RSS Feed

Dylan’s Cafe

Dylan’s Cafe

 

It was too cold to go to Washington, D.C. this year to visit my great aunt. We’ve gone the past two winters, in January, but this year the visit was scheduled for late in February, when Washington, D.C. was basically shut down from the snow. So we stayed home, and huddled indoors with the dogs because each time we went outside I felt like someone was carving my ears off with a spoon.

Butterfly made a snow heart with her feet.

Butterfly made a snow heart with her feet.

I missed getting to see my great aunt, and her daughter, and her granddog Zoe, but Butterfly, at least, was grateful to miss the long car ride, and Cricket sniffed every inch of the snow to make up for not getting to sniff Zoe. And in my mind, I did end up travelling to D.C., remembering my first visit to the city, way back before my great aunt moved there to dote on her grandson and granddog.

Sweet Zoe

Sweet Zoe.

All three girls on a previous visit.

All three girls on a previous visit.

I was barely seventeen and my cousin Sarah wanted to go to D.C. the day before Thanksgiving, to take pictures of the white house at night. I had just dropped out of college two weeks earlier, and Sarah thought I needed an escape.

We stopped at a candy store before the trip, and loaded up on gummy worms and jelly beans to balance out the bag of potato chips and the diet soda, and then we drove down to D.C., singing along to Bonnie Raitt and the Black Crows. I don’t know what my cousin and I talked about for five hours in the car, but we had a great time. She is ten years older than me, and was therefore a font of worldly wisdom. She was one of the only people who took my dropping out of college in stride. She never blamed me, or made light of it. She just cared about me and wanted me to feel better.

As soon as we arrived at the hotel, we dropped off our bags and went out to the movies. We saw Bette Midler in For the Boys on a huge curved screen with a red velvet curtain in front of it. It was the kind of theatre that felt magical, instead of like a box with seats in it.

Me and Bette Midler

Me and Bette Midler. Photo by Sarah Feinsmith

It was dark out when the movie ended but we were too keyed up to go back to the hotel. We joined the crowds walking around Georgetown, window shopping and people watching. When I saw a sign that said “Dylan’s Café” I stopped. For background, you need to know that Beverly Hills, 90210 had just come on TV the summer before, and I was in love with it in a way I cannot explain, or even understand, today. And the cool guy character on the show was named, of course, Dylan.

My cousin said we had to go in. The café was up a set of stairs and when we found out there was live music – two guys with guitars – we had to stay. And, according to my cousin, I had to have a drink. I don’t even remember what kind of music they played; whatever it was originally, it was played on two acoustic guitars so it didn’t end up sounding like heavy metal.

The guitar guys

The guitar guys. Photo by Sarah Feinsmith

There weren’t many people at the tables, so Sarah went over to chat with the lead singer and his sister between sets, and requested a James Taylor song for me. The guitar guys sang Fire and Rain, which, with lines like, “I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend,” felt like it had been chosen just for me.

Important lessons learned at Dylan’s cafe: wine coolers make for the worst headaches; and a cute guy with a guitar trumps even the worst headache.

That trip brought me back to life. For one long day and night in D.C., I didn’t have to argue with anyone; I didn’t have to be lonely, or work at things that seemed meaningless; and I didn’t have to give in to authority figures who had none of my best interests at heart. I thought, maybe, life could be fun and interesting, and filled with music and cute boys. Maybe I could transfer to Georgetown and study Political science. Maybe I could learn to play guitar and sing in a band. Anything seemed possible.

The White house, in the morning. Photo by Sarah Feinsmith

The White house, in the morning.
Photo by Sarah Feinsmith

Democracy. Photo by Sarah Feinsmith

Democracy.
Photo by Sarah Feinsmith

We almost missed Thanksgiving dinner, because we wanted to do some sight-seeing on Thursday morning. Sarah hadn’t gone to sleep at all, because of the late night taking-pictures-of-the-white-house thing, so we turned the music up and kept the windows open to keep her awake as she drove across chilly New Jersey in the dark. We made it home before all of the food was gone, and Dina, my black lab mix, gave me a greeting as if I’d been gone for years instead of just a day.

