The Saturday after my birthday, I woke up hella early to snag tickets to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History & Culture. Well, it was hella early for me considering I didn’t have to go to work, school, or an appointment. The night before I had set my phone alarm for 7:45 am, but I awoke before it went off. I don’t know if it was excitement or nervousness. Either way, I was awake and killed time scrolling Instagram on my phone while I kept refreshing the NMAAHC site on my Galaxy tablet.
You would’ve thought I won the lottery the way I hollered after snagging two 11:30 am timeslot tickets. I was aggravated seeing hundreds of tickets suddenly become available. Surely, all weren’t cancellations. Even if some were holds, hundreds of suddenly available timeslots? Just the week before, every day was grayed out as unavailable. Think of how many people’s hopes were dashed thinking they had to wait another month (or year(s)) for a visit. Had I been a quitter, not getting a ticket in advance could’ve derailed my whole trip. Luckily, that wasn’t the case! So, reader, know this: day-of tickets to NMAAHC are released at 8:15 am. You’re welcome.
I called my friend who was en route from Virginia to spend the day with me. I shared the glorious news that I had scored us tickets after all. He shared the not-so-glorious news that his ETA was approximately 20 minutes. For the second time that morning, I shrieked. I was still in bed. I hate taking rush showers. I like to luxuriate, especially when I get the temperature juuuust right for my always sore back and shoulders. I’d also have to rush-moisturize. Sometimes, I scratched or hurt myself. More than once, I’ve rocked a self-inflicted nose scratch.
While in the shower, I missed his call. Sidebar: how I met this friend could/should be a post on its own, but I’ll try to make a long story short. Another social media friend, whom I met at a book event, had posted him in her stories. She called him a cutie and mentioned his podcast. I followed his personal Instagram page and subscribed to his podcast, which I binged later. He followed me back and it’s fuzzy who slid into whomst’s DMs first, but we messaged each other every day for nearly a year. His worst relationships have been with Taurean women—my people. My absolute worst relationships, including my most recent, have been with his people, Aquarian men. We’re surprised we get along. Somewhere along the line, we chatted and video-chatted a few times. Both his trips to NY, his hometown, got canceled due to weather and work. Having developed enough of a comfort level, I invited him to join me. I’d assumed the friend zone was made of glass, but he added sheetrock and bricks a while back and plays coy when I say so. However, we spent a night in the same 4-star hotel room, and not a damn thing happened. Clearly, ’tis pla-ton-ic!
Anyway, after he arrived, we set out to get breakfast before heading to the museum. En route, we accidentally stumbled across the Black Lives Matter Plaza street mural because the blue dot on his GPS was acting a fool as mine had my first night. Downtown DC is strange. Lots of places aren’t open before 10, which baffled me. We decided to get food from the food trucks that would be stationed in front of the museum—something I didn’t recall from my first visit, but he did from his. I wasted $10 on a smoothie that was jam-packed with artificial flavoring and syrup. After a few sips, I dumped it. At another truck, I got salty chicken strips.
Since I hadn’t finished the top three floors during my visit a few years before, we decided to start from the top and work our way down, even though the opposite is suggested for the 10-story building.
I’m the type of museum-goer who stops to read every plaque, every description of items. He is not. And for that, I worked his nerves, while he worked mine. He just wanted to waltz by history while I wanted to examine, read, tilt my head at angles and take photos with my overheated, dying phone. Several times he found a seat, partly out of boredom, partly out of a sore back.
Granted, it was a full two years ago when the Summer 2020 protests happened, and the events that transpired were history unfolding before our very eyes, but for some reason, I was surprised to see it already encapsulated in a museum exhibit. Amy Sherald’s painting of Breonna Taylor, which was featured on the cover of Vanity Fair was displayed. There were photographs of various protests, some in black and white. It was an eery flashback of a not-too-distant past. I’m still in awe that I not only witnessed it, but I had participated.
Another floor featured greats in cooking, sports, and entertainment. Cookbooks by the late B. Smith. I ate at her restaurant here in NY several times. The food was delicious, the décor was fabulous. Clothes, microphones, (in)famous outfits worn by entertainers such as Prince, Jackson 5, and Diana Ross. Chuck Berry’s red Cadillac Eldorado. Clothes from TV shows such as Good Times and Broadway like For Colored Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf, Raisin in the Sun, and The Wiz. I posed in front of a huge picture of Oprah and her namesake theater. There were statues of Michael Jordan, Venus and Serena Williams, the men from the 1968 Olympics Black Power Salute. Up until then, I’d never known that they had stepped out of their shoes on the podium. There was also a statue of Jackie Robinson sliding into base, along with one of his Dodgers jerseys. There were so many great athletes from all sports honored.
There were old edition books by James Baldwin and other author-activists. There were uniforms, weapons, and pictures of soldiers throughout the centuries. It would be impossible for me to list all that I saw, even within just those three floors. I’d no longer be a blogger, but an indexer. This post has already exceeded 1,000 words. Mind you, I didn’t even mention the food break in the museum’s Sweet Home Café, which due to construction had limited options as opposed to the geographical-based spread that was available my last visit.
The heat, the walk to the museum, and walking around, exhausted us, and we agreed to skip the other floors, hit the souvenir shop, where I copped an NMAAHC hoodie, and dip out. Not only did we have to walk back, but we needed to rest and freshen up before the night’s festivities: DC Imrov.
The comedy club had contacted me to inform me that my original reservation to see headliner Jak Knight had been changed due to scheduling conflicts on his end. Instead, there would be a five-comic stand-up showcase. I didn’t know Jak Knight and I didn’t know any of the five comics. All I cared about was getting my laugh on—and eating. Again.
My crispy tater tots, double patty bacon cheeseburger, and pretty drink were my favorite part of the experience, not that the comics weren’t funny. I was ti’ed. So tired, I have to hold back the “r.” I’m sure the edibles played a part in my exhaustion. Once I hit that inevitable wall, it was a wrap. I wanted my bed. My partner-in-crime was already chin-to-chest knocked out, so I hailed us a Lyft to get back to the hotel. We didn’t miss much. As we waited for our ride, people began to stream out.
Back at the hotel room as much as I wanted to cannonball into bed, time ticked as I had a hell of a time removing the special mascara that held in place my Glamnetic magnetic eyelashes. It was only my second time wearing them. As I furiously rubbed away trying to remove the makeup, I was grateful that I had taken a few pics to not only commemorate the night, but my look. I rarely wear make-up and I’d done a fine job with the LIQUID! (even pros say liquid liner is difficult), mascara, faux lashes, and lipstick. I looked quite chic in my a white, maroon, and black plaid blazer from Marshalls, olive high-waisted cargo joggers from Old Navy, and metallic Nine West Oxfords. Fresh haircut and color. Yay, me! My bathroom celebration didn’t last too long. I yearned for my bed. There would be no sleeping in as I’d have to pack and check out before catching the train back to real life in NY.
Missed the first two days of my birthday shenanigans in DC? Read about how I was catfished by a hotel and had birthday cake for breakfast.
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