DC, Part 1

There’s not much else to be said about Chicago, really – which, I suppose, sounds like a cheap shot, even though I don’t mean it that way. We only spent a couple days there and only did a few things that, while interesting and culturally edifying, aren’t especially funny. For example, we took a bus tour of the city in which we saw, among other things, Barack Obama’s house…

There goes the neighborhood.

…but by far the comedy highlight of the blog was this Segway tour group we bumped into.

Doctors agree that riding a Segway is so nerdy that it actually can actually turn you back into a virgin.

We spent a week in Washington DC, though, and saw things that had both cultural and comedic value. So, really, what am I waiting for?

We got to Washington DC by way of the Baltimore airport. Having seen The Wire, I recognized the danger I had put myself in by being in Baltimore and as such walked through the airport as quickly as possible without touching anything.

Everyone in this picture is on crack. That is because this picture was taken in Baltimore.

There was no particularly cost effective way to get from Baltimore to Washington short of a cab, so Dad dropped a few extra bucks to get us a Lincoln Towncar which, all told, was far more luxurious than the airplane for a fraction of the price. Don’t believe me?

Yeah, that’s right: Complimentary magazine about fine wine. It’s so hoity-toity that I’d never heard of it, and I’m majoring in magazine journalism.

The only thing that took away from my enjoyment of the ride was our driver, Bill, who was clearly a troll of some sort because he could only communicate his conspiracy theories about the National Security Agency and the unconstitutionality of traffic surveillance cameras through a series of abrupt grunts and phlegmy coughs. Or maybe that’s just a Baltimore thing.*

*My godmother is from Baltimore and will probably take exception to all the stuff that I’ve said about her hometown, so I’ll take this opportunity to point out that Baltimore has a pro football team, which is far more than I can say for Portland. However, they’ve also had multiple pro soccer teams, so don’t get cocky.

After 40 minutes or so, Bill exited the highway and cordially grunted that we were now entering Washington D.C.

It did not make a stellar first impression.

Washington DC is markedly different from other American cities because one gets the impression that the people who laid it out were actually thinking about what they were doing. Most cities – notably Los Angeles – feel like the people building them had maybe two good ideas regarding urban planning which they halfheartedly implemented before saying, “Fuck it” and just letting fate take over.

DC, on the other hand, is all low-rise buildings, wide boulevards, and traffic circles. I don’t know what that does for congestion, but it does mean you get some pretty cool line of sight stuff.

Like this. This is cool.

All the important museums, monuments, and government buildings are located along the National Mall, and from each one you’ve inexplicably got a direct line of sight to another big, famous, picturesque thing, even if it seems geographically impossible.

A front view of the White House, from near our hotel…

…And a front view of the White House, from a completely different position.

At first, I assumed that instead of Washington DC we were in some sort of Inception theme park, but after a few days I realized that a lot of these grandiose buildings look pretty similar from either the front or the back – presumably because a huge tree-lined boulevard leading up to a back porch, some garbage cans, and a screen door wouldn’t have quite the same effect as all those columns and shit.

But, see, they planned it that way from the start. Street layout, architecture, monuments… They figured out the best places for everything to be so that everywhere you looked, you’d see something impressive. If I’d been in charge of designing Washington DC, I would not have thought of that. I’d probably just try to build the entire city in the shape of a wang or something.

Some elements of my philosophy were clearly at work here.

Much has also been made of Washington DC’s high crime rate, and I had the impression that our time in the capitol would be spent scampering from museum to monument in a hail of bullets.* But I didn’t once feel threatened anywhere downtown or in the vicinity of the National Mall, and this is coming from the guy who felt so threatened by the mouse in his house that he taped cardboard to the bottom of his door to keep it out.

*For the record, the only cool way to scamper is in a hail of bullets. Just in case you were planning on doing any scampering in the near future.

The reason for this safety is that virtually everyone wearing a uniform in downtown DC is carrying a gun. There’s the Secret Service, the United States Park Police, United States Capitol Police, Bureau of Engraving and Printing Police, DC Metro Police, and the security guards at the Smithsonian museums, every last one of whom is armed.

That’s just our nation’s capitol putting our best foot forward, I guess. As if to say, ‘America is a beautiful, well laid out place, and watch your step, asshole, because we’ve all got guns.’

Truman Capps will actually continue to talk about Washington DC in his next blog update, and when he does he won’t gush about city planning or law enforcement.