Dina. Photo by Sarah Feinsmith

Dina.
Photo by Sarah Feinsmith

I might have forgotten my night in D.C. once I got home and back into the reality of my life, but Sarah made a photo album of the trip for me, to remind me that I could be happy, and that wonderful things could happen at any moment. And I realized that, even if I was not going to have the smooth path forward in life that I’d expected, the bumpy road might hold a few good surprises along the way.

Advertisements

About rachelmankowitz

I am a fiction writer, a writing coach, and an obsessive chronicler of my dogs' lives.

81 responses »

  1. Spur of the moment is always so much fun and the bumps in the road just add to the excitement! And then of course wine coolers and cute guys who play guitar….yeah! 😀

    Reply
  2. I love how jelly beans and gummy worms balance out potato chips and soda, sweet and salty can’t beat the combo! 🙂

    Reply
  3. It might be the long winter, since lately I’ve been a bit nostalgic myself. You stirred up some of my own adventures from the depths of memory. Thanks. Every life should have a few good road trips. Your cousin’s photographs are very interesting, how thoughtful and perceptive of her to make you an album.

    Reply
  4. Those of us on the bumpy road can comfort ourselves with the truth that it’s a heck of a lot more interesting than the smooth path. Lovely piece, Rachel! (Sarah sounds like a lovely cousin, too.)

    Reply
  5. Funny how I was recently recalling my own Uni days, a travelling band, and a very cute roadie with long hair that made staying up just talking (honest truth!) until the dawn broke one very magical memory … It must be that time of year for collective reminiscing! Loved this journey of yours, Rachel, and especially loved being able to imagine the magic you felt along with you …

    Reply
  6. You are never too old to make a magical journey. My last long journey with any of my children was probably this past sep/oct. but who knows, maybe not. However, I intend to go somewhere again soon even by myself.

    Reply
    • I like the short trips, so you don’t have to plan so far ahead and pack your whole closet. Though if I bring the dogs anywhere, THEY like to bring all of their stuff with them.

      Reply
  7. Where does that teenage/early twenties feeling that you can do anything, be anyone, go? It seems that as we become more financially viable, with jobs and assets that somehow our freedom to do whatever we want diminishes. Perhaps it’s a change of mindset more than anything. I don’t know, but I enjoyed reliving that feeling while reading this post!

    Reply
  8. zoe is so very kewl ……love that breed of dog i do ….very kewl 🙂 😎

    Reply
  9. The instant you crossed over the border to DC, you became the most intelligent person there.

    Reply
  10. A memorable trip and great to have the photo album. Quite a cousin.

    Reply
  11. Last year my son went on a tour of Spain and Morocco. On the visit to Casablanca they were supposed to have lunch at Rick’s American Cafe, however, they arrived in the middle of Ramadan and everything was closed. However, in Morocco non-Muslim businesses were allowed to remain open so then ended up at McDonalds – Oh Well!! —- Jelly Beans, mmmmmmmmm.

    Reply
  12. It looks like I’m doing the right thing getting my son to learn the guitar. If he meets the woman of his dreams, it might just be worth my efforts..humph!!! Somehow, I doubt it.
    I was a real lover of Keat’s poetry and his “Ode to Melancholy” really did seem to justify being miserable. Even in the midst of joy, veiled melancholy had her sovereign shrine. Yet, what we should have been learning is that even in the midst of our darkest hours and most difficult trials, the sun still shines and it is possible to still have fun, laugh and take a break from our troubles. I think Rumi wrote a poem something along those lines.

    Reply
  13. What a treasure your cousin Sarah is. Nothing like living with nothing to lose to bring a person back to life.

    Reply
  14. Ah, The Black Crowes! So underrated, in this country at least! Lovely piece, Rachel – very evocative . . . We love road trips! Pip

    Reply
  15. “I felt like someone was carving my ears off with a spoon” – you captured me with that line and I am so glad I read on. We don’t know of such cold in Sydney; I was freezing at 16ºC in the morning 🙂 Your story makes me want to leave the house and just go somewhere, anywhere to see what I can see in one day. Do you know that in Sydney, if you’re over 60 and unemployed you can hop on and off buses, trains and ferries for $2.50 for the whole day? That’s why you see so many white heads on our public transport 🙂 I call it our Cabbage Carriage.

    Reply
    • What a great idea! There have to be a million things to see in Sydney. You could take one day trips in every direction.

