Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Day 2 in DC: Dupont and a Capitol Idea

The Good; Days Inn on Connecticut Ave is very nice, close to the Metro, clean and reasonably priced.
The Bad; is when a previous guest sets the alarm clock in the room to start blaring at 5:30 in the AM. Who knows how these things happen? Was it an accident or was someone just trying to be evil and cruel? There are no answers unless you can hack into the guest registry.
At least a good breakfast heals all alarms and as we stumbled out in the morning trying to find a place to eat eventually finding ourselves at a bakery in Dupont Circle called Firehook which was just fab. I had a ham and cheese croissant with a cranberry muffin and chased it down with some very tasty black coffee. Unlike the plain croissant that I had at Starbucks in the Nashville Airport this one didn't taste like it had been freezer burned and left to die under a heat lamp.
After eating a delicious breakfast Ana and I hopped the Metro toward the Capital Building where we had missed out on the protests the day before but from what I saw on TV later that night wasn't really much to miss out on unless you are into white people shouting and having heart attacks. Yes, if you have a heart condition maybe traveling to the place with more steps than the Eiffel Tower isn't such a great idea.
It was cold and windy when we arrived at the Capitol Building
and we had to wait outside until we were let in by security with a long line of people. In a move that is somewhat like Disneyland or Universal Studios, you stand outside in one line only to be allowed through to stand in another line to get your tickets for the tour and finally the line for the actual tour. Of course you have to go through a security check point anywhere you go in DC. Metal detector and scanning your bags, my camera has gone through the x-ray machine so many times I think it might have a tumor or in the least is sterile.
The ticket read 11:30 but we didn't get started until about 15 minutes later which is understandable it is a government operation, ho ho. Also it isn't damn theme park people do ask questions and might actually want to see their nations Capitol unlike seeing the fake Jaws at Universal were they are on a schedule dammit, keep those rubes coming through the doors with their wallets open. We were rushed into a theater to watch how the Capitol was built and how the dome was added during Lincolns presidency the were rushed out again to meet up with our guide.
There were several groups at the Capitol, Boys Scouts and whole familes we ended up getting in line with a tour group that was waiting for the Pinkertons (I can't remember the exact name) and when asked by our guide is this all the Pinkertons me and Ana just shrugged and said I think there are more coming. Obviously we were talking out of our ass because we didn't want to have to find another tour group and the Pinkertons seemed like a nice enough gang.
We got outfitted with fancy headphones for the walking tour and proceeded to go up and down escalators first to the supports under the Rotunda and then back up top to stand under the Rotunda. The tour guide said that The Statue of Liberty could fit in the Rotunda and still have about 3 or so feet of clearance. This of course if she wasn't standing on her pedestal. I have to say that Lady Liberty gets a hard time from all these other parks and public spectacles. Even the St Louis Arch pamphlet talks shit about how tiny Lady Liberty could fit under the Gateway Arch. At this point I wouldn't be surprised if Mammoth Cave doesn't start bragging that Lady Liberty could fit in the bottomless pit or The Grand Canyon brochure could tell how many Statues of Liberty it would take to fill in the canyon. Is this because she is French?
We didn't get to go into the House Floor which kind of sucks but you have to have a written note from your congressman for that to happen. If I had only signed up for the Micelle Bachman Screeching Tour the day before but maybe that isn't such a bad thing to have missed.
Ana and I handed our headphones in, did the gift shop thing ( I bought some postcards and a nice pocket sized Constitution and Scroll) and then walked to the Library of Congress through the underground tunnel. We got a great view of the library from an upstairs balcony but you aren't allowed to take pictures which of course everyone who wasn't with a tour guide was taking photos. I wonder why they don't like photos here, I can understand pictures using a flash because supposedly it will cause things to deteriorate or that is what they say at Graceland. We walked back to the Capitol Building using the underground but first we had to go through the X-Ray and metal detector again, my camera is so riddle with cancer now.
We got out and started walking toward the Washington Monument and The White House which is probably not the smartest thing to do if you are out of shape. It is an optical illusion much like driving towards the Rockies, you think you will be there in 20 minutes but a hour later things are just a little closer and bigger in your windshield. The same is true for Washington DC and NYC for that matter, sure it looks like the Empire State Building is going to be a 15 minute walk but in reality it is 20 blocks away. Six hours later we arrived at The White House or what we could see through 2 high cast iron fences, a road with a police cruiser and cop guarding the way and another chain fence. Security could be said to be high but of course this was the day after the shooting at Ft Hood and tensions were high. Even the Capitol Building had police with tactical shotguns and fully automatic guns pacing back and forth.

