United States

DC During the Shutdown

It’s a real weird time to be flying in and through the United States. About 53,000 TSA employees; 54,000 Customs and Border Protection agents and officers; and 22,790 air-traffic controllers aren’t being paid but expected to show up to work because of the #TrumpShutdown. Now, about a month into this shitshow, airports around the country are reporting slowdowns and shutdowns because employees are calling out of work, both because working without getting paid is bullshit and because some agents simply can’t afford to pay to transit to get to work. Federal employee unions are picketing at some airports, and there’s speculation that workers could potentially stage mass walk-outs and bring air travel to a total standstill.

All of this over a wall that experts say won’t help and border area legislators say isn’t needed. It’s a stupid hill to die on for the U.S. President and the Senate Majority Leader, but no one ever accused either of them of being pro-America/Americans or particularly smart.1

But I digress.

As I said, it’s a weird time for U.S. aviation in general. And it’s a weird time to fly to Washington, DC. But fly to DC I did. This past weekend was the DC Women’s March, and Mr. Pretty and I were committed to being there–to be present and counted. Dissent–particularly during a time of national crisis–is patriotic and all that. Even when there is a massive winter storm on the east coast (and NOAA shutdown, too).

Yeah, it was a bit of trifecta of potential awfulness. Let it never be said that I’m not a risk-taker, I guess.

In truth, the fact that I flew into DC during all this madness sounds more dramatic than it really was. Yes, the security lines at both PHL and DCA were slower than normal, but Mr. Pretty and I flew–both times–before dawn, the airports weren’t yet crowded, and we left ourselves plenty of time to get through security. We made our flights, and there were no weather delays.2 And the risk for us was fairly low. If something had happened and we got stuck in DC, there are a million ways to get between DC and Philly. Buses. Trains. Car rental. Hopping a ride with friends.

Despite all that, it really did feel strange to be in DC. It isn’t just government workers who are suffering in the city. There are something like 8,000 workers simply missing–which impacts the metro system (they’re losing something like half a million dollars each day of the shutdown), restaurants, shops, cab drivers, etc. Mr. Pretty and I arrived on Friday around noon in DC. There were plenty of people arriving for the next day’s Women’s March, but the metro and the sidewalks were empty.

Mr. Pretty and I had planned to head over to the Hirshhorn Museum if the fed reopened prior to our visit. Since the GOP refused to act, we were thinking about the Newseum, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, or an exhibit at ARTECHOUSE. By the time we got to our hotel, though, we were both super hungry. Let’s just say that both Friday and Saturday (minus the time we spent at the Women’s March) were all about food because we felt like it might be the best way to give back to DC.

So where did we eat?

Jinya Ramen Bar. I fully admit that I am a huge snob about ramen ever since coming back from Hong Kong. I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s impossible to get a really good bowl of tonkatsu ramen in Philadelphia; the closest to me that I’ve found is in Newark, Delaware, a place called Ramen Kumamoto. And so when I visit somewhere that allegedly has decent ramen, I’m there. Jinya is a chain that’s based in Los Angeles, but despite that, they actually do have halfway decent ramen. I had a bowl of their Tonkatsu Spicy ramen with a seasoned egg. The broth was tasty and of a medium thickness (on the this side of light); it comes with thick ramen noodles, which are cooked al dente. I have to say they have the best noodles I’ve found in the States, although I prefer the broth at Kumamoto. Still, it’s not bad at all and did satisfy my ramen craving.

Cafe Chocolat. It wasn’t exactly raining on Friday, but it was raw and cold. After walking off lunch and Jinya (and marveling a little more at the ghost tour feel of the city), we made a stop-off at Cafe Chocolat for some chocolate and hot cocoa. The cafe makes their hot cocoa from scratch, with your choice of white, milk, and dark chocolate. I wanted it to be thicker, like the amazing hot cocoa at SOMA in Toronto, but it was still good, especially on a day like Friday. Their chocolates are nice, too.

GCDC. I have deep love for a decent grilled cheese. GCDC opened years ago during the original grilled cheese craze, and they support local purveyors, which is always great. I grabbed a mushroom melt and a side of tomato soup, which was perfect for a post-Women’s March lunch. I also had a very hilarious interaction with GCDC’s owner over a pin I was wearing, during which we talked about the Secret Services’ love of GCDC and the current crop of Democratic Presidential candidates for 2020. Nice staff and a pretty good selection of local beers.

The piyaz at Zintanya.

Zaytinya. It was also Restaurant Week in DC during our visit, but I would have visited Zaytinya either way. Mr. Pretty and I ate dinner there during our last visit to DC and were blown away by the grilled octopus–it was as good as the octopus we had in Mykonos many years ago. This time around, Mr. Pretty wasn’t feeling like leaving the hotel because it was pouring and very cold outside. I had to practically force him onto the metro because there was no way I wasn’t going. And it’s more than just Zaytinya’s excellent food–it’s also the fact that it’s a José Andrés restaurant, and Andrés is doing fantastic things. His nonprofit World Central Kitchen launched an emergency kitchen in DC to help feed government workers who are going unpaid during the #TrumpShutdown, and two years ago he helped feed Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria hit and the Trump administration fell down on the job with aid. I will always support an Andrés project if I can. And let me just tell you–the winter Restaurant Week menu did not disappoint. Five dishes for $35 is a total steal. There was his excellent fattoush, piyaz, and lamb kabob, as well as the outstanding garides me antitho and Greek yogurt/apricots dessert. It was a delight to return, and I’m sure we’ll head there again.

Captain Cookie and the Milkman. Mr. Pretty and I stayed at a hotel across from one of their shops, and so my dear husband ended up with a craving for cookies. They do a good snickerdoodle, and their staff are hilarious.

1. If you are an American, please do consider calling your Congressfolks to demand that they reopen the government and forget about the idea of a wall. Because really, aside from the fact that a wall isn’t the optimal solution for border security, I can think of a lot of more useful things to spend $5 billion of taxpayer money on.

2. No weather delays, but my flight out of PHL was delayed after my plane broke on the runway. No lie. Something about the brakes. We returned to the gate and hopped a new plane. Did I mention that aircraft safety inspections are on hold during the government shutdown? I suppose I should feel good that the pilots caught it before we were in the air.

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