Sunday, April 18, 2010

Washington DC

A couple of weeks ago, the family vacation was to one of those obligatory destinations - Washington DC. Isn't there a short list of "must visit" places all families must eventually go? Orlando, Grand Canyon, Yosemite, the beach (plenty of latitude granted here - can be any beach), Washington DC?

Our itinerary went something like this...
  • Sunday - Shear Madness show at the Kennedy Center
  • Monday - International Spy Museum (very interesting), Holocaust Museum (very disturbing), Jefferson Memorial
  • Tuesday - Tour of the US Capitol, Duck tour of DC and a splash in the Potomac, National Botanical Gardens
  • Wednesday - Smithsonian Museums of Natural History and American History
  • Thursday - Newseum (very cool and most up-to-date of all museums we visited)
  • Friday - Air & Space Museum on the Capital Mall
  • Saturday - National Gallery of Art, Lincoln Memorial
We stayed in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia. In old times, a lot of transportation was by horse and buggy. In contemporary times - especially in big cities - trains are used to move people and freight. And they run...a in all night...and just outside of our bedroom window. The Metro, CSX freight, Amtrak, some sort of Virginia commuter line, etc. While we were there, I couldn't care less what kind of song Todd Snider's friend wanted to hear. I wanted to sleep at night rather than hear the rumbling of the tracks and blaring of the signal horns.

As always, I took a lot of pictures the first couple of days. But then, I tried a different strategy this trip. My kids are old enough now to know how to handle a camera. So by day three, I turned it over to them to take pictures of whatever they wanted. I took it back just every so often for a particular shot I wanted.

So while I could share all sorts of shots such as how the cherry trees were in bloom...

...or how the Tidal Basin cherry trees framed the Jefferson Memorial...

...I'll instead present some alternate views of DC rather than continuing with pictures and commentary you've likely seen and heard a million times before.

As I mentioned above, the most up-to-date museum we visited was the Newseum on Pennsylvania Avenue. It focuses on how the media has covered key news and pop culture events both domestically and abroad.

In particular, three exhibits truly stood out from the rest.
  • One was a collection of Pulitzer Prize winning photos. I've seen many of them over the years, but to see them all together was pretty stunning.
  • The second was the 9/11 exhibit featuring some unbelievable photos, headlines of the tragedy in dozens of newspapers from across the country, and the remnants of the transmission antenna recovered from the rubble of the collapsed World Trade Center.
  • The third was the section of the Berlin Wall on display. The wall facing West Berliners still had all the graffiti. The reverse side of course had nothing much on it at all as East Berliners didn't exactly get to spend their spare time doodling political messages on the wall.
When I last toured the Smithsonian Museum of American History two decades ago, I was amazed at all the cool stuff they had archived. Archie Bunker's chair. A full set of the 4077th from M*A*S*H. Richard Petty's STP Pontiac he drove to win #200. Don "Big Daddy" Garlits' Swamp Rat dragster. Linotype typesetting machines similar to what my dad used when he started in the printing business many decades ago. And so on.

We stood in a queue for about an hour to view the pop culture exhibit. When we finally got to the top of the line, two realities hit us right between the eyes:
  • One, a sign announced the pop culture area was being re-done and to enjoy the few exhibits they had available. All they had on display was Archie's chair, Dorothy's red slippers from Wizard of Oz, Apollo Ohno's Olympic skates, Brian Boitano's Olympic skates, a Kermit the Frog puppet, and a mask from the Broadway production of The Lion King. That's it.
  • Two, my kids neither knew who Archie Bunker was or even cared to know. When we told we were disappointed the other stuff wasn't on display, all we got were bored looks and yawns.
An hour to see just four or five things - and things the kids didn't give a flip about anyway. Man, I felt like such a dumbo.

In just about any US city I've ever visited, I could swing a dead cat in any direction and hit a convenience store to get a single beer or two - but not in Old Town Alexandria. I asked various staff members at our condo joint about any nearby 7-11 or the like. None were within walking distance. So instead of paying $7-$8 for a six-pack, I ended up buying individuals each night at the neighboring Hilton bar for $7 PER.

The nearest grocery store was Whole Foods. You know the place - the grocery store where guilt-ridden, Birkenstock-wearing, dirt people can buy overpriced, generic, organic Cheerios. Yet even with that stereotype in my head, I was hoping even these folks could enjoy a cold brew. Oh they could alright. For about $11 a sixer, I could enjoy a gluten-free Red Bridge beer. No barley or wheat! What's the matter with these people?

I thought this picture might be a good candidate for Fail Blog.

As my son and I strolled 23rd St. between the Foggy Bottom Metro stop and the Lincoln Memorial, I spotted the Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy window-unit air conditioned building at George Washington University. I don't know about you, but when I think Jackie O. I automatically think "cool". Am I right?

As difficult as it was to score beer at a convenience store, it was comforting to find it in abundant supply at the Austin Grill restaurant on King Street in Alexandria. My eyes also immediately found the Joe Ely Big Combo. Of all the Texas songwriters, it seems Joe would be one of the last ones to have a meal named after him. But he did, and I got it along with a couple of Shiner Bocks to wash it down.

St. Mary's foggy bottom? Hmm, just a suggestion Mary. Maybe you should cut back on the broccoli and bran muffins. I mean I'm just sayin...

This painting in the National Gallery of Art...

...reminded me of the scene in Animal House toga party right before Belushi pulls his best Pete Townsend imitation.

And this painting...

... reminded me of long-time Grand Ol' Opry performer Little Jimmy Dickens.

The Magic Gourd? OK, this one is yours. Be original. Be creative. Take the high road or go to the gutter.

I'll wrap it up by saying the view from the top of the Lincoln Memorial steps never gets old. I could sit there for days. Though I've gotta admit I did have a faint vision of Robin Wright Penn traipsing through the reflecting pool calling out "Forrrresst!" and my yelling back "JENNY!"

All in all, it was a good week. For the first time in about four years, we took our vacation without my in-laws. So in that respect, this trip was a great week. And that's no bull...


1 comment:

  1. It's a shame there is one, going on two generations who don't know Archie, Edith, Meathead, and Gloria.

    How was that gluten-free beer?

    I gotta check out that Newseum.

    Glad you had a good trip.