Saturday, March 24, 2012
2 days, 1 night in Washington D.C.
You know the Price is Right "showcase showdowns" where they give away vacation packages? You'll be spending 6 days and 5 nights romping on the sand-filled beaches and basking in the glorious sun of the Virgin Islands. Your trip will entail 7 days and 6 nights of gambling to your heart's content at the Mandalay Bay Resort in the neon lights of sin city... Las Vegas, Nevada! You will fall in love with the next 10 years of being molested by pervert Jerry Sandusky in... the bowels of Beaver Stadium. Welcome to the decadent mens locker room... Happy Valley, Pennsylvania!
Well, I prefer my vacation destinations a tad more expedient. Gig and I went to Washington, D.C. on Wednesday. We crammed in a ton of stuff on our 30-hour blitzkrieg of the nation's capitol. I was a little concerned about my car. Even though I had the tires rotated and balanced, the wheel still shakes when you exceed 65mph. And even though I got a tune-up, the car still vibrates when I come to a stop. Jake told me it was the engine mount or some torque-related issue. So I've just grown accustomed to throwing it into neutral. Perhaps it just comes with the 160,000 mile territory.
We stayed at the Hotel Barron in Dupont Circle. $170 for the night. Not terribly expensive for a decent place in the city. I had forgotten how horrible it is to get around in D.C. Tons of maniacal cab drivers, idiots from all over, sirens wailing nonstop. Fortunately, the ratio of police to ordinary citizens is about 3:1. Big brother's sodomizing presence makes Sandusky look like an innocent choir boy. And all the meters and individual streets have unusual timing restrictions. There's an endless barrage of cars but no place to park. Suffice to say, it sure ain't Wheeling or even Pittsburgh for that matter. In fact, maybe that's how Wheeling should sell itself.
During the presidential campaign of 1928, a circular published by the Republican party claimed that if Herbert Hoover won, there would be "a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage."
Maybe Wheeling's new slogan could be "ample parking for all cars, whether it be an abandoned lot or an empty garage" - Joelle Ennis (city marketing director).
We got there around noon and headed straight to the Supreme Court. We made it inside for the final 10 minutes of my brother's case (Reichle vs. Howards). The attorney for Howards (David Lane) was finishing up his argument against Secret Service agent Gus Reichle for the retaliatory arrest. One comical moment came when Lane admitted that Secret Service agents have historically done an outstanding job. Then, I think it was Chief Justice Jon Roberts who casually interrupted, "Well, we've lost a few."
And Ruth Bader Ginsburg made an error in her remark about Howards expressing his contempt for Dick Cheney's "war in Vietnam." She substituted "Vietnam" for "Iraq." While I'm sure that most in the courtroom noticed the blunder, nobody mentioned it. Not a wise career move for an attorney - correcting a Supreme Court justice.
Obviously, security was understandably tight. No cell phones, no chewing gum, no newspapers, etc. But the cops and coordinators seemed poorly organized and not well-versed in visitor protocol. This came as kind of a surprise. I mean, it's not like we're waiting in line at Reagan International Airport as a TSA agent hovers over you with a flashlight, "Sir, I just needs to look inside ya asshole."
Nonetheless, we met up with my mother and father who had endured the entire case. They admitted a little fatigue with having to endure the lengthy 4 hour session. Still, it was pretty thrilling to see Bennett in action (even though he never physically addressed the court). We were seated in the chairs behind these massive concrete pillars and burgundy curtains. So I could only see 5 of the justices. After it was all over, we met up with the Secret Service guys on the steps outside. They had a "scorecard" and seemed to think they would win either 6-2 or 5-3. Based on their observations, they had "exed" out the two, more liberal female justices (Sotomayer and Ginsburg). Kagan had recused herself from the case. They circled all the male justices and put a question mark next to Stephen Breyer. For those unfamiliar with Breyer, he's generally moderate but was recently robbed by some nutcase wielding a machete at his vacation home in the West Indies. This happened about a month ago in mid-February. If this were to play any role, I think it would make him more susceptible to siding with the Secret Service. So all in all, I suspect they'll rule in favor of Bennett's side (that Secret Service agents have qualified immunity and Howards has no basis for the retaliatory arrest claim in violation of his 1st Amendment rights). We shall see. They'll render a decision in about a month or so.
After the case, we went to a nearby restaurant for lunch. I read the combo poem (Dad's birthday/Bennett's case) entitled "Bennett Goes to D.C." It was received with a relative degree of fanfare. Personally, I'd give it an 8.2.
Later that evening, Gig and I headed out for a walkathon. We actually got lost in the process and ended up hiking aimlessly around D.C. for almost 4 hours. Good workout, but my sandals started digging into the side of my left foot. Should have worn tennis shoes. But I didn't realize we'd be walking for that long. Anyhoo, we finally scavenged our way back to the hotel around 11pm and called it a night.
Met up with my parents the following morning. They were staying at The Phoenix next to Union Station. Gig's map navigation skills are a tiny bit unsettling. Granted, the downtown D.C. wheel-spoked grid is pretty challenging. So basically, it took us about 28 minutes to go a couple miles. The concierge was "kind" enough to park the car on the curb right outside the main entrance. We tipped him a grand total of $7.00 and he billed the parking cost to my parent's room. I felt honored seeing my piece of shit, beat up 2001 rusting Outback parked right next to the entrance of a pretty swanky hotel.
