I spent the last three days visiting family in Washington DC and bumming around the nation's capital. I spent an afternoon downtown catching up with some old friends who live in the area and took a few dozen pictures; I'll post some later, assuming they turned out.
My main goal was to get a tour of the Library of Congress, but apparently President's Day is the one day it's not open. Just about everything else was open, but I wasn't able to get into the Capitol building without waiting in line, and it was far too cold for that. I did get into the National Archives and saw all four pages of the Constitution for the first time. When I had been there previously, only pages one and four were on display -- the government was no doubt editing pages two and three for some nefarious purpose.
I asked the guards about a story I'd heard somwhere -- that George Washington carried the Constitution around his his pocket while he was President -- but they denied it. Typical.
They also refused to elaborate on the new night-time security measures used to protect the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence, saying only that the old system of lowering them 300 feet into the ground was no longer in service. If they aren't lowered into a vault, I doubt they're moved out of the building. It's probably a secret because the vault broke and they just sit in the display cases all night. Or President Bush carries them around in his pocket.
Security wasn't that great. I had a pocket knife with me and when they used the wand it beeped like mad. The guard asked if I had anything in my pockets, I said no, and he waved me through. Excellent. The guards did know quite a bit about the documents however, and had some fascinating anecdotes. I doubt I could damage those glass cases with a pocket knife, anyway. If I'd been planning ahead I would have brought my Bill of Rights Security Edition along, hoping for the ultimate in irony: having my copy of the Bill of Rights confiscated while waiting in line to see the actual Bill of Rights. Alas.
Speaking of cold, the DC area seems nearly uninhabitable to me. It was hard to pack layers of jackets considering that it's 80 in Los Angeles, but it was below freezing most of the time I was in DC. If you forget your jacket in Los Angeles you might be mildly uncomfortable; if you forget your jacket in DC, you'll die. I don't understand how people can even live there.
Plus, they're absolutely awful drivers. I can't tell you how many times we were almost broadsided by people trying to merge onto freeways at 30 mph. They drive slow, they don't signal, and they don't even check their destination lane before drifting into it. I was constantly amazed by their driving ineptitude.
On the other hand, the DC Metro system is the most convienient mass transit system I've ever ridden on, and it makes sense economically, unlike the light rail in Los Angeles. While riding home from downtown I met a large group of British high school students on a week-long visit to our capital and had a really nice conversation. I visted London a couple of years ago, so we swapped stories about our travels. They said they were having a good time in DC, that the weather was nice (ha), and that Americans seems to be very friendly. I told them they should come to California, where both the weather and the people are actually warm. We didn't talk about anything political, but both they and I shared a few snickers about the rudeness of the French and so forth.
And then, finally, I'm home again. My sleep schedule is all screwed up, and I'm running now on pure vitamin C (that is, caffeine). I've got a full day of work, and then a full night of partying (that is, school work), so I'll bid you farewell for the moment -- or as they say in DC, see ya!