Friday, September 17, 2010

Risen on the Third Day

Unlike the previous day, which was characterized by nearly everything I planned spinning off into comic misadventure, yesterday went smashingly. I spent several hours touring the various memorials on the National Mall, beginning with Jefferson and ending with Vietnam, with Einstein at the National Academy of Sciences providing a nice coda.

That took up my whole morning and early afternoon, so I went back to my friend's apartment to recuperate. I got my luggage (and did a happy dance, such were the joys of changing into an entirely fresh wardrobe), delivered by Delta to the front desk the previous afternoon. The door man asked for and made a copy of my driver's license, for liability purposes. It's probably a good thing I'm leaving tomorrow.

The monuments on their own would have made the day great. But going to Deborah Fallows' book reading at Politics and Prose and seeing The Atlantic writers Jim Fallows (her husband, you know), Jeffrey Goldberg, and Michael Kinsley pushed me into the stratosphere. I just hope I didn't come off a complete boob when I introduced myself to them. Jack Shafer, whom Goldberg was talking to when I approached and who left at the same time I did, said I didn't, so I'll take his word on it.

Drinks and dancing at Cobalt/30 Degrees was just the Oreo in the milkshake after that.

Notes and Observations

- The Jefferson memorial is terrific view, but I wonder if its out of the way location keeps it from being seen as often as the others.

- I entered the FDR memorial from the wrong side and so experienced it in reverse chronology. I didn't realize this until the beginnings of a tour materialized when I was almost finished.

- The Lincoln Memorial, with its giant-sized reproductions of the Second Inaugural and Gettysburg Address, is very moving. The "Four score and seven years ago" opening is ubiquitous yet not widely understood for why that is so, which is a shame. Lincoln's rhetoric is deceptively simple and the moral thrust of his cause make these words some of the most powerful ever spoken. Try reading them aloud and thinking on their implications without getting a catch in your throat.

- Lincoln actually had a dog named Fido.

- I never knew the meanings of Chinese words, due to the limited number of sounds in the language, were dependent on tone. I wondered how this would affect expression of emotion and intent, especially with sarcasm. Deborah Fallows wasn't sure, but thought that a lot of it lay in the phrasing, dependent as Chinese is on well-worn turns of phrase (such as 'well-worn turns of phrase!').

- After walking about 25 blocks to get back to the apartment after dancing, I have to conclude that talk of DC's horrible crime rate is horribly exaggerated (or more accuratly, greatly diminished from the rotten 70s during which Hunter S. Thompson
wrote some very unflattering things about the city
). All I had to do was ask a cop stationed outside the bar where to go, and I was able to avoid any of the bad spots. I mean, at least the crime is contained.

- Sometimes, it's just better to walk. I'd spent enough money yesterday and wasn't keen on a cab, and so I walked 1.93 miles back to the apartment. It took about 40 minutes, but that's really about the same time as the late night Metro would have gotten me.

I'm terribly bummed that this is my last day here. Philadelphia's got a lot to live up to. In the meantime, I'm going to revisit the National Art Museum's Edvard Munch exhibit, and try to make stops at the Building Museum and the National Portrait Gallery.

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