      Reply
      • My white headed friend and I are going through the alphabets to visit different parts of Greater Sydney and beyond, within the $2.50 boundary. We can travel a couple of hundred miles a day (return) on that fare.

  16. Lovely & just loved it! 🙂

    Reply
  17. Cheesy, I know, but wasn’t it a line from ‘Parenthood’? Me, I like the roller-coasters.

    Reply
  18. We missed you here in DC this year. C’mon back. Btw, I love the line about the bumpy road. I’ll be quoting you.

    Reply
  19. If you ever want to visit Indiana, I’ll be glad to show you the local sights! Hope you like quilt shops! We’ll get whole wheat pretzels at JoJo’s, colby cheese at E & S sales and Amish crack at Rise N Roll. (Amish crack isn’t a drug, it is somewhat similar to peanut brittle but not as hard or thick and a whole lot better because it is made with cashews)

    Reply
  20. What a wonderful cousin Sarah is!

    Reply
  21. GREAT memory. I was wondering how you had these pictures. Cool you have a photo album. Sugary drinks make for the worst hangovers. It’s the sugar!

    Reply
  22. Lovely, positive post! I’ve tweeted it and four others.

    Reply
  23. The heart in the snow gave me a smile. That is a work of art. 🙂 Sweet Rachel I so enjoyed reading this post. Sorry you didn’t get to go visit your aunt but happy for you that you have the pictures and memories of that fun trip from the past. Thank you for sharing it with us it is a fun read. Hugs and give the sweeties nose kisses for us.

    Reply
  24. Don’t you love those moments you feel anything is possible! I need to have one soon, but I hope I won’t need to go back to D.C. for that 🙂

    Reply
  25. You had me at the 5-hour road trip with candy. 🙂 The heart in the snow is great! Snickers made a perfect circle the last time it snowed, and I photographed that as well. lol It’s funny how they make certain patterns in their meandering. It almost seems like they do it on purpose! Will you be able to reschedule your visit?

    Reply
    • Hopefully we will reschedule the visit for the warmer weather. It’ll be a whole new thing going to DC without my winter coat! Butterfly will have to find some other material to make her artwork out of, without the snow.

      Reply
  26. Cute guys with guitars really do make the world a better place!

    Reply
  27. Great story! My eyes ran fast through the text until the very end. You have traveled again to D.C. using your memory and the old photos. Thanks so much for writing so nicely! Happy Passover!

    Reply
  28. It’s good to look back… 🙂 Another lovely post. I’ve shared it on twitter, along with another three of yours.

    Reply
  29. Really nice post ! Your cousin is a wonderful friend to be so intuitive. She really loves you. I love guys with guitars. They don’t even have to be cute! Or have a guitar! (ooh, I had better simmer down!…it’s warm in here…)

    Reply
  30. Yes it has been very cold here in the Mid-Atlantic. Good idea to stay home and remember fun times on previous trips. The cherry blossoms are on their way so maybe pick a weekend soon to see your auntie.

    Reply
  31. Love the snow heart that Butterfly drew! 🙂

    Reply
  32. Did Butterfly make the heart all by herself? Very cool!

    Reply
  33. Bless Sarah, and Dina is absolutely stunning.

    Reply
  34. I hope you get back to college sooner rather than later. Major in something you love no matter how frivolous it seems. My oldest granddaughter Hannah majored in fine art and is supporting herself and her art by working as a bartender. She does her art when she’s off and loves her job. I tell her to postpone or never marry. Once you have a child life is harder.

    Reply
  35. Hi there , my Staffordshire terrier cross Pepper has also come to enjoy/tolerate The Black Crows (whom I still play glazing over in a haze of nostalgia!) very badly on an ancient CD player in my car as we head to the park intermittently.I could not do this to her on a long road trip! I am a brand new blogger who has hardly got organised with it all yet but am anticipating all of the family’s animals and their exploits to feature in it! So lovely to see the photos of your dear little dogs .

    Reply
  36. you know, yours is really the only word blog i read, and that story almost made me cry, and gave me hope that i too could be happy again…. thank you

    Reply
  37. Thank you Rachel, for stopping at my blog. Enjoyed your story about D.C.

    Reply
  38. You’re a lucky girl! Those two guys were Vertical Horizon (http://verticalhorizon.com). They were a great duo that went on to big things after Gtown.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: