Thursday, October 05, 2006

NYC-DC, 17.09

We leave early and drive into the great unknown to which I usually refer with the words "South of NY".

Verrazano bridge is huge. You are not allowed to take pictures on it on account of terrorists. A few years ago some wannabe Islamic terrorist was caught trying to saw one of its cables. The cables are about a meter in diameter, so the poor thing would still be sawing today if they hadn't caught him. Hope they gave him some sawing job in prison.

The landscape looks even more boring than New England, especially in New Jersey. Except for a couple of rivers there is not much to see until we arrive in DC.

Oska wants me to get his GPS device to work, but all my attempts to find Washington lead to a variety of towns by the same name in New England. Finally we establish that he forgot to load the map of anything to the south of NJ into the device.

DC is divided into 4 quarters: NE, NW, SE and SW. The Capitol is the origin of this coordinate system, so that NW, for example, means "northwest from the Capitol". The east-to-west streets have letters; the north-to-south, numbers. We are staying on the corner of 11 and E. There are also some streets in this city that have names, usually the names of various states.

The city is monumental. Very monumental, huge porticos and columns eveywhere. Somebody was trying for a new Rome, and not entirely without success. Now I understand why so many demonstrations are held here - not only because most politicians hang out here, but also because this is the one city with enough street space for a proper demonstration. The streets are huge, which probably looked stupid back when they were buit, but surely comes in handy with the current traffic. The city also seems to have a functioning public transportation system but we do not test it and just walk everywhere.

The museums close way too early (5pm-6:30pm), but we make it to the National Gallery of Art anyway. It turns out to be quite pleasant, big but not too big.

The Mall is a huge wide street with a lot of grass in the middle (the kind you walk on, not the kind you smoke). The strip of grass is so wide that it is a national park and has park rangers lurking around the edges. A few blocks of it are covered by tents to be used for an upcoming anti-cancer demonstration. You can see the Capitol on one end and the Washington monument on the other. Lots of planes are flying around very low - one of the airports is just across the river.

We want to see the Lincoln memorial, which is somewhere far behind the Washington monument. The Washington monument is a huge obelisk with a pointy top and two red eyes (warning lights for the airplanes, probably), which immediately makes me think of some giganic alien Ku Klux Klan member. The Lincoln memorial is a Greek temple-like building which for some reason reminds me of the Vittorio Emanuele II monument in Rome although it is not particularly close to it architecturally. Inside is a huge statue of Linclon, much bigger than I imagined from the movies.

In front of the memorial is the Reflecting Pool. It does not reflect anything any more than any other pools. Or maybe this is a pool meant for reflection? It's quite pretty, in any case.

The national WWII memorial is there too. There are pillars representing all states and territories. I am amused at my immediate urge to search for Massachusetts.

I want Chinese food but settle for some steak-and-whatever restaurant near our hotel. We finish early enough for me to go to the room and watch the Amazing Race season 10's first episode. It feels weird watching TV on TV, which I haven't done for years. I don't like it: the show keeps being interrupted by some stupid ads and the picture is much worse than on the monitor.

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