We ate breakfast at the hotel, an Irish pub. Coffee was good. I went with a side of corned beef hash. Very unusual presentation - kind of a pureed mush with chunks of potato in the form of 2 meatloaf slabs. Odd texture, but I must say, it tasted pretty damn good.
We snagged a cab and headed down to check out all the monuments. I've done the tour of D.C. a few times. Once in 6th grade, the other time about a decade ago with Jenn and throw in a few Dead shows at RFK stadium. This time, my impressions were a little more dramatic.
Washington Monument - it is what it is.
World War II Memorial - very understated with powerful symmetry. Difficult to comprehend why it took so long to construct a fitting tribute to World War II vets.
Martin Luther King Memorial - absolutely stunning craftsmanship. Spectacular.
Franklin Roosevelt Memorial - Hard to believe this one doesn't get the attention it deserves. Broken into 4 parts which mirror each term in office. Wonderful use of water.
Jefferson Memorial - Very cool how the wind whips through the structure.
Lincoln Memorial - powerful, exuding an aura of statesmanship. Well, except for the adjoining gift shop that sells Abraham Beanie Babies and Lincoln shotglasses.
Reflecting Pool - drained and empty pending a massive construction overhaul.
Korean Memorial - impressive how they incorporated that statues of soldiers into the existing foliage.
Vietnam Memorial - Gig found her uncle's name on the wall and snapped a picture. The sleekness and simplicity are exceptionally powerful.
It's fascinating to witness the societal evolution of how America memorializes it's wars and figureheads. Early on it's all about the overwhelming size and awesome presence. Now, it's more about symmetry and incorporating the elements. I'm reminded of this guy from Sudan I saw on one of those 20/20 investigative shows. He had managed to escape the war and somehow immigrate to Atlanta. The reporter asked him what's the most notable difference between Sudan and the U.S. He replied, "I don't understand how you Americans use water. It makes no sense to me." The reporter inquired, "How we use water? What do you mean?" And he responded, "Where I come from, people travel miles just to fetch a bucket of water. Over here, you have these fountains everywhere and pools with children splashing in them. You seem to use water for visual enjoyment and as a source of entertainment." What a profound perspective. I wish more Americans could hear that candid observation.
The Cherry Blossom Festival was in full swing so we made a trek around the lake. The blossoms are indeed a worthy draw and early this year. We saw these two little kids start shaking one of the trees and one of them had broken off a branch. A horrified, older male volunteer raced into action. He chastised both of the kids and rescued the limb. He lashed out, "Ohhh noooo, that's the worst thing you can do! You should be ashamed of yourselves." Their supervisor quickly apologized, snatched them up and hurried off. This incident got me to thinking....
What if a team of about 50 dedicated war protesters (Iraq, Afghanistan, take your pick) assembled in the middle of the night with chainsaws. What if they each took a quadrant and quickly sawed down all the trees before there could be a coordinated response? Disgusting premise? Of course it is. But honestly, what's more disgusting - an illegal war based on lies and an ensuing occupation used to placate big oil interests that killed about 200,000 Iraqis and has thrown their country into an endless cycle of chaos.... or the chopping of a bunch of trees. Just something to think about.
We ventured on to the newly opened Newseum. In a word - Unfuckingbelieable! In three words - check it out. This building opened about a year ago on Pennsylvania Avenue. It's an all-encompassing tribute to every aspect regarding the history of the news. So much time and painstaking effort must have been expended. The building itself is spectacular. Each of the 6 floors has a unique niche. Highlights are too numerous to mention. As expected, I'm more fascinated with the terror related sections (9/11-Bin Laden, Oklahoma Federal Building-Timothy McVeigh, etc.). But I truly enjoyed the presidential campaign sections. Like I said, there's just way too much to mention. You have to see it to believe it.
I noticed an error with one of the exhibits. There was an inscription of the word "chads" in a display for the 2000 Bush/Gore contested election. The plural of chad is... chad. I spoke with one of the curators and jotted down a brief note on one of the comment cards. Do I think it will ever be fixed? Not sure. I'd say it's about 50/50.
We met up with my parents and zipped down to Chinatown for dinner. My mother likes to eat in a leisurely fashion. She's always known as the last person to finish. Well, she got a little flustered as the waitress just kept shoving food onto the table. And nothing was going to slow down the process. Steamed wontons became soup. Soup merged into spring rolls. Egg rolls segued into rice. Rice blended into entrees. And the lo mein descended into fortune cookies. I had an inclination that it was a "come in - we feed you - now you go" kind of establishment. Consistent with most of the restaurants in Chinatown. I'm reminded of a place way out on rt. 250, northwest of New Philadelphia, Ohio. It was called "Eat It and Beat It." We used to see it on the trek to Oberlin where my aforementioned brother Bennett went to college.
"George likes his chicken spicy." - George Costanza
"Saf likes his adventures brief and his vacations quick." - me
It's true. I like to get the hell in, see the sites and get the fuck out of Dodge. If the trip lasts more than 3-4 days, I start to get really edgy. Saffy don't do cruise ships.
So I secured the leftovers and we said our goodbyes. We took a slightly non-circuit path out of DC on the south-eastern portion of the beltway, but not a big deal. Maybe added 20 minutes or so. Back to the Burgh well before midnight. Great trip.