Saturday, September 25th: This being the first full day of Yom Kippur, the Jewish Holiday where you are supposed to refrain from activity and fast (not eat, for those less informed), I was really breaking the rules by taking a trip.
Thom and I left at about 10:30am, with clothes for 4 days, a box of coins for the endless NJ tolls, a bottle of Snapple Black Cherry Seltzer, and four cassettes with 6 hours worth of music. I did this, figuring three hours of music each way, plus about an hour of trying to listen to the radio, mixed in with some silence for good measure. I hoped to be in Washington in roughly four hours. This was the first mistake of the vacation. Around 1pm, I expected to be close to Baltimore, but was just exiting the 5 mile backup on the Belt Parkway. Three lanes into one! We heard on the radio that there was construction on one of the draw bridges. When we got there, we saw cones, but it didn't really look like any construction going on, as usual. My only recourse was to purposely use my car as a weapon to flagrantly knock over one of the cones that were set up around the work area. From here on in, there was no more traffic to speak of the rest of the way.
Since we were so far behind schedule now, I decided to stop in on a friend of mine in the Philadelphia area of Bensalem. This required getting off the NJ Turnpike at the PA Turnpike and going one exit, which turns out to be about 100 feet away, but sill costs 60 cents. We travel the 6 miles to his apartment complex, and I try to remember where his apartment was. After driving down a couple of streets, I find his place, but his car isn't there, which means he isn't there. He wasn't, so I left an unsigned note hoping he would figure out who it was from. After all, he just moved there and knows no in the state. It was now lunch time, and we went to the Friday's down the road. Since we weren't going to make it to Washington on time, I had to call the hotel and reserve the room on my credit card. I didn't have the number, so I had to call 800 information for it, and it cost me $2.20 for the call. As soon as I gave my expiration date, we were disconnected. After a 45 minute lunch, were back on our way.
Shortly after passing the Philadelphia airport, one of the many rain events occurred. It rained all the way into Washington. There is no easy way to get into the heart of Washington, and the exit I thought would be the best pick could only be reached if you were in the local lanes. We got off at some other exit and headed in the general direction of downtown, according to my map. We made many turns and finally found the street the hotel was on, albeit many miles away. We passed through the NE section of Washington; A bad area. We got to the hotel at about 6:30pm, only 8 frigging hours after we left. We got to the room, and were pleasantly surprised at the size, and that it had a full kitchen with a stove and refrigerator. This was a great deal, considering I got it through the NY Times for only $55 per night for two people. Thom called his friend, Py, who's real name is being withheld from publication for security reasons. He was to meet us at the Brickskellar for our beerfest. He was coming from Baltimore, at his girlfriend's house. More on this house later in the story. We said we would meet him there 90 minutes later, and we relaxed for a while.
After playing with the TV for awhile, I was able to get the season premiere of Star Trek: The Next generation on a UHF channel. We only saw about 15 minutes before we had to head out. It was drizzling a little, and we decided to walk rather than take a cab or drive. This is considered to be mistake number two. We headed in the general direction, but the streets of Washington are a little fucked up, so we made a couple of extra turns that were unnecessary. As all this walking was going on, the rain decided to get harder, and I was wearing my leather jacket, which is not to fond rain. We got there after about 20 minutes, which included pausing in a school doorway and a busstop when the rain got too heavy. We waited at the bar and each got a beer. I got the only Israeli beer in house, Maccabbe. Py showed up 15 minutes later due to rain traffic. We got a table and I got an Asahi Dry (Japanese). I ordered a buffalo burger, which uses, Duh, buffalo meat instead of cow meat. Mmmmmmm, mmmmh, good! I then ordered the most popular beer in the place; Pilsner Urquell (Czechoslovakia). This was my last beer, as it wasn't good at all.
We left some time after midnight, and walked back to Py's car so he could drive us back. We walked around the block, and through Dupont Circle. After getting back to the car, Py told us that Dupont Circle is known to many people as The Fