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Mr. Tim Goes To Washington

January 16, 2010

In the cold morning on W103 we walked to the subway and a short ride later arrived at Penn Station. With time to kill Rusty bought that great tourist abortion that is the “I heart NY” t-shirt and after a cold wait we were heading south to Washington D.C. The bus wound its way down through New York State, New Jersey, a sliver of Delaware and Maryland, passing billboards like “Virgin: Tell your kids it’s not a dirty word” and “Marriage works”. Five hours later, we arrived in that bizarre, stateless city that is D.C. By now it was late so we headed to Chinatown for dinner and followed it with drinks at a blatantly leftie bar/cafe/restaurant called Busboys and Poets. For dessert we sampled a chocolate mousse cake that was simply unbelievable, and washed it down with a jug of sangria.

In the morning we woke early for a walking tour led by a colourful Vietnam vet called Jerry. We first went west, down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House, which was smaller than I imagined (that’s what she said). We continued on around Tidal Basin to the Jefferson Memorial, inscribed with the “all men are equal (except for my slaves)” spiel, through the FDR Memorial to the Lincoln Memorial where Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his “I have a dream” speech to the 250,000 people in the Mall below. Along the Mall are various war memorials to Korea, Vietnam and WWII so we walked past a long black wall covered in the 60,000 names that illustrates the obscene waste of life that was the Vietnam War. We headed up past the Washington Monument in its phallic glory before stopping at the Smithsonian Castle for lunch. The final stop was a tour of the Capitol building, so we walked there past what can only be described as stretch golf carts, ostensibly to ferry old people and fatties up Capitol Hill. A tour guide ran us through some of the rooms in quick succession, the highlight being the old Senate room, where Clinton had to answer some questions about that thing he did. Or didn’t do. No, did.

The following day was museum day as we attempted to kick over some of the many Smithsonian museums. We began at the Natural History Museum, full of stuffed animals, rocks, gems and other pieces of natural history. The two hours we expected to spend there was a gross underestimate so we decided to do the Air and Space Museum the next day. At night we embarked on a walking tour of Georgetown, the wealthy part of D.C. where the average house price is $3-4 million and the residents refuse to have a subway because of the type of people public transportation attracts. We saw the house JFK once lived in and continued to Georgetown University, Clinton’s alma mater. We finished by walking down the Exorcist stairs to a nearby pub, which quickly filled with the addition of us 20. I sat with Zach from California and a Dutch guy whose name sounded like Repco. Our guide Marc decided to move us on so we went to a second bar that was overpriced and caused most people to leave. We settled on a final destination not far away, at which point I lost Rusty and Zach so I drank with Yaz from Sydney while a ridiculously tall bouncer prowled around seizing coats left on stools and ledges, demanding they be taken to the cloak room. The place closed at 2 so I was forced to part with my half full beer despite some rather colourful protests.

In the morning we resumed our museum adventures, and so we set off for the Air and Space Museum with Rusty’s new friend Zach. The Apollo 11 module greeted us as we walked in and we spent a few hours looking at the Wright brothers’ plane, missiles, rockets, lunar rovers and other exhibits. At one point, needing to the ground floor quickly, we found an elevator, which unbeknown to us was the only elevator reserved for the elderly and disabled. The woman in the lift told us this, albeit with something of an attitude. In no mood to put up with a woman whose job is to sit in an elevator all day go on a power trip, we got our revenge by pressing the up and down buttons every time we passed the lift, which was deliberately frequent. Was it petty? Yes. Was it hilarious? Also yes. Did the woman eventually call a security guard over to watch out for us? You better believe it.

Time once again got away and so we left early in order to see the Holocaust Museum before it closed. The museum itself has an interesting layout reminiscent of a concentration camp, with walkways overhead and the reception ‘yard’. We caught the lift to the fourth floor, the idea being to work your way down to the second floor where the exhibition ended. Two hours was nowhere near enough time; I had barely finished the fourth floor when they announced the museum was closing in 30 minutes. The exhibition itself was, predictably, suitably depressing, and asked the difficult questions of how it could happen and why it wasn’t stopped (the Allies knew of the camps from 1942).

We met up with a few people from the Georgetown tour and the night began with a basketball game as the Washington Wizards took on Orlando Magic. A pyrotechnic display shot flames into the air as the players were introduced, a woman sang some bizarre interpretation of the Star-Spangled Banner and the game got underway. Music played non-stop, so I have no idea how the players can concentrate with We Will Rock You blaring. In between quarters we were treated to entertainment like cheerleader dances, break dancing and a trampolining act while miniature blimps floated around the stadium. During time outs the screen showed kiss cam or dance cam, where you do the appropriate action if the camera goes on you. This produced moments of hilarity (or pain) as one guy was turned down on kiss cam, and two 10 year olds took off their shirts and did pelvic thrusts and crotch grabs on dance cam.

After the game we saw the new Michael Cera film before I went to an Irish bar with an English guy called Matthew and the object of his affections Amy. We hadn’t been there for five minutes when a fight broke out after a drunk guy bumped into another guy, who looked at him funny and got a right hook to the mouth for his trouble. Chaos ensued before bouncers appeared out of nowhere and dragged out the drunk guy while he shouted abuse at all and sundry. Fortunately for us this had opened space at the bar so we got beers and met Patrick from Baltimore, who took us back to his group, where we met Ryan, Matt, Shelby and two other girls. Matthew and Amy left not long after and the group dissolved as Matt’s girlfriend made him take her home leaving Ryan, Patrick and I. Ryan made it his mission to inform every girl in the bar that I was Australian and therefore it was mandatory that I be spoken to. This resulted in an argument with one girl when she refused to believe I was Australian (“You should sound like this,” she said in a British accent). At 3am we were kicked out, a rarity in Washington where the 2am close is rigorously enforced. I left Ryan and Patrick standing in the middle of the road attempting to catch a cab, and at some point on the walk home remembered I had to be up in less than 4 hours for the bus to Boston.

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