Life On The B Side

Taking all that life throws at us one moment at a time

A Birthday In Reviews March 12, 2018

It’s safe to say my person knows me pretty well.  As such, she knows exactly the kind of things I enjoy and what would make for a good birthday outing.

Two days ago we went to the Newseum in DC.  We followed that up with dinner and then closed out the night with a play.

I’m gonna talk about them in reverse order though cause the Newseum will take up most of the post so I might as well knock the other 2 out of the way.


The Show

We went to see Chasing Mehserle.  I do not recommend it.  I really wanted to love it but … oye … they made it impossible.  They bill it as a “new play for our times about a young man trying to come to terms with gentrification, injustice and violence in his community.”

Sounds deep and profound and like there is some lesson to be learned.  The truth though is that the actors were all reading their lines from note pads they held in their hands.  Yeah, seriously.  Also, the language was very stereotypically urban and I think the N word and other profanity was way overused.  I felt nothing.  Learned nothing.  Laughed at nothing.

We actually considered leaving at intermission.  For some unknown reason we stuck it out and it was as much a waste of our time as the first half had been.  Do yourself a favour, if you see this play advertised anywhere and feel any desire to see it rising up in your chest, chase that feeling away.


The Dinner

We went to eat at Floriana in DC’s Dupont Circle neighbourhood and it was da bomb.  Full disclosure:  I was really hungry when we went and you know that tends to make food taste better but …

The service from start to finish was good.  The pesto that they brought out with the bread was delish.  The calamari appetizer we got was delish.  The lamb and gnocchi that I got was delish.  I’d 100% go back there.  I don’t know if Shaunie would second that only because the smell of garlic was still on me the entire next day.


The Newseum

After 10 minutes of being there, I already felt like even if I didn’t see anything else, it had been worth the visit.  They describe themselves as “a dynamic, engaging and interactive museum of news that allows visitors to experience the stories of yesterday and today through the eyes of the media while celebrating the freedoms guaranteed to all Americans by the First Amendment.”

The first exhibit we went to was “Pulitzer Winning Photographs”.  Wowza!  It was heavy.  There were SO MANY amazing photopraphs in the gallery but it quickly became clear that the vast majority of them were taken during awful tragedies.  War, famine, genocide, apartheid.  It was really hard to say “this is a beautiful shot” when the picture is of a starving child but the truth is that the photos were stunning and often highlighted in a way I had never fully appreciated before just how dangerous the job of journalist can be.  The picture that really hit that home for me was one that showed a journalist on the ground taking a picture of a rebel shooting a gun at his enemy.  The shooter was an arms length in front of the photographer.

We needed a little pick-me-up after that so we took a tour through the “Comics in Newspapers” section.  It brought back a lot of happy memories.  Who here is old enough to remember Beetle Bailey and Hagar The Horrible?  We posed for pictures in front of the Peanuts gang.

Next it was back to the serious – and perhaps the highlight of the museum for me.  They had a whole section of the actual Berlin wall.  When you walk up, the wall is full of colour due to brightly spray painted pictures and messages.  Then you walk to the other side and it takes your breath away.  It’s grey and depressing.  It’s kind of shocking to the system.  There is a giant guard tower and you immediately feel the oppression.  There were videos playing that show what was on the news at the time.  I vividly remember what a big deal it was when the wall fell.  In actuality, I think that wall coming down was 1 of the first big news stories that caught my attention and sparked my love of news that persists today.

We spent the next hour or so touring through the 911 gallery and “Inside The FBI” and  seeing the shoe that the shoe bomber used and the backpack from the Boston bomber and the vehicle used in the Times Square bomb attempt.  We saw a world map that outlined all the places where the press is free to work and the places where they are restricted.  They had a section of newspapers from around the US and the world.  Yes, I posed with the Jamaican Gleaner.  Lastly, I got to pretend to be a news anchor – complete with a video recording of my performance.

Even the gift shop was entertaining with the items they had.  I loved all the references to strong women and to the importance of correct grammar and to how important freedom of speech and freedom of the press is.


Overall, I would for sure recommend it.  The one downside is that unlike most of the other museums in the city, this one is NOT FREE.


NMAAHC Review December 1, 2016

Thanksgiving weekend Saturday – This was the one day that we had plans.  With tickets in hand, we headed into Washington DC.  We got tickets for the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture months ago.  They are in high demand.  It did not disappoint.

