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That’s another state I’m in

We interrupt this run of stat-posts for some quick trip news.

“If you’ve got a plan to try and get round all fifty states” someone said to me a while back “Are you going to do D.C. as well?” they asked.

It hadn’t been part of the original plan, but when an old BBC colleague emailed me and told me that she & her bloke were in town the first weekend in October and “How far was that from Charleston?”, I replied back “About nine hours by train”, we hatched a plan for me to pop up and visit on the same weekend that they were there.

Yup – I came by train. I fookin’ luuurve trains, in case you didn’t know. The overnight trip means that you can sleep for most of it, and only spend half the money that it would of cost me if I’d have flown here. The legroom is also so much better, the seats are wider and more reclined, and there’s an outlet too allowing me to plug my laptop in and not run out of juice. All they now need is wireless and they’d been onto a winner for sure for attracting people back to the rails.

I’d made this journey before back in October 2006, when I went slightly further and went all the way through to New York. Then, the train was 45 minutes late on the way there, and just under 90 minutes late on the way back. “Amtrak always runs late!” was what I very much heard. And there was a sign up in Charleston’s Amtrak railway station warning of ‘Schedule Changes Which May Alter Your Plans‘.

Well – when the Silver Palmetto rolled into Union Station at 7.15 on Saturday morning, it was running half an hour early! So no problems going.

Random facts I have learned since being here:

• The District of Colombia is of course not really a state (but I have heard people refer to it as the 51st), but instead a 10 square mile plot of land flipped 45 degrees on its side and then placed down on the borders of Maryland and Virginia. But then those Virginian’s got awfully fussy about that, and in 1846 they campaigned to get their plot of land back, and did – leading to the odd shape of D.C. today.

• The White House is white, because it was painted that way to cover up the nasty scars left behind when those pesky Brits attempted to burn it down.

• The Washington Memorial was built in two parts. About a quarter of the way up, the project ran out of money. When new funding was found the builders returned to the same quarry to get the stone they needed to carry on, but by that time, the quarry had been dug deeper and the colour of the stone had changed. Thus the bottom quarter of the memorial is a lighter shade of white than the top three quarters

• Abraham Lincoln’s hands on his memorial do NOT spell ‘A’, ‘L’ in sign language – this is an urban myth.

A lot of D.C. seems be under construction at the moment. A lot of places are fenced off and being dug and/or renovated, as I found yesterday when I spent a frustrating 30 minutes walking around The Mall trying to find a piece of grass under a shady tree that I could sit under, but I couldn’t because it was all out-of-bounds.

This of course is because there’s this teeny thing called the election coming up, and therefore there’s a lot of construction work going on around the whole place, getting it all spruced up nicely in time for the inauguration.

And on the day (exactly 1 month before the big vote) that it was your last chance to register for either Obama or McCain, I quite enjoyed being able to say “I’m not going to vote!” to the people that asked me if I was registered or not, before going on to explain that it was not because I’m a complete political heathen, but merely because my nationality and residential status here does not allow me to.

I couldn’t help but also be slightly staggered by the number of homeless people that there are here. I thought Seattle was bad when I was there two months ago, but D.C. seems to be worse. Nervy moments riding the metro back late last night with my several-hundred-dollar camera slung over my shoulder wondering if I was going to get mugged or not. I’ve been asked for loose change several times. I thought about explaining that the government might have $700 million if they asked nicely. But either way, it’s not a great advert for this nations capital city.

Being here also let me tick off another movie moment on my list. Regular readers to this blog will know of my fascination of matching up movie moments I have seen to the real life places.

And one that I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned before is the hugely underrated Clint Eastwood movie In The Line of Fire. There’s a nice moment when old Clint is trying to decide whether his repeated flirting with Renne Russo has paid off or not, and he’s sat on the steps of the monument, talking to Abe as if he were a real person. “If she looks back, that means she’s interested”, he says to the main man as if he’s listening. And as she trots down the steps, he takes a bite of his ice-cream, waiting for her to look back over her shoulder at him. I won’t spoil it for you, but apart from the fact that all food & drink is now banned in all memorial areas, I did at least get to sit on the steps, taking in the awesome view of the reflecting pool (below), and pretended for a moment to be the esteemed Mr. Eastwood.

Someone pointed out that the reflecting pool has also been where Jenny & Forest Gump waded into the water together and reunited. The pool looked far too grimy for me to recreate this, so I didn’t bother. Oh, and apparently the remake of Planet of the Apes has got Abe replaced by a big monkey “But it’s not worth seeing”, I was reliably informed. “Even though Helena Bonham Carter is the hottest monkey you’ll ever see”. Nice.

Finally, a DG mention. (Yes that’s DG, not DC). In Googlewhack Adventure, he turns up in D.C. on a cold, wintery, new years day and has a hard time liking it. He declares it to be lacking in character as he felt that the whole place was clearly created for a purpose, and not one that developed naturally over time.

Until, that is he went to Kramers, a bookstore & cafe upon Dupont Circle to meet some people, upon which he declared that ‘Washington just got a little bit nicer’.

So off to Kramers I went Saturday morning for the most complete blow-out breakfast I can remember for a long time (across the span of three hours, multiple coffee top-ups, and the most amazing cinnamon mini-muffins I have ever tasted), and whilst I wouldn’t say that I could agree with it rescuing a whole city, I could kinda see what he meant. At least three people who knew I was coming here last week said “Ooh, you must go to Kramer’s”, and so I did. And if you ever come to D.C. yourself, then I would now recommend it to you.

So I get the train back tonight. After doing a few more touristy things today, that is. And that will be another little corner of America that I can say I’ve done.

In the midst of all this, I also took a rather strange phone call from a friend back home. Seems like I’m missing out on a reunion of the week that a whole bunch of us met/started at University. They weren’t alone in wanting to reminisce about that this week.

We all lamented the fact that we were no longer fresh-faced 18-ish-year-old somethings turning up in a world of cheap beer and copious sex – mainly the former in my case. And instead now were all grown up, married and settled in a house with children, and oh … except – not in my case.

So in a world where 4,000 miles away a group of eight of my oldest friends all met up, and were kind enough to think “Hey, let’s call Geoff up!”, to make me part of it, and I then had to explain I was in D.C. and not Charleston, I did of course get a little life-reminiscent, and wondered where in this huge world and totally fascinating country I would go next.

In the last twelve months, I’ve been to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Alaska, Seattle, Chicago and now D.C., and not including any obvious-tourist-attractions, that leaves just Boston, New Orleans, Las Vegas and Hawaii on my ‘places I feel I must see’ list before I leave the USA.

Unless the schedule is altered, and the plans do change.

8 responses to “That’s another state I’m in”

  1. geofftech says:

    Facebook album here. You don’t have to be my friend, or even a member of facebook to view it.

  2. Geoff's Mum says:

    I was in Washington last year Geoff; Oh sorry it was the England one, near Newcastle, not quite as interesting as what you have shown us. Are you going to be adding up your U.S. mileage as travelling statistics for us next year?

  3. Rudi says:

    Dag blammit – you were in my city and didn’t let me know!

    😉

  4. Julia says:

    You should really do new England more justice than a fleeting trip to Boston… especially now it’s Autumn. Get yee to Vermont and look at some trees!

  5. tami says:

    Glad to see you have New Orleans on the list but what do you mean about leaving the states? Are you going back? If so, can I fit in your luggage!

  6. Chucker says:

    While I have mixed feelings about AMTRAK, I do highly recommend a trip down to Miami and Key West before you close your travel book. Rent a convertible in Miami Beach.

    I also had the task of luring foreign visitors to the Great state of Missouri many years ago and suggest a “smack dab in the middle of the US” trip to the Kansas City/St. Louis area. We touted a taste of Mark Twain, Jesse James and Harry S Truman. (Sorry Mr. President, travel research showed that order of awareness by foreigners.)

  7. almost witty says:

    Ever been to Ohio? Or Cleveland? 😉

  8. Hawaii? Hawaii is on your list to visit? 🙂 Which island? 🙂

    Two corrections to your post: It’s called the Washington Monument, not memorial. And it’s a $700 BILLION (not million)bailout that the government is giving away.
    Did you get to the Smithsonians, they might be the best museums in the world.

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