I highly recommend enjoying a weekday off and acting like a tourist, going down to the National Mall and checking out your favorite museum or quiet spot. Yesterday, I spent the afternoon at the Smithsonian Institute’s Freer & Sackler Galleries (the National Museums of Asian Art). No doubt those who know me well are saying, Duh!?! Of course that’s where he’d go! But seriously, I learned a thing or two, especially about Buddhist art, which was the whole point of going. It was a nice experience.
Having spent the day among the masses, I’m pleased to report that America is, indeed, still there, despite the freakish crime spree in and around the Mall of late. And America is just as overweight and obnoxious as last year, with a noticeable increase in red-headed “Ginger Kids.”
Another disturbing trend is the use of Bluetooth-enabled mobile phone headsets — even the older generations from Iowa and the Other Hinterlands are using them now, becoming totally oblivious to the volumes of their voices and the vapidity of their banal conversations. I actually heard a man, who loudly identified himself as “Sal,” call in a report of ducks swimming backward in the ice skating rink-turned-fountain at the National Sculpture Garden. “I’m telling you, Gracie, they’re paddling backward!” From where I sat, the danged birds were just floating around, pecking at bits of a hoagie roll that someone had just thrown in the water.
The whole thing reminded me that, although I have lived here for 14-some-odd years, there are a lot of people (perhaps tens of millions?) who never get to see the side of D.C. that I see. When they come here, it’s a hotel in Fairfax (or even farther out) and a chartered bus to the monuments. Maybe they’ll get to go to Haines Point (if they’re lucky) or gawk at the White House and the two anti-nuke people who live in the tent in front of it, but for the most part, I think they’re herded from museum to museum with an obnoxious retiree from Boston (sorry, Fred) reminding them to keep their neon pink stickers on their shirts to ensure they get a free bag of fruit chews when they get back to the bus.
Only the brave ones venture out of the core of the city, like the busload of Japanese tourists (I’m talking straight from Japan — remember, I can throw a little Nihongo around when I need to) I saw walking out of Ben’s Chili Bowl yesterday afternoon about 3:30. I don’t know who looked more confused, the staff at Ben’s or the tourists, who I must admit showed a great deal of restraint, particularly for the Japanese (in other words, there was no shock-and-awe display of the finest in Japanese cameras and no white-gloved tour guides with micro-beeping bull horns that get your attention with that piercing “Doors Closing” ding-dong sound).
All I could do was say, “Ni zero ni he no konichiwa.”
Welcome to The 202.