Adventures in the nation’s capital

Holiday vacation begins at midnight, fresh off a 737, cruising through quasi-pastoral, quasi-suburbanized Virginia. My destination? Purcellville, a quiet burg complete with a Main Street, whereupon sits a bona fide gun store with a mammoth “McCain/Palin” banner still emblazoned on its facade.

Visions of right-wing MILFs toting oversized musketry across bucolic backcountry still dance in someone’s dizzying head. Ah, Purcellville.

Anyway, enter Blizzard 2009: The Lord’s righteous dandruff pounds Purcellville and the entire East Coast. A local says it’s the worst blanketing in five years. Yet the sun also rises and, the next day, I’m in the cold, shoveling a snow-covered driveway like some cokehead piling through an Appalachian Trail of white pony.

After a half-hour of digging through yard after yard of 3-feet-high snow, my mechanics become Zenlike: scoop, shift, shoot. My therapist in California calls this a form of meditation; in Purcellville, they call it “Get your ass to work, son.”

Still, I eventually find end-of-driveway. And so I’m finally free. Free to escape to D.C. Or free to stay and buy a gun, a Palin bumper sticker and a year’s supply of Top Ramen.

That’s true freedom.

At any rate, the capital is not democracy in action when I arrive, but instead a vacant, slushy, Frosted Mini-Wheat semblance thereof. Snowmen dot the National Mall like chill, heartless pharmaceutical lobbyists. Soldier sculptures at the Korean War memorial eerily peer above the whiteness. The wind slashes across the flat city. It’s as silent as when Al Franken told Joe Lieberman to button up and shut it days earlier (bravo).

And why jabber; there’s good eats in D.C. Las Placitas on Capitol Hill, known for Salvadoran dishes, is great—but the pupusas don’t compare to Northgate Boulevard’s La Flor de Michoacan. A popular pizzeria called 2 Amys bakes very Masullo-like Neapolitan pies, complete with excellent Corsendonk on tap, but local Robert Masullo tosses a superior crust.

But in the end, I can’t deny that I’m all about chili doggin’. And I have Barack Obama to thank.

The president made waves when he ate at D.C.’s Ben’s Chili Bowl, a 51-year-old black-owned-and-operated hot-dog-and-chili joint in the same neighborhood where Duke Ellington grew up. And Ben’s half-smoke dog, slathered with thin, spicy brown chili, is no doubt worth the Secret Service’s pains. And the rap that blasts from Ben’s dusty speakers is a supreme condiment.

A week later, while flying back home over D.C., a misty rain—like a flurry of PETN—melts away the last of the city’s snowfall. I hate it. It’s like vacation, the blizzard, everything—it’s like it never happened.