Posted by: Mickey Goodman | September 27, 2009

Washington, DC/National Harbor

Day I

The Massive Atrium

The Massive Atrium

I settle back in my seat to enjoy a long ride from Reagan National Airport to the Gaylord National at National Harbor just across the Potomac River from Washington, DC. But 10-minutes later, the affable driver points across the new Woodrow Wilson Bridge to the imposing hotel on the opposite site.

“Already?” I ask. “I thought it would be a long trip.”

“So does everyone,” he laughs.

I look more carefully. A behemoth glass building with a round scoop of glass looms over the harbor skyline and glistens in the sunlight. Lush grounds kiss the docking area where dozens of small craft are moored. It must be a sight for sore eyes for politic-weary guests who pound the halls of Congress by day or sit in claustrophobic meeting rooms near the Mall.

More like a resort than a city hotel, the huge structure has all the amenities – a spa, large work out room, indoor pool and Jacuzzi, walking/running trails and a variety of restaurants. Although I rarely meet an upscale hotel I don’t love, this one is a cut above – smaller than its big sister, the Gaylord Opryland in Nashville, the layout mirrors the lush gardens that bring beauty and nature inside. I pause to watch children play near the large fountain and splash in the water with Cindy, a petit pigtailed 4-year old, whose watchful parents are relaxing nearby.

When I tell her I have to grab some lunch before Pienza Italian Market closes, she pouts. “Will you come play with me tonight?” she asks. “Promise? The waters dance and change colors.”

“I’ll try,” I tell her, blowing an air kiss. “I’ll look for you.”

Although my intent after lunch is a quick nap, I’m lured outside. Joggers canter along the trail that leads all the way over the Old Alexandria, but these old bones are happier walking, so I stroll along the dock and admire the ships gliding up and down the Potomac. Curious about the new National Harbor area, I turn toward the shops, condos and hotels that are cropping up faster than weeds. A large sign boasts that Disney will bring its magic to the area around 2012 and despite a downturn in the economy, anticipation among the retailers, restaurateurs and hoteliers is palpable.

Time flies and I’m almost late for an aaaaaaaah massage at Relache. Yum. Afterward, I slither upstairs, oiled and relaxed as a noodle and yearn to plop down on my humongous King bed. But no rest for the weary. It’s nearly time to meet friends for dinner downstairs at Moon Bay Coastal Cuisine where we chat, drink and eat late into the night. The crab cakes are the best and freshest I’ve had since my school days in New Orleans when lump crabmeat made a steady appearance on my mother’s culinary repertoire whenever company was invited. I wax nostalgic and wonder if I can find her old recipe.

Day’s highlight(s):  Watching the boats skim along the Potomac; the massage.

Day II

A News Junkie's Nirvana

A News Junkie's Nirvana

I’m standing in the expansive atrium of the new Newseum in Washington, DC looking up as flashes of big stories from the past blink across the giant screen.  A news helicopter “hovers” near the ceiling. For this  writer and news junkie, the Newseum is nirvana – a place dedicated to the men and women who bring the words “freedom of the press” to our doorsteps.

But for how long? In a world where more than 600 magazines and untold numbers of newspapers have bitten the dust in the last year, I wonder if my grandchildren will look at the archives chronicling big stories and Pulitzer Prize winning still photographs and say, “When I was little, my grandmother read a daily newspaper so big she had to fold it in sections to read it. She liked that better than watching the news on TV. Weird.”

I choose the exhibits I really, really want to see, beginning with the Pulitzer photos. History flashes before my eyes in a single frame and without the benefit of the written word. It’s hard to be objective, particularly in the screening room where the photogs tell the stories of how they got the shots.

In the 9/11 Gallery, a mangled antenna that once stood on the North Tower of the World Trade Center, a chunk of cornice from the Pentagon and piece ripped from the fuselage of United Flight 93 are stark reminders of all that we lost in a single day. I sit in the theater and listen to journalists, their voices full of emotion, tell chilling stories of being on the scene. Their reporting begins objectively, then, as the second tower crashes to earth, they run for their lives, voices quaking, cameras getting pictures of the dusty streets. For those of us sitting in the room, it takes us back to the terrible day when we watched the gut-wrenching events unfold on the small screen. Reporters on the scene, much like service men and women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have witnessed war.

Shaken, I move on to the Berlin Wall exhibit – a searing reminder of what once was, walk through the G-Men and Journalists area, then move on to the News History section where famous headlines from 30,000 historic newspapers scream across front pages. The Dissolving the Union in 1860. The sinking of the Titanic and the Hindenburg explosion. Man Landing on the Moon. Watergate and beyond Thankfully archived for posterity, these stellar examples of journalism will survive – even if the newspapers don’t. Such a tragedy. Who will do the investigative reporting and write the Watergates of the future that is recorded on paper?

I drag myself away from the Newseum for a tour of Washington with a stop at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial. More like a park within a park, it is tranquil with multiple waterfalls and comfortable benches. I sit and reflect on the words of our 32nd president inscribed in stone and marvel at the beauty of our country’s capital.

Dinner that evening is at the Gaylord’s Old Hickory Steakhouse where the maitre d’frommage presents a delectable array of cheese appetizers from mild to tangy. Not a crumb is left on my plate. I am feeling more than a little gluttonous, but after all, it’s a steakhouse, so I order the signature grass fed tenderloin with lobster topping, so tender I can cut it with a fork. Think I’ll diet tomorrow.

Day’s highlight: The Newseum

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