Date With DC: Virtual Reality Edition.

Yesterday, my dear Twitter friend StarlightGeek and I met up for the first time since she moved to DC. As a fellow former Bostonian, we had met once before, but it was so nice to be exploring our new city together. Though I’ve been here for about 9 months now, I still feel very, very new here. And lately, I’ll be honest- DC had lost some of its luster. I was frustrated with the lack of medical support, and that trickled down to other aspects of DC life. I am going to be here for at least another 18 months by lease alone, so I might as well fall in love with DC again. It was one of my treatment goals for my last two days of medical leave (more on that in another blog post later).

Our original plan involved seeing if we could get Washington Monument tickets and then hitting a museum, but they were sold out and the weather was perfect for walking, so we thought we’d do monuments. Stopping for our obligatory coffee, StarlightGeek asked, “hey, do you play Ingress?” I look over at her phone. “Oh, Kelsey plays that sometimes, but not really. Why, is it fun?” She explained that you join a faction (either blue or green) and try to gain control of “portals”, which are really important sites in real life (monuments, cool art, local institutions of culture, community meeting places, etc). The thing is that you have to be within 40 meters of this important site in order to interact with it (“hacking” it allows you to find supplies, deploying resonators helped defend the portal if it is in your color, and you can also “Fire” at an enemy portal to try to make it your faction’s). StarlightGeek is a proud member of the Green faction (“The Enlightenment”), so I joined hers, only to find out later that Kelsey is a member of the Blue faction (“The Resistance”). “A House Divided” was joked by all involved.

{Screenshot: a map of portals in an area. There is a long stretch of blue (read: enemy) portals  around the bottom and a few green (read: correct) portals in the top left corner}.

{Screenshot: a map of portals in an area near the Dept. of Agriculture. There is a long stretch of blue (read: enemy) portals around the bottom and a few green (read: correct) portals in the top left corner}.

We played Ingress as we walked down the mall, to the Jefferson Memorial, to the FDR memorial, and then in Adams Morgan later that evening. You know all of those little place-markers that are all over the place in a city like DC? They’re all portals in Ingress. DC has so many historical landmarks all around us that we sometimes tone them out. Ingress allowed us to embrace them all, like this beautiful Dogwood tree.

{photo: an historical marker}

{photo: an historical marker for a Flowering Dogwood }

{Photo: A Flowering Dogwood tree}

{Photo: A Flowering Dogwood tree}

{Photo: a selfie with StarlightGeek and our newfound Flowering Dogwood}

{Photo: a selfie with StarlightGeek and our newfound Flowering Dogwood}

This game facilitated a way for us to explore so many different landmarks, monuments, and cool art that we never knew existed, and as we found them and put resources into them, we now have an interest to go back and up our defenses (or attack further). The best part about this game is you can look at it, find the next portal you want to go to, and then turn it off and enjoy the walk and take out your phone again when you get to the portal you’re looking for. It allowed me to see a beauty in DC I hadn’t felt in a really long time.

For instance, we knew that there was a George Mason memorial, but we had never found this place before. But, we saw there were a lot of portals to tap into nearby, so we made our way towards it.

{Photo: a statue of George Mason with a book in his hand, looking off into the distance contemplatively, and me next to him, imitating his pose}

{Photo: a statue of George Mason with a book in his hand, looking off into the distance contemplatively, and me next to him, imitating his pose}

We then ran into a lot of “enemy territory” by the FDR Memorial (which just so happens to be my favorite part of the Tidal Basin walk):

{Screenshot: A map with a lot of blue  (enemy) portals in one area}

{Screenshot: A map with a lot of blue (enemy) portals in one area}

But, this gave us a chance to take a look at every aspect of that intricate memorial (and even added artwork by Baskin that was previously unaccounted for in the game!). Now that we are expecting foliage soon, and have portals we care about around the Tidal Basin, we hope to do another walk later in the fall.

We ended up going to AdMo after our Tidal Basin walk (we had taken a lot of steps, we needed some diner food!). We didn’t have time to get to every interesting portal we saw, so I took screenshots of their page so I can find them later. This mural is uncaptured still, so I might need to claim it soon.

