7/11 Washington, DC 3656 Miles

Once again, it seems that every drop of moisture in the universe has relocated to our great nation’s capital. I have to accept that if I want to do something such as view our nation’s greatest phallic symbol,I am not unique in this desire, and many things, molecular and human alike, will have the same urge. Universally speaking, DC is a pretty neat place to vacation, so I welcome the visits from other beings, including airborne water particulate.
Our first stop was the Holocaust Museum. It was an incredibly somber place, everything you would expect from a museum detailing one of the more horrific events in human history. Having read about and studied the Holocaust, much of it was not new information, but one thing did catch on my brain. In the 1930’s, when Germany was getting around to implementing their big plans for the Jews, they began with social programs. You can’t just kill a bunch of people without first getting the general public behind you and your plan, so they started with strong PR campaigns against the Jews, and then moved on to stiff segregation practices. They did a little research and decided that the system the U.S. had in place to segregate the races was pretty solid and adopted that. Kind of puts things in perspective.
The cafeteria behind the museum was staffed by comforting, matronly black women who called everyone ‘sweetie’ and ‘baby’ while serving knishes and lox.
The Bureau of Engraving and Printing had the same sort of confusing ticketing system as the capitol, so we looked at the outside of the building and wandered away. In a city so densely packed with tours about the inner machinations of this nation, missing one is hardly noticed. On the other hand, I was not able to purchase a little pack shredded dollar bills equaling $100. My friends are emptier for it.
Easier to get into and much more interesting was the Museum of Natural History. I got to see fossils from many eras, and there is a fantastic trilobite display. A teacher or tour guide of some sort was leading a group of middle-school-aged children through the area of early to mid-age dinosaur fossils. In the course of 30 seconds, she was able to give incorrect information regarding Pteronodons, crocodiles, and birds. I kept my mouth shut because people who interrupt teachers and tour guides only to contradict them usually sound like crackpots, especially if they can’t remember specific sources to cite. Most kids don’t really care about paleobiology the way I do, and not understanding the branches of evolution certainly is not going to hinder their future whitewater raft-style adventures in office politics.
We checked out the gemstones and series of rocks and the like. Various quartzes and rubies and spikey grey things. The Hope Diamond was on display and we all took time to look at it and ponder its colorful history. One ten-year-old child kept repeating in her own special ‘I’m ten years old and I have a logical leg up on all of you adults’ sort of way, “Why is everyone so excited by it? It’s just a pretty necklace.” She may have been right in a long-term-history-of-the-universe way, but in a short-term-human-history way, many of us wanted to donate our socks to be shoved into her mouth to make the noises stop. Not trusting how the DC cops might treat someone who has violated a child with a dirty sock, I left the room before I was further tempted.
Back on the street, I enjoyed a moment of people-watching as I sat and ate my sno-cone and fed the ravenously hungry pigeons. Back on the Metro and back to the hotel for a bit of a rest before we headed out again. The next stop was the National Zoo and a rendezvous with my altogether too witty DC friend. The big attraction at the Zoo is the Panda exhibit. Off we went first thing to see the pandas, but they had already had enough of being cute and round and had wandered into their inner sanctum. Through the door you could see one round panda ass, and I couldn’t help but wonder if this fuzzy ambassador from the east was sending me a somewhat less than diplomatic message. Having had enough of his bad attitude, I moved on.
I got to see a hippo eating lettuce and hay. Hippos don’t seem to chew, their mouths just open and a cubic foot of food disappears before their mouths close. Repeat until the floor is shiny and clean. In another area, a baby elephant lay on its side sleeping. His mom stood nearby protectively so that he could dream about his favorite beach ball. His feet twitched happily and I was glad he was born in the zoo so that his dreams would not be of the savanna or that time he and another baby elephant played with the fallen tree trunk while the herd matrons discussed the best route to the old feeding ground.
We met up with my trendy buddy and off we went for sushi and beer and general happiness. Stories were told, jokes were made, and we played ‘What’s Their Story’ again. It should be noted that my friend kind of dug the waitress in the Looney Toons tie. We speculated on the extent of her wacky tie collection and on dating those in wacky ties. The only thing that could have made the dinner better would have been having my boss with us. His acerbic wit and dry humor would have rounded out the evening nicely.
We ended the evening with a slow drive around the monuments at night. They were very impressive all lit up like that, but none of the pictures turned out (obviously). We also hit town at the same time as a Britney Spears concert let out. It doesn’t bother me when little kids like Britney, that’s kind of her job. Even when the creepy old guys like her, I can appreciate this (it’s creepy, but I can accept it). What I was surprised at was the number of late-teen boys that were at the show. I thought perhaps Korn or Linkin Park had opened for her. Probably not.