Monday, 16 March 2009

Day 11 - And the 'Worst Public Bathroom in the Western Hemisphere Award' goes to...

Day 11 - The ‘Baltimore Travel Plaza’. Baltimore, Maryland, USA. Stuck on a stinking Greyhound bus.

Baltimore = Ugliest. City. Ever. Honestly. Have yet to see a single redeeming feature. Then again, the over-pass-under-pass-railroads-over-swamp thing is interesting. But not pretty. At least when Vancouver is dank and grey it’s dank and grey with a pretty backdrop. Or at least a few dashes of green.

Twelve hours and counting of Greyhound buses and Newarkiness. Dying for a shower. And a decent meal. Why are the portions here so sickeningly huge?

Newark is actually kind of pretty when it's not 5 a.m. and you're stuck there for 3 hours with no internet
and no shower and only a homeless guy with whom you share your leftover Twizzlers for company...

* * * * * * *

The first afternoon in DC was kind of nuts. I'm only posting some photos, the best ones. I have about 200 of them in all. They're up on facebook if you want to see them all.

Our first order of business was me showering. Thankfully, Lauren and Traci already had enough of a first impression of my via other interactions not to judge me on my sub-human state of existence upon my arrival at the Hilton.

Then we hit the mall. (Not the one with shoes...)

It was kind of overcast, but it was a really nice day (ie. warm!) and we wandered around for ages just taking in the sights.

We went to the Washington Monument. All I have to say about this giant needle is this: can a city have a larger phallus blighting the horizon? Seriously. I was shocked by how big it was. Compensating much?

Anyways, as we walking up to the monument we saw a guy in a North Stars jersey, which made me laugh. Random!

Yeah. As it turned out, not so random. It was Seth, who writes Empty Netters for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. He'd mentioned in his post that morning that he was going to DC and since Traci and Lauren read Empty Netters pretty religiously...

A condensed version of the conversation that ensued...
Someone: North Stars jersey!
Mer: Cool!
Traci: Holy cr@p it's totally him! It's Seth!
Lauren: You're right! It has to be!
M: Whowhatnow?
L: It's the guy who writes Empty Netters! I think he said something about being in DC this weekend!
M: Okay, are we gonna go say hi?
T: We don't want to seem like stalkers!

After five more minutes of confirming that it had to be him...

Mer: So, are you going to go say hi or what?
Traci: Um...
Lauren: Uh...
Mer: Oh my god! Do I have to go do this?
T & L: YES!

So I did. Sometimes it pays to have absolutely no problem making an idiot of myself in front of complete strangers. So just talking to strangers? Not a problem... (I was that kid who gave their parents heart attacks because I would talk to pretty much anyone... in my defence, I have REALLY good creep-radar.) Anywho, back to the story...

Mer (taps the North Stars Jersey on the shoulder): Hi, excuse me...
NSJ/Seth: Um hi?
M: Sorry to bother you, but are you the guy who writes Empty Netters?
NSJ/Seth: (laughs) Yeah! I'm Seth.
Cute friend: Dude! Someone actually reads your blog!

At which point I kind of lost it laughing and we all introduced ourselves and chatted for a bit. They were super-nice and later we kind of regretted not getting Seth's number or something so we could see what they were up to later. (His friends were pretty cute!) And as Traci and Lauren realized later: Seth works for the Post-Gazette and has a press pass... which would have actually been the coolest thing to abuse had we had the guts to ask...

Anywho, go read Seth's blog (it's hilarious!)

Now, back to Washington, DC sights... St. Dominic's in DC. It was someplace downtown. I should probably google it or something...

I have a total stained-glass fixation... pretty colours... light... art...

I don't know why, but I love rose windows. And holes in ceilings. Like at the National Museum of the American Indian. I hate to rag on America, but it bothers me that the Smithsonian can't get past calling them 'indians' - North American is not, nor ever has been, India. Why can't they be called Native Americans? Does is make the fact that they slaughtered them in a veritable genocide all the easier to ignore? Ugh. This is imprecise use of language and it pissed me off when a foundation that has billions of dollars essentially reinforces mis-use of a term.

And American wonders why its student keep dropping in international rankings in terms of education...

Personal bottles of wine at the NMAI. [Jess, you lush, I thought of you when I saw these...] The view.

The most quintessential, generic American patriotic shot ever. Taken from the base of the Washington Monument.

The Lincoln Monument shortly thereafter.

Lincoln Monument = Huge. Ran into Seth & co. there too. Worried about seemingly like stalkers, but I was a good excuse: they were showing the little Canadian around the Capitol City.

