Mrs. Henderson goes to Washington, part 2

Published 9:25 pm Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Last week I began telling you about my summer experience in D.C. Before I launch in again, I’ll tell a surprising truth: While I was there, I didn’t see a pickup truck for 11 days straight. Serious. And when I finally did, that F150 looked very out of place — and made me homesick.

But I guess that’s a backwards way to start. What makes a trip interesting isn’t what you don’t see — it’s what you do see. So, let me paint you a few word pictures.

In the National Museum of American History, an exhibit features First Lady Julia Grant’s gown and her reason for choosing to wear American-made clothing: “(it is) becoming to my person and the condition of my purse.”

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While boarding the Metro at Union Station, a physician from the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services detected my accent. He said Mississippi is number one at something: immunizing kids.

A block or so from the Capitol Building, an eating establishment known as The Monocle feeds its congressional diners phrases as well as steaks: “I live on my principles, and one of my principles is flexibility”; “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog”; “Congress is a collection of ordinary men and women grappling with extraordinary problems”; “It’s lonely up here”; and “Institutions are more powerful than a man.”

In a ritzy neighborhood where townhouses sit nearly on top of each other and yards are non-existent, packs of Hispanic nannies push strollers down the sidewalk. The strollers are filled with blonde babies.

The Library of Congress, located a block away from our Roe v. Wade and Obergefell-ruling Supreme Court, chooses to put a Gutenberg Bible in a prime viewing spot on the main floor. (Does anyone else find that ironic?)

Some 17,000 of the city’s metered parking spaces get their due through an app linked to your credit card. Coins are so passé. 

Billboards advertise doggy daycares: Wagtime, Little Rascals, Dogma Daycare, Happy Paws.

The best show in town during the summer months is at the Iwo Jima Memorial on Tuesday nights, and it’s free. The Marine Corps Sunset Parade features performances by that military branch’s drum and bugle corps and silent drill platoon.

Another free show I caught was at Union Station — something called a flash mob. It’s when a group of people assemble suddenly in a public place and perform. In this case it was dancers, and some of them were in wheelchairs. Turns out it’s a social media thing. My writer friends all knew what was going on, but not me. 

And speaking of shows, on my third night of my trip, I attended the D.C. premiere of “In Our Hands”, a film about Israel’s Six Day War in 1967. The evening was full of firsts for me — my first time to ride in an Uber car, my first time to see Embassy Row, my first time to be in a synagogue. And before it started, I had a first in the culinary category. My movie critic colleague suggested we get into the whole Jewish thing by having dinner at an Israeli restaurant called Shouk (Hebrew for “market”). Now if you’re like me and don’t know tahina from harissa, ordering at a place like that can be stressful. I can’t say that I remember much about what I got except it had a piece of pita bread with it, and they served my water with no ice.

Later at the screening, when all was dark and my friend was scribbling notes by the light of her phone, I marveled at the twists and turns of life. And maybe that’s the most striking word picture I can paint from my trip. There I was — next to an Asian journalist from Los Angeles who had just appeared on C-SPAN — sitting in a Jewish synagogue, in the heart of Washington, D.C.

And on a regular old Wednesday night, to boot.

Kim Henderson is a freelance writer. Contact her at