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Washington DC Travelogue 2003
A brief sojourne through the wilds of DC during June 2003.
ARTICLE INFOWashington DC Travelogue 4/6/03 - 12/6/03
The Tao of Eccles
added 2002 june 24 by Eccles
The Internet knows all and sees all. When push comes to shove it also knows the cheapest flights. Eschewing the expensive and awkwardly timed flights out of Heathrow I happened upon a cheaper BMI flight out of Manchester. This would solve many problems all in one go. Most notably the tricky "how to get to and from the airport" problem. Coincidentally, I would also be able to pay my parents a surprise visit.
The flight itself was somewhat uneventful. A shiny Airbus propelled me westward as I was plied with drink and food by a slightly camp air crew. A novelty was to be found during take off and landing however. The nose cam! Watch in awe as the ground falls away and you exclaim in amazement that "I can see my house from here!" and later scoring the landing out of 10 as we arrived at Dulles. The little LCD screen on the seat in front of me also afforded an easy viewing of a number of films of which I saw "The Guru" and "Diamonds are Forever" followed by some cartoons. Not sure what to make of Samurai Jack. The food was passable, a main meal of garlic chicken and a nice bottle of red followed by various nibbles and a ciabatta later. I didnt go hungry at least.
Oh the queuing the queuing. Arrival in Dulles proved to be one long queue as it appeared that more than one plane had arrived at the same time. No jokes about the name this time just lots of questions about who I was meeting. "Friends", "what sort of friends?", "You know, just friends", "Male or female", "A bit of both". Sigh, so much for immigration, maybe next time Ill answer "yes" to the "are you a terrorist question" just for a laugh. Customs was fun too. After filling out my form honestly they obviously took offence and pointed me towards the "personal search" table. In the end my nervous buttock clenching was for naught as I was waved through without need for a body cavity search.
Matt was kind enough to pick me up from the overcast airport to ferry me back to DC. He was greatly rewarded for his efforts with gifts of books (curse that customs form). I was suitably tired by the time I was dropped off at my hosts Ken and Lori that all I could manage was a burrito and some light conversation. This time was also notable for citizen and jezebel who began what was to be a theme of the holiday, staring cats.
As I had promised my hosts that I would bring some traditional Manchester sunshine (stop smirking at the back) it was only fitting that the sun shone with unparalleled brilliance as I walked to Springfield mall that morning. A strange eerie place that seems to be lacking shoppers. Good exercise though and it shook the flight out of my legs in time for the evenings entertainment.
Ah yes, Thursday means Alchemy at Nation. The homies cleared out as we approached the scene obviously frightened by the sight of my knees peeking out from underneath my brand new Utilikilt. My knees we cold out in the wilds of the car park but they were soon to warm up with a drink and a dance on the dance floor. As luck would have it, I was introduced to a young lady by the name of Liz who professed an affection towards the English accent. Sadly, as soon as I opened my mouth, against her wishes I might add, it was clear little more was going to be said. With only one course of action open to me we headed into the depths of the club to investigate the longevity of lipstick and other such matters. I was introduced to other people at the club of course. I didnt spend the WHOLE night swapping tonsils with Liz. She introduced me to lots of other people at least one of which swooned at the sound of my voice.
Two things occurred to me during that night. The first concerns the subtle thoughts that flit through a womans head before coming out of their mouths. For example, Im pretty sure I now know that "I really want to fuck you right now" has a subtle deeper meaning. Although the other club-goers might have objected at that point. Next, I also began to understand the merits of tipping your barman or at least getting a cute girl to order your drink for you. Finally, I also now know that some cars dont have enough seats when you really need them. Although this would be a blessing in disguise as the jet lag finally caught up with me when I got home and I collapsed into a drunken slumber. That might be more than two things actually.
I woke up. Wow, who mixed those drinks? May have been a bit of jet lag mixed in there, but I certainly knew I had had a good night. After washing off the previous nights excesses I headed out with Lori into DC to bag a few sights which I had missed last year. Fighting the hordes of screaming kids we made our way to the White house. Shrug, its a big house what is white. The Sakler art gallery was much better. This part of the Smithsonian houses the Asian art collection and links to the gallery next door which houses the African American art collection. Both galleries are fine buildings in themselves and the exhibitions are good too. There was a nice bit of contemporary Japanese art to see as well as the classical stuff. Most impressive was a photographic exhibition centred around the Hindustan Ambassador car, the mainstay of the Indian transport system. Photos in and around and near and of the car. A true insight into its impact on Indian life. The African American art was very much centred on the civil rights era. Some very moving images of something which I think the US still struggles with. For lunch we met up with Shannon for a lovely meal in a basement restaurant. Curse me for only bringing my shades that day, I might have been able to see what I was eating.
The evening was to be spent in Baltimore, in particular the Nevermore night-club. A friend of Matt and Shannons was due to be DJing there. While there, we met Blake who I had apparently been introduced to on Thursday by Liz. Hey, I was introduced to lots of people. Discussion was good and so was the music.
