A Sulky Preteen Goes to Washington, D.C.

My 8th grade travel diary

Hi friends!

GREAT news, I found the scrapbook I had to make in eighth grade that documented our trip to Washington, D.C., and I have brought you some highlights to enjoy while I work on the rest of my Dallas travelogues. This diary makes me laugh because a) I was a hostile little shit head clearly doing the bare minimum at the last minute, and b) I ended up becoming a historian, and my burgeoning skepticism about the project of American exceptionalism is hilariously evident.

I hated the trip, probably because I didn’t have any friends, so it just meant, like, getting bullied with a change of scenery. Also, it was right around the first anniversary of my dad’s death, so I was probably, um, acting out. Sometimes you don’t realize that people are treating you with generosity while it’s happening!!!

Anyway, enjoy the following selections from my 1996 travelogue, and keep them in mind when planning your OWN trip to our nation’s capital!!!

The cover is adorned with a view of the Mall from the Washington Monument and … a photo of the IRS building. Inside the front cover, you’ll find the rating system key.

Here we go!

Site 1: Embassy Row

Rating: 3 stars

Zagat commentary: How can a place on foreign soil be part of another country? It makes no sense, but it is pretty cool … [Point taken. Nation-states are a figment of the social imagination.] Embassies are cool. They all bring their own country’s culture in, and you can see it in the building design … [I don’t think this is true?] I didn’t know where were SO MANY EMBASSIES!

Site 2: The White House

Rating: 1.5 stars

Zagat commentary: Doesn’t mean very much to me … You see the White House so often in the news that it’s become boring … has no real meaning to me as a sight in our nation’s capital.

[Jean Baudrillard: The simulacrum is never that which conceals the truth—it is the truth which conceals that there is none. The simulacrum is true.]

Sight 3: The National Archives

Rating: 2.5 stars

Zagat commentary: So many people think that it [American history? the Constitution?] is totally inaccessible to the average citizen … If only they knew about the National Archives!

Sight 4: The U.S. Capitol Building

Rating: 2.5 stars

Zagat commentary: Saw where our futures as law-abiding citizens were really being formed … [Were we filming “Scared Straight: American Democracy”?????] I liked seeing the House of Representatives gallery. You see it so often on television; it was interesting to see it in person [Wait, I thought we were cynical about the hyperreal?]

Sight 6: Bureau of Printing & Engraving

Rating: 1 star

Zagat commentary: I didn’t like this sight very much. I don’t really like money very much [sksksksksksksk] and the technicalities of its production disinterested me … I did like … the alarms on the ceilings [always interested in the surveillance state] and learning about the replacement star bills [*].

Sight 7: Ford’s Theatre and Petersen House

Rating: 3.5 stars

Zagat commentary: … Always wondered what it looked like (the room where Lincoln died) … It was interesting to see where he drew his last breaths. [Seeing the place where a U.S. president died was “fun.” Sure, ok.]

Sight 8: The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Rating: 3 stars

I am Jewish but attended a Catholic school, so I think I was probably preening about being on home turf, as it were.

Zagat commentary: .The children's tile wall told the story of the Holocaust with the innocence and deep contemplation only children could have. I loved it. I cried because I really felt that something was being done to combat hate in our world ... I didn't like [the Daniel's Story exhibit] much, though ... I've actually read the book, and this was nothing in comparison. [Like any good Jewish gal raised in the Reform movement, I was exceptionally well versed in middle-grade books about the Holocaust.]

Sight 11: The Lincoln Memorial and the Jefferson Memorial

Rating: 4 stars

Zagat commentary: Absolutely lovely … Masterpieces in marble … Great homages to great men.

Sight 11b: The Korean and Vietnam War Memorials

Rating: 4 stars

Zagat commentary: Very pretty … Offered sorrowful thoughts and were beautifully designed memorials … Spoke without saying a word. They said, “War is terrible even for your own country. It stinks.” That is the real story. Not of bravery, but of fear. Excellent.


Sight 12: Arlington National Cemetery

Rating: 4 stars

I won a class essay contest to participate in a wreath ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which is why this was my favorite part of the trip. I cheated. My mom wrote the essay. I wrote about it in 2014 for Pacific Standard.

Zagat commentary: A great way to honor those who died. Also,

Sight 13: Air and Space Museum

Rating: 1.5 stars

Zagat commentary: I was tired … and wanted to get on the bus and leave.

Final Thoughts:

Zagat commentary: Not going to be remembered as a great time. At least by me. [No fuckin’ shit, kid.]

Hi, I’m Jacqui! You can read my work here, find me on Twitter, or email wellactually@substack.com. If you’d like to see more of my weird shit, consider upgrading to a paid subscription; code 9e497643 will get you 20% off.