Wednesday, June 27, 2018

DC - Day 2 - That's So Washington

Our first full day in DC started at Union Station. We got there by Dodge Grand Caravan and not the Metro, since my neurosis kept me up at night thinking that Betty and I would get separated from the kids on the Metro.

I get my neurosis from my mom. As my brother would say, "Way to go, Mom."

We went to Union Station to meet up with our Duck Boat tour from DC Ducks. Our Duck Boat's name was the Lame Duck, and our tour guide was Capt. Steve. If you've never been on a Duck Boat before, they're amphibious vehicles that were developed for World War II as a way to quickly move cargo onto shore. The army originally ordered them, then didn't want them, and only after a Duck boat saved some stranded Coast Guardsmen did the army reconsider. They were mostly made by women (think "Rosie the Riveter") who took such great pride in their work that many Ducks are still in use today despite only supposed to have lasted a single combat tour. We drove around the capital, seeing the White House, the capitol building, Washington Monument, the World War II memorial, the Lincoln Memorial - even making a few left turns, amazingly - then rode through the Potomac River near the Pentagon. All three kids got to get behind the wheel and steer for a bit in the Potomac.

So the Lame Duck lasted through World War II, the Korean War, driving around DC and letting my kids drive it. What a machine!

Capt. Steve gave us a brief history of a few sites in DC, starting with Union Station. Union Station was originally designed in the model of a Roman bath house. Inside are Roman statues that were intended to be guards about to get into the bath - meaning, they were naked except for helmets and capes (which is basically a Saturday night at the Tanory house). Once the statues went on display, shields were added in front of each statue to hide their mentula (which is Latin for wangs). But if you look at the right angle, legend has it that you can still see a Roman dong today. The ladies stole a glance, and between giggles reported that it must have been cold when the statues were carved.

While on our tour, a huge demonstration of mostly Chinese protestors marched in front of the capitol to protest the Chinese government's persecution of Falun Dafa, also known as Falun Gong. Falun Dafa is apparently a spiritual practice that combines meditation and exercises with moral philosphy centered on the tenets of truthfulness, compassion and forbearance. I guess it's like Chinese yoga, but without the stretchy pants that make your butt look good. I'm not sure why they were protesting at the US capitol - maybe they were hoping that the US could do something about it, or were just trying to get attention - but it temporarily impeded our Duck Boat tour. As Capt. Steve put it, "A demonstration at the capitol stopping the Duck Boat tour? That's so Washington."

While we waited for a parade of peaceful protestors to march by us, a white, bearded guy in a suit and helmet holding a briefcase zoomed by us on an electric scooter. Capt. Steve's words were in my head: "That's so Washington."

After our Duck Boat tour ended, we ate at the historical and culturally important McDonald's at Union Station. Then it was off to our first museum of our trip...

The Postal Museum.

I'll admit, I wasn't excited about the Postal Museum. But Betty wanted to go to score some free postcards. And just as we were about to leave, we saw something that really got the kids excited: the guns that Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr used when they dueled. Our kids have been listening to the Hamilton soundtrack, and to see the guns... well, that was special.

After the Postal Museum, we got one of many ice cream bars that day to try to stay cool and hydrated. DC is hot and humid, mostly due to the hot air coming out of Congress but also just due to the climate.

Next we hit up the National History Museum. The National History Museum is one of my favorites. It's got the dinosaur bones, mummies, a narwhal exhibit, gemstones, and all kinds of stuffed animals (as in, taxidermy, not toys). It's basically what I think of when I think of a museum. My son was impressed, but my oldest daughter didn't like the fact that all those animals had been stuffed and put on display for our amusement. I kept trying to tell her that it was for our education, but she wouldn't agree until I bought her more ice cream.

After that we toured the National Gallery of Art. We saw a Da Vinci, some beautiful Monets, a couple of Renoirs, a Degas, a bust of Lorenzo de' Medici, and - Betty's favorite - some of Mary Cassatt's work. The kids didn't hate it, but they didn't really appreciate it. But we did. We realized that, not only were these works of art beautiful and historically important, but they were also very expensive. In fact, the National Gallery of Art is heavily guarded. There's a guard in every room, and if you get too close to any of the art work, you'll get a fussin' and I assume a taserin'. Basically the guards at the National Gallery of Art are the Secret Service of museum workers. Don't mess around with them.

It was about 4:30 when we got out of the National Gallery of Art. Everything in DC closes around 6 pm, and we had some time to kill before we needed to get back to our van - the parking garage closed at 7 pm but we didn't want to get there too early so that we could avoid the crazy DC traffic - so we popped into the National Air and Space Museum for a few minutes. We looked at more of the "air" stuff this day (space stuff came later), and spent the remaining time at the children's play area while I sat in the corner and charged my phone, so that we could use the GPS on the way back to my cousin Elizabeth's house.

When we got back to Elizabeth's, I had managed 18K steps on my FitBit. My software developer legs just aren't made for that kind of walking. We were hungry, so Elizabeth used Uber Eats to bring us Ethiopian food. If that's no so Washington, then I don't know what is.

Then the kids wanted ice cream. Specifically, pistachio ice cream. But we just couldn't walk anymore.

We ended our day by playing Dominoes again. I sat out the first game, then subbed in for Betty once our baby girl Rosie needed to go to bed. Betty was in second when I took over for her, but I somehow managed to come in last again. By the time I picked up the Dominoes (as was my job since I was the loser), everyone else was asleep - probably dreaming about eating Dove ice cream bars in a Monet painting while dinosaur fossils roamed in the background.

Stay tuned for DC Day 3!

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