Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Washington: Sore feet and overpriced beer

(Previous disclaimer still applies.)

It’s 6:00 and I’m back in Brasserie Beck, enjoying another absurdly overpriced Belgian beer. Even more expensive than yesterday’s, but rather better tasting. Tired and footsore after my political sojourn, I nonetheless did a 4-block circuit looking for a source of cheap alcohol and/or food and/or a bottle of ibuprofen, to no avail. So here I am again. However, I found a $1.50 hotdog at a little wagon on the corner of 12th and K, run by a Pakistani couple. And for tomorrow I have located a purveyer of cheap beer—to be atoned for by the suffrance of ear-splitting hiphop—that I can stop in at on the way home from the Capitol. The joys of addiction.

After I got out of the Senate and House galleries, I stopped to rest my feet, which were feeling worn, and talk to Steve. It is a wonderful world, and we’re very spoiled, to be able to talk to each other at no cost all the way across the country. One thinks about how just 150 years ago, communication across that distance might take months in both directions, with its arrival uncertain.

Somewhat rested, I headed for the Smithsonian, but stopped at the first obstacle I came to, namely the Botanical Gardens. These are enclosed in a 3-story glass house like the hall of flowers in SF. You enter, and suddenly you’re in a quiet forested paradise with Renaissance-era music soothing your way. Raindrops fall here and there. There’s a rainforest area that you can walk around both at ground level and at canopy level. I bet this place is a big hit in the dead of winter.

After exploring the garden and its various sections, I continued on my way, and next encountered the American Indian Museum. The building is reminiscent of an Anasazi cliff dwelling and stunningly decorated but rather sparse inside. The center “rotunda” area has four different indigenous watercraft, a kayak, Hawaiian outrigger, Lake Titicaca reed boat and one other that I can’t remember--and that, plus a pricey gift shop and cafe, is about all. I visited the café in hope of coffee, but the only option was 16 ounces for $3.55—four times as much as I needed at three times the price. The menu was interesting though, from pulled buffalo on frybread to roasted elk with blueberries.

I hauled myself to the second floor, but there was nothing there but an overpriced gift shop. Apparently it started getting real on the third floor. But by then I noticed I was on the edge of exhaustion. My eyes were not focusing. My feet were seriously hurting and I suddenly remembered it was a long way back to the hostel--about a mile and a half of concrete away.

I managed to go part of the way on the “Circulator,” though the trip included an unexpected 10-minute lapse two blocks before my stop, while the driver took a break. I would have gotten out and walked, but the neighborhood looked dicey. When he got started I pushed the button near my appointed stop and moved to the front to chat with him—while he passed my stop and the next one. “Will I be able to get off anytime soon?” I finally ventured, and he said, “Oh, did you want to get off? I’m sorry.” He stopped in mid-block and let me off. It was only another three blocks to the hostel, but by then my feet had gotten a little rest.

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