Monday, February 26, 2018

Presidentress Does Baltimore

I recently brought you the story of my fun-filled trip to Washington, D.C., and today I bring you Part II of that trip: Baltimore!

The Baltimore portion of my trip wasn't quite as presidential, but I managed to squeeze in some presidential history---and a lot of other history, too.

The morning after our jam-packed day in D.C., Becky and I were able to sleep in just a bit before the full day we had planned.

First stop was Green Mount Cemetery, where John Wilkes Booth is buried. His particular grave is unmarked, but it's somewhere in the Booth family plot. I didn't spend much time there because I didn't really feel like paying respects or trying to commune with him or anything.

Then we stopped by the grave of someone it would have been fun to commune with: the inventor of the Ouija Board. We had planned on taking a mini Ouija Board (make your own!) with us to try to conjure him, but it was waaaaaay too cold for stuff like that, so we just got some photos and left.

Our next stop was Edgar Allan Poe's grave(s). That's right: It turns out he has two! He was (and still is) buried in a now-decommissioned churchyard in downtown Baltimore. Originally he was buried toward the back in an unmarked grave. At one point someone decided to erect a headstone, but the stone was destroyed in a freak train accident, because somehow that seems fitting. Finally, in the mid-1870s, a monument was created for him. It was too large for the small plot in back, so Poe's body was exhumed and moved to the front corner of the yard. Later, they placed another headstone marking his original burial site, although supposedly (despite a few attempts) that one has never made it to quite the right spot. But apparently it's close enough.

Poe's current resting place

Poe's original-ish resting place

The Ouiji Board also would have been super handy at Poe's grave, but it was still freezing so we took a pass.

Then we headed over to the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum. It's a small museum, but it's chock-full of The Babe. It didn't take us long to go through it---probably about half an hour---but it was worth doing.

Babe's kimono from his time in Japan

Then it was on to another, even tinier museum: The Edgar Allan Poe House. This museum is literally three rooms. Three very, very, small rooms, connected by very, very tiny, narrow staircases. Obviously it doesn't take long to get through that museum either, but it had a really cool feel to it. It was sort of eerie, in Poe-like fashion.

After that, we headed to Lexington Market, a huge and bustling and kind of crazy indoor market that has been operating since 1872. We went there because I wanted to try a crab cake, I figured Baltimore would be the best place for it, and I trusted Becky to take me to an iconic place to try one. We decided to split one, in part because they're huge and in part because I wasn't sure I'd like it (I sort of hate seafood). Verdict: It was really good, and I'd have one again!

Then we made one more Poe stop: a statue of him sitting and looking pensive. Becky insisted it was okay if I sat on his lap, so I did. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending) it appears as though we're engaged in some steamy behavior.

Before Becky took the photo, she asked if I wanted her to remove a piece of large red trash from the base of the statue. Upon closer examination, we discovered it was one of those painted rocks people hide. I brought it back home and left it at a local historical marker about Eugene V. Debs.

But back to Baltimore. Later that afternoon, Becky, her husband, kids, and I went to a local bar/tasting room that has a play area for kids. (It's a lot easier to drink when the kids have something to do!) The play area has shelves with free books on them, and while we were browsing Becky revealed to me there's a place called Book Thing that's like a used bookstore except everything is free. I repeat: ALL THE BOOKS ARE FREE.

I insisted that Becky take me there immediately.

Turns out the place was right across the street from where we were. I perused the American History section for a while until I realized there was an entirely separate section devoted to presidents. I wound up leaving with four books (three presidential, one kid's book about the Gilded Age), and I would have taken more if I'd had more time and more room in my suitcase.

A portion of the U.S. History section

The next day was a lot more laid-back, but we still managed to work in some history. We started the day with a screening of The Sound of Music at a beautifully restored 1920s theater. I couldn't stop staring at the lobby---it was gorgeous!

Then that evening we went to a place called the Owl Bar in what used to be the Belvedere Hotel. The bar was a hotspot during Prohibition, and the blinking owls above the bar would signal to people whether or not the booze was flowing.

Lore has it that once Prohibition ended, H.L. Mencken had Baltimore's first (legal) beer at the Owl Bar. Also, F. Scott Fitzgerald was supposedly kicked out of it, though I imagine several establishments share that honor.

The ambiance is awesome, as is the food and especially the drinks.

On the way into the bar, there's a corridor plastered with photos of famous people who had stayed at the hotel. Included are pretty much all 20th-century presidents through Kennedy. (Or maybe LBJ---I got tipsy and can't remember.)

What I remember very clearly is that the photo right next to the Owl Bar sign is none other than Warren G. Harding, who very well might have sipped some hooch under the gaze of the blinking owls.

Becky has been telling me for years how cool Baltimore is, and now I can confirm that she wasn't just making stuff up to get me there. I will definitely be going back, only next time I'm taking a large empty suitcase to fill with books.

Friday, February 16, 2018

More Fun Presidents Day Ideas!

A couple years ago, I wrote a post with actual FUN ideas for Presidents Day. Since then, I've made a lot more craft projects that could be fun for you and/or your kids. (When I say "fun," I mean "actually interesting," not just gluing a penny onto a picture of a log cabin and calling it a "fun activity.")

So here are some things to keep you occupied and entertained:

Give Andrew Jackson a Tattoo
It's more fun than a regular coloring page. More information about Andrew Jackson's tattoos here.

Color Chester A. Arthur's Pants
Also more fun than a regular coloring page. More information about Chester Arthur's pants here.

Make a Presidential T-Shirt
You only need a few items and a bit of patience to make one of these cool-looking shirts. And you don't even have to limit yourself to Herbert Hoover! Find full instructions here.

Crochet Something
It might help to already know how to crochet, but if you do, you can make some of Ida McKinley's Slippers or a doll that looks like a president (or Founding Father).

Make a Woodrow Wilson Articulated Doll
If crocheting isn't your thing, you can still make a presidential doll---in two dimensions. (It's a lot faster and easier than crocheting one, too.)

Make Some Easy Andy Warhol-esque Presidential Artwork
This is a perennial favorite in my house. I found the idea on this site a few years back, and my kids (and I) love it. You just print out four identical coloring pages of the president of your choice, go to town with crayons or watercolors, then arrange them on some construction paper.

Do Some Refrigerator Poetry
I created a free, printable Donald Trump Refrigerator Poetry Set. could do that.

Make Some Racing Presidents
The Washington Post created templates you can print out and put on toilet paper tubes so you can have your own version of the Washington Nationals' Racing Presidents. My friend Sunny's kids put hexbugs inside theirs to make them "race" for real.

Make Some Patriotic Jello
This is far easier than it would appear. Find full instructions here.

I have lots of other presidential recipes, which you can find by clicking the "Cooking with the Presidents" tag/label at the bottom of this post. You could have a whole meal! (Primarily consisting of desserts.) You can also find other crafts by clicking on the "crafts" label.

If you make any of these things, please let me know! Have a safe and happy Presidents Day!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Complete Sean Spicer Fan Fiction

Now that my Sean Spicer FanFic (Among the Bushes: Things are About to Get Spicey) is complete, I figured I'd put the links in one place to make it easier to read (and reread, and reread, and reread).

Just so you know, this is the most phenomenal fanfic in history. It's tremendous. It's leafy.


Chapter 1 
Caroline suspects there's something unusual about her gardener. But what could it be?

Chapter 2 
Now that Caroline knows the truth, will she be able to seduce this alluring gardener?

Chapter 3 
They go on a date! Things are going well until the dessert cart comes around...

Chapter 4
The finale: Are they meant to be?

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Presidential Valentines, Harding-Style

Many of our presidents have been amorous-type fellows, possibly none more than Warren G. Harding. Actually, if we're going strictly on numbers there are likely some who exceed him, but none who were able to put their love into quite the was.

I figure there are a lot of people out there searching for the perfect Valentine for their sweetheart (or if you're like Harding, sweethearts), so why not get a little help from the man himself?

I've taken a poem Harding wrote to his paramour Carrie Phillips and have made Valentines out of the various verses. Feel free to print off the one you find most appropriate and give it to your flame. Throw in some chocolate, too, because even Harding knew that a Valentine printed off the internet wasn't gonna cut it.

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Presidentress Does D.C.

I just got back from a brief but extremely fun weekend with my best friend in Baltimore and Washington, D.C. You might remember Becky from our whirlwind Hamilton-and-more tour of New York City, and our good time at the Millard Fillmore Presidential Library.

Anyway, Becky lives in Baltimore and has been bugging me to visit for years. Finally the stars aligned, and I'm really glad they did.

My first full day there was spent in Washington, D.C. Did we see the usual tourist attractions? The White House? Lincoln Memorial? Washington Monument?

