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National Archives, Washington, DC
28th Jul 2008
Washington, DC: day 2

Today was spent in the touristy area of DC doing touristy things.

I left the girls' apartment with the delectable Erin first thing in the morning, as she was then able to walk me to the metro station.  It had occurred to me that the National Archives might get busy, so I went there first.  Despite arriving 45 minutes early I was still not first in the queue to see the Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights and the Constitution.  Naturally these were in a secure area, cleverly hosted in a way that makes them inaccessible but visible to the public, allowing us to see them without having to go through a bazillion locked doors.  The first two documents had been carelessly hung in the sun for decades and were almost illegible.  Luckily, though, in the 19thC someone made a copper plate of them and they can be easily reproduced.  The Constitution was in better nick, having been stored in the dark of Fort Knox.  I also saw the 1297 version of the Magna Carta, which really ought to be returned to England.  That would be difficult as some rich American bought it from the descendants of the outcasts who took it from England all those years ago, and no doubt his lawyers are more expensive - and therefore, by US standards of liturgy, better - than mine.


After the Archives I went over the mall to the Smithsonian.  The Smithsonian Institution offers many museums in the capital, all of them free.  I first went to "the Castle", their HQ, before taking in my first museum, the International Gallery.  This is the home of the Jim Henson exhibition; I thoroughly enjoyed the Muppets and particularly Fraggle Rock sections.  I don't think i have seen FR in 20 years but can still remember the song and the concept.  Doctor Smith, you must lend me your record of the tune please.


After this I went to the Air & Space museum.  I tried to focus on the aviation side of things, since I have already been to the NASA museum.  It was a great set-up, not at all stuffy with many hands-on experiments into the nature of flight.  There were too many stupid children who just wanted to press the buttons and pull the knobs to see the effect, but were ignorant of the principle behind it.  The Bernoulli principle was well explained and demonstrated.   I didn't know that the Wright brothers were so meticulous with their work.  I had rather thought of them as guestimating everything, but they were true scientists.

I chuckled silently to myself as one old geezer was arguing with his wife about which end the sun should go in a diagram of the solar system.  She was right, he clearly didn't know.  What a retard.


After the Smithsonian I went to the US Captiol, where I took a tour.  Security was annoyingly tight, and the place packed with tourists.  Since all the rooms reverberate horribly the tour guides use a clever system:  they wore a microphone with a local transmitter and the guests wore headphones tuned to their guide's frequency.  It would have been wonderful were the woman wearing her lapel mic under her chin and not under her sagging breast.  This was certainly one of the larger Capitols, but not as grand inside as Wisconsin's.  One abomination was a painting called The Adoration of Washington, were he was depicted as a god, very much in the same way as he is revered.  He was a great man, but a man nonetheless.

I jumped back on the metro (subway) to take me to my next fixture.  Boy, the DC subway is amazing.  It's certainly the best in the whole country:  fast and frequent trains, an extensive network that doesn't just run North-South (cough cough Manhattan), wide spotlessly clean cars with carpets, and the most helpful set of maps/directions in the country.  You'll see some examples of how helpful the information is in my pics.  Again though the words "Eastbound" rather than "(to) Vienna" would do the world of good.

My destination was The Pentagon, in next door Virginia*.  Of course I could not take a photo of the thing - there was a guard with a machine gun at the top of the escalator from the metro.  I could see construction works from what I assume is where the Tomahawk (sorry, "plane" ) hit it years ago.

From the Pentagon I went to the Arlington National Cemetery, a burial ground for military and other distinguished persons.  I saw the changing of the guard at the tomb of the unknown soldier.  This was strange, because it was simply one guard swapping places with another under the supervision of a third.  There was a lot of marching up and down, shouting of unintelligible commands, and a bizarre leg-swinging-then-clicking technique that may have inspired the Ministry of Silly Walks skit.  Look in the pics for a soldier with his leg at an odd angle.  I saw the graves of John Kennedy, Mrs Kennedy, infant Patrick Kennedy and "Daughter".  The fourth gravestone said simply, "Daughter  / August 23 1956."

My last touristy thing was the Ford Theatre, in which Lincoln was shot.  It was closed for the year for repairs.


In the evening I join Erin, Katie et al for a "local" thing (ie. not a tourist thing).  We went to Screen on the Green (like in ATL), where they were showing Arsenic and Old Lace.   The movie sucked, but it made me realise that when old movies are parodied in Family Guy or The Simpsons, they're not lying when they do such silly voices:  they really did talk like that in the old films!    The green in question was the lawn of the Mall, and so behind the screen was the illuminated Capitol.  Quite impressive.  It was cool to have been invited to do something that I would not normally have heard about, and to see and to hang out with the residents of DC at leisure.



* DC is an odd shape.  If you draw a square, and then put a river running though the bottom half, the top half would be DC.  The bottom half is not DC, rather Arlington and Alexandria, both in Virginia, but their boundries almost perfectly make the square.  Curious.  I was also perplexed about its name.  "Washington, District of Columbia" is similar to "Boston, Commonwealth of Massachusetts", and based on their being other towns in Mass it would be a fair guess to think there could be "Exampletown, DC."  But Washington is DC and DC is Washington.


Next: Washington, DC: day 3
Previous: Baltimore and Washington, DC

Diary Photos

National Archives, Washington, DC

Declaration of Independence, Washington, DC

DoI vault, Washington, DC

National Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC

Smithsonian Castle, Washington, DC

International Gallery`s Jim Henson exhibit, Washington, DC

Wrights` propeller, Air & Space mus., Washington, DC

Artcile about Wrights, Air & Space mus., Washington, DC

US Capitol, Washington, DC

The Mall from the Capitol, Washington, DC

The Adoration of Washington, Capitol, Washington, DC

Sculpture Gallery, Capitol, Washington, DC

Evidence 1 & 2, Washington, DC

Evidence 2, Washington, DC

Evidence 3, Washington, DC

Changing the guard, Arlington National Cemetery, VA

JFK grave, Arlington National Cemetery, VA

Graves, Arlington National Cemetery, VA

Ford Theatre, Washington, DC

Federal Breast Inspectors, Washington, DC

Screen on the Green, Washington, DC

Dan with hosts, Washington, DC

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