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April 22

The pleasant strangers the war brought here have nearly all gone their ways, and Washington is becoming nothing but a small, dull country village again. 

—The War-Time Journal of a Georgia Girl, by Eliza Frances Andrews


Dear Dixie,

I had to get up real dang early this morning for a real adventurous reason: Coco and I took Hap, Fatima, Boog, Hoover, Jimmy Joe, Frank, Elmo, Beauregard, and Claude to our nation’s capital for a one-day field trip. 

Waking up real early is extremely annoying because an extremely chirpy local radio personality said it’s early in the morning but also the middle of the night ... as if he’s pleased with this information.

I wondered who’d be late to the airport and was surprised to find out it was me.

My kids zipped through the National Museum of American History as if the floor of one of the most popular Smithsonian Institute’s museums was a hot grill.  Coco kept calling me on my cell phone to see if I was coming along okay because she had them gathered in the lobby and the kids wanted to go into the gift shop real bad.  It feels real weird to talk on a cell phone while you’re looking at the battle-worn Star-Spangled Banner or the chairs Lee and Grant sat in, and the little table they used, when Lee surrendered to Grant … I propose to receive the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia on the following terms, to wit …

On the steps of the National Air and Space Museum, while Claude and Beauregard and I were eating various lunch food items obtained from a foreign street vendor, while the rest of the group was across Jefferson Avenue sitting in the grass of the National Mall eating expensive nation’s capital cheeseburgers obtained from an overpriced cheeseburger joint run by some college guys, a local con artist named Bernard walked up to us and attempted to have us believe that he was a former Marine. 

Bernard also attempted to have us believe that he loved his country and that hard times had recently fallen on him and then Bernard handed Beauregard a card, which he asked Beauregard to open as well as to read out loud the message inside the card, that Bernard had written.  Our friend Bernard didn’t know that Beauregard is possibly the most dyslexic student in the United States of America as well as our nation’s territories.  Beauregard, being the super good sport that he is, started in on the message.

After about ten seconds, I believe Bernard wondered what the hell he had gotten himself into, so he finally snatched the card back from Beauregard and got to the point of our meeting which was Bernard asking me for some money.

I told Bernard, politely, that I didn’t like being put on the spot.

Bernard said he understood and then he complimented me on the way I was dressed and asked me, very cordially, if we were on a field trip.

I told Bernard that after we finished having our lunch that we were going into the National Air and Space Museum.  I nodded up that way.

Claude was enjoying a soft pretzel and a cup of lemon sherbet and a Coke.  Beauregard was now eating his package of Skittles and drinking a Coke.

Bernard said it’s a wonderful museum and he hoped we’d have a good time in our nation’s capital … then Bernard darted off and started in on a group of teenage girls who seemed like they were either from Tennessee or Kentucky or Alabama or Mississippi or South Carolina.  I know their teacher was Mrs. Ritter because after a moment or two with Bernard they started looking around for Mrs. Ritter and then they started screaming for Mrs. Ritter.

Claude patted me on the back and said I sure did handle that guy.       

We learned it costs $18 per person to get into the International Spy Museum and per person we were eleven.  This particular bit of information was not involved in the budget planning of our one-day field trip to the nation’s capital, so Coco calls Lurlene back home to ask if it’s okay that we spend nearly two hundred unanticipated school dollars.  All the kids were watching Coco's expression very carefully while she was talking on the phone to Lurlene, and then they screamed and yelled and jumped up and down at the reason and understanding Lurlene displayed from back down in Georgia.

Then Coco asks if I happen to have a credit card with me.

When you walk through the International Spy Museum and look at the objects on display and read their descriptions, the first thing that hits you as how super sneaky people can get.  As you move through the displays, you begin to feel a super high level of creepiness all over your body.  The final thing that struck me is that in order to be super sneaky you are definitely going to have to stick, from time to time, in the service of your country, various items up your butt.

Back home, as I flopped my weary body into my truck in the airport parking lot my weary mind turned to wondering wearily what mischief might have occurred at school today.  I had told my mid-afternoon study hall bunch on Wednesday that Lurlene, for tomorrow, was bringing in America’s most infamous and most unreasonable substitute teacher, Mrs. Hulga Warthog, to watch over you during study hall while I’m gone to Washington, D.C.

Spike had instantly perked up and asked if Hulga had a wart.

I said she did, actually.  And the dang thing was bright red and the size of a golf ball.

There was some significant silence and many pairs of wide eyes. 

And then I added … And the wart moves around.

Spike was extremely excited.



Next Entry ... April 27: Field Trippy Thoughts