No, of course not. In part, that's because I've been to most of the usual places already (though it's been a couple decades), but mostly it's because my tastes run a little different.

My day in D.C. happened to be Groundhog Day, which is one of my (and Becky's) favorite holidays. (I wrote before about a presidential-type groundhog celebration.) I'd learned there would be a Groundhog Day event in Dupont Circle, so we made sure to get up well before the crack of dawn to get there in time.

When we arrived, we saw the taxidermied Potomac Phil looking a little angry, surrounded by a couple people in top hats with signs saying things like "Make Groundhog Day Great Again." A guy in a top hat approached us and asked if we were staying for the prediction. When we said we were, he asked if we wanted to borrow top hats to wear. The catch: We'd have to stand up on the steps by the groundhog. Yes, please!

As it turns out, we wound up standing right next to Potomac Phil during the prognostication, which was captured by a couple D.C. TV stations. (Video here. I'm the freak with the amazing purse and the groundhog puppet.)

Still on a high from our brush with fame, we headed over to the Federal Court of Claims to find the Seward Plaque. If you've read Sarah Vowell's Assassination Vacation, you might remember her talking about the plaque, and her story pretty funny. The plaque itself, though, isn't actually humorous at all. Rather, it marks a violent piece of U.S. history, which you can learn about in the Facebook Live video I made while there.

(About ten seconds into the video, a guy in a long black coat started approaching the plaque. I could only see him out of the corner of my eye, but he totally distracted me. Was he, too, a tourist intent on seeing the Seward Plaque? Was he federal law enforcement there to ask me WTF I was doing? I'm still not sure, but I didn't get arrested so I suppose it doesn't matter.)

We then went to Ford's Theater. We could take a tour of the theater right away, or we could wait a while and do the theater and the museum. I would have liked to see the museum, but we opted for the theater-only tour since we had a packed day.

We walked around the theater for a few minutes, and then a ranger gave a brief talk about the night of the assassination. I didn't really learn anything new from the talk, but the one thing I did learn from the tour is that Lincoln's box was to the right of the stage (as you're looking at it). For some reason, I had always envisioned it to the left, and this reality completely threw me off.

Next on our list was lunch at Wok and Roll, a Chinese restaurant now occupying the boarding house where the Lincoln assassins conspired. On the way, we picked up my old friend Jarrod, who works at the Capitol One Arena, which is practically across the street from the restaurant/evil boarding house.

I tried hard to imagine John Wilkes Booth, Lewis Powell, and George Atzerodt hanging around, plotting against the government, but it was hard to get the sushi bar out of my mind.

After lunch, we said goodbye to Jarrod and walked a few blocks to the site of James Garfield's assassination. He was killed at a train station at the corner of 6th and Constitution Ave. NW, where the National Gallery of Art now sits. I don't know exactly where in that general area it happened because there's no plaque marking the event.

A few days before I left on my trip, the James Garfield National Historic Site tweeted about their desire to see a plaque marking the spot, so I thought I'd help out by demonstrating the crucial need for one.

Is this where Garfield was assassinated?

We then walked a few more blocks to the National Museum of American History, which is probably as close as I can get to heaven on earth. So many things!

A quilt made of William Henry Harrisons

Lincoln's death-hat

Warren G. Harding's pajamas

Harding devil-charm-things?

Terrifying cartoon of Henry Clay
sewing Andrew Jackson's mouth shut


By the time we were done with the museum, we were extremely tired and our feet hurt. It was also bitterly cold outside. But we had more to do!

We hopped in an Uber and headed over toward the East City Bookshop, where we were attending a book signing later that evening. First, though, we had dinner at a place called Mr. Henry's, which had a nice turn-of-the-century feel, with lots of Gibson-Girl-esque pictures and dark wood. We also did some of the Presidential Mad Libs I'd bought at the history museum.

Then we walked over to the bookstore for the presentation and book signing by J.D. and Kate Dobson. (You can---nay, should---read my review of their book Hottest Heads of State here.) The presentation was hilarious, and J.D. and Kate are sweet, fun, amazing people. Plus, people in the audience got an "autographed" photo of a president if they asked a question during the Q&A portion, and Kate made sure I got Warren G.

"I am the true father of your children"

Finally, it was back to Baltimore to get some sleep. Stay tuned for Part 2: Presidentress Does Baltimore.