July 3rd, 2010

krazy koati

Sitting all alone now, I took my ticket to ride

I stumbled back out of the Metro where I started and considered bowing to the cosmic forces and spending the rest of the day at the Air And Space Museum, when I realized that technically speaking the Castle was open and it was possible for me to venture inside. I couldn't tell you when I was last there, which tells you something of when I was last there.

The first room was the ... resting place, I suppose; I'm not sure what to call it ... with the remains of James Smithson. Here I heroically managed not to jump on and start explaining things to the family whose male authority figure explained he was the guy who started the Smithsonian, an explanation that sounds logical enough that it risks people never finding out the whole weird story. I also resisted telling the guards that they really should correct the panel which explains how Smithson's body was brought ``back'' to the United States in the early 1900s (as Smithson had never set foot in the United States while alive and it's still a bit of a mystery why he donated his fortune this way).

While wandering around I developed the feeling that I didn't know where to find the really interesting stuff, since what I mostly stumbled into were rooms with plenty of space and a roped-off collection of Madeline Albright's ceremonial ... things, I'm not sure. They were roped off. But things improved when I found one of the main halls, and which seemed to be a teaser to all the various exhibits --- it showed off a souvenir chunk of the 1858 Trans-Atlantic Telegraph (with certificate of authenticity although, alas, no certificate certifying the authenticity of the certificate of authenticity), General James Doolittle's flying goggles, an Edison light bulb from around 1882, a cuff checklist from Skylab 4/3, an odometer used to measure Rural Free Delivery routes, stuffed birds, Matthew Brady studio photographs, Civil War-era revenue stamps, a chunk of the Wright Brothers' 1903 hangar a Gemini Reaction Control System motor ...

It's one room, but what a room. I can't guess how they decide what makes this museum-of-the-museum cut but it was a magnificent way to show off how much they had to show off in the other museums.

I also ran across something I didn't know existed, the Children's Room, a rather soothingly green room with reasonably elaborate paintings around the walls and ceiling. According to its labels the Children's Room had been opened in the late 19th and early 20th century as a place that kids could be dropped off and allowed to play with not excessively fragile toys and exhibits. I didn't get why it had closed or just when it had reopened but I did get the sense that its rediscovery was an accident. While I was present there were no children in evidence or much that children could do other than look at pictures of how had they been here eighty years before there might have been something to do, but you can't expect to have everything all at once either.

Trivia: The first place in New England where George Washington slept as President was the Sun Tavern in Fairfield, Connecticut, on his 1789 tour of the Eastern states. Source: The Old Post Road: The Story Of The Boston Post Road, Stewart H Holbrook, and by the way but Jack Benny's George Washington Slept Here is on Turner Classic Movies ... ah ... in five minutes. Sorry for the short notice. At 5:45 am Eastern they have a short, RFD Greenwich Village, described as ``a couple tours around New York in this promotional short for corduroy clothing'', which I imagine has to be accurate because who would string those words together for any other reason than they were the only words which could conceivably describe something?

Currently Reading: Conan Doyle: Portrait of an Artist, Julian Symons.