OK. We're back.

The trip has ended satisfactorily.

Now, in a fit of ill-preparedness, we took the battery charger thingy for Camera A, except we brought Camera B. Which is fine because for reasons we'll address in a subsequent post, there was no connecting to check my email. Which is why we were not able to connect, as previously planned, with the lovely and gracious Jujube, to my everlasting regret. Mea maxima culpa.

Anyway, we had a great time. It was beastly hot, though, and relentlessly sunny and it wouldn't, er, relent, until the day we returned, when it got quite pleasant. NTS, in particular, is not a big fan of sauna-like weather. To give you an indication of how hot and humid it was, we saw a family from India huddled under the shade of a mighty oak, fanning themselves furiously.

One of the problems with Washington, DC (that's where we were) is that it looks beautiful from a middle and far distance, but up close there is a lot fixing up to do. The problem is that everything that needs to be done is a gummint project, and gummints have not distinguished themselves as being y'know, efficient in doing anything (except in some cases, imprisoning and slaughtering wholesale segments of the population). So, quite literally, one quarter of the things we wanted to do were unavailable due to refurbishments* and another quarter of things were simply broken down.

In order to get the Full Adventure Effect, we bought weeklong passes on the Washington Metro system. This is really does give you the full adventure effect, because you have to sprint when trying to successfully negotiate a transfer between trains, of when one of the locals, seemingly engaged in the the Shouting To Nobody In Particular Industry, begins to teach your young sons interesting new vocabulary, such as might be used to pejoratively describe Oedipus Rex. Some quick thinking on my part allowed me to tell them what the gentleman had said was "another trucker" instead of the more lurid terminology actually employed.

Sadly, there are tons of these folks. Many are just homeless, many are "merely" beggars and many are suffering from some sort of mental illness and many manage to list all of the above. We saw more of these people in Washington than we had seen in Boston or New York or Chicago or Los Angeles or Atlanta or pretty much anywhere else. It was sad and something of a life lesson for the lads.

Then there are, of course, the protesters. These fall into three rough categories. Those with whom you agree, those with whom you disagree and those who are from another galaxy. Here is my rough guide to determining which subtype you are facing:

1- Look at the placards held by the crowd, if these express sentiments that strike you as eminently sensible and sound, they are the first kind.
2- Look at the placards held by the crowd, if these express sentiments that strike you as wrong and and ill-founded, they are the second kind.
3- Look at the placards held by the crowd, if there is no crowd and these express sentiments that strike you as puzzling and manifestations of a borderline personality, they are the third kind.

We saw several of these types. On our tour of the US Supreme Court, there were two, er, portly gentlemen perspiring profusely, their mouths taped over with duct tape, holding aloft two red banners which said, in large menacing black letters "LIES!" There was no explanation as to what these lies were, nor as to who the liar(s) in question might be. This much seems logical to me: if the most you can muster at your protest is two sweaty fat guys, you may have made a serious vocational error somewhere in your past.

We toured the Capitol building which entailed waiting forever (for security reasons), but it was interesting. In the old (pre-9/11/01) days you could waltz cheerfully into the Capitol and walk around or take a tour or do as you pleased. These days you need to stop by your Senator or Representative's office, pick up a ticket, and one of the Senator or Representative's staffers will conduct the tour.

It was still good, and the tour is all underground/under roof so it is sheltered from the elements. The rest of the day was spent at the Library of Congress which was interesting and, most importantly, cool and air-conditioned. Now, in Washington DC it seems that air conditioning is seen as a last-resort sort of thing and only begrudgingly at that. So, for the most part, the best that could be said for many public interior spaces is that they weren't sweltering.

The Library of Congress has a lot of great exhibits and assorted important personages have donated their book collections and papers and assorted to the Library. I expect the Librarian contingent of this readership would have deeply enjoyed this. The only flaw is a lack of beverage options.

