Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Washington DC - Day Two

July 16th, 2010. Washington DC, day two.

We awake in our hotel room, and head down to the breakfast hall. Yesterday, we were unaware that our stay came with breakfast. Today we know better. However, so do the twenty plus Asian teenagers who are on a bus tour through the nations capital. They scurry to the donuts, gone in a matter of seconds. Next, like locusts, this hungry tour makes their way to the fruit – oranges gone, I grab an apple just in time. I see them start to eye the bagels an the bagel toaster. Within seconds a line so long that it will take weeks to clear is about to form. But no, for I have been to China, and I understand the customs that exist right here, right now.

I elbow my way through the throng of bodies, grab bagels, and rip them in half with my bare hands (it should be noted they were the pre-cut variety) and slam them into the toaster. Pressing both buttons down, I look around – triumphant – and then then, with head held high, wander to the juice machine.

Empty. I'd been tricked! With attention so focused on the tasty bready snacks, they had managed to drain the juice so that only lightly tinged water trickled forth.

“You nee' da juices?” a voice calls, “I bring da ju'sez for you, ya?”

A diminutive lady stands beside me looking up, her name tag too low to the ground to read. It is obvious she works here, and it is her job to keep the buffet stocked.

“Orange juze, apple juzes!” She continues on, naming the two types of juice then starts on with how we, “need day ju'sez! Let me get the ju'sez for you.”

Only she doesn't. For five minutes she goes on about the juice, and I grow weary, wondering if juice is something I will ever see on this day. I expect not to. After telling some girls who understand, nor speak a word of English, the current plight, she shuffles off – returning with, lo an behold, more juice mix. It is as exciting as it is unexpected.

We all have juice. Soon it is gone again, but getting up and heading for the shuttle bus, it is now the problem of the new batch of travellers, freshly woken, headed in for a morning treat. Already I can hear them being told all about the ju'sez.

Our first stop of the day is Arlington Cemetery, where the honoured dead rest. It is hot, and even those in the most revealing of clothing (questionable cemetery attire, but then again – this is also a tourist attraction. It has a gift shop.) sweat like filth animals. The information centre is air conditioned, but still people fan themselves with the maps of vast lot.

Not wanting to become too accustomed to the cool air we grab a map and head out. Other people are buying tickets to ride the trolley through the expanse. A zoo-mobile in a cemetery seems just a little out of place to me. I can't imagine it being all that comfortable packed on board with a hundred other people either. Off the go. Katherine and I? We make our way, following all those on foot, to JFKs grave.

On route we learn for free, sniping over the shoulders of a tour group. They're having it explained to them that all the head stones look the same, and that people of all rank are buried in a mix together. In death, they are all equal.

JFKs grave has a flame beside it. No doubt some sort of eternal something or other. His head stone is just a small slab on the ground, hard to read in the bright light. There is nothing all that grand, nothing special to see. After taking the obligatory picture, we move on. Our next stop? The tomb of the unknown warrior. This, like JFKs stone, is signed. Just follow the arrows and you'll make it there.

Sweat runs in my eyes, temporarily blinding me. As I open then I see a group of teenagers, thirteen? Fourteen? Standing on the path, looking like uncaring teenagers. Where are their handlers? Parents – teacher – whoever let them out into this world alone.

A group passing them another way says, “are they ever from this country?” in disdain.

One begins to speak. His Quebecois accent giving me a slight chill – whatever he is about to say, he is linked to my country.

“Hey mister,” he says – smiling ear to ear, “spare a dollar?” His friends giggle.

Pretending to beg for money when you don't need it is not of the best, anytime. When standing amongst those who gave their life so that you may have the freedom to act like a jerk, is complete disrespect. That they all just stand there and chuckle...

I should have, perhaps, explained this to him. I should have perhaps tried to silence and shame him with logic. But it was hot, I was sweaty, and this punk taints my country – albeit the French part, which needs little more tainting – I do not counter with any argument, instead – passing, without looking back, I simply state, “don't be an asshole.”

His friends, “ohhhhhh!” and then fall into silence. When I pass by later, they are gone.

The tomb of the unknown soldier has a changing of the guards every thirty minutes. I couldn't be bothered to wait – I was sweating, true, but Katherine looked as if she were about to die. An ambulance pulled up – clearly someone else was feeling the same.

