How are you sleeping, in DC?

Published: June 26th 2017
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Geo: 38.8921, -77.0241

Though my one-night stand with the Woman New York left me desiring more, I was on a relatively and undesirably tight schedule for making my way down the eastern seaboard, into the south, and finally back to Denver to catch a flight to Seattle for the wedding of my good friends. And, as with any honest one-night stand, I left early in the morning with hardly a longing glance or word spoken.

I was reminded about the relative loveliness and comfort of Hoboken as I drove southwest through Jersey City, over ugly faded black steel bridges, past factories and smokestacks and hoards of oncoming morning traffic, looked down at areas and neighborhoods that I would not want to be caught in at nighttime, nor daytime, for that matter. The westward edge of the state leading into Pennsylvania, however, was quite green and lovely. I would be passing through or around Philadelphia, and though I did not want nor plan to spend any significant time there, I wanted to at least see the city center briefly. I found a meter amongst the busy and disorienting city streets, dropped in a little over an hour's worth of coins, noted what time I would need to return by, and briskly walked toward JFK Plaza – home of the famous LOVE sign characterizing the City of Brotherly Love. I'd wanted to visit the sign ever since I saw it in a skateboarding video when I was all of 11 or 12 years old. Though it would be cheesy (no pun intended) and perhaps a little presumptuous of a Philadelphian's true lifestyle, being lunchtime, I knew that I needed to find a Philly Cheesesteak. As I approached the plaza, my eyes gleefully spotted a street vendor. Bingo. Only $5.50 for a nearly foot-long Philly Cheesesteak with "the works" – the steak sautéed up with onions and banana peppers. I knew that it would reek havoc on my stomach later, but it had to be done. And it was delicious! The people on the street seemed kind, at least that is what their eyes said. When I make the effort to actually look someone is the eye as I pass by, and they do the same, I am sometimes almost overwhelmed by the kindness being reflected back at me. Eyes can speak. Eyes can smile. Eyes can scorn. Eyes can beg for attention or connection. Eyes really are a gateway to the soul. I've had multiple people in my life tell me I have very intense eyes. I've even had a couple people tell me that my eyes are a little intimidating with their intensity. I simply tell people that my eyes are brown cause I'm full of shit.

Delaware, at least the 20-mile portion I saw along the freeway, was also beautiful. Not worth $4, however – the asking price at the tollway exit at the state's border. Thank you, Googlemaps (and the giant yellow signs that read LAST EXIT BEFORE TOLL LAST EXIT BEFORE TOLL), for showing me a 7-minute detour off of the tollway, down a mile, a turn to the left, and three miles back to the tollway on Maryland ground, thus bypassing the toll booth. Take that!

One notable difference between western cities and eastern cities (in my limited observation) is that you can see so many western cities coming. From a ways off much or all of the city is visible, and from within the city much of the rest is visible. Eastern cities do not seem to have these traits as much. Small, rolling hills and thick deciduous forests give the cities somewhere to nestle down and hide. I was looking at my GPS on the approach in to Washington DC. I could tell from the display that I was getting very close, in fact numerous other roads and expressways were very close by, but the current roadway was nothing more than a scratch in a sea of trees. To the right – thick trees, occasionally a peek of a building. To the left – thick trees, revealing here and there bumpers and windshields of traffic heading in the opposite direction. Whether this sort of occurrence is intended or purely natural, I know not (though I lean to natural), but I enjoy the effect and the space that it creates from the bustling world surrounding. Seeing these dense groves of trees all over the east also made me think of the original settlers as they had to work their way through or around.

Speaking of working through the trees, I am convinced that many of the roads in DC, or at least in the northern suburbs such as College Park, Takoma Park, Silver Spring, etc, are derived from the original game trails blazed out four centuries ago. Nothing is straight, nothing is organized. The roads curve left and right, up and around, meeting at indeterminate intervals at thoroughly exhausting intersections like schizophrenic spider webs tangling and trapping unsuspecting victims.

I found a garage that allowed overnight parking that would only be $8 if I left by 8AM. I was told the garage was closed between 12 and 6, so I wouldn't be able to leave between those times, which was fine since I planned to be asleep in the back during that time anyway (thank you, Hoboken, for the new trick). Out that night in Dupont Circle. Ought to be called Duchebag Circle. Whatever Tentious is - this comes before it. My tan not dark enough, shoes not shiny enough, shirt not pressed enough, and hair not spiked enough. Just a couple drinks and a cigarette later and I was back on the subway returning to the garage. I was talking on the phone with a friend back west as I approached the garage. Directly across from the garage a car was parked on the side of the road, lights on and idling, with someone inside. Odd. The main garage door was closed (since it was after midnight) so I would need to take the side door, but decided to wait until the sketchy car moved along. While I was still on the phone, the car suddenly jumped in to motion and pulled up to the garage door, triggering the sensor and causing it to raise. As the car was pulling in I decided to go ahead and walk through the side door. It was locked. Shit! Quickly, while the garage door was still up, I ran around the corner and in to the garage as the door started its way down again. I'm not sure if I would have been able to trigger the door myself, but thank goodness that car was on its way in, otherwise I might have spent the night wandering the streets of DC looking for a warm cubby or dumpster! The air in the garage was still and warm, making me feel like any breath I took might deplete the area of oxygen and be my last.

