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A D.C. Dream Day with ‘true-crime royalty’ Jenn Tisdale

In D.C. Dream Day, our favorite people tell us how they would spend a perfect day in the District.

Jenn Tisdale was destined for a life of crime — or, at least, a life of obsessing about it. As a kid growing up in Crofton, Md., she watched endless hours of Court TV and “America’s Most Wanted.” She’s also a direct descendant of Henry Deringer, designer of the eponymous pistol most famously used by John Wilkes Booth to assassinate President Lincoln. “Basically, I’m true-crime royalty,” she says. “I love being part of history but would obviously prefer a less violent involvement.” Tisdale, 39, met her destiny in 2018, when she scrawled the words “true crime festival” on a napkin during a meeting of event production company Brightest Young Things, where she worked in marketing at the time. Now, she directs the group’s Death Becomes Us True Crime Festival, which returns to D.C. in November for its third edition, with former murder suspect Amanda Knox headlining and live recordings of several true-crime podcasts. On her dream day, the Brookland resident would be hot on the trail of her favorite president and D.C.’s most famous murderer.

My dream day begins with me waking up with my dog, Lorraine Baines McFly. Her name is from my favorite movie, “Back to the Future.” I’d take her on a walk in Rock Creek Cemetery, which is right by my house. There’s this place in the center with a stone bench and statues, and it’s totally surrounded by trees. There are obelisks all over the place — which begs the question, is the Washington Monument a giant grave?

Then I’d go to Turkey Thicket Recreation Center to work out. People in D.C. don’t know that there are all these little rec centers with gyms that they can use for free, with ellipticals and weights and everything.

I’d go to The Coupe for brunch. I literally always have the Coupe Fries. They are the best thing in all the land. There’s too much cheese, too much gravy and too much meat. It’s an appetizer that you’re supposed to share, but I don’t share it, because I’m an only child.

Afterwards, I’d walk to President Lincoln’s Cottage. He spent summers there and it’s also where he wrote part of the Emancipation Proclamation. They have a very good gift store. It’s filled with all sorts of things: Lincoln books and mugs, and also Frederick Douglass things. I bought a friend of mine who just had a baby a Lincoln onesie there. It’s just a giant Lincoln face printed on a onesie, which is something all babies should have.

Have you been to St. John’s Church near the White House? I often go there on my lunch break. Abraham Lincoln went there a lot, especially during the Civil War. He’d sneak in to pray. There’s a pew they have roped off in the back that says, “This is the pew Abraham Lincoln sat in.” You can’t sit there, but they have individual cushions for kneeling and I always go to the one with Abraham Lincoln’s name stitched on it. There’s so much history in that building, and it’s such an unassuming, small building.

I’d walk downtown to Ford’s Theatre and go to the basement museum and see the derringer that John Wilkes Booth used. And I’d say, “Hey, y’all planning on giving that gun back to my family anytime soon?” They love that, when a crazy person screams, “This belongs to me!” in front of their precious artifacts. I’d also see the original version of “Our American Cousin” so I can figure out the moment when Lincoln was shot. Because John Wilkes Booth, monster that he was, was really smart and he waited for a line that he knew would get a big laugh, to cover up the sound of the gun. It was 1860s humor, so that line probably wasn’t even funny. I wouldn’t try to stop the assassination, though. If there’s one thing we learned from “Back to the Future,” it’s that you don’t mess with history.

If I’m still in the past, I’d stop by Mary Surratt’s boarding house. She was, allegedly, part of the assassination plot and was the first woman to be hanged by the U.S. government. Her boarding house is now Wok and Roll, which makes me laugh so hard. So I’d go back to the present and have a little sushi, maybe do a little karaoke.

After sushi, I’d go up to Mount Pleasant to my friend’s movie theater/bar, Suns Cinema, which is generally where I go every weekend and generally where I leave my credit card every weekend. They have a great movie selection. It’s truly an independent movie theater, and the bar’s really fun.