The weekend plans involved Richmond. To those unaware of the geography, Richmond is in the south and would involve a short drive along the highways and byways of Virginia. What sights did I see? Lots of SUVs and pickups and traffic and a big blue monolith of an Ikea store. Huge big blue monolith it was too, I half expected it to start humming and make monkeys go mad. I was also impressed by the green expanse we had to traverse during our journey. They really do still have great expanses of essentially untouched wilderness, even on the east coast.
The reason for Richmond, was Dayna and Carter. They run the Asylum clothing store which was about to move up to a new site in DC. To make it into a bit of an event, they held a closing party in the store. Great fun was had eating nibbles and gazing at the strange leathery, rubber, latexy, stretchy, fishnetty clothing. Sadly the big thigh length platform boots were not my style although it would have been tempting to walk through airport security wearing them. We also poked our heads into the next door store, Exile. A veritable cornucopia of kitsch confronted us, Shriners caps, harpoons, buddy Jesus pictures, everything. I ended up walking out only with a copy of Michael Chrichtons Andromeda Strain, but it needed a great deal of self control not to buy much more.
After the party we dropped our stuff off at Dayna and Carters beautifully decorated house (more inquisitive cat and dog action) before moving out en mass for dinner at the Mexico restaurant. We ate heartily and consumed drinks purporting to be screwdrivers. Joshua and I decided that perhaps they had been mixed with Tequila. This the waiter soon confirmed and replaced without question, shame I had drunk most of mine by that point. With a sombrero on my head and a lady on my lap we celebrated someones birthday and headed out and on to a bar. A bar where the staff apparently knew our hosts and offered us strange coloured cocktails while white frat boys turned their caps around and rapped to funky jazz as we watch the future of sport. Slamball would appear to represent all that a sci fi film needs to portray the future of sport, loud music, full contact basketball and trampolines. Im surprised it hasnt made it big yet! The final venue of the night was the local gay nightclub which is a very large private club. As we were early, the gay bomb hadnt gone off yet and despite the DJ apologising for not having any Tom Jones we filled the floor anyway. We didnt actually stay to see the bomb go of as we retired to our hosts house.
The house woke slowly the next morning and queued patiently for the bathrooms while humanity returned to our bodies. The plan was to treat ourselves to a traditional southern breakfast. One presumes this is the equivalent of the hangover cure known in the UK by the words "full English cooked breakfast". It turned out to be more of a brunch by the time we managed to amble into the restaurant and commandeer a table. It was an impressive sight too, a dozen freaks dressed mostly in black peacefully discussing politics and the definition of biscuit alongside large southern families dressed in white fresh out of church and letting their screaming children run wild. The definition of biscuit turns out to be similar to that of scone and is found most commonly in the dish "biscuits and gravy". The gravy turns out to be a white sauce with bits of meat in it. I shied away from the biscuits and gravy, favouring a more conventional (to me) biscuits, eggs and home fries. Although I was confused by the whole "we dont do sunny side up" issue. That was pretty much it for Richmond. Following a brief visit to a piercing place for Shannon to buy some pretty jewellery, we drove home.
The final act for Sunday was a CrowCon, the traditional meeting of Culture list people. Present apart from myself was Matt and Shannon, Scott and Dan plus guest (damn it name sieve colander thing). Not for the first time this trip we hit a Mexican restaurant. Good meal and the conversation spilled out into the next door Starbucks where Dan demonstrated the power of wireless networking merely so that we could demonstrate the power of Slamball. Oh wow, its got trampolines! And I swear I was talking about the little Apple touchpad thing when I said "The faster you move your finger, the further it goes".
Initially not much was planned for Monday so I headed out to the mall to buy postcards and stamps. Then by a stroke of luck my brain remembered Lizs name and more importantly her Lj username. So turning down a chance to spend the night drinking 40s on the stoop, I set up a date with Liz. The plan was simple, Liz would pick me up and we would drive to Georgetown for dinner. If you were expecting something to go wrong with people getting lost or not turning up or the world coming to an end to thwart my plans, youll be disappointed. The only difficulty came in trying to find parking on a surprisingly busy Monday night. Georgetown is a nice quaint little shopping district for those that dont know it. We saw all the important sights such as the sex shop with its nice leather work, the exorcist steps and a nice little deli where we ate yummy sandwiches even if we couldnt pronounce them. There is a nice canal there too which afforded us with a nice walk after eating.
Eventually as the night drew in, we decided to head off to Lizs place in Maryland to watch "Gone in 60 seconds", something in our earlier conversation had prompted a discussion of the film and it became apparent that I hadnt seen it. Yeah okay, so there are still bits that I havent seen as our film watching degenerated into cuddling and tickling then wrestling, smooching, stroking, undressing, licking then some time later hey Im a gentleman besides its probably too much information as it is. Talking of too much information, tongue studs, very nice. The cats Sage and Mischief proved somewhat distracting as they either watched intently or just plain got in the way and made a noise. Suffice it to say, Mischief spent the night in the bathroom.