{Screenshot: a portal page for a mural of President Obama walking dogs, near the main stretch of AdMo}

{Screenshot: a portal page for a mural of President Obama walking dogs, near the main stretch of AdMo}

When I got home, I explored the many (at the time…) uncaptured portals in my neighborhood and planned an evening competitive walk with Kelsey. We were pretty civil this time (I let him capture the embassies of countries he cared about, he let me capture the cool art), but I can imagine these evening walks getting competitive as we nurture our portals and attack each other. Seeing we also recently added Mario Kart to our home, it sounds like we are going to be playing lots of competitive games together.

Overall yesterday, between my long walk with StarlightGeek and my neighborhood walk with Kelsey, I took about 19,000 steps, nearly twice my daily wellness goal. Though I won’t have time to take long walks like that every day as I return to work, I can imagine spending some lunch breaks wandering my work neighborhood, capturing portals, and some “romantic” evening walks exploring the portals in every direction of our apartment.

I also noticed when I got home and did more research that there are portals in so many places- even the tiny New England town where I grew up. It kind of reminded me of geocaching in that way- more portals existed than you would ever know until you looked it up. It’s a great way to explore the landmarks in your neighborhood, strengthen your connection to the community, and get some exercise. I can tell you that I feel much more connected to the rich history of this city, and my legs hurt this morning in the good way. Yesterday was a great date with DC.

Advertisements

Date With DC: Liz Comes to Town!

My dear friend Liz is in town for a few days, and it’s nice to have an excuse to do tourist things! This is the first time I’ve hosted someone here, so I’ve been having a blast pretending I’m already a settled local. Yesterday was extra-special and I hit new territory for me, so I decided that it counts as a Date with DC.

We started our day at the National Museum of the American Indian, which most locals will tell you is the best food on the mall. After treating ourselves to a great lunch, we walked around the exhibits, which was very eye-opening. During my first trip to NMAI last August, I was embarrassed by how little I knew of our country’s history, so I strongly recommend visiting this museum if you get the chance.

Here’s the obligatory picture of owl artifacts because I’m in love with them.

{photo: an exhibition case with several artifacts depicting owls}

{photo: an exhibition case with several artifacts depicting owls}

We then went on a walk, which passed the Newseum. This museum costs about $20 to visit and we were on a budget, but you can see one of the coolest parts- a newspaper’s cover page from every state and several countries.

{Photo: the cover of the Times-Picayune, New Orleans' newspaper. The headline says "Roch of Ages"}

{Photo: the cover of the Times-Picayune, New Orleans’ newspaper. The headline says “Roch of Ages”}

We ended up near Chinatown, and after grabbing the obligatory Dunks that us Boston folks run on, went to the Reynolds Center, which houses the National Portrait Gallery and Smithsonian American Art Museum. Unless I happened to go on our DC trip when I was 9 (I don’t remember. Mom?), this was my first visit. If we’re friends in real life I’ll direct you over to the photo album where I uploaded tons of pictures, but here were a few of my highlights:

{Photo: an art project that depicts the Preamble of the  US Constitution on a series of license plates from the 50 states, in alphabetical order. Spelled weird and phonetically because they're on license plates, so it may take a minute for an onlooker to realize that it is the Preamble and read it all}

{Photo: an art project that depicts the Preamble of the US Constitution on a series of license plates from the 50 states, in alphabetical order. Spelled weird and phonetically because they’re on license plates, so it may take a minute for an onlooker to realize that it is the Preamble and read it all}

{photo: Kuniyoshi's painting entitled "Strong Woman and Child", which depicts a curvy woman in tight, athletic clothes holding hands with a young child}

{photo: Kuniyoshi’s painting entitled “Strong Woman and Child”, which depicts a curvy woman in tight, athletic clothes holding hands with a young child}

IMG_3558

{photo: Liz stands next to a portrait of Katharine Hepburn and behind four Oscar trophies in a glass case}

Liz was excited to see “the Oscars”.

There’s a beautiful covered courtyard in the middle of the Reynolds Center, which is definitely worth a few minutes break during a museum trip.

{photo: Alymay sits next to yellow flowers}

{photo: Alymay sits next to yellow flowers}

{photo: Liz sits next to the same flowers!}

{photo: Liz sits next to the same flowers!}

We headed back home, where we met up with some of our friends and walked to Fort Reno in Tenleytown for the sunset, where we enjoyed a picnic snack in the lovely sweater weather. I fell a little extra in love with DC yesterday, and I hope to keep our romance blossoming in spring.

❤ ams

 

Dating DC on Valentine’s Day

I am super blessed to have a live-in relationship with my amazing partner. He’s the kind of guy that you can spend 10 minutes talking sarcastically like y’all actually agree with anything said in this article, knowing that he agrees it’s a load of baloney. That’s love. We spend our days and nights together, as I apply jobs while he writes from home, switching from work to fun mode at 6 or 7 PM every day, which is really too late to do a lot of things outside in the winter.

Because I’ve been in job-search frenzy mode until it’s dark outside, I haven’t gotten as many chances to explore this beautiful city as I would like. I decided that I deserve breaks sometimes, and I want to start going on a series of dates with DC, while I’m still in flexible “funemployment” mode. The first was yesterday. I started down the street from our apartment- at the zoo!

Naturally, I started with the Giant Pandas. Though Bao Bao was in a special room not viewable to the public, I got to hang out with mom, Mei Xiang.

{photo: giant panda curled up in a corner, looking adorable}

{photo: giant panda curled up in a corner}

Then, I visited the elephant house. I was the only person in the room for a while, so maybe I got to talk to the elephants without alarming other guests. I made sure to tell them that I loved them and I was sad that a political party I widely disagree with has used them as a mascot.

{photo: two elephants standing in gigantic doorways to the outside, facing the same direction.}

{photo: two elephants in profile standing in gigantic doorways to the outside, facing the same direction}

Perhaps the most special moment for me was getting up close with a burrowing owl, which was super adorable (with a glass wall between us, of course).

I had some feelings…

and they confused some of my friends…

I cleared up that it was actually a live owl that was behind a glass wall and being adorable.

They also have some barnyard animals at the zoo.

{photo: a black and white cow drinking from a bucket}

{photo: a black and white cow drinking from a bucket}

So cute. After an overpriced snack at the  Mane Grill, I ventured to say hi to some tigers.

{photo:

{photo: a Sumatran tiger cub sits in profile near a tree, you can see a larger tiger  in the back of the photo, and can just barely see the other cub}

After my zoo adventure, I decided to see something I hadn’t seen since moving to Washington, DC- 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, The White House.

On the walk over on G Street, I saw some great plaques memorializing people who went “The Extra Mile”. Rachel Carson has always been a hero of mine, so I snapped a photo.

{photo: a plaque on the ground memorializing Rachel Carson}

{photo: a plaque on the ground recognizing Rachel Carson’s work}

And the White House looked gorgeous as ever after our snow day on Thursday.

{Photo: the back of the White House in snow}

{Photo: the back of the White House with snow on the ground}

Someone was even there to wish President Obama a happy valentine’s day.

{photo: a woman wearing a red scarf and red gloves holds a large sign written in red on a white board with a red heart,  which says, "Happy Valentine's Day Mr. President, We <3 You"}

{photo: a woman wearing a red scarf and red gloves holds a large sign written in red on a white board with a red heart, which says, “Happy Valentine’s Day Mr. President, We  ❤ You.”}

Next, I headed to the Capitol Building so I could see the dome before the scheduled reconstruction.

{photo: the back of the US Capitol Building, with snow on the ground}

{photo: the back of the US Capitol Building, with snow on the ground}

At this point, my legs were pretty tired, so I headed back to our place, right when my partner was getting off work. We decided to celebrate Valentine’s Day in style with champagne (from New Mexico, of course) on our roof deck. He even wore a top hat.

{photo: a selfie of a woman in a badger hat leaning on a man in a top hat, both smiling at the camera}

{photo: a selfie of a woman in a badger hat leaning on a man in a top hat, both smiling at the camera}

It was a beautiful date with DC indeed. I’m taking suggestions for my next date with DC! Leave a comment if you have a good one.

❤ ams