Joining us on our day trip were 2 of our faves.  Aunty Juddles (who I talk about a lot because we just love her so damn much) and Aunty Chups, who we also love a lot.


I don’t even know what to say about it.  It’s a beautiful building from the outside.  Once inside you take an elevator down several flights.  As you go deeper, the years displayed on the walls, go backward until the elevator stops and you land in 1400 – The year the first set of slaves came to America.  You then walk your way back up, through a large spiral, which takes you back to modern times.  It’s quite an experience and it is a really well done museum.  If there is blood pumping through your veins you will feel something.  Maybe sad, maybe angry, maybe hurt, maybe reverent.  You will also feel awe and pride and joy.  You will smile and you will reminisce.  You might even sing and dance.  I’m not kidding.  I sang and danced.  You will definitely learn something – And as you discuss your own life experiences with your children or your friends or even the museum workers, you will also teach something.

At one point (while in the civil rights era), I turned around and found myself face to face with a mannequin wearing an actual Ku Klux Klan uniform.  I audibly gasped and jumped.  It was very jarring.


Hot on the heels of my face to face meeting with a Ku Klux Klan outfit, and my stomach still feeling uneasy, I saw Jay making shadow puppets on a wall screen that was showing footage of civil rights marches.  It was hilarious in a twisted way, if you can appreciate that kind of humour; which I can.  There people were, taking in all this very serious material – And there Jay was, fingers contorted, saying “Look Mom, what is this?”

A rabbit, it was a rabbit.

Later on, I was amazed and excited to see that they had included more than a couple references to Caribbean contributions to American culture.  Jamaican music, food and “higglers” were featured.


We had been in the museum for 4 and a half hours.  It wasn’t enough time.  But we were all starving and not willing to stand on the line for the only cafe they have.


If there is one bad thing to say about the museum it would be about the food.  Currently, if you leave you cannot re-enter and there is only one cafe and no vending machines.  They don’t even have snacks in the gift shop.  I am sure that as time goes on, the situation won’t be as bad but for now, the one cafe cannot handle the crowd.  I recommend going with a full stomach and if you can, pack snacks for your little ones in your bag.  An old granola bar and a squashed nutri-grain bar saved the lives of my 2.


Following the museum, we went to take a close look at the Washington Monument.  It was literally next door after all.  From the monument you are in direct eye shot of the Lincoln Memorial and the pool.  Both well worth visiting but we were tired and it was getting late so we’ll have to go back.  The kids are very keen on seeing the rest of what Washington DC has to offer.  (The White House and all that).


On our walk back to the car, we strolled through a park and took a minute to check out the ice-skaters.  Now, both the kids want to try ice-skating.  We tried it once with them a couple of years ago and Ace loved it, but Jay was not a fan.  Now he wants to try again.  Who am I to say no?  (Truth = I’m excited to take them)


I don’t know if we will go ice-skating in DC but we certainly will be back to check out the things we didn’t get around to.  Maybe we’ll go in the Spring when the Cherry Blossoms are in full effect.




*Ed Note:  In one section, there are a few images that may be a heavy pill for children younger than 13-ish to swallow.  (Lynchings etc)  The museum and its staff being fully cognizant of this, took steps to protect our little ones. Those areas/images are circled/marked in red so that parents have a heads up and can steer youngsters away.   It wasn’t an issue for us at all.

*Ed Other Note:  There are interactive things that the kids loved and a train to explore so I do think it’s appropriate for children to go to this museum.

*Ed Last Note:  Some of the pictures are dark because flash photography is prohibited inside the museum.



Before anything gets started, take a selfie with the bestie!



Jay sort of fell in love with this car and decided that he needed to own one.



In the music area … This is just a small fraction of the gold album wall.



Because … I’m black and I’m a feminist.



My people at the indoor waterfall.  It’s a lot more impressive in person.



Jamaican higgler on display.



With the kids while they eat over-priced and not yummy tasting hot dogs and pizza from food trucks outside the museum because they were “starving to death”.



Ace with the museum behind him.



Up close with the Washington Monument.



Checking out the skaters.



Lil ol me, just for fun.  There are so many pretty buildings and landscaping in our nations capital.