|Unnecessarily fancy hallway
at the LoC
Hello friends! Have you missed my witty jokes and poignant writing over the past two months, when I seemingly fell off the face of the virtual earth? Of course you have! I promise I’ll be better now. As I mentioned before, I started a new job, and my commute got cut in half so now I am living under the (false) impression that I can go out socializing every night after work it’s difficult to adjust to a new schedule and workload! But I am too poor to continue this pattern finally beginning to become acclimated, so I should be back to my writing in no time!
Coincidentally, my dear friend Bright Contradiction also just started working at my new place of employment. Now we spend 8 hours a day together being thoroughly confused about our jobs, attempting to translate things in to French (mauvaise idée), and delighting over the triumph of opening two separate excel files in adjacent monitors (harder than than you think). We see each other allllll the time. So as I was preparing for Friday night via email yesterday, I was surprised to hear K say she already had plans with BC and BC’s boyfriend.
Me: What are you doing tonight with K?
BC: We’re going to this Russian thing. Want to come?
Me: Oh, I wasn’t angling for an invitation. I just kind of expect to know every detail of your life now, and was really surprised that you were hanging out with my roommate and I didn’t know about it.
BC: I know the feeling.
So I went on about my day, until lunch when BC mentioned the magical words “open bar.” And then I quickly decided that yes, I would like to angle for an invitation after all.
Following work, we hopped on the metro and met up with BCBF at the Library of Congress, which should have been my first indicator that I was not fancy enough for this affair. Actually, my first indicator should have been that the event was invitation only and I was to be spending the evening as Emma Templeton, a friend of BCBF’s who couldn’t make it. Then my next indicator should have been that it was held at the Library of Congress, and finally the collection of uniformed valet attendants waiting at the entrance should have been my last warning that I should turn around and go home. But I blazed ahead and picked my name badge at registration.
|Totally my fake name from now on. It’s a great name.
Let me paint a picture for you. Yesterday was Friday. Casual Friday. I was wearing ballet flats and slightly-too-big jeans that spent the evening in a perpetual state of falling down, since I recently lost my only functional belt in the squalid pile of unwashed laundry covering my bedroom floor. On top, I had a lightly stained short-sleeved cardigan paired with a pink silk shirt featuring an assortment of holes. My hair was pulled into a messy french braid after not having washed it since Wednesday, when I got caught in a torrential downpour.
Everyone else… was wearing cocktail dresses and suits. Or in a couple instances, full on evening gowns and tuxedos. Even BC looked slightly underdressed, and she was sporting actual business wear as the invitation requested. I was literally the least appropriately attired person there. For someone that normally overdresses* for everything, this was extra embarrassing. K took the opportunity to make jokes at my expense, sneaking up behind me and saying things like, “Ma’am? The Library of Congress closed several hours ago for a private event. I can show you to the exit now.”
*No really. Earlier this month I ruined my favorite cocktail dress running to the train after a US Open match, where I’d worn it on the off chance that we might go out somewhere afterwards requiring a cocktail dress.
No matter. After clamping my new identity to my wrinkled shirt (Emma is so lazy with her clothes!), we went upstairs to some sort of gorgeous, columned atrium filled with fancy food and beverages. We loading up our plates and headed to the bar, which only served top-shelf booze. As I started in on my first glass of (really good) champagne, BC snagged a table for us.
Sometimes, you go to a really cool event, and you think “wow, this is awesome and classy!” and you have a fabulous night that you remember fondly for ages to come. And then sometimes, there is a turning point, from which everything happening subsequently is increasingly preposterous. And that night becomes not just a fond memory, but an epic story that you feel the need to share with everyone you know. Yesterday, that turning point came in the form of a septuagenerian Republican National Committee employee who decided to join us at our table.
RNC was… a character. Every conversation he started was carefully crafted to be as controversy-provoking as possible. “So how do you feel about Putin replacing Medvedev?” “You are all very clean cut. I like that. What do you think about TATTOOS?” All the while, he kept staring at me with a level of intensity that did not make me strictly comfortable. BCBF said it best. “Every cocktail party needs a creepy old dude. And he found us!”
Finally, K arrived (someone had gotten the memo to go home and change first) and BC and I made our escape to refill our champagne glasses. The rest of dinner progressed in the same fashion, with BC, BCBF, K and I constantly rotating out for more food and champagne at any opportunity of freedom.
RNC: I HATE tattoos! I think they are awful! The only exception is that I read about some military men who got the names of their fallen company members tattooed on their arm. I think that sounds real sweet.
RNC (to K): Your eyes are so nice! I want to steal them.
RNC: Are you Jewish, Emma?
Me: Uh… no?
RNC: Isn’t Templeton a Jewish name?
RNC: I’ve never met so many liberals in my life!
RNC: Where are you from, Emma?
Me: South Carolina.
RNC: Oh really? That’s nice. You know, it’s amazing that the confederates did as well as they did during the Civil War. They were really at a disadvantage, but they did well anyway. A lot more confederate women came out to be nurses for their soldiers than in the North, which is real nice.
RNC: You seem really good, Emma. But I guess I’m inclined to think that anyone who looks good is good.
By the end of the hour, we’d made our way through 3-5 glasses of champagne each and BCBF had engaged in a confusing conversation with RNC about contraltos and Amy Winehouse.
Luckily, it was time for a film screening. We processed downstairs to a fancy hallway lined with snack tables and men who looked like bellhops from 1925 (even the bellhops were better dressed than me!). The tables were filled with popcorn, movie snacks like Raisnettes and Junior Mints, and little bags of chocolates. We filed into a fancy theater and listened to Important People talk, such as the Librarian of Congress James H. Billington (want that job title!) and the Russian Ambassador to the US. We made our way through the movie snacks, including some truly bad Russian chocolate bars (“blueberry cream souffée”). The movie started and it was pretty great, excepting a couple of egregious and disturbing instances of blackface.
Afterwards, the Important People invited us back upstairs where would find dessert, two jazz concerts, access to the reading room, and a “surprise.”
My money was on the surprise being a vodka fountain. It wasn’t.
|Lost opportunity: combination Vodka Fountain Ice Luge Kremlin.
Yeah, that’s a FUCKING ICE KREMLIN. Sorry for the language, but a GIANT ICE SCULPTURE OF THE KREMLIN IN THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS deserves some expletives. When you walk into a room and the first thing everyone notices is not the fully-staffed ice cream bar or the tables full of pastries, you know it’s got to be something amazing you’re witnessing instead.
After getting over the shock of the Ice Kremlin, we tried to eat everything in sight. Unfortunately, after gorging on terrible Russian chocolates and popcorn, none of us had much stomach real estate left. We had to move on to the reading room. Prior to this point, we hadn’t taken any pictures because it was the kind of event where you only take pictures if you are a member of the press toting a very expensive camera. But the Ice Kremlin was kind of a game changer, and suddenly everyone at the reception had their phones out.
|Posing like the statues up high. Appropriate use of the LoC Reading Room.
Finally, we made our way to another fancy hallway, entered another fancy room, and listened to some very nice jazz music. I was pleased to spot another party-goer wearing jeans and chucks, but even he had on a blazer.
Oh well. If I had been appropriately dressed, I think my head might have exploded from awesome overload.
|“Soooo, we’re doing this every Friday night now, right?”