One of the perks of working at the White House is an invitation to a private viewing of the White House Holiday decorations. My roommate Natalie had worked for Hillary Clinton on the second floor of the West Wing during the first half of the semester. (She was the first First Lady that wasn’t going to stand working out of the East Wing. Hillary also expanded her staff to twenty (plus another fifteen interns and volunteers, including Natalie.)
Natalie asked if I would be her plus one on the private tour.
The theme that year was “Winter Wonderland”. The program handed to us in the East Foyer did little to inform anyone, as it contained such banal prose as “…a mountainous forest surrounds the gingerbread castle and its towers and bridges. Miniature versions of Socks and Buddy frolic throughout the kingdom in the true spirit of the holidays.”
The whole thing was a letdown. Especially when miniature cats made out of white chocolate are part of the main event.
(If I were President, I would name my pets something ridiculous. Something like “First cat, Pornsak, greeted the President as she arrived home today” or “First dog, Master Bates, entertained children today at the White House Easter egg hunt.”)
We became far more interested in our next activity for the day: garlic chicken. Natalie’s co-workers told her about this fantastic garlic chicken at Old Ebbitt Grill, a bar near the White House. We had been talking about going for weeks. While we were early, the place was already packed, and we had to sit at the bar.
I ordered chardonnay and was not carded. Natalie, who looks much older than me, also ordered chardonnay and was carded. I am generous and let her take a sip when the bartender’s attention is elsewhere.
We over-excitedly order two garlic chickens, which we can’t find on the menu, but Natalie is positive they serve. The bartender, who probably has realized his carding mistake, is pleased as punch to inform us that garlic chicken is only served on Fridays.
Sadly, though we vow to return, our time in D.C. ended before a garlic chicken re-pilgrimage. We order some crap, and I pick up the bill to thank Natalie for inviting me for the day. A day without garlic chicken.
Natalie was going to go back to work, so I headed to the National Gallery. The arts community in D.C. had been all a tither for months about the arrival of an exhibit on loan from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. I, like most females in high school and college, loved Van Gogh. The first thing we did when we arrived at college is head to the campus bookstore to buy Van Gogh posters for our walls. This was practically a mandate. Name one girl who didn’t have a Van Gogh at some point up in her dorm room.
Over the summer I had been to the National Gallery to see some exhibits with Callie, specifically Rothko and Calder. Calder created intricate mobiles, and Rothko painted rectangles.
Outwardly my actions and words conveyed interest and that I was cultured and worldly. Inwardly, I much preferred the Star Wars exhibit “The Magic of Myth” at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum. I had already been four times.
Since the exhibit was only going to be in D.C. for a short time, there were mobs of people who waited in line for advance tickets. On most days, same-day passes were gone before noon. I must have just made the cut.
This was a 72-piece collection, and although I knew at least a little Van Gogh, recognized not a one. It was wildly boring and since it was wall to wall people, difficult to look at anything. Like a ninety-pound coed on the Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras, I let the flow of people wave me through to the exit.
I don’t believe that I’ve been to the National Gallery since. A few years ago, the painter behind Bill Clinton’s gallery portrait revealed that he painted Monica into the image. It’s a shadow of her in the infamous navy blue GAP dress, casting darkness into the President’s legacy. The painter also made sure that Clinton’s ring finger was hidden, creating pejorative metaphors all over the thing.
Maybe I should make a special trip to see it. If it’s a Friday when I do get back to the National Gallery, I hope that I’m there with garlic breath.