Shouting into the Storm Rantings, ramblings, observations and musings from the insipid to the sublime

Tuesday, July 16, 2002 :::
Things to do in DC without getting Dead

Welcome to summer in our Nation's Capital. The season that could be nicknamed the Attack of the Killer H's - Heat, Haze and Humidity. We have had a few Code Red days already. Code Red means that the air in not fit to be consumed by anyone who isn't a marathon runner. But get this, we had a Code Purple day, too. What's that supposed to mean, the air should only be consumed by cockroaches, Keith Richards and members of the Republican Leadership Council?

Of course, this means it is the perfect time for the tourists to descend upon the city like locust. In order to make my life easier, here are a few tips to make you, the DC Tourist, have a better than average shot of not being killed by an irate local.

- Getting Around
Do not drive. Even if you get to your destination, there's no where to park. But, if you must, remember this tidbit - Letter streets go east/west, number streets go north south, and streets named after states go diagonal.

So, you can't drive, now what? The Metro. Folks, it is a subway. We've had them for a century in Boston, and for over 25 years in DC. Unless you want to get mocked, do not video tape the train pulling into the station. Do not point at it, like some unused Japanese extra from a Godzilla vs. Mothra movie. Also, when you get on and off of the train, move away from the door. Either step into the car and then look for seats, or walk off the train and gather your posse against the wall. This is especially true if you a baby stroller turned luxury SUV that needs to be assembled and disassembled to fit through the doors. Last but not least, the most vital tip - when taking the escalator, stand on the right, walk on the left. Please, please learn this. I beg you. Don't be surprised when the cars are jam packed at 6 in the afternoon on a Wednesday. It is called rush hour. I believe something like two million people commute into DC every work day. Many take the Metro. Don't complain about it. That's our job.

- Once in the City
Unless you are from one of the major eastern seaboard cities, people here probably move faster than you are used to. And yes, we are in a hurry, and we do have somewhere important to be. At least in our self-centered, major urban area brain. Either way, it's now time to start knocking of those monuments, right? Stop for a second, and think about them. Each one is unique, and represents a snapshot of a time in the country's history. Instead of just big marble structures that you drag your kids to, wouldn't it be nice to maybe have a small understanding of what the person/place/event was about? Since it is my favorite, let's take the Jefferson as an example. Very somber, weighty air about the place. There are four quotes on the walls, and another lining the rim of the rotunda which reads "I have sworn upon the alter of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man." Kicks ass, right? Wouldn't it be intersting to already know that Thomas Jefferson did more than merely pen the Declaration of Independence? That he had also written the Statue of Virginia for religious freedom? That he designed the original blueprints for the White House(they weren't used)? Instead of just staring and nodding, try and think of these things in thier context.

Arlington Cemetery is another place that needs a little clarification. It is not just another tourist attraction to check off and tell your friends in Shitsplat, Kansas about. First and foremost, it is a cemetery. Secondly, it is arguably the most honored of military cemeteries in this country. Don't let the rug rats run around like it is a park. And for the love of all things that don't suck, turn off your cell phone(this goes for all of the monuments, really). By all means, go and see the Tomb of the Unknown, and see the changing of the guard. Go to the Kennedy Gravesite(the stones around the JFK plot are from Cape Cod, Mass.) But be warned - Arlington Cemetery is a hilly place. If you are walking, the Tomb/JFK loops is probably about a two mile jaunt. Keep this in mind before dragging Junior along. A quick aside - the land the cemetery is built on used to be the Lee family farm, as in Gen. Robert E. Lee. He had to tell Lincoln he was fighting for the South, then go home and pack his stuff while overlooking the Capital of the country he so loved.

- Misc. items
Nothing makes me laugh more than seeing a group of 60 12 year olds all wearing the same "Backwater High School DC Trip, Spring 2002" t-shrits. But nothing makes me sadder than to see the frumpy, tired adults in the same shirts. Have some dignity, people.

On a similar tangent, no one who lives here buys those FBI/CIA hats sold at all the street vendors. Ditto the smary "Future President of the United States" items. Unless your father is rich and powerful and put people on the Supreme Court and/or your brother is the big cheese in a swing state, the odds are against you.

To wrap up, remember that Washington DC is a working, living city. I think everyone should visit at one point or another. The monuments at night are stunning, the view down the Mall looking at the Capitol always puts a little hop in my step. To see these mythical buildings and places in person will arouse a little patriotism in all but the most cynical of hearts. But it is not Disney World. The city's primary purpose is not to entertain you. With the weather in July and August, it may very well be trying to kill you.

::: posted by Chris at 12:47 AM

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