R & R in DC, day 2

2010 April 28
by Maggie Williams


After a fairly good night sleep here at the Washington DC HI Hostel, I got up and went exploring.  The first order of business was breaky and I found the dinning room that was pretty much packed.   It reminded me of University; the tables arranged family style and everyone sat together. People from all around the world, young and old, all having breakfast together.  Pretty neat. I noticed a few people in business suits, here for conferences and other meetings I heard some of them say. Interesting that they’re staying at a hostel.

There was this one guy though, sitting all alone.   He didn’t talk to anyone and no one tried to talk to him. A little rotund, long grey hair, grey beard, and he was wearing a black t-shirt that said Give Peace A Chance.  He was a spitting image of Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead. Perhaps some thought he was the ghost of Jerry or something, he was certainly freaking me out a little.  The only reason I didn’t talk to him though is because I was on the other side of the room.  Yeah, the other side of the room.

After breaky, I joined my hostel mates for the Library of Congress tour in the lobby and waited for our guide to arrive.   I overheard one guy mentioning that he had done the Art Gallery the previous day and he didn’t seem too impressed with much of it.  “I could have done that when I was three” he said.

DC MetroAfter our guide arrived, we all introduced ourselves and were informed of the the big plan to get to the library.  I met Megan, a young Aussie chick and we chatted a bit along the way.  Nice girl.  We set off on a short hike to the Metro station, where we learned how to get our passes and actually use the metro.   That was much appreciated by all.  We hopped on board and rode from Metro Central to the Capitol South station and another short hike to the Library of Congress, right across the street from the Capitol building.  On the way, a couple guys behind me were talking about snow in their respective countries.  Henrik, from Denmark, was describing how it snows a lot in his county which is flat.  “Seems like an awful waste of snow” he said.  “Canada’s Olympics could have used our snow”.  I just thought that was funny.

After getting through security at the LoC, we were told where our tour started at 11:30 and so we had some time to kill.  I just started roaming around, wandering the hallways.  One reading room after another, all specialized in one subject or another.  I stuck my head into an auditorium and some band was setting up on stage getting ready for a concert.  I had no idea if I was allowed in some of the places I wandered, but no one stopped me, no one seemed to care, and so neither did I.

I found my way back to the designated meeting place at the appointed time and we watched an introductory movie first about the Library.  Quite fascinating really.   I had no idea what all was here.  Over 28 million books in many languages plus sheet music, playing cards, baseball cards, posters, 500,000 movies, millions upon millions of newspapers and magazines, maps, photographs, documents, the Gutenberg bible, and strange things like the contents of Abraham Lincoln’s pockets the day he was assassinated.  Thousands of items are added each day we were told.

LoCThe building is quite beautiful and our sharply dressed, petite, retiree tour guide, Ina, did a wonderful job showing us around.  The tour focused on the building itself and how it and the collection came to be.  One could get lost in here for an eternity.  The tour ended as we overlooked the main reading room, impressive in design, practicality and beauty. We all got to know each other a little during our time together and we would cross paths throughout the day.

fountainAfter the tour, I headed to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum for a spell.  I was actually a little disappointed.  It was smaller than I expected, didn’t seem to be well organized and the overall quality just didn’t seem up to snuff.  After that, I headed toward the Museum of Natural History and en route, I wandered into the Sculpture Garden at the National Gallery of Art and found a good spot to sit by the fountains and pool and watched people for awhile.   Something I learned on my Europe trip from year before last.  treeVery enjoyable despite the quirky, so called, sculptures scattered amongst the gardens.  One of the most tolerable for me was a large tree made out of stainless steel.  Hmph.

The Natural History Museum was awesome.  Bigger and better than I expected.  I didn’t see it all of course, it warrants a return trip.  On the walk back to the hostel, I witnessed something truly strange.  As I approached an intersection, I saw a tow truck with one of those gizmos that wraps around the two front tires of a car, lifts it up and goes, all in one swift motion.  The tow truck driver grabbed a car from a spot in front of me on the other side of the street, drove around the corner and then he expertly backed it into a vacant spot.  As I crossed the street, I looked at the meter where the car came from and it had of course expired.  As I passed the meter at the new location, it still had about 45 minutes on it.  Now, I’ve heard of people putting a quarter in a meter just to be nice to a stranger, I’ve done it myself.  But, for a tow truck driver, to actually relocate a car from an expired meter to a meter with time on it… OK, that’s just out there man.   Imagine the owner’s confusion on his return to his vehicle.

I got back to the hostel and talked to my roommate Lisa for a bit, took an hour long nap and then headed down to the dinning room for the pasta dinner and social that I signed up for earlier in the day.  All free.  It was so nice and enjoyable.   It was limited to 20 people and we all sat around a long table, introduced ourselves and dug in. Some of us recognized each other from the tour this morning and I got to meet some new people as well.  We all hit it off like we had known each other for… well, for days at least.

After supper, we rearranged the tables back for the morning meal and several of us hung around for several hours more and just talked.  We talked about our day and what we did, about our respective governments, health care systems, taxes, religions, beer; you know, all the typical inflammatory subjects usually off limits in most social situations.  There was Henrik from Denmark, Hajime from Japan, Alicia from Australia, Bruce from Seattle, Lisa from Raleigh, Carol from Houston, Bjorn from Norway, Jason from Atlanta, Nathan from Australia, and a couple others.

I usually write during this time so I’m tuning in and out of the conversation.  Sometimes I participate in the conversation and sometimes not.  The gangWhen I’m not, sometimes odd bits and pieces get through to my brain and get my attention.  A couple of the guys were talking about the sense of honor and duty that the Japanese have in their culture.  Hajime asked us why we seem to have that perception about them.  He said that others he has met have expressed the same sentiment and he was curious about it.  When he asked the question, the others all looked at each other and were stumped.  I stopped typing, looked up and said “Movies”.  After a couple of seconds, they all seemed to agree.  I said “that’s the reason that I know you must know karate too”.  We all stereotype to some degree I reckon.  Hajime subtly indicated that the notion of duty and honor in Japan is probably not as prevalent as we may believe.

nathanNathan is a hoot with his stories of the bizarre and gross.  He’s different, but a fun guy.  He has a tattoo in up his left side that says Seize The Day Mate.  Awesome sentiment that.

Bjorn just pulled out his little netbook PC, which has the word Shit on the cover in big letters inside a dialog bubble.  I asked him about it and he said it’s a brand in Norway.   People wear shirts with brand slogans including I like Shit. Wow, um OK.

“…I delivered a baby from a 12 year old girl, it was awful…”  Man, I think I’m glad I didn’t hear that whole conversation.

“I have to visit a Wal-Mart before I leave”

Several other conversational fragments commanded my attention from time to time, including a few by Jason, a doctor, who regaled us with emergency room oddities, including objects in places they should never be, genital … situations for lack of a better word, and the ensuing treatment which involved 14 gauge needles and other instruments of torture, which never seemed to end well.  My mother reads this so I have to be careful how much detail I go into.   Let’s just say I thought one of the guys, I won’t say who, got pale and sweaty, I thought he was going to pass out at one point.  We roared in laughter and reeled at the abhorrent, sometimes at the same time.   It was a fun time had by all I tell ya.

Bed time.


2 Responses leave one →
  1. 2017 May 22
    Sydnee Alyster permalink

    I have enjoyed your stories immensely. I will be heading to Swift Academy soon.I am an older woman, Master’s degree and so on. I am looking forward to a totally new experience. I did all the preliminary stuff here in Washington, ClP, DOT MEDICAL The holdup is DMV needing certified copies of my driving history/marriage license etc. from Cailf. Certainly gender biased, but I have to remember we live in a post 9/11 culture. I appreciate you sharing your experiences. You are quite articulate.

    • 2017 May 23

      Thanks for stopping by Sydnee. I hope you enjoy Swift, they were pretty good to me. All the best in your new adventure.

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