Thursday, June 10, 2010

Mindless Roaming in the Capital City


A decision had been made. At at the end of May I would embark on a vacation of sorts to the east coast of the States, making stops in Washington DC, Maryland, Virginia and, most notably, New York City. The motives were simple: my birthday was coming up. Seeing as I celebrated last year's birthday in Madrid, celebrating this year's in the Big Apple seemed fitting. As cliché as it sounds, I love New York... but lets continue with the story.

All bullshit aside, I hate flying. I love to travel, but having to pack a suitcase (making sure I don't fuck up and forget something), the process leading up to boarding (worrying I've done something wrong, feeling my life fade away in a terminal) and flying in an airplane (fill in the blank, genius) is what I consider to be a huge inconvenience. Call me shallow; you wouldn't be the first. Luckily, there is something I can count on so as to avoid what at times seems like imminent panic: my friend, Xanax.

Unknown ObjectLet's be clear about something: I am not a pill popper, but when I begin to get what is widely regarded as The Fear 30, 000 feet in the air, I'm just about liable to change political inclinations, religion, or even gender to make it stop. Yeah, it's that bad.

My first stop was JFK International Airport in New York, and then a 50 minute flight to Ronald Reagan Airport in Washington D.C. - the home of Henry Rollins and Fugazi. At this point I was feeling very relaxed, even managing to walk with a certain ease and cool only reserved for the likes of The Rat Pack. I bought a copy of Spin Magazine for no better reason than it was a Stone Temple Pilots cover feature. I'd been listening to their then-unreleased album on my iPod for a few days, it having been provided illegally by a fellow blogger. I was attempting to read an article and found myself reading the same sentence repeatedly. I did the only sensible thing, and placed the magazine on the floor next to my bag. No reading for me, I needed to straighten out first. Only moments later a maintenance employee picking up trash in the terminal decided that Scott Weiland wasn't worthy of the dead tree bark on which the magazine was printed and attempted to dispose of it. Politely I told her not to, and all I got was a baffled look.

After a couple of days wandering around the capital, I stumbled into the George Washington Hotel near The White House. The hotel has a balcony bar overlooking the city, and it was from this very spot that I saw the sun go down that Wednesday afternoon. Moments like those are the reason I love to travel. After a few beers, I headed to the elevator. As if I wasn't completely out of place – everyone was dressed in a suit, I wasn't – a middle aged man, walking with two females, one on each side, gave me a look with a smirk as he entered the elevator where I was already standing with my finger on the Door Close button.

Oh look at that, you got a Flip phone. Good for you! You can videotape anything.”

"Yeah, I can videotape you guys for fifty bucks; a hundred if you want me to participate".

"Excuse me?"

"That I got a good deal on the Flip. Only a hundred bucks."

"Is that right? Well, good for you!"

He began to laugh uncontrollably as his two female companions slowly joined in, snickering subtly. In an instant, two facts became abundantly clear to me: 1) He was inebriated and 2) He has paying the bills, not the girls.

And it's actually a video camera, not a phone.”, I said in the most well-mannered way possible.

Oh, shit! That's right! I mean... that's what I meant”.

I saw the usual sights in DC, but one thing that stuck out was a photography exhibition in the National Gallery of Art titled Beat Memories: The Photographs of Allen Ginsberg. Seeing black and white prints of the Beat Generation's greatest was an unexpected treat; photos of Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs, Neal Cassady, and Gregory Corso, among others. I later learned that the use of any kind of photographic device inside the exhibition was strictly prohibited. Since I was informed of this as I was getting ready to leave, I'd already gotten a few nice shots with my video camera. Suckers.

Upon exiting the museum, I decided to walk to the Capitol building through the National Mall. A young girl approached me and inquired if I didn't mind answering some questions on camera for a documentary of sorts. I asked what it was about. She said it had something to do with the future of mankind and technology. I said I wasn't feeling too optimistic so I was not a good candidate. She tried in vain to convince me, saying she'd spoken to plenty of optimistic people and it would benefit her greatly if she could have another perspective. I said no again. She was disappointed.

In Maryland the next day I made my way to to the Metro station, a good, decent, 15 minute walk away. I saw a few barber shops along the way, came to an intersection and that's when I saw her. Nothing particularly stunning about her, except for the fact that she had a pair of scissors and a hair comb tattooed on her left forearm. I couldn't quite make my mind up about how I felt about her tattoo, but it certainly got me thinking. Just then, I saw a man standing across the street, waiting for the light to change as he jumped in the air shaking his arms and breathing heavily. “Holy shit” was the first thing that came to mind. The light changed and he began to run. I laughed at myself, realizing that he was simply a jogger. I decided to buy a bus ticket to New York that same afternoon. It was time to get the hell out of DC.


Photograph by Nichole Saldarriaga

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