Less than 48 hour whirlwind tour to DC with patron saint Carly Simon

Author’s note: this post will contain some language I don’t usually use in my blog posts, probably only the word ‘bitch.’ But you’ve been warned

A few weeks ago, M (my friend from college and traveling companion for the last decade) made arrangements that I would come to Washington DC to deliver popcorn, give M a copy of my novel MANIPULATIONS (order here), discuss upcoming projects for Parisian Phoenix, and relax.

The hope was that my “day job” at the Stitch Fix Bizzy Hizzy would offer us voluntary time off between 7:30 and 10 p.m. Friday night and that I might have off Monday.

I could arrive in D.C. late Friday night and stay until lunch time Monday.

Except on Wednesday, I was reminded I had a 9 a.m. doctor appointment Monday. But, it could easily be virtual. So no big.

But then we didn’t get out early Friday. And I didn’t have Monday off. But also my supervisor stopped by for an observation and despite spasming back muscles I performed at 96% and finished the night at 129 fixes, which is 99.2%. I could have hit 100, but I helped a colleague who is struggling to learn QC.

I arrived home very grumpy at 12:30 a.m., left my purse and suitcase in the car (with my toothbrush no less), and ran in the house to release Misty from his crate (the teenager forgot him) and put the dog to bed.

I took a shower and collapsed in bed naked as my alarm was set for 7:45 and it was 1:10 a.m. Now, M calls me crazy bitch (or CB for short) as I am prone to do things like drive to his house for dinner. And the idea of getting six hours sleep and heading to DC for a 24 hour visit is another crazy bitch move.

But then the cats starting fighting at 2 a.m. So now I’m super-annoyed, naked, and turning on my roomba to scare my personal cat Fog out of my room. He’s the asshole that scares the fosters.

Now I’m down to about five hours before I leave for DC.

At 7:45, my alarm goes off. I clean cat boxes, feed the birds, check food bowls, get dressed and leave the house by 8:15. I stop at Dunkin to grab a cold brew and try the new peanut butter cup flavor. They screwed up and gave me pumpkin. The teenager had purchased me candy — so I had Haribo berries for breakfast/ road trip fuel.

I was on the road by 8:30 a.m. Stopped at a rest stop outside Hershey around 10:30 a.m., then decided it wisest to stop outside the Baltimore loop in Hereford, Md., for gas. I ended up at an Exxon and I needed to pee, but my gut said this wasn’t the place.

But Carly Simon was singing You’re so vain on a loudspeaker at the creepy gas station. And there is a short story I wrote— that may be completely lost— where one of the main characters in my Fashion and Fiends horror book series gives his virginity to an older girl at a party. The character is Étienne d’Amille, the girl is Arlette (who makes an appearance in Manipulations), the year is 1973 (I think) and Arlette is singing You’re so vain when they meet.

I arrived in DC at noon and had no trouble finding parking despite youth soccer games less than a block from M’s house. City parking. During a soccer game.

Finally some good luck.

But PS— the popcorn was stale and nasty.

M ordered some chicken sandwiches and fries from Roaming Rooster. We ate, made coffee, changed into sweatpants and started to chat. Eventually I started editing manuscripts for Parisian Phoenix and M enjoyed several episodes of Dr. Pimple Popper.

M also reviewed my bloodwork, as he works in a medical lab.

Meanwhile his housemates, my Indian friends, couldn’t believe I drove all that way… to sit around and do nothing.

In the morning, we drank more coffee. I did some more work and we drove To Alexandria, Va., to visit the Mediterranean Bakery so M could get his fresh pita for the week and we had breakfast of Lebanese flatbread— one with cheeses and another with zaatar and labneh. We washed it down with mint Aryam yogurt drink. M informed me that if I mispronounce it, I will be saying “two testicles” in Arabic.

I purchased some goodies for the teenager (pita chips with zaatar, halva and dried kiwi) and some candy and chocolate covered espresso beans for the drive home. And some spices and harissa.

Then I had a cup of coffee and drove home. I left at 2:45 pm. I was in DC for 25 hours.

And on the way home, Spotify played Carly Simon’s Nobody does it better. That song came from a James Bond movie, The Spy Who Loved Me. Étienne is also a huge Bond fan. Again, James Bond has a few appearances in Manipulations.

Wednesday Update With Mundane and Animal News

Good morning! So many little things have happened I will mention them here in case you are curious.

  • I have been wearing my Horus necklace so far this week— as “protection” and “healing” from stresses with a multitude of stresses at work. Today I am switching to my “keep going” amulet as my boss has added to my deadlines, moving up work I had planned to do in early June to a deadline of June 1.
  • I’m concerned about the shifting deadlines, because I have something like 40 hours of vacation time expiring at the end of June and I’ve been trying to get it approved since early March and my boss keeps saying she’s not comfortable approving it until she has more assurance my work will be done. I had asked to take the last week of April, but the pandemic shifted our work flow so I rescheduled to the end of May. I need the time off. My batteries are done.
  • But more pleasant things… Nala has been grooming my new haircut.

