Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Washington DC, Day 2 - Buildings and Birds

 [[Again, this post was written a week ago. See "yesterday's post" for Day 1.]]

According to Scott, there is no internet. One assumes that he means there is no connection to the internet from our charming Washington DC address and not that the internet itself has been wiped out but how would we know? How odd, really, that something that didn’t exist a few dozen years ago should have become so central to existence.
  Our second day in DC—or our first proper day—was downright exhausting and after returning to the apartment and having a restorative cocktail, I took to the bathtub with some bath salts purchased at the L’Occitane outlet at Union Station which was quite the bustling spot—the train station, not the tub, which was as peaceful as one might wish. In the bath, I read this fine bit from Obabakoak:

Hunting has always seemed to me a cruel pastime and my habit of giving names to animals—something I’ve done since I was a child – prevents me ever doing harm to any creature, however repellent. Imagine, for example, that you have a cockroach living in your house and one day it occurs to you to christen that cockroach Jose Maria, and then it’s Jose Maria this and Jose Maria that, and very soon the creature becomes a sort of small, black person, who may turn out to be timid or irritable or even a little conceited. And obviously in that situation you wouldn’t dream of putting poison down around the house. Well, you might consider it as an option but no more often than you would for any other friend.

Me and my velo!
Today we saw no cockroaches. No, we walked and biked (hurrah Capital Bikeshare!)

 and then walked a great deal more about The National Mall which turns out to be a lot more extensive than I’d realized. We wrestled with the problem of getting the Washington Monument to fit into a frame when I’d brought only my long lens on today’s expedition, and we were somewhat moved by the Lincoln Memorial where I was exceedingly taken with a particular bit of the second inaugural address (see below) and Scott noted that Mr Lincoln likely wouldn’t be altogether comfortable with the Roman empire touches to his statue. We had as good a look as one can get at the White House and learned we were too late in the day to get into Congress and we admired the size of the Library of Congress and considered the bulk of the Supreme Court building. There are, it is to be noted, a lot of very large edifices in DC. It was comforting to find my old friends the Seven Burghers of Calais hanging out in the Outdoor Sculpture Garden.

Those pesky burghers
And, hey! Along with about a million American robins, two million European starlings, and three million house sparrows, I saw some new birds. One cardinal kindly put in an appearance as did a handful of what we finally identified as northern mockingbirds.

Cardinal--not as bright as I'd expected but I think it's a male
We saw an astounding number of some old childhood friends, the grackle, as well as a trio of what I’ve always considered to be “proper” blue jays. There was a fine example of a white-throated sparrow in the Enid A. Haupt Garden behind the old Smithsonian Castle, as well as a pair of mourning doves, and a great many brownheaded cowbirds. Flying over the Mall we saw a pair of what we’re currently classifying as a pair of golden eagles though I’m not entirely confident about that ID. So, two new birds, two old friends, some seen-them-before-but-not-often birds, and one somewhat dodgy ID with no photos to work with. Sadly, a dip on the Baltimore oriole. Scott says they’re on the road; I say, “Maybe tomorrow.”
White-throated sparrow
Northern mockingbird
 Tomorrow, however, is to be given over to museums, like as not, assuming our feet don’t go on strike after today’s endless march. Today’s epiphany, which maybe doesn’t count as an epiphany since it’s something Scott said over breakfast: Washington DC is a southern city. That’s why everyone is so damned nice and no one seems to be in a hurry. (Sadly, the latter remains true of the connection to the internet.)
My favorite bit of the second inaugural address

I end with a shot of today’s purchases:
Just a few of life necessities, rye and pistachios and bathsalts and a coffee press
 and today's constant companion:
Washington Monument over the Reflection Pool (as seen from the Lincoln Memorial)


  1. Nice birds. Did you ever get orioles? If not try Minnesota next time, they hang out at the feeders at the zoo (free to come and go, so they count!). Go in late August/early September so you can hit up the State Fair. Good times.

    I have never ever harbored a desire to see "the other Washington" so I'm curious when people go there, what the attraction is, other than political history. Or is it just the history? I reckon the Smithsonian would be cool. I assume you went -- was it cool? How about the LoC? I know someone who works there. I'm sure you saw her, name of Dorinda.

    Were the Nats in town? I'd go to a ball game there.

    Eagerly awaiting future past reports of your trip.

    1. 1. It's a big, beautiful city full of famous monuments! The Lincoln Memorial was, as Mary says, a moving experience. We stood on the step from which MLK gave his "I have a dream" speech!

      2. It was a sort of pilgrimage into my childhood!

      3. There are things in the museums worth seeing, yes. There are nine Smithsonian museums in Washington. There are at least 50 museums in the city!

      Dorinda borrowed $5. See if you can get that back for me, thanks!

    2. Nine! Nine Smithsonians! Goodness. Don't the tourists find that awfully confusing? Are they at least in the same neighborhood?

      Dorinda says she thought the fiver was a tip. Sorry.

      See, the "big" part of "it's a big, beautiful city" is what puts me right off. It took me six weeks of wandering around Great Britain before I could work up the nerve to enter London. Though when I did, I enjoyed it very much, as it didn't feel like a "big" city. NYC on the other hand...OMG. Seattle is too big for me, for that matter.

      What about the orioles!?? No orioles at all?? Do I have to wait for further reports to find out -- no spoilers???

    3. It doesn't fall to me to report on the birds!

      Most of the Smithsonians are gathered together on the east end of the Washington Mall (which is a huge outdoor park). DC is smaller than Seattle, I think, or at least it feels smaller. The streets were less crowded, it's cleaner, and everyone is so so nice. NYC is really five cities all crammed together. Five Seattles, with great big parks. Maybe that's too big. Brooklyn is beautiful, though.

      DC also figures prominently in my novel Mona in the Desert, currently being submitted to agents. So there were lots of reasons to go.

    4. What Scott fails to include on his list is that the National Gallery has some Vermeers. I'll go *any*where to see Vermeers. I am fine with cities myself and it struck me, a while back, that I keep going to foreign capitals while neglecting my own. Where there are Vermeers. DC really didn't feel like a big city, so much; just a nice place with decent public transportation and the most obliging populace one could imagine. We went to a neighborhood place for breakfast that offered *five* pancakes. I asked if it was possible to get maybe two or three instead, though that wasn't listed on the menu. "Of course!" I was told, and I was just being crazy to think that I couldn't get a side of an egg if that's what I wanted. Not a place for the would-be vegetarian however. In NYC I didn't try to order anything that wasn't on the menu but they scramble a mean egg at Dizzy's in Brooklyn. I ramble. I think I'm getting Scott's flu. No orioles. Not a peep. But wait the New York reports if it's birds you want! (I think I'll do a general birds of the week post as well but that one I'll have to write still.)