Saturday, April 23, 2005

Expecting Something

Expectations are a funny thing. Sometimes we will have them, and things will not go as expected. You either roll with it, or your emotions play games with you. Today, three odd things happened to mess with expectations.

Stop #1 The National Cathedral. I found out after we visited that there is a Darth Vader gargoyle here- but that’s just fun information. My expectations were shattered when we arrived to a worship service on a Saturday, I was hoping for a tour. Instead, we were there for the installation of the Ninth Dean of the Cathedral Church of St. Peter and St. Paul. Meaning: the new Senior Pastor/Administrator was commissioned. This was a 2 hour service for which we only stayed one hour. Both Dad and Marg would have stayed longer, but I got confused about what Marg wanted and I was itching to beat the cluster-f that would result at the end of the service. Also, in spite of the glorious organ and music (really, quite good, but not new to my ears), I was excited to get to the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Air & Space Hangar out at Dulles.

Stop #2 Steven F. Udvar-Hazy. This 3 year-old addition to the Air & Space museum is awesome! What did we see all in one place?
The Enola Gay: the B-29 bomber that dropped the bomb on Hiroshima (I was much more solemn and serious in front of this plane, I didn’t know how to really feel about it being in the museum).
The SR-71 Blackbird: the fastest plane ever, perfectly designed for spy missions. As a kid, I loved the Blackbird. I think I wrote a story or two about it.
The Space Shuttle Enterprise: I was sad to learn about the Enterprise only being a test shuttle, it never went into space. All the same, Enterprise is a cool name for a spaceship. And the boosters on its rear end are huge!
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter: the fighter jet that will replace much of the U.S. military’s current plane arsenal. The JSF is being built for the Air Force, Navy & Marines in different configurations. And yes, it will also kick arse. Sorry, I may dislike war, but war planes are cool.

Now, we also got tickets to an Imax movie. “Fighter Pilot: Operation Red Flag.” Red Flag is a cooperative military combat exercise in Nevada with many NATO countries participating. It was pretty cool. But about 40 minutes through the film, just when the one character we’ve been following is stranded out in the desert for a major rescue mission, the power to the whole hangar goes out. Well, nothing gets you thinking about potential terrorist traps like a power outage in a room with five hundred people, in building with several thousand more and 50 billion dollars worth of retired military aircraft. And we sat there for ten minutes hoping the power would come on. Nope. So we left.

Stop #3 Dinner with Dan, Janice, Justin, Patrick, Jean & Kate. I only knew Dan beforehand. We went to Clark together, had half our classes together, edited each other’s papers, and made fun of his affable roommate Paul. Dan works for Sen. Jeffords of Vermont as did everyone else around the table other than myself and Janice. Janice works for Sen. Leahy, also of Vermont. The people were from Vermont. It was Dan’s birthday, I got thrown in as a guest and it was WONDERFUL. We ate at Logan Tavern, north of Dupont circle and I had fried chicken. I also finished Janice’s plate of pork loin. I decided at that point, I really have become my father. Anyway, it was superb meal and conversation in a very loud place, and Dan, Janice and I planned to make one more stop at a bar for a final drink together. When we get to Biddy Mulligan’s, the place is packed so after several awkward moments of everyone willing to wait it out, or just call it a night, we decide to call it a night. This was totally acceptable as we were too full and already sleepy at 10 pm. But again, I expected a little more time with my friend who I see once a year at best. We parted ways and I took the metro back here, where I was greeted by Dave Fainer on his bed in his underwear. Classic.

National Cathedral

National Cathedral
Originally uploaded by fainer.
Darth Vader Gargoyle not shown here.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Father and Son

Storming the Castle
Originally uploaded by fainer.
This is not our house.

Traveling so far to sleep

Late arrivals can be difficult. No one has eaten, everyone is tired, the directions you’ve been given may be wrong. Such was the case with my father’s drive to the Radisson. Hertz rental car said go south when he should have been going north. I ordered some sandwiches at the hotel restaurant just before closing and waited for Marg and Dad to arrive and inhale the food.

They did, and they did. Sleep.

Awoken by the cruel offer of coffee, it is now 8:15. Eventually, Marg is called. A half hour later, Marg is called again. She has not yet moved since previous call. It is at this point I realize what we’re dealing with here.

After some breakfast, Marg decides to rest more. Steve and Dad head out to town. Its nearly noon by now. Nothing like vacations with early rising fathers and late rising grandmothers.

I navigate Dad to downtown via the metro and he wants to walk. Basically, I repeated my 1.5 mile circuit I’d done the day before but with much better and closer views of the White House.

We attempt to leave the basic area of the White House and here is where the conflict in today’s story occurs…

I seem to have a knack for traveling with incompetent map readers (actually, this doesn’t apply to Jane, but with my friend Timmy it did). Perhaps you know that Washington, DC is laid out in straight lines, with a few diagonal exceptions. Pennsylvania Avenue for example. Otherwise, its all rectangles.

Well, dad has a map. A very good and accurate map with descriptions of many buildings, etc. But he keeps turning and walking in the wrong direction. And I keep telling him, “No, DAD, this way.” He gets confused as to my challenges. I reason with him. Explain slowly. Show him the map. Orient the map so that whatever way he is standing, he is looking at the map in the correct direction. Then he changes his own orientation. Return to “explain slowly”, and repeat. 3 times! This is a 52 year-old man we’re talking about here, this shouldn’t happen.