My personal favorite is the Museum of Balls National Air and Space Museum. There is all manner of aeronautical excellentness on display. Actual space capsules and modules and rockets and airplanes and a colossal IMAX screen and replicas of space stations, and aircraft carriers and, for me and my boys, that took the better part of a day and a half to see everything.

For security reasons, there are pretty much no tours of the White House. Technically, there are still some tours, but you need to contact 6 months ahead of your trip and have 10 people of more in your party. Unfortunately, there were only four of us and we planned our trip three weeks ago. Fortunately there are various Presidential Libraries that have replicas of the rooms you shan't be touring, so that isn't a major loss.

Following this, we went to see the monuments. Lincoln, Jefferson and Washington. Photos were snapped, the smallish musea underneath were visited, and after being refreshed, we proceeded thither. Finally we went to Arlington National Cemetery, which is a humbling and sobering place, seeing gravestone after gravestone, for acres on end. This wraps up at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and we were fortunate enough to witness the changing of the guard. This is, by all accounts, the sanctum sanctorum of the Republic. If there is ever a non-religious setting in this country that demands absolute silence and respect, this is it.

Well, some woman in the crowd dropped her water bottle and it rolled into the guard area and the sergeant spied this out of the corner of his eye and barked at her to back off and show proper respect. I have never felt so much embarrassment by proxy in my life.

The steps the guards take are extremely precise and they wear taps on their shoes to give the proper aural effect over the marble of the place. Over the decades, the steel filings that have come off their taps have left a t-h-i-n line of iron oxide upon the marble, so much so that one could see what the guard would be doing next by examining the lines on the marble.

Finally, we stopped at the Natural History Museum, where we got to get our fill of extinct dinosaurs, Java Man, marsupials, and the like...not as much as we would have liked, because half the place is being refurbished.

And then we flew back.

Whew.

-J.

P.S. Photos to follow.

* One humorous sign said that a certain museum would be reopening, triumphantly, in April of 2008.

Comments

Poppy Buxom said…
1. It takes a certain kind of person to be homeless in Boston, Chicago, or New York. Icy winters are hard enough to deal with when you sleep indoors.

2. I KNEW you were going to DC. How could you resist those bargain travel rates (DC is an armpit in the summer) and free musea?

3. Tarting up cities happens when cities are flush with revenue, and even then, mostly in the parts of the city visited by tourists. I'm sure one problem with DC is all those tax-free buildings bringing down their revenue base. If you think Chicago looks good now, just wait until Daley starts making us Olympics-worthy. I'm looking forward to another massive property tax hike to pay for the extra planters and iron gates.
Joke said…
Let the record show, Your Honor, that only the lovely and gracious Jujube knew we were heading to DC.

-J.

P.S. Even the sweltering time we had was infinitely better than doing the nature trip.
Sarah O. said…
DC such an odd town in so many ways. We lived in the Maryland burbs for 8 years and every single time we went into DC I felt like a tourist. I suppose that's because so many of the structures, museums and government agencies are so extremely iconic. Maybe also because DC's always crawling with gawking scout and student groups.

And the crumbling buildings? Don't hate me for opining, but it's just not politically correct to flaunt the town's wealth when you're bankrolling a war.
Major Bedhead said…
I think I could happily live in the stacks of the Library of Congress.
This sounds most excellent indeed.

Except the heat.
alice said…
Yay and welcome back!
teachergirl said…
I miss the days when you could run up the steps and into the Capitol without so much as a second thought. When your 6th grade class would be invited to a welcoming ceremony for some prime minister of a foreign country and no one was concerned. When your mother joined the line in front of the White House because she might be missing the Christmas candlelight tour only to discover she was in the staff Christmas party queue. Do I love that place? Yes, yes I do. I run crazily through it every time I go back. I hope you enjoyed it, oppressive heat and all, while you were there
Stomper Girl said…
Tap shoes?? I just love that.
Caro said…
Thank you for more than a few belly laughs. The sweaty duct taped men and another trucker were two of my favorites.

Reading your post made me tired for you. You guys are active.

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