was studying Korean. He spoke of it with the foggy half-memory of a dream---the barking seal lions, the sourdough bread bowls, and the mornings kissed with the sea's salt. He wanted me to see it, and love it, as he did.

We ordered  what very well may be the world's most perfect food---mussels, cooked in white wine, butter, and garlic---with a crusty loaf of bread to sop up those glorious flavors. We ate, held hands, stole glances at each other's new wedding rings, and wove a future together. 

Tucson, Arizona

Although our days were dedicated to studying business at the University of Arizona (Paul), and teaching seventh graders to appreciate poetry (Me), our evenings were all about Frank. 
Frank Sinatra, to be specific. 

Each Wednesday evening, we would meet at Frog and Firkin, a British-style pub on University Avenue. We sat under the awning, amidst the tattooed, nose-pierced college students, drinking Guinness Stout, so perfectly poured that you could eat the foam with a spoon. We ordered pizza and garlic fries, and talked to our friends about politics and travel and books and, yes, jazz music. 

As the sun began to descend, turning the sky to the purple, dry holiness of a desert sunset, Frank began to sing. 

In real life, Frank was some guy with a day job, but on Wednesday evenings, it was Ol' Blue Eyes. 

All conversation halted as he crooned, "Fill my heart with song/Let me sing forevermore." 

I rested my head on Paul's shoulder and relaxed into his warmth. As I held his hand, I thought, "You are all I long for, all I worship, and adore." 

Calvert County, Maryland 

We kissed the boys goodbye, thanked my mother, and hightailed it to the least kid-friendly place we could imagine: Sakura. Surely, nobody under the age of ten would be at a sushi restaurant.
Paul had introduced me to sushi years ago, partly by coaching me past my instinctual gag reflux: "Swallow it! It's just a California Roll! You're not even eating fish!" 

It took awhile, but now I will eat the real-deal--urchin, eggs, even tentacles.

We ordered our platter of sushi, and talked about his work, our boys, running---the normal things we discuss when we're able to complete an entire thought without a youngster piping in about dump trucks. We laughed, we touched each other's hands, we teased.

I watched this man talk, still in love with his quiet sense of self, his intelligence, his compassion. His eyes are still as blue as the ocean, and as warm as the desert at dusk. 

It doesn't matter where we eat. I will never be hungry when I'm with him.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

A Corner of Fantastic

There are little corners of fantastic all over the place. Some  find it by the beach, others in the mountains, and yet others at Nordstroms.

(I'm not judging. Finding boots at 75% off can be a holy experience.)

I'm honored to have the opportunity to write about one of my favorite things--the iconic tobacco barns of the Chesapeake Bay Region. Please click on my guest post for The Taste and Travel Connoisseurs, and leave a comment if you like.

It would do my little heart good. While you're there, stick around and learn about places to eat, drink, travel, and unwind. It's a beautiful corner of fantastic, right here on the Internet.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Sundays In My City: Ladies Love D.C.

Every time I go to a city, I imagine my urban life. I imagine my city-dwelling self, dressed in striped tights and hipster bowling shoes, heading to a concert in the park or my adult kickball league.

My urban self would know the best Asian-Tex-Mex-Fusion Taco Truck, and would eat her Wasabi Burrito on the steps of the art museum, just because I could.

My urban self would buy jewelry and sunflowers at the weekend Farmer's Market, after drinking espresso served with a sneer and a seven dollar prize tag.

My urban self, clearly, would be very wealthy, very young, and most likely childless. In other words, not me.

I am almost completely okay with this. Especially because my children are becoming old enough that I can take them into the city with some regularity, and soak in all the culture without all the hassle.

We always take the Metro into DC.
"MORE TRAIN!" cries Joel as we travel, missing it even while he is still riding it.
On Friday, we went to DC because Joel had an eye appointment at Children's National Hospital (no eye-patching--just bifocals). We used all public transportation, and thus had some time to kill. We decided on the National Portrait Gallery. 

My expectations were low. I just didn't think that Owen and Joel would be all that impressed with musty pictures of  Warren Harding. And yet, in the spirit of this eclectic city, the museum surpassed all expectations.

Three words: LL Cool J

Taking up an entire wall, this oil tribute to LL made me proud to be an American. Only in this country can LL Cool J, Willie Nelson, Lance Armstrong, and Martha Stewart be on the same walls as Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and John Hancock.

Want to see more? Here's a link to the entire Americans Now exhibit.

It's this kinda stuff that makes me grateful that we live in the outskirts of our Nation's Capital. We are privileged to have these funky little wonders, just waiting for our footsteps, our widened eyes, our whispered, solemn "Wow."

You may laugh. But I tell you, in all sincerity, a city that celebrates all of our Americans--including those in Adidas tracksuits---makes me downright proud.

In the words of LL himself, "I'm the best takin' out all the rookies/So forget Oreos, eat Cool J cookies." 

I guess he's proud, too.

This is my first Sunday in My City for a long time---and I've missed it. Check in with Unknown Mami to discover images and words from other cities. 

Unknown Mami