Here’s the problem with know-it-alls. We assume we know it all. My father was an intern for the Department of Labor in college. His office was on Pennsylvania Avenue. He would ride in on a bus, which stopped outside his building. Interestingly, that bus stop is now another building. And remember how Pennsylvania is at a diagonal to all the other streets? Good memory. Dad’s entire orientation to town was based on his summer working in an office 30 years ago on a street that doesn’t conform to the grid. Walking with him this morning, he had no concept of the supremely basic rectangular grids that aid children in not getting lost in their nation’s capital.

Therefore, I abused him the rest of the day regarding this deficiency.

We made it to the American History museum, saw one exhibit, and then exited for an hour worth of phone calls. Not me, him. Sorry Jane. I was wrong about him getting off the phone, he got right back on another call.
By 3:30 pm, we were ready to return to the museum. And we saw some stuff about history. Interesting to see, boring to write and read about. But we did stay until closing and the guard was shooing people out. I tried to walk back ten feet behind a partition to retrieve pops and the guard verbally chastened me. I was displeased by his authoritative use of authority.

By now its time for dinner- Marg has been called several times and knew we wouldn’t be coming home if she was napping-and we return to the hotel.

An excellent Italian dinner followed by a late evening drive into the city were delightful, but we did get lost. Several times. I blame the Pennsylvania Avenue problem.

Old-Timey advertising is the best!

Old-Timey advertising is the best!
Originally uploaded by fainer.
I think some Confederate wanted revenge. Lincoln's Revenge!

Storming the Castle

Storming the Castle
Originally uploaded by fainer.
We're tall.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Sunrise from Dulles

Originally uploaded by fainer.
Attention Security, there are bags left unaccounted for at door 4.

Its paradise to me

Truly, there is nothing like red-eye travel. You fly out of Oakland at 10 pm and arrive in DC at 6 am, after just 5 actual hours of elapsed time. You stop at the first Airport Starbucks, quietly betting yourself how long this dose of caffeine will last. You struggle against the poor signage at Dulles, but manage to walk only 200 unnecessary yards. This is the time where you realize the suitcase with wheels was a good idea. Stumbling upon exactly where you want to go is always glorious, and you do so; blearily charming your way into the heart of the eastern European girl selling you your eight dollar ticket into town. Spend 20 minutes waiting. The sun is rising- you have two choices. Go outside with your camera and take a picture, or stay inside and keep watch over you luggage and your reputation as a non-threat to the airport. Schnell, Option A! Sunrise over the airport is also glorious.

Arriving at the curb, the Washington Flyer Shuttle is greeted by your smile and duffel. Discover Washington Post Express inside the bus and gleefully read interesting puff pieces about numerous headlines.

Transfer from Shuttle to Metro at West Falls Church, Orange line. Exit Orange Line at Rosslyn, Transfer to Blue Line. Realize Blue Line is actually another orange line train. Go back one stop, get back on other direction. Repeat process at Rosslyn except be sure it’s blue this time. Exit Blue line at Crystal City Metro. By 8:15 am, stumble into Crystal City Radisson to store luggage. Consolidate and separate stuff. Return to metro, head downtown. Exit Smithsonian! Tire of odd grammatical and perspective choices.

I get off at the Smithsonian stop and come across a big brown castle of a building. A simply marvelous piece of replicated architecture. This is the information center for all the Smithsonian museums. The museums do not open until 10, but the information center (for which, there is a line!?) opens at 8:30. I want nothing to do with lines, and thus hope that something is open. The Museum of Natural History (read: DINOSAUR BONES!) does not yet have its doors unlocked to us common folk. I hike up a block, ask a cop for a good place for breakfast, dine at the Manhattan Deli. A similarly displaced woman asks me if I know why all the common sparrows have tags on their legs. I do not but suggest science is cheapest when it is closer and less sensible.

Jane needed a wake up call. By gum, I was going to do it from the White House. What they forget to tell you is that the White House is a fortress of 7 barricades and collections of guards. Couldn’t get within a quarter-mile of the place. But we talked, and eventually I came around some trees from far off and saw the temporary king’s familiar home.

Then I went back to my museums. Erin, the Hope diamond is only 45+ carats. It is blue though, and that’s what makes it special. I took a picture for you. I love dinosaurs and ancient mammals. If I didn’t need to go to school for 9 years to make a living at studying ancient mammal fossils, I might try out such a profession. Not because I don’t think dusting off bones isn’t tedious, but because so much of your imagination stretches you as you stretch skin and sinew over those old bones. Those old animals are so fugly, they’re beautiful.

Onto the National Gallery of Art. Not much to say since I was disappointed that a photograph I would have purchased was not available for purchase. When you’ve seen the Louvre and the Orsay (and so many more), one more art museum isn’t all that exciting. But it is something to do while you’re waiting for your hotel room to become available. I watch all the chaperones of junior high groups. I feel for them so much, but not too much because I’m on vacation.

Since 3 pm, I have enjoyed the coziness of a hotel bed, a hotel dinner, a hotel attempt to watch the OC, which was hijacked by my foolishly time-insensitive phone call to my mother, and a hotel full of those junior high kids.

When will Dad and Marg arrive? Who knows…

Hope Diamond Visited by Child's Ghost

Actually, that is what some people call a reflection.