Friday, July 11, 2008

DC Update

I'm staying in DC with my good friend's parents, who have given me a whole room and a bath to myself. What unheard of luxury!
I've been putting my green sneakers to good use, tromping all over and touristing with the best of them! That's right folks, the elitist has left the building and I'm actually experiencing crowds. Oh the inane conversations I've overheard. Here's a list of places I've visited on this, my historic first visit to DC:
- Takoma Park, DC (where I'm staying. It's a nice, quiet neighborhood of old brick, squarish houses, most with porches. Also, the historically black part of Takoma Park)
- Takoma Park, Maryland (the adjoining commercial district. I had a nice plum turkey sandwich here the other day, and today I enjoyed homemade ice cream. With all the lush greenery and old buildings it's downright charming. The historically white part of Takoma Park)
- Columbia Heights (a neighborhood that used to be so bad people in DC wouldn't visit relatives there. Now safe, complete with numerous shabby chic brick townhouses)
- the Mall and surrounding monuments (I went through the Library of Congress, including the wonderful sixth floor cafeteria in the Madison Building. I dined on turkey dinner, chocolate cake, and a sweeping view of the city, plus a peep of the Potomac River)
- some museums (the National Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery)
- Alexandria (too many Gaps for my taste, but this eighteenth century town had a bunch of crumbling old buildings. It seems to attract a lot of traffic, which makes walking unpleasant because you're constantly inhaling large quantities of exhaust. Same problem I found in Belmont Shore, Long Beach. I really think that cities should consider improving their traditional storefront retail districts by cutting back on the automotive congestion in those areas. Cause you know what? I shouldn't be punished for walking)
- Arlington National Cemetery (this one on the list represents a huge amount of walking. My favorite part was seeing the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Nice one, America! I also liked the Arlington House museum, which was built by Martha Washington's grandson, George Washington Custis. His daughter married Robert E. Lee, and the Union Army was so mad when Lee joined the rebels that they took over the Arlington plantation and made plans to turn it into a Civil War cemetery! So the story goes)
Plus I talked to some folks at the Administration on Aging about the elderly using transit, and learned a whole bunch about federal transit funding possibilities (like there's at least 62 different sources, go figure).
I've been thinking a lot about American aristocracy and how that goes against some ideals I have. It's not something I encounter much or really ever on the West Coast, and I find it nauseating. Here I am, enamored of old buildings and houses, getting tricked into reproducing hierarchies of hero worship in which I'm thoroughly uninterested. Not that these guys didn't do good things, but they also massacred anyone different from themselves and created the situation of intense racial segregation that we all find ourselves in. Not so good, early Americans! It's so schizophrenic that we're supposed to revile slavery, but still cheer for people like Robert E. Lee for supporting reunification. The man worked his slaves, everybody! Over and over in the National Portrait Gallery I read blurbs about the men I saw pictured and saw things like, "destroyed forty Iroquois villages" mentioned as the reason for army promotions. The DC institutions have obviously made a big effort to include non-white people and women in displays, though.
I'm going to stop this and get back to my important work, finishing Gloria Swanson's marvelous Swanson on Swanson.