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Published: April 1st 2005
"Mickey is a rat! Mickey is a rat!" That's what my placard read. It's also what I vociferously chanted as I marched down Pennsylvania Ave with hundreds of other concerned citizens in a protest march against the proposed Disney's America theme park project planned for the historic Haymarket area of Northern Virgina. That was in the summer of 1994, my first summer of living in the DC metropolitan area. Later that same year, Disney's top gun Michael Eisner dropped the plans for the "theme park" without explanation. Maybe protest marches do work sometimes.
Marilyn and I now live in Michigan, but two weeks ago, right on the verge of bursting cherry blossoms, we were back in DC. Mickey Mouse was there too. Actually 76 Mickeys were in DC, all of them standing stiff as plastic in the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center's Woodrow Wilson Plaza. This cavalcade of distinctive, 700-pound, six-foot-tall statues of the iconic rodent was in town to salute Mickey's 75th birthday.
Many of the statues were designed by celebrities the likes of soap queen Susan Lucci, crooner Sir Elton John and megastar Tom Hanks. The collection's creations represent all walks of Americana: a Space
Mickey, a Policemouse Mickey, a FrontEAR Tales Mickey, even Mickey as a Detroit Tiger and a Detroit Redwing (see the photos). I didn't quite get the Lobster Mickey, complete with claws instead of the usual white-gloved hands--maybe this was a Maine mouse.
This visit to the nation's capital we tried to do our DC accommodations on the cheap. Actually our first night was classic at a favorite hangout: the Tabbard Inn. Quiet, clean and comfy, with a double for $110.00 with the bath just outside the room. We could only get the Tabbard for Friday night, so on Saturday, in a steady drizzle, Marilyn rolled her two suitcases behind her, and I hefted the Black Maximum on my back, and we zigzagged our way to the DC Youth Hostel at 11th & K.
I had a couple of new member coupons which brought our clean and adequate double cot room down to a reasonable $65.00 a night. The first two nights at the hostel were dreamy. I mean I slept and had pleasant dreams. On our third night, the fleet was in. Fifty-six middle school students from Boston, Mass hit our floor like the steel balls of a
pinball machine all shot at once.
Eventually their excellent teachers and chaperones established order and we finished our fourth and final night at the hostel with a good night's sleep. They were, in fact, a great group of kids.
DC often delivers unexpected surprises (good and bad): Burly DC cops on powerful motorcycles escorting the long mean looking black limo carrying Bush and Co. roared past me near Mt. Vernon Square. I'm not sure if the President waved or not; the limo's windows were darkly tinted. Some surprises are more pleasant treats: Harry's Bar near Metro Center turned out to be a great place to sit outside, people watch, sip a beer and eat Harry's free popcorn. Another treat: A wam reunion with dear friends at Chez Markey, catered by Chef Judith. And because Mar and I saved money by staying at the Youth Hostel and survived the Invasion of the Middleschoolers, we splurged at a restaurant called Andale--pricey but close to the real thing Mexican food. Good Margaritas too.
On departure day, the walk from the Youth Hostel down to Metro Center at five in the morning past slumbering street people got us to West Falls Church station just ten minutes before the Washington Flyer bus boarded for Dulles. We made it to the airport on time.
As I waited to board the jet back to Lansing, I thought about the Mickey Mouse statues. Shouldn't there have been a Streetmouse Mickey representing all of DC's street people. The homeless are also a part of Americana. Aren't they??
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