Nala grooming me

  • I am so sick of this cold May weather. I can’t get warm. I decided to wear my thickest winter socks and sweatpants today. I hate sweatpants but I hate cold more.
  • Fog spent last night locked on the sun porch. I was slightly sad that Fog didn’t say goodnight to me, but when only three cats turned up for breakfast I knew something was up. And— the big news— Fog is a boy. The teenager and I had questions about that cat’s anatomy for quite some time as “she” protected “her” belly and behaved with much modesty. But the teen and I both thought “she” had testicles, but couldn’t get a good look to see what was under the hood, so to speak. Last night, Fog took a bath in front of me, spread “her” legs, displayed “her” penis and washed it. No doubts now.
  • And Misty loves water. He’s absolutely mesmerized and loves to play in water.
  • I paid off my medical bills from 2019. Now I can tackle the remaining $850 I owe on my crown— the one that still isn’t right. The dentist will take a look after quarantine lifts. They quoted my husband’s insurance instead of mine and I don’t have coverage for a crown. As we have been separated for 10.5 months, I don’t have his dental insurance. But it was an emergency and they grabbed the wrong information. Luckily, they will let me pay in installments.
  • One of my work colleagues read my blog. I had sent him a link because we were discussing something and I referenced him… not sure I remember the exact details. He complimented me on my writing skills and called me clever and obviously intelligent. I’m touched that he took the time to read as much as he did and it made my day that he told me about it. He loved the reference to my daughter as “the teenager” as I do try to protect people’s privacy. So, I’m assigning him a nickname, too. He is now Mr. Accordian.

Traveling via the Food on my Plate

One of my newspaper bosses, my favorite newsroom personality ever, liked to bet on horses at the racetrack or play some cards in Vegas. He said he gave himself a budget, and since he didn’t smoke or go to the movies or play video games or have an expensive car, that this was his hobby.

I have a similar past-time that overwhelms me with guilt sometimes. I love to go out to eat. It’s my stress relief. I also love to cook, so you think I’d spend more on groceries and less on restaurants.

I’ve tried. I’ve cut the landline, canceled the Internet, lowered the thermostat, only bought meat on clearance and cat food when on sale. I can run a lean household. But I can’t resist the allure of a family meal in a fun restaurant.

Twice this week I was reminded why. A great meal is a lot like a mini-vacation. Without jet lag or clogged ears or piles of dirty laundry or traveler’s diarrhea.

And sometimes, you’re a mile away from home.

Like this penne with vodka sauce:


We all have that neighborhood restaurant we’ve been meaning to try. For me, it was George’s Pizzeria. I never really noticed it until my daughter moved from the elementary school to the intermediate school.  We finally checked it out and were impressed by the prices, the quality of the food, and the efficient but understated soft sell of the staff as they met our needs.

Once we left, I couldn’t stop thinking about trying their penne with vodka sauce. So, I returned this week after a long pre-Easter day in retail. 

You notice things the second time to visit a restaurant. I anticipated this and looked forward to discovering some nuances to this small, plain pizzeria. It was unexpectedly busy for the before-dinner hour. My daughter and I ordered drinks. We watched the hustle and bustle and customers came, some stayed and some picked up their food and left.

After a few minutes, a staff member ran to us. “Did anyone take your food order?”

No. He apologized so genuinely and honestly I didn’t mind because the atmosphere was like hanging out in someone’s kitchen. My daughter adores calimari. I ordered her an appetizer. I ordered my pasta, which is a $10 dish, asking if they could add chicken and broccoli.

It was the best meal I’ve had in a long time. The broccoli was fresh, not frozen. The chicken was real, not processed. (And they put so much in there I kept joking that I couldn’t find the noodles.) The sauce was smooth and no one ingredient overpowered. The texture was creamy but amazingly light.

My daughter devoured the calimari, despite the fact that it was the “hoops” kind and not the baby squid shape that she prefers. I enjoy calimari, but I still can’t bring myself to eat anything breaded in its original full-size form and shape.

My husband joined us late, so my daughter and I had dessert. I asked for coffee and they brought it in a New Orleans mug from the French coffee market. The Francophile in me was tickled.


When I went to pay the bill, they asked if I wanted more coffee. I declined as I do need to sleep eventually. They offered to prepare some “to go” since they had brewed me a fresh pot!

We were there two hours. I chatted with my family and enjoyed three courses. It was the most at ease I’d felt in a long time. It was the same feeling I get when my traveling companion and I find a special restaurant overseas. Like vacation.

I had a similar experience today. I finally visited Full of Crêpe in South Bethlehem. I had some delightful concoction of Brie, ham, and raspberry jam. Soooo good. 


It was like being in Paris. Except the staff was helpful. And crêpe was served in a restaurant not on the street. We shared a dessert crêpe.


The crêpes came in a fancy cardboard sleeve with perforations so you could eat in without having it flop all over. Each time you ate more, you tore down the sleeve. I couldn’t get the hang of it. I took the sleeve off and ate out of the tissue paper. Like Paris. Except I didn’t drip cheese all over myself.