Sunday, October 31, 2010

Dispatches from DC #03

31 October 2010

Hello there... Rodger French here.

And Happy Halloween to you all. Anne and I plan to celebrate this year by engaging in some unbridled hedonism, to wit, breaking out the candy corn, tuning in game 4 of the World Series, and enthusiastically rooting for the San Francisco Giants. Not that the Rangers aren't a fun team to watch, but pull for a team - any team - from Texas? I don't think so. Anyway, we need a little quality couch time after yesterday.

We attended the "Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear" on the National Mall, and it was ginormous. The National Park Service, which typically lowballs crowd numbers, put attendance at 200,000+, meaning that probably 250,000+ people showed up. The Metro system was completely swamped; it took us two hours to make a trip that normally takes twenty minutes. And, like the vast majority of participants, we got nowhere near the stage.

But the crowd, mostly young and white, was very civilized, and apart from some misguided youths climbing trees and even buildings (so I hear) and clambering on top of the portable toilets (which is very disconcerting if you're trying to pee) in order to get a better view, the proceedings proceeded quite sanely. Which was, of course, the point.

For those of us who missed out on the official program, entertainment value was provided by the signage people brought with them. Ever the diligent correspondent, I scribbled down a few possibly interesting examples and would like to pass them on to you, complete with helpful contextual headings.

Spiritual: "God Hates Figs - Mark 11: 12-14"

Sensual: "Watching Christine O'Donnell makes me want to touch myself."

Reasonable: "We may disagree, but I will not stomp on your head."

Economical: "Gay Mexican Nazis are raising my taxes."

Practical: "I don't mind paying taxes because roads don't pave themselves."

Cultural: "Stop Justin Bieber"

Gustatory: "Tea Party? Make mine an Iced Chai Latte."

Classical: "What's so funny about Peace, Love and Understanding?"

A.J. Favourite: "Librarians for Informed Opinion"

All in all, the Rally proved to be a fine way to spend a beautiful autumn afternoon. That evening, against long, crowded odds, a number of dear friends made their way to our flat, where we engaged in scintillating conversation whilst ingesting copious quantities of quality snackage - a fine housewarming party and perfect way to conclude the day.

[Civic Responsibility Reminder: Tuesday, November 2 is Election Day. In addition to voting, I will be a poll worker at my local precinct. If you are a registered voter and are ambivalent about participating, I encourage you to be a conscientious citizen and get your sorry ass to the polls. And no "they're all the same" bullshit excuses. Somebody's going to get elected and the lesser of two evils is still less evil. One more thing: If you don't vote, don't bitch. Thank you very much.]



Saturday, October 16, 2010

Dispatches from DC #02

16 October 2010

Hello there... Rodger French here.

I'm pleased to report that matters have settled a bit, what with Anne starting her newish State Department gig at Foggy Bottom. Our place is taking shape and the nearby DC Metro (a classic example of socialist evil in action) is most convenient for commuting as well as touristing. We've already visited two major (and free) attractions in town.

Seeking refuge from the clutter of our apartment, we decided to take in the clutter at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. The place has been renovated since my last visit, but all the major goodies are still there. My personal favourites are a room dedicated to the Wright Brothers, an impossibly small Gemini space capsule, and a Douglas DC-3 (the greatest airplane ever) suspended from the ceiling. And with school back in session, the museum was not overrun by busloads of America's future rocket scientists.

Our other excursion took us to the Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress. This fabulous Italian Renaissance-style structure - festooned with paintings, mosaics, and statuary - houses roughly a bazillion books, including many of the extremely rare and priceless variety (Gutenberg Bibles, for example). The Main Reading Room, a magnificent place that is normally closed to the public, was open in honor of Columbus Day (also open on Presidents Day), so we were able to wander freely about. The joint looks like a movie set, which, I believe, it has actually been.

[Useful Information: Anyone can come in and use the facilities as long as they have a Reader Identification Card, which is available to persons at least 16 years of age who have a government issued picture ID. Very cool.]

Back on the home front, I've adjusted pretty quickly to living in an apartment for the first time and revel at being able to walk or take public transportation to many of the places I need to go. I am also relieved to not have to worry about matters involving yard vegetation. (My motto: "The well tended lawn is a sign of a misspent life.") Best of all, accordion practicing is happening again and I have rekindled some hope of continuing my peripatetic musical career.

In other news, you may or may not know that on Saturday, 30 October there will be a possibly significant rally on the National Mall beginning at Noon. Jon Stewart's "Rally to Restore Sanity" and Stephen Colbert's "March to Keep Fear Alive" will join forces for a "Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear." Of course. It should be a fun and memorable day and we will SO be there.

[Helpful Programming Note: For readers in other lands who may not be familiar with American TV, Stewart and Colbert are prominent comedians/satirists who regularly comment on political and social issues. Please don't confuse them with a fellow named Glenn Beck, who recently held his own rally in Washington, DC. Beck, while deplorably influential, is arguably sociopathic and/or insane, and decidedly not funny.]



Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Dispatches from DC #01

07 October 2010

Hello there... Rodger French here. Finally.

The farewells in Pretoria were extensive and heartfelt, the flight from Johannesburg six movies long and then some, and the weather in the southeastern United States hot and beastly. All in all, your basic transition from four years in Africa to a new life, for the next two years, in the nation's capital. After regrouping with our dear friends R & D in Alexandria, Virginia for a couple of daze, A.J. and I hit the road to visit other friends and aging relatives.

This epic journey took us to Kentucky, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and back to VA. (By the way, if you're going to the Orlando area, do not miss the Kennedy Space Center. Wicked awesome and not a mouse in sight.) Upon our return, we checked into our new abode in the fabulous Hawthorn Building in Arlington, VA minutes before two households worth of goods from our past lives, sitting in storage these few years, were delivered and deposited all over the place. We've begun to make sense of things, although we have way too much stuff, with more yet to come from South Africa.

This is my first experience living in a condo building and it should prove most useful, especially if housing at our next posting happens to be of the apartment persuasion. It's time to reassess, edit, and pare down... a lot. Anybody need more stuff? Really, talk to me.

Our flat is walking distance from the DC Metro, so we can usually leave the mighty Honda Element (aka "The Toaster") in the garage and avoid the routinely horrible DC area traffic. I've also procured a very nice bike and expect to be mobile just as soon as I can figure out the new-fangled gear shifters.

What else... I am trying very hard to view the land of my birth with new eyes, like someone who is visiting for the first time. Not a convenient conceit, certainly, but one worth pursuing in the interest of good travel writing and the maintenance of reader interest. So please bear with me as I get my bearings and I promise to resist the temptation to deliver the snark regarding sundry idiots littering the political landscape in an election year. Seriously, I'll try.

One other thing. If you find yourself planning a trip to the capital of the free world (Official Motto: "Taxation Without Representation"), please let us know. Meanwhile, be well and stay tuned.