I like the sauce.
I like cocktails and Bourbon neat and a nice Pinot Noir and a cold Bud on a hot day. I like to make herb-infused simple syrups and visit whiskey distilleries and take classes that help me distinguish between a Rhone Valley Syrah and a South Australian Shiraz. I have an academic appreciation for alcohol as well as an appreciation for its soothing effects at the end of a long day.
Part of the reason I started this blog was to give potential employers in the wine, spirit and hospitality industries a sampling of my writing ability. So I’m going to be writing a lot about alcohol; four of my seven blogs have already focused on it. But I've also embraced this mission to discover fun activities for those of us 40-55, and I don't want to give the impression that our fun is dependent on having a drink in hand.
I was in the produce section of Trader Joe’s once. The scent of the limes hit me when I passed them. Instantly I thought of margaritas and relaxing Friday afternoons, and I was flooded with happy endorphins. And while that seems like a fun story, the fact that the smell of a lime made me think of a drink, and the fact that the drink signaled happiness to my system freaked me out. I took a month off of drinking.
There are those In-Betweeners who – because of health or moral reasons, or sometimes, because of a long, hard fight – have decided not to drink. I want this blog to give non-drinking In-Betweeners options as well
My grandmother, Mary Lopez, is almost two-times her in-between years, but she likes to have fun. She likes to garden and go fishing and play the slot machines and every now and then, she’ll have a beer on the back deck. She's not a teetotaler, but she has every right to be: My grandfather’s alcoholism pushed her into raising six children essentially on her own. She ironed shirts and cleaned houses until the counselors at the Al-Anon meetings she attended noticed she had a real knack at getting people to listen to her. They helped her get her GED and then her degree. My grandmother became a powerhouse drug-and-alcohol counselor in the southeastern Kansas town where she lives.
In honor of my bad-ass grandmother, Mary Lopez, I'm launching the hashtag #NoAlcohol, which will signal blogs that are alcohol-free. (This blog, technically, does not count since I lavishly describe drinks above). Some will be blogs about locations where alcohol is available but not the point of the place, like the 9:30 Club, and I'll need your help in determining if that's okay. I figure I have to give myself that caveat -- we went to Hershey Park recently and they serve beer -- or I'd have very few #NoAlcohol places to recommend. Which reminds me again that In-Betweeners who have chosen to avoid a drinking lifestyle might feel they have limited options. I want to make sure this blog gives them some.
Favorite #NoAlcohol To-Dos in the DMV
Union Market - This newly launched indoor urban market near Gallaudet University is brimming with people and vitality, and while some of the cool eateries serve beer and spirits, there are tons of other things -- mini pies from Ris, spices from Bazaar Spices, the incredible Bulgogi Steak Tacos at TaKorean -- to try.
U.S. Botanic Garden or U.S. National Arboretum - While the many free museums of the D.C.-metro area are an obvious choice for an engaging and alcohol-free to do, these two plant-focused museums are a feast for the senses. The Botanic Garden's many-stories-high Conservatory allows you to enjoy the warmth and plants of the tropics in January, and the U.S. Arboretum in northeast D.C. is a 466-acre sanctuary of tree groves and herb gardens and koi ponds.
Victory Comics - This big and bright comic book store in Falls Church is a great way to appease your fandom for a day. Check out the retro-toys near the front celebrating your favorite characters, spend hours perusing through their massive collection of comics and graphic novels, or wander back into the large game room and join a Dungeons and Dragons game.
1st Stage Theatre - 1st Stage doesn't serve alcohol. We know; we headed to the lounge at intermission and were disappointed. But what this theater tucked into an industrial park in Tysons Corner does offer is some fantastic drama and comedy in a black-box setting. We saw "Never the Sinner," a play about the murderers Leopold and Loeb, and were completely awed at the power the play produced with so few actors and props. "Bat Boy: The Musical" runs until June 22.
Billy Goat Trail - You will find that this 4.7-mile hike along the Potomac River in Potomac, Maryland, is aptly named as you climb up and clamber over rocks like a billy goat. The trail is close-in, easy to get to, very popular, and usually crowded. And totally worth doing.