We woke early the next morning, or rather the same morning considering how late things went on earlier. Apparently I managed to cure Lizs insomnia, in the good way I think. More of you know what followed, only to be distracted by the guy next door playing some bizarre music as he did some building work and of course the cats playing with our clothes on the floor didnt help things. Hey we had fun all the same. After we showered and dressed, Liz kindly drove me home, or is that reluctantly drove me home? Im not too sure.
I spent the rest of Tuesday recovering and shocking people about how late I got in while the gossip machine got into gear. I also spent considerable time trying to work out how to write up what happened on Monday for the censored parental version of this travelogue, "Yeah like Monday and Tuesday were a complete wash out, nothing happened, dude!".
Wednesday being the last full day in town I decided to do a bit more sightseeing and settle up on a promise to the father to check out the Nation Archives. So I checked out Capitol hill while I was in the area. There were too many tourists moping around and it was surprisingly hot as well. The National Archives proved to be quite fun though. After receiving my ID badge that would let me into the microfilm room I headed off to the fourth floor. By the way, the whole day I went round with Ernst Stavro Blofeld demanding James Bond give him the meekrofeelm. A nice man showed me how the system worked with all the soundex codes and the row upon row of draws full of the microfilms. The mission was to find a single female relative who had shipped out to St Louis at the beginning of the last century. Sadly despite looking at three different decades of census returns I drew a blank. Wrong information, not enough information, I dont know but it was fun winding microfilms backwards and forwards for a few hours. Why oh why did I always need to see the wrong end of the film? Before the evenings entertainment Lori and Ken my kind hosts and I went out for dinner at an American eatery. A fitting meal to end a week which had been filled with all the important and traditional food groups of Burrito, more Mexican, Chinese in little cardboard boxes, pizza and finally this night I ate heartily of chilli burgers and fries. I think I finally figured out the whole sales tax and tipping thing when I picked up the bill. Basically, keep putting money down until someone more knowledgeable that you says its enough.
Pulling on the kilt for the a final night out, we headed off to Purgatorio at Dremos. This was no random club night picked out of the air. We were to be treated to live music by a number of popular beat combos. First up were the Pariah Dogs. Hmm, perhaps the less said about this band, who notably provide the PA equipment, the better. A nice looking laptop provided some good drum backing. Moving swiftly on to Ego Likeness who apparently practised more that the Dogs and it certainly showed they also benefited from a hot lead singer. Headlining were Sunshine Blind who really did know how to rock. So much so I bought some CDs of both Ego Likeness and Sunshine Blind. Sad long goodbyes tainted the night as we had to say goodbyes, but it was a very good night.
Home time. The worst bit of the holiday. Lori and Ken coincidentally had the day off to check out their new house and had offered to drop me off at the airport. We arrived in good time and said our goodbyes before I went to check in. Checking in was the easy bit, security however were out to cause trouble. I wasnt asked to remove my shoes, although it seemed some people had too. No, I was subjected to the worlds most sensitive metal detector wand ever. I think it even managed to pick up the iron in my blood it was so sensitive. I should note at this point that the number of times I sat on the plane thinking "this would make a useful weapon" casts shame on the PR style security (wine glass, wine bottle, coke can, nasty paper cut from the menu ).
Anyway, after security the fun really started. An hour before boarding, the mother of all thunder storms broke out. Not too disconcerting until it became apparent that ground staff arent allowed to work in a thunder storm. The plane wasnt loaded. Eventually we did board only a little late but still we waited as loading finished. Then we sat there waiting. It soon became apparent that we werent to take off on time. The storm had shut the airport and nothing could leave. Especially when the storm was tracking our route east. As we waited a second storm rose up. Anticipating an even longer wait, the entertainment system was switched on and I settled down to watch the Recruit and eat pretzels. Then internal power went down. Darkness descended and without air conditioning the temperature rose. Not a good sign and yet again the ground crew werent allowed out in the rain to hook us up. It took about half an hour in the dark to sort us out, in which time we got more pretzels and then ice creams. Yay, ice cream.
We did eventually take off three hours late. A rough calculation suggests we took off on Friday 13th UK time. Im not superstitious, but it was eerie. I eventually finished the Recruit and then Daredevil before whooping the ships sorry processors at chess. Okay, it beat me the first time as I was working out the controls, but after that it didnt stand a chance. Dinner was stir fried beef in black bean and oyster sauce which was okay. Another bottle of red to wash it down. I think I tried to sleep a bit at that point, but failed when it was clear that ships time had suddenly progressed to morning and a tasty breakfast egg roll thing greeted bleary eyes and aching necks.
We arrived in Manchester some two and a half hours later than we should have with the unexpected benefit that I didnt have to wait for my mum to pick me up as we were actually there at a reasonable time of the morning. I still think I am suffering from the jet lag and the after effects of what was a very good holiday. Its going to be hard to top it next year.