June 24, 2005


A couple observations after a day touring through Washington D.C.:

* If you haven't been here, you cannot imagine the level of security everywhere you go. Police everywhere. Baggage checks in nearly every building. More barricades than you can count. Men walking the Mall with M16s. Jets banking hard after taking off at Reagan National Airport, so that they don't fly over the District. Helicopters buzzing treetops over the Potomac.

It takes a while for your brain to absorb it all to the point where you barely notice, but the impression that you are protected is overwhelmingly clear.

* It is remarkable how well the city functions with the influx of yahoos like me coming in for a pilgrimage at the nation's capital. You soon learn to stand to the right on the escalators into and out of Metro tunnels so that the locals can quickly pass. Traffic is horrid for extended periods during rush hours, but it flows fairly well after that. Still, no one knows where the hell they're going. Cars veer back and forth aimless across lanes like the drivers have had seizures behind the wheel.

* When the temperatures are moderate, this is a spectacularly beautiful city, full of European flavor and grandeur. When the temperatures are not moderate, this is the seventh circle of Hades.

* People are grumpier here on the whole than they are in New York City.

* Arlington continues to be hallowed ground. It still has the power to hush through awestruck respect for the sacrifice made by the thousands buried there. It also holds many surprises. Who knew that Joe Louis was buried next to Lee Marvin? Who knew that the man who was the stenographer the night Abraham Lincoln was shot - a man who's legs had been blown off during war but who still wanted to serve in the military - was buried in the cemetery? Who knew that there was a Civil War tomb of the unknown soldier with almost 2,000 remains inside, not far from the more famous Tomb of the Unknowns? Not me.

* It's alarming how much people use iPods and headphones to keep from making contact with each other, especially in the Metro. Alarming because in a city where observation and awareness should be at the highest level possible for security reasons, most people sit on buses and subway cars like musical zombies. If one woman sitting near us yesterday had been wearing them, we wouldn't have had her introduce herself, tell us she was from Bradenton or invite us to the FBI for a tour. She was warm and welcoming and more than gracious in her advice on where to go in the city. And if she had been a member of the iPod Davidians, it never would have happened.

Posted by Jeff at June 24, 2005 09:08 AM | TrackBack

You SPOKE to someone???? On the Metro?!?!?!?!??! You're lucky you weren't hauled off! Metro is the one time of day we get to escape and not have to talk to anyone! This town is all talk all the time, so any respite is welcome.

Thank you, though, for learning Stand to the Right on the escalators. As one who travels each day between two of the most touristy stops (Capitol South and MacPherson Square), I truly appreciate each time I *don't* have to ask someone to step to the side....

It should be said, however, that if I see people who look lost I ALWAYS make it a point to ask if they need help finding where they're going. I save my grumpiness for locals (well, except for when tourists build phalanxes that make me miss my train!).

Posted by: JD at June 24, 2005 04:32 PM

I've wanted to take my girls to DC for serveral years now, so I'm really enjoying this virtual tour of the city!
and Happy Bday to your son! 10 is the best age, believe me. wait'll he hits 16. :)

Posted by: Laura at June 26, 2005 02:30 PM

I'm not an adequate enough wordsmith to give proper voice to my utter contempt for people who don't stand to the right on escalators and (especially) those "moving sidewalk" belts in the airport. I can't help but see it as one minor symptom of a much larger epidemic of self-absorbed oblivion in our society. (Just imagine my rage if the asshat blocking my path on the escalator also happened to be talking on his cell phone. I can barely unclench my fists to type this.) Fighting my natural inclination to scream, "It's not a ride, people!" (unless my wife isn't traveling with me, which is rare, but in which case all bets are off), I instead make an embarrassingly polite request that they step aside and allow me to pass, and said request is invariably met with the kind of look you'd expect to get from someone after asking their permission to saw their 'nads off with the serrated edge of a box of Reynolds Wrap. And, come to think of it, next time that line of questioning might prove more effective.

But, anyway, I digress. Sounds like an excellent time in D.C. Can't wait to hear about it (and see the jam-packed 512MB card full of photos) when you get back. In the meantime, step off the iPod Davidians (that's some damn good Kool-Aid) -- unless they're blocking the escalator, natch.

Posted by: Rommie at June 27, 2005 02:53 AM
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