One of the problems with my “12 Days of Blogger Christmas” series was that I hated to interrupt the flow of it unless it was something important. Y’know like earning 20 bucks reviewing a hotel site or bitching about tipping my garbagemen who I’ve never even seen, much less met before. So I totally missed out on the chance to give y’all two trip reports so that you can vicariously share the joy of being a biz-pig traveler on stupid overnight jaunts. Two weeks ago was a quick one day scramble to Dallas via Kansas City and Houston which was neither enjoyable nor memorable. As a matter of fact, it’s starting to get a little hazy now, so let’s just forget about that one, n’est-ce pas?
But last week, I got to sneak up to Washington D.C. for a day and a night to visit some old college buddies, so here are the random notes from that trip:
The main reason I headed up there was to see one of my best friends from Stanford. He’s from Korea and serves as an advisor and professor at some think tank that is dealing with North Korea/South Korea issues. His father was the Korean ambassador to Nigeria and Australia when I knew him in college; needless to say my friend is quite international. He went to high school in Massachusetts and is a die-hard Red Sox fan so I guess he’s really sort of a mutt. He’s been working as a fellow at the Brookings Institute for a year and a half and was just about to return with his family to Seoul when I decided that I would have been a real shitheel if I hadn’t made it a point to visit him before he left.
I won’t bore you with my usual claptrap about how I used nothing but buses and trains to get to the Nashville Airport and around D.C., but I did. And, come to think of it, I guess I did just bore you…
The Metro dropped me off right in front of the Smithsonian, and since I was only packing a small backpack with me I figured I’d hike around the Mall a little bit before I met up with my college friends. Unfortunately, D.C. distances are like Vegas distances due to the size of the structures involved. “Aw hell, the Washington Monument’s right over there. I’ll just hoof it on down.” Two hours and several blisters later, I finally made it back to the brew pub where we were supposed to meet up.
I did take a few cool pictures along the way, though.
After an enjoyable night of visiting, catching up on old times and taking an around the world tour of expensive beers, the next morning I had a couple hours to kill before heading back to the airport. I figured some of the Smithsonian Museums would be better than one more beer at the airport bar, so off I went. Besides, the museums are free, err…I mean I paid for part of them with my tax dollars and I might as well avail myself of them.
Getting to the Museum of Natural History right as it opened, I did the 30 minute tour. All the school age kids ran straight to the dinosaurs, but I figuired they weren’t going anywhere. Instead I headed upstairs to be the first one of the day to see the Hope Diamond and all the other mega-gems in the mineral exhibit. I got to tour the space exhibit in total peace and even touch a piece of rock from Mars. Pretty cool. They also have an amazing exhibit of nature photography in one of the temporary galleries that was well worth the ten minutes I spent there. I was going to buy RUABelle a souvenir, but I figured that after sixteen years together as a happily unmarried couple, a t-shirt with a big ass diamond on it emblazoned with the word “HOPE” might not have been the most sensitive of gifts.
Then I headed down to the National Gallery. Two huge gallery buildings make up the complex, but I just went to the collection of pre-20th century art. It is in a beautiful building constructed of Tennessee marble which stretched several blocks. Anticipating patrons like me with time constraints and the attention span of a golden retriever puppy, the Smithsonian has actually put together a 60 minute gallery tour and map.
I saw almost everything on the itinerary, including the only DaVinci painting in the U.S. (recently restored to an incredible brightness-that must have been a scary job), and a lot of other great pieces by Rapahel, Van Eyck, Rubens, Rembrandt, Vermeer (the Girl with a Pearl Earring dude), Monet, Manet, Cezanne, Botticelli and Toulouse-Lautrec. I would have seen all of the pieces on the quickie tour, but the gallery was sparsely attended on this dreary cold December morning. That meant in most of the small individual galleries it was just me and a uniformed security guard. How is that a problem, you ask?
First of all, it made me nervous having them looking over my shoulder and walking two paces behind me until they passed me off to the guard in the next room. Maybe I shouldn’t have worn my Basque Separatist t-shirt and toted that bottle of HCl around with me.
Secondly, being the polite friendly southerner that I am, I felt the need to say “howdy” to every guard as I entered each gallery and made intitial eye contact. 25 “howdys” probably cost me the chance to complete the “crystal meth crankin’ tour” of the collection.
Wandering back to the Metro to head for the airport, I was struck that Reagan National is even open after 9/11. The flight paths of jet after jet forced them to bank steeply to wend their way around tall buildings and monuments as they dodge a steady stream of military helicopters and flocks of Canadian geese. And the Capital and the White House are only 30 seconds off of the final approach path. I don’t know what kind of armamant they have on top of the White House since Google Maps has airbrushed it out. But whoever mans the battle station has about 15 seconds to make a decision if there’s even a perceived threat on the property and whatever they use to defend the area in that short of a distance must be pretty bad-ass.
I think next time I’ll fly into Baltimore and take the train in.