the national museum of african-american history and culture… and the MLK memorial (claudia’s pre-birthday trip to d.c.)

Wow is an understatement.

When timed-tickets became available for the museum in October, these were the ones we got — for the weekend before Claude’s ninth birthday. Perfect. So we set off for one fun, and educational, and emotional, weekend.


I have been waiting for the NMAAHC to open possibly since before its groundbreaking; certainly since I found out that Parliament Funkadelic’s Mothership (or at least one of the touring models) was going to be there. Claudia was George Clinton for Halloween when she was two. (Béla was Boston Symphony Orchestra conductor Seiji Ozawa, which maybe one person “got”. mostly people thought he was Einstein in a tux.)

I digress. We knew it was going to be a big, fun weekend. We were staying at the Palomar, one of our favorite D.C. hotels (the one where Tucker Chased Bill Nye Into An Elevator). Although they have received many a gift there from Dad and Mom and Tuck on various trips, it was the kids’ first trip to Fantom Comics (certainly my second-favorite comic book store, right under Amalgam here in Philly), and we knew we were going to eat a lot of good food.

But on Friday night, our first night in town, Claudia had important work to do. She had decided to take part in the Mass Binding Spell against Donald Trump. We had gathered all the elements she would need to complete it, and were a tad nervous about burning pictures in a hotel room, but we were ready to give it our best shot. Lots of little tweaks: we needed some sand, and the only sand in the house was kinetic sand. We were supposed to have a stub of an orange candle to represent Trump, but Philly was short of orange candles and we had a fairly large, glass-encased, double-wicked number. We had a SUPER goofy picture of Trump.


We needed a Tower card from a Tarot deck, and took this opportunity to present Claudia with an early birthday gift. From Tuck, she got her own first “hands-on” Tarot deck. She “has” many Tarot decks; two Oz-themed ones, a few Black culture-themed ones, but she does not get to handle them without permission; they are unusual decks and need chaperoning. This deck (I believe called the “Everyday Witch” Tarot) was hers, to take care of or to be careless with and not be able to use anymore — her responsibility.

She used her Tower card in the binding ceremony. We tried to just singe Trump’s face but of course it caught fire. I was so worried we were going to get in trouble with the hotel staff, but we went unnoticed. It was a successful, and very positive spell in its language — and when it was over she ran off with her new deck, spreading it out contemplatively over her and Béla’s big hotel bed. I was so happy that she loved it.


We had only just found out about the Yayoi Kusama retrospective in town, and as the kids have been to the Mattress Factory in Pittsburgh and seen her work ,we thought we’d give it a shot for day-of tickets, and got up early to get in line. Nothing doing.


This gave us a whole lot of hours to kill until our 1pm timed tickets for NMAAHC, but we walked over and talked to the staff and they let us in early. And we went STRAIGHT to the top — for the Mothership, video of Big Mama Thorton, costumes from Nona Hendryx and Earth Wind and Fire, the Soul Train neon sign — it was just heaven.


And Claudia could not miss her opportunity to look at this scale model of the museum itself and say in her Derek Zoolander voice: “What is THIS? An African-American History museum for ANTS?”


After going to the top floor first, we went back down to ground level, where Ben had discerned that we were supposed to take an elevator to a lower floor. There was not so much a “tour”, but an ordered way of viewing much of the collection, which began with the darkest, heaviest things, in a dark, low-ceilinged gallery.


We made our way back up, through the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, and the Civil Rights movement. Claudia had begun to show some emotional wear and we skipped a part of the exhibit dealing with the Jim Crow Era as I felt she would take it very personally and very hard. We made our way back up…


(They were excited to see Mookie)

… to the light.


As usual, it was interesting to see how C. and B. processed the same experience in different ways.

EPSON MFP imageand B:


A big storm came in and we rested at the hotel through it, then went to one of our favorite D.C. restaurants, Tortilla Coast, for supper. We told our server about our day and about Claudia’s upcoming birthday and were met with a special treat:


And then we took a cab to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. I really am short on words to describe how this felt for me and I am so glad the kids experienced it. (It was pretty chilly, as Claudia makes clear.)


WHAT A WEEKEND! Vacations can be so tiring. We hit Fantom Comics one more time before we left on Sunday… once we were all upright.


They started learning and deciphering some cryptography with Tuck in the car on the way home.