But I woke the next morning and was out at 7:55 - just minutes before the rate would have gone to $15. After a quick caffeine fix I was on a bus heading to the city center. My 10+ mile day in New York City with cowboy boots on proved to be quite painful, so this time I wore my running shoes (I wish I could learn from all of my mistakes this easily). Immediately after stepping off the bus, and for the rest of the day (other than the couple times I stopped to snack on the baguette, snow peas, fruit, and protein shake that I brought with me) my feet would become a blur as I briskly projected myself from monument to monument, wanting to see as much as I could in the single day I would be there. Put my middle finger up in front of the White House and snapped a picture as requested by many friends (I doubt they believed I would actually do it), was amazed at the height of the Washington Monument. Seriously - that thing is HUGE!!! Walking toward it was like climbing a 14er - you can see it, and you keep getting closer and closer, or at least you intuitively know you must be getting closer because your feet have been valiantly trodding forward the entire time, but you never seem to get there! Standing on the back of a penny, the Lincoln Memorial, unmistakably evokes awe and reverence, as if life is slowed down for a few moments. The Reflecting Pool - under construction and not much more than piles of dirt, construction vehicles, and men in orange - unfortunately did not provide a very stunning reflection of the massive pillar far beyond. WWII, Korean, MLK Jr, Jefferson... all stunning and unique and sobering. One of my favorites was the FDR Memorial - like walking through the great halls of an ancient but now abandoned fortress, being reclaimed by the earth - waterfalls and trees and vines making their way in and over and around every gap and stone and corner.

It was a warm day. I saw a young child with an ice cream cone as I was walking toward the capital building. Lucky day - I came right up to a little cart and got myself a sugar cone topped with vanilla soft serve. Feeling a little like a child again, I worked my way to the center of the capital to take a picture of its grand dome and the reflecting pool. As I pulled my camera out, I caught a glimpse of my ice cream cone, forming its own perfect but micro version of the capital dome. I chuckled to myself at my newfound discovery, held up the cone to mimic the shape of the capital dome, and snapped a shot. What a delicious, delicious capital we have!

One could spend weeks and weeks exploring all of the Smithsonian museums and still not see it all. I had about 2 hours. I rocketed (no pun intended) myself through the Air and Space museum, trying to absorb as much as possible yet without lingering at any place too long. A quick jaunt through the botanical gardens, a brief stop in to the east building of the National Gallery of Art (which, though I only spent 15 minutes here, was a waste of 15 minutes - it was mostly just big ceilings and big, empty walls, and the art that was there was putrid), and perhaps an hour at the National Portrait Gallery. The Portrait Gallery was recommended to me by a number of friends, and for good reason - it's incredible! Floor after floor, hall after hall, room after room of paintings, sculptures, busts, artifacts, of all sizes and colors and styles. I did not used to have an appreciated for things of this like (when I went to Europe with my sister a number of years ago, the Louvre bored me to death), but somehow I have matured (some of you laugh!) and grown and embraced every moment that I spent there.

"Women who stepped up were measured as citizens of the nation, not as women...This was a people's war, and everyone was in it." - Colonel Oveta Culp Hobby

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." - MLK Jr

"I have seen war.
I have seen war on land and sea. I have seen blood running from the wounded... I have seen the dead in the mud. I have seen cities destroyed... I have seen children starving. I have seen the agony of mothers and wives.
I hate war." - FDR

"The structure of world peace cannot be the work of one man or one party or one nation.
It must be a peace which rests on the cooperative effort of the whole world." - FDR

Made it back to my truck with 7 minutes to spare before the meter ran out. Yes! A sticky, sweaty mess from the active day, I needed to find a washroom or river or something. At the northern corner of DC lives Rock Creek Park - a huge, wild, beautiful area defiled by only a few roads running through. Much like Central Park in NYC, but perhaps even moreso since it is much less tamed and maintained, the moment you break through the barrier of trees the forest gulps you up into its belly and the city is no more. I was hoping for just a secluded space to bathe myself with baby wipes, but fortune smiled upon me and provided me with a little trailhead hut with running water! Almost dusk at this point, I grabbed my rag and soap, nonchalantly walked inside, removed my shirt, and had quite the nice "shower".

A rather uneventful night out on U Street. First stumbled across a lovely basement bar with sitting room only - no standing allowed. Quickly made friends with some folks at the bar - a married couple and their sassy, redheaded, Australian-accented friend who spent most of her time wistfully speaking of the charming bloke she was head over heels for. They left, I shortly after, then coming across a watering hold with dollar Buds. Can't pass that up. Found some fantastic, energetic, make you wanna scream live jazzy music, only for their set to be over about two sips into my beer. En route back to the bus stop was sirened in by a DJ spinning mad beats. Great music, great atmosphere, good drink specials, even got to dance with a Polish girl... too bad she smelled like fish.

Dozed off a bit on the bus ride back. Not my smartest move ever. Thankfully my stop was the last one, where I was graciously woken by the driver. Gaining clarity as I stepped off the bus and down the clean streets of Silver Spring, now vacant though just hours earlier they were bustling with activity, families and dinner-goers. I had found the perfect spot - a neighborhood that looked quite well-off but not to the scary point (I'd almost rather take my chances in the ghetto than some "we are distinguished and we know it and you suck cause you're not" neighborhoods I have seen), with tall trees running all along side and not a driveway or sidewalk within 100 feet. Home, sweet home.

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