There is a gallery near this tomb, fully air conditioned again. I stepped in for a moment to cool down, but only a moment – the second your body adapts away from the heat, it's all over.

Having seen what we came to see, we began to walk back out. A trolley passed us – never have I seen so many unhappy faces grouped together, since late night at Disney World.

Our next stop? One down the line from the cemetery. I wanted to see the memorial to the Marines – the Iwo Jima statue. Iconic throughout the decades, this was something I'd seen in movies, on tv, spoofed in the Simpsons. Katherine was less excited – craving, more, the cool rooms of the museums. But when would I be this close again? No. We would stop. Walking there, a liter of iced tea was purchased for a dollar. This worked wonders to make the trip easier. I also picked up an issue of “The Onion.” Even better for real, than on the internet.

And then we were there. I'd not pictured it as being so – big. This was huge. Far larger than I ever would have guessed. I assumed it would be 1:1, but no – these were larger than life proudly panting the flag, free flying, for all to see.

There was little more than that – just look at it, be amazed, be impressed, tick it off, and then head back to the subway. Our final stop before the museums was upon us. We were headed off to Georgetown.

Why? Why were we going to Georgetown? How did we know about Georgetown? It all goes back to our obsession with baking shows on TLC. Cake Boss? That's the best – he yells, and is wacky. Also he may just be the one good thing about Jersey.

Watching this show a program, new to air, called DC Cupcakes was announced. Looking it up on the internet, DC Cupcakes was filmed at Georgetown Cupcakes, and as the show was premiering today, they were giving away free cupcakes.

Free cupcakes?! Sounds like a plan to me!

As we got there, the line was well formed. We took our place, in the hot sun, against the hot wall, and the hot reflective street. Cupcakes could have been baked right here in the open, I imagine, but no – we waited. Halfway through, the Vitamin water people showed up and were raided for free beverages.

Thirty minutes after we got in line, we were inside. Ten minutes after that, we had our free cupcakes. Regularly two fifty, they were now free. Outside, we took a seat on a ledge and began to eat. Katherine had never had such a treat, she said. The icing? Airy and fluffy, and the cupcake, melt in your mouth beautiful.

Me? I wanted something I could bite. I gave them a pass. No good. Good enough for the story about how I was there the day the show launched, but all in all – I'd not wait an hour in line for them, like the tv advert claimed people did.

Mission accomplished, we set out for the Smithsonian, to finish up the top floor of the Natural History Museum.

There was the Hope Diamond – which is pretty small, and not all that wonderful. I don't understand this obsession with looking at a bunch of rocks, but other people seemed pretty keen on it. The only thing I like about ruby an emerald an sapphire rings is that seeing them gives me a real life reference for all those objects I pick up in Oblivion.

There was puke on the floor – and a lady half heartedly telling people not to step in it. “No, no – don't... ohh too bad.”

The butterfly exhibit cost money, and as they creep me out anyway, it was skipped. There were some rockin' skeletons up there though. Some money skulls look like tiny human skulls – much more than the great apes. It was fun to picture them moving around – the skeletons. And then that was that.

Last stop, the American History Museum.

We were both getting tired – but I wanted to make it through this final museum. The centerpiece? The flag from the American National Anthem which flew in 1812. The history explains that America went to war with Canada and then British troops marched and burned down the White House. Hey – not just British troops, Canadian troops. We did it. Credit our destructive prowess!

But there, larger than the house in which the flag was sewn, it was – a monster if ever I'd seen one. Smaller today, than it once was. A star, and some of the stripes were cut free hundreds of years ago, souvenirs for those who claimed them.

The museum went on to show acts from the Apollo, in New York, and the history of science, old light bulbs, and even Kermit the frog. But the flag – that was something. I may have snuck a sneaky picture or two. Hey – everyone else was doing it.

Though tired, Kath was momentarily silenced when she saw Dorthy's Ruby Slippers from the movie The Wizard of Oz. And then we both headed home, to crash, and cool down, and watch DC Cupcakes.

I wanted to like the show – I truly did. But it was terrible. All the drama was faked for the camera, the two female owners come off a damn fools, and they allow their mother, whom they call “mommy” into the shop to work, and screw everything up. All the staff have to call her mommy. All the staff have to clean up after her errors. All the staff must want to see her dead.

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