Around DC with Mary Kay Zuravleff
Summer is tourist time in DC. It’s also memoir time. Combining these two summer staples, we like to offer guests the “MKZ Does D.C.” tour. Today’s highly edited version starts off at the stately National Cathedral, location of St. Albans School for Boys. I moved to our Nation’s Capitol to be the first writer-in-residence at St. Albans, and they put me up at the College of Preachers. Eerily, I was lived alone in that echoey building; when my then-boyfriend (now husband) visited on wintry Sundays, we’d build a fire in the library’s massive fireplace and roast ourselves some Hebrew National Franks. There’s loads to see on the grounds, whether or not you’re a preacher or a boy.
Next stop is Kramerbooks, that wacky independent bookstore at Dupont Circle. Years after the Summer of MKZ, Kramers fought Kenneth Starr’s legal request to disclose Monica Lewinsky’s book purchases. The store is open 24 hours a day; there’s a café in the back; and they once had the distinction of selling more books per square foot than any other bookstore in America. My distinction was being called June Cleaver by the waitstaff.
Time to head further downtown, to the corner of 7th & D. This curved glass corner had been home to Kresge’s, a five and dime store and eventually the Washington Project for the Arts. I used to unlock the place at 7 a.m. back when artists actually had studios in Gallery Place, which is to say the neighborhood wasn’t what it is now. Now, this spot is Jaleo’s, so enjoy the tapas and, if it’s after dinner, the flamenco dancers. Olsson’s, another great D.C. independent bookstore, is a few doors down. Maybe there’s a reading going on.
Finally, time to hit the Smithsonian. The oft-renamed American Art Museum is up across F Street, which has been reclaimed from the paved public square we affectionately called PeePee Plaza. When I worked at the museum, G Street Fabrics was on G Street, the 9:30 Club was on the other side of 9th at 930 F Street, and we’d eat lunch next to the House Where Lincoln Died on 10th Street.
Last stop is the Mall, where you can enjoy the Freer and Sackler Galleries. I did for years, even after they discontinued our 40% shop discount and the lavish staff lunches prepared by our museum chef. Don’t miss the Peacock Room, where Whistler’s O.C.D. is on full display. Now, that man could paint a dining room!
OK, tour’s over. Next time around, you may want to pick Libraries We Have Known or the heart-pounding Coffee Shops We Over-Frequent.