After taking several dozen photos of the White House we walked over to about a dozen trailers parked along side the street filled with merchandise with Washington DC printed on various shirt and knick knackery. It is fun buying things from Asians especially finding prices and sizes. Which is probably why we ate in Chinatown at a place called Tai Shan (we remembered this after a series of googles and google Earth searches) where we drank hot tea and ate big piles of Sweet and Sour and General Tso Chicken. After looking it up here on the net and seeing that it only got 1 star amongst most reviewers I have to say what a crock of shit the online ratings really are cause I loved it. Maybe it wasn't the swankiest place on the strip but it was good then again we were starving and had walked 80 miles that day.
Ana and I rolled to the Metro station to Arlington with intentions to walk across the Potomac River and get to the Lincoln Memorial at night. A few stops later this older couple dragging a suitcase got on board just as the doors were closing. The old woman got on in time and the old man got through the Metro door mostly, as in everything above his left ankle got on board the rest was caught in the door. I couldn't help but crack up as he stood there dangling between being inside and being out. The look on his face made me think of the SNL skit with Dieter and his monkey that would bite the guest, his face screamed "That damn monkey bit me!".

Getting out at Arlington at night is a good idea if you can walk across to the next station which is about 100 miles away. The Arlington Station closes at 7pm so you are closing that escape route once you get off the train. We got a few stares from people as we left because we dared to leave the safe train and enter the closing station. As we were walking across the bridge we bumped into another night photographer who was good enough to have a tripod which makes things sooooooo much easier. As the saying goes, if I had his tripod and he had a feather up his ass we would both be tickled.
This is an amazing town for night shots no doubt about it, all that white stone illuminated with light almost glows against everything else around. By the time that we got to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial though we were both wiped out from walking and jumping on Metros to really go crazy. Ana sat on the steps looking across The Reflecting Pool while I was taking photos, wishing for at least a monopod and enjoying the cool night air. I finally made my way up to Abe and Ana and we hung out on the steps relaxing our sore feet looking over the Pool and to the Washington Monument. We only had about 10 block walk to get to the nearest Metro to look forward to so there was no need for hurry. Tomorrow would bring us back because we had tickets for the Washington Monument and a higher view of things.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Washington Bound and Flying

Woke up at 2:30 in the AM, left at 3 AM and got to the God forsaken Nashville Airport at 5 just so I can have the privilege of taking my shoes off for a complete stranger. In other words if you have a 7 o'clock flight you need to leave yourself plenty of time to get through security and then sit and wait for 90 minutes. At least the drive down was uneventful and we got to listen to such classics as "Sweet Child o' Mine" and "Two Tickets to Paradise" on the drive down, both good signs.
Parking on the other hand seemed more difficult, no wonder you have to arrive at the airport so early seeing that the parking is designed as a labyrinth that would have had the Minotaur screeching into the night. Long Term, Short Term, where the fuck is Economy, twenty circles later we find it despite all the road construction and misleading arrows that seem to be pointing into space rather than a general direction.Nashville airport requests that you arrive 90 minutes early to get through screening which takes about 10. It might take longer if you are on a heavy iron diet or have ate some change the night before. Which means you get to sit or buy things while you wait because you are trapped in this damn place until they cattle herd you into your seat which is an apt description once you walk down the troughs only to find yourself in smaller and smaller confines.

We landed in Baltimore Airport after a rather uneventful flight other than trying to find our seats and being told by two guys wearing similar 80's Rock Star outfits that a couple of friends wore on Halloween that "There are no assigned seats, its Southwest Airlines Dude". I guess this is known too everyone but me so we take our seats in the ass of the plane so we can feel all the bumps. Which is lucky seeing that the random numbers that we had printed on our tickets would have had me seating in between Bret and CC and Ana's ticket had her sitting next to a 300 pound man wearing bibs and a John Deere hat who was presently taking up most of the three seats in the row.
Landed in Baltimore, peed, got to the baggage carousel and found our 600lb lead encased Brazilian Steamer Trunk that would in the days to come would try to drag me down 4 flights of stairs and would constantly try to bank to the left or the right. The wheels are just a trick that they use to sell the baggage making you believe in the illusion that you are going to easily drag this thing anywhere and everywhere you go. What you don't think about is lifting it onto trains, subways and buses with 30 people shoving you into the doorway. You think about gliding across that smooth terminal floor like on TV, confident in your baggage choice. The bag wasn't mine, it was Ana's, my $3 Goodwill Store bag would have been a much worse choice for the conditions.
Caught a shuttle to the Amtrak station so we could take the MARC train into Union Station, got behind two girls from Miami who had taken over care of a blind man who had arrived with us from Nashville. I had bumped into him earlier in the bathroom while I was washing my hands and he was trying to put on a tie. He asked me if I had any experience with a tie and I told him that no, I hadn't in awhile. He said he had only learned to tie one the day before and that now he was having trouble. He looked to be about 27 and was having a rough time of it to be sure. Now that I look back on it why would a blind man stand in front of the mirror to tie a necktie. After two or three attempts a voice came from one of the stalls that he could help, in a minute or two after he finished his business. I gave the blind man the only necktie advice that I know, after you get it tied don't take it off and undo it but rather loosen it up enough to pull over your head that way you don't have to tie the damn thing again.
We caught back up with the blind man at Amtrak and two Cuban
girls from Miami who had taken charge over him. Helping him with his tickets and out doors and over the tracks, trying to put him on the wrong train running him into doorways. It was only after we boarded the MARC toward DC with our 200lb albatross crammed between the seats and me seating Indian Style on top that we learned why the girls were there, for the Michelle Bachman protest on the Capitol steps later that afternoon. Michelle Bachman is the genius behind such things as Death Panels and required abortions and other radical right wing bullshit that just scares the bejesus out of anyone with half a brain. They just happened to bump into about 5 other people who were also there to protest, so for 30 minutes I got to listen to all those nice, fun, friendly diaper droppings that FOX News puts out every night on the TV. I even got to hear some old jems from the past from one old bastard with neck waddle "You know Obama is really a Muslim" bullshit that just will never ever die. I also got to hear the fun facts that we will never be able to afford health care and what about the deficit which up until January 20th I never heard on Republican complain about. I guess spending a trillion dollars in Iraq was justified but making sure people in your own country who work for a living can afford to get health care and not go bankrupt is just horrible. My point is being stuffed into a aluminum breadbox for 30 minutes with people that you really oppose on almost every level isn't fun but then again this is Washington DC. You can't stand the heat get out of the kitchen. I will say this for old waddle neck man, he did say he didn't like Glenn Beck because he was too emotional.
We found the Metro Station and ran into a few more people with huge protest signs with shit eating grins. End those crazy socialist entitlement programs now but please Public Funded Police Officer can you tell me how to get there on the Public Funded Socialist Metro....
The Metro is a marvel, huge ceilings and very clean the ticketing on the other hand leaves something to be desired. You have to figure out where you are going to go from point A to B and get the amount it will cost cause not every stop cost the same. Unlike say NY or Sao Paulo where you just buy a ticket and take the ride to where ever you want to go in DC you have to use the same ticket to get out as you did to get into the station. Which means if you got on the train for a stop and during your ride the rates go up because of rush hour then you have to pay more to get out of the station. Actually I think it is just a way to fuck with tourists which it did until we got an all day pass.
After dropping the bags off and checking in to the Days Inn we headed over to Arlington to see the Kennedy Boys and my cousin Robert E Lees old haunt. That and walking around Arlington is peaceful after a day of running after planes, trains and automobiles. As the sun was setting we decided to go to Georgetown via a $1 shuttle that takes you through the town. We stumbled around in the dark, avoiding bums who had the foresight to bring chairs with them and walked around seeing the sights in the ever diminishing sunlight. Starving, we hadn't ate since we left Nashville we zombie walked into a Johnny Rockets and sat next to 6 mall girls all with cellphones and blathering about God knows what. You can't pick up things like teenage girl conversations when you are exhausted and hungry. Tell you the truth I can't understand them when sober and full of energy either. If the word "like" were stricken from the English language most teenage girls wouldn't be able to like talk or like make complete like sentences.
We got a ride back to Dupont Circle and hopped onto the Metro back to our hotel. I sat across from a black bum who kept repeating to the Asian man/woman in a Rascal "You ain't goin to die, you ain't goin to die. I'm going to get you to the hospital". The Aisan man/woman on the Rascal ( I say it was a man, Ana believes it was a woman) was reading a book and finally after 2 stops of listening to this repeated gently eased his/her Rascal over a few feet to get away from the bum. Meanwhile a well dressed Indian woman got up to the doors and the bum started jabbering about foreigners stealing our jobs. The woman closed her eyes trying to block out the ramblings until her stop from which she walked through the doors with grace.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Still Developing

I developed film for the first time last week all by my lonesome. I have all the charts and most of the equipment ready though I think I need some Kodak Photo-Flo to work on keeping those water spots at bay. I also need to get a new scanner because my ancient UMAX just isn't cutting the mustard on scanning in the negatives. The only way I could really get them to turn out enough to post was by taking a white sheet of copy paper and taking a picture with my Nikon D40.
All in all it was a lot easier than I thought it would be, I pretty much assumed my first run wouldn't turn out at all. I was even warned not expect a lot out of the first attempt so I used a roll that I knew really wasn't worth a damn. It was a surprise when the pictures started showing up just like you hoped and imagined.
Now to take about 20 more rolls of film and do this all over again. Can't wait. I really can't wait till my girlfriend arrives from Brazil that way I will have something to take pictures of other than Brandon and his dog. Not that they aren't great models but....

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

CNN, Crappy News Network (RANT)

I was flipping through the news channels yesterday trying to find out if anything was going on in the world but they were stuck on FULL FUNERAL COVERAGE of Michael Jackson. I have to say that I found some truth in one perky newswoman's assessment that the hearse was getting close to the Staple's Arena because there were now five news helicopters floating over head. Those helicopters had been following the hearse the entire journey and if I could think of a better analogy comparing the NEWS to Vultures I would be a better man. People complain about how much coverage MJ has been getting but it really just goes to show you how lazy our media in America can be these days. Investigative reporting, checking your facts, holding people accountable those are 20th Century ideas, much cheaper to plant someone with a microphone in front of the funeral home for a week than to do those things. My girlfriend said to me can you imagine what it will be like when Madonna dies, no I can't. It will probably last a month and the whole country in the meantime will probably be taken over by a military coup lead by General Rush Limbaugh (if his anal cysts don't act up).
Then this morning they started up about Health Care Reform, on CNN they had a guy show the cost in ten years and it was $600 Billion and when he read that number he said it in the news way that made it sound like he was paying it all himself by Friday. I'm not saying that the news networks might have a slant on how the Health Care Reform plays out in the Congress but then again when every other commercial is for Pills or Insurance I wonder if maybe they aren't just a little bit swayed in their reporting. With Congress it is called Lobbying with TV it is called advertising.
Speaking of lobbying, the drug and insurance industry are together spending $1.4 million dollars a day trying to get congress to see things their way. I want you to ponder that number a moment, $1.4 million dollars A DAY. That is money they people are giving their insurance companies or drug companies that in turn is being spent to keep reform away. That is about 20 heart bypass surgeries a day being spent on keeping that money flowing to them. And you have to think that if they can afford that imagine how deep the coffers run.