Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Washington DC

DC is the America that I did not expect.

The announcer for the Metro had a lot of character. Cracking jokes, relaying travel advice and naming the next stop as if he hadn't been doing it forever. There is no fashionable shopping, only free museums and used bookstores. People read in public (saw two Vonnegut-ers). People jog, lots of fit bodies. It's a friendly collection of enthusiastic tourists. I traveled to the NE of town to visit a Salvation Army store. I found myself the only white person on the streets watching female police officers with their notepads out, interviewing tired looking people.

The sounds of sirens are frequent throughout the city. There is a multitude of security agencies, FBI, local DC Police, private guards. A man in a suit stands on top of the White House, using binoculars to watch the gate where the tourists gather. A child waves and he waves back. Between the Washington Monument and the Capitol Building a row of free museums and galleries displaying stuffed orangutans, Nigerian art, the capsule that the crew of Apollo 11 returned in, Watson and the Shark, brutal images of the Holocaust on the Eastern Front, paintings of plump nineteenth century children, a V2 rocket, dimetrodon bones, and I didn't go into them all.

Museum fatigue is a challenge and it's nice to head a half hour west where you can stay outside and enjoy the memorial architecture. WWII fountain, the Vietnam Wall, giant Abraham Lincoln, and the hidden gem the Korean War Memorial which I hope to make famous one day by filming at night in the rain.

DC restaurants are on a familiar 'healthy, organic, fresh'. Eating out is pleasant and quite expensive -grocery stores do not exist.

The city prides itself on their global botany. Plants bear tiny plaques explaining their Japanese or Maryland or wherever heritage. Actually, the beautiful old trees run the city. It is very common to see the red brick sidewalks rippling up in waves as the root systems destroy them. Washington DC seems okay with nature bubbling up. I've never stumbled so much in a city. I overestimated American lawsuit culture.

Meanwhile, Liz was working at the Library of Congress which, like the Smithsonian, is actually a grouping of separate buildings. The days were sweltering (still, a break from Egypt). Lots of nice dates. A great Korean brunch (Mandu), Ethiopian lunch, and we caught a few movies. A clean, air-conditioned room to retreat to and prepare breakfast with the microwave, two mugs, and a bowl Liz borrowed from the hotel restaurant.

The one glitch, I didn't bring my laptop and found my writing process to be ineffective. I produced many illegible lists, abandon upon return because they involve too much retyping. I did manage to work myself into an excited frenzy for the writing that I'm doing now. This trip was a break for me after the exhausting Trip of Plagues and I spent my days wandering, listening to psychology lectures, and reading about Ned Kelly. The driving reason I went was to share the beginning and end of each day with Liz. There were many surreal moments of satisfaction when I realized that she was actually beside me.

Took sixteen hours of buses there and about nineteen to get home. I am a professional at sleeping on planes but I'd get cut from the National bus napping squad. I can't get the lights out.

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