I've realized recently that I like photos that are imperfect, often even blurry because sometimes that how I remember it. I have terrible sight but I don't wear my glasses all the time so half the time, I see the world a little off anyways. This is how I remember seeing Lincoln from the other end of the reflecting pool.

Sometimes, I like the blur best...

War Monuments of Note

The Korea Monument. We (Traci, Lauren & I) came to the unanimous conclusion that this monument is way more intense at night. Case in point:

This monument was eerie at night. If you have a chance to go at night though, do so. It's incredibly powerful.

The only photo I took of the WWII Monument

Vietnam at Night

The Wall isn't actually that impressive at night. We went back later...

Being told the story of Lincoln's assassination in incredible detail while sitting on the front steps of what was (in 1865) Peterson's
Boarding House opposite Ford's Theatre:


The only thing that could have made the evening ever more incredible? Meeting Sidney Crosby.
Yah... TOTALLY DIDN'T HAPPEN. But what did happen was that we swung by the White House (sorry, no Obama story either) and at the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue what should we see but...

No joke. We didn't plant it. Half block later outside #1600, we saw a couple guys playing ball hockey. In front of the White House. It seems so silly but that's the America I want as a neighbour: the kind of America where people feel like they can play street hockey outside the President's house.

I realize that there is some not-even-remotely-subtle I-want-America-to-be-more-like-Canada-ness to this anecdote, but I'll be honest: I want the US to be a little more like Canada sometimes. Not in all ways because they've got a good thing going -for them- but sometimes I think that wouldn't hurt the US to take itself less seriously...

All in all, my first ~8 hours in Washington, DC were a lovely, blurry rush of sights and monuments and quintessential Americana. On a scale of one to incredible, it was about a 'WOW, I'm kinda speechless'.


Lauren said...

In defense of Americans (although I certainly can't defend all of our ignorance), the majority of American Indians prefer the term "American Indian" over the term "Native American", but even more than that, they prefer to be referred to as a member of such-and-such tribe, such as "a member of the Navajo tribe". At least that's what my law professor told us last semester, and he's part Cherokee. But then I have a friend who is completely Cherokee and she uses the term Native American - really, from what I've heard, they refer to themselves using both terms interchangebly, which possibly explains the logic behind the naming of the museum. Then again, who knows what was going through their head.

And the inner harbor in Baltimore is rather pretty, and you can see Fort McHenry (where Francis Scott Key wrote the words to The Star Spangled Banner from there. I have very fond memories of all my trips to Baltimore, but they have more to do with fun time spent with my family than they do with the scenery.

And I most certainly have fond memories from DC, and only some of them are related to the actual scenery.

Jessclub7 said...

Haha! I have actually been out for a drink tonight - hence I am stealing my neighbour's internet at 1am GMT. If I am anything, it is a good night out!

Best hole in ceiling I have ever seen was in the Pantheon in Rome.

The most affecting war memorial I have ever been to is the Menin Gate in Ypres, Belgium. It has over 54,000 names on it - and they are just British & Commonwealth soldiers who died in WW1 without graves. You cannot even imagine the scale of it until you see it.

ali said...

I was at the Korean War Memorial again today when I took a friend of mine to the city... It gets me every time, I love that memorial, it's my favorite. I think what makes it the most powerful for me was visiting the UN cemetery in Busan, South Korea. Wow. What a place... if you're ever in that country -- you have to visit. Hands down.

JK said...

Sometimes I forget that I live in a pretty amazing city - looking at it from your viewpoint definitely helps me remember :)

The Korean War Memorial at night is definitely my favorite.

If you love stained glass and rose windows, you have to go to Sainte-Chapelle in Paris. I love cathedrals and had been dying to see it for years and it didn't disappoint at all. It was amazing.

mer said...

@ Lauren - Duly noted! It's a big political thing up here too, but I guess the results are a bit different from place to place.

@ all - all your suggestions of places have been jotted down in my book of lists (which includes about 8 different lists of places to travel, broken down by continent...)

@ Jess - there's a graveyard post coming...

Jessclub7 said...

I really love graveyards - I don't know why. Especially old ones.

And (old) York Minster has an amazing rose window and the biggest piece of Medieval stained glass in the world. And every single piece of glass was removed and then put back in before and after WW2. And there are 2 million pieces.

Can you tell I have been on the tour there?!

KD said...

I love rose windows, too! I really need to dig out my pictures from Notre Dame. The rose windows there are beyond beautiful.

The chapel at Allegheny had a small rose window and it made me fall in love with the place.