austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,
austin_dern
austin_dern

Tell all your friends where you'll be going

So bunny_hugger and I had been turned out of the Museum of American History. We sat a while outside, taking in the scene and noticing the curiosity of a Puerto Rican flag nearby. There was also the flag of Wisconsin (which helpfully has ``WISCONSIN'' written up top, to make it easier to identify), leaving me to wonder why that set? When we finally got up and walked around some we learned why: at the opposite side of the building the flags starting in alphabetical order were flying. Presumably Puerto Rico got put in after the various states.

We also pretty thoroughly documented a couple of squirrels outside the museum who were putting on a great show. Not only were they scampering around and grooming themselves, but they were going from one dynamic pose to another. I don't know that they were working for the tourism board, but they ought to have been.

We moved, rather naturally, westward, in the direction of the Washington Monument. We might have gone east and looked for the remains of the Rally, but almost all the Mall was now fenced off for desperately needed reseeding, and all evidence of the stage was gone, as best as we could tell. And there wasn't much chance that we'd go up the Washington Monument either, since we were already too late for the museums, but we weren't too late to look around it, or to wonder at the souvenir shop nearby which proclaims that it offers ``FILM'' for sale. Maybe the souvenir shop is an historical monument too and can't change the signs.

Next to the 555-foot-tall Washington Monument and completely overlookable is this small pillar, maybe two feet tall, which I'd not paid attention to before and which appeared to be unidentified. It's not much identified even on it; while there's some text carved into the granite it doesn't explain much. Belatedly, after reading the actual identity, I realized how I should have identified it: ``It's the John Adams Monument.'' Actually, it's the ``Position of Jefferson Pier'', which from 1804 to 1850 served as the prime meridian for the United States except for all the use of the Greenwich meridian. The intention was it would be at the latitude of the center of the Capitol and the longitude of the center of the White House's front doors. Of course, as with all measurements, the story is not nearly that simple: the stone was relocated apparently by accident in the 1870s, restored by the Office of Public Buildings and Grounds, and ultimately ended up a little suoth of where it should be. And none of this fascinating story is explained on the stone, which just says it's the position of the Jefferson Pier, ereceted and recovered and re-erected and by the wayit's not the kind of pier where boats go, a use I never heard of before looking this up.

As the night settled in we kept going, toward the World War II Memorial which was no less impressive this second time I saw it. We were catching it at sunset and that really made it shine.

And we kept going, aiming for the Lincoln Memorial, which we reached in a slightly chilly darkness not too long before the guide's next review of the sculpture was due. bunny_hugger pointed out one of those details I'd never pay attention to if she didn't explain them, the way that the front of Lincoln's chair there is a bundle of sticks. This is, in classical sculpture, a symbol of strength and particularly of strength in unity through the bundling of the sticks together. The guide would give this explanation just about word-for-word; he also explained that Lincoln's hands --- one closed, one open --- also carry symbolic heft (resolution and a willingness to forgive, respectively, which we might have thought about if we'd given it some thought).

In the gift shop we got a little warmed up, which was not completely out of our minds; we also did a little souvenir-shopping since we'd managed to msis all the obvious souvenir sources to date. There wasn't any chance of getting anything around the Rally, of course, and we missed the museum gift shops what with their being irrationally closed. There wasn't anything really compelling, although I did pick up a bundle of Harper's Weekly reprints; the real attraction was a video playing what must be the Worst Cartoon Adaptation of Abraham Lincoln's Life Ever because if it wasn't then the actual worst might cause television sets to burst into flames. If I weren't so resistant to making ironic purchases I might have got whatever it was, but surely I can just look up on YouTube ``hilariously awful Lincoln cartoon' and summon it anytime. Sure, it was animated in Lazy 70s Hanna-Barbera Cartoon form, and sure, the dialogue was klunky and exposition-heavy, and yes, the music was from the Stuff Ken Burns Wouldn't Piddle On Orchestra, but what really elevated it to epic badness was how the voice actor for Seward Or Possibly Stanton was done by somebody trying very hard to play the Saturday Night Live caricature of Charlton Heston. You're in for an unparalleled exprience when you hear a particularly haggard George Taylor reminding everyone that they have BEEN at WAR for FOUR long YEARS with THOSE DARNED DIRTY REBS.

By now it was not just really late but we were also awfully hungry so we thought about the problem of eating. And we realized we didn't know anywhere around the Mall where we might eat, other than at museum restaurants which were by now long since closed. But we had a good idea where to go, too: the Woodley Park/Zoo Adams Morgan (etc) vicinity. We hadn't been there in two days, and with the earlier hour that we were setting out we should be able to find a wider variety of restaurants open. We started the long hike back to the Smithsonian Metro station, interrupted briefly by a pack of foreign students on a scavenger hunt. They needed a photograph with someone local, apparently, and picked bunny_hugger for the honor. Well, I'd take her photograph over mine too.

At the Woodley (etc) Metro we stopped a moment by the long, long escalator to look at the plaque it has, commemorating the geology graduate student who died during the surveying of the station. We also realized we still hadn't looked up how long the escalator was and how convenient it would be, as long as the Metro hasn't bothered posting, to have something akin to the Roller Coaster Database or the Internet Pinball Database for looking up just this sort of thing and now you know where the Escalator Database humor piece got its start from.

We went to a Thai restaurant after giving Baskin-Robbins lighthearted consideration. This was once again a very good choice for us, not just because it was open and pleasant but also because it had a strange and therefore interesting decor: one wall was painted in dark-blue with stars and moonscapes, with meteors embedded in the walls, and shiny-air-duct decor like the space exhibit at a children's museum. This was curious enough we finally went to a waiter and asked about it; he explained it was their decor. We tried again and this time got the point established: the restaurant's name, ``Jandara'', he told us meant ``Moon'' and thus the space imagery. This is satisfactory enough and fits with the moon image used for the `D' in the restaurant's name, which seems to check out, although I note a quick Google search reveals ``Jan Dara'' is also the name of ``a 2001 Thai erotic-period-drama''. Also that apparently bunny_hugger and I are the only people to have ever enjoyed a meal there.

We could have stayed out all night, really, but we felt we should get back to the hotel, since we wanted to go to the Zoo on Monday and we'd have to do that as a morning-only thing. Returning, we got successfully into the hotel through the back entrance. We can master geography.

Trivia: Roughly 22 percent of baseball games end with the first or second batter in the lineup making the final out. Source: The Numbers Game: Baseball's Lifelong Fascination With Statistics, Alan Schwarz.

Currently Reading: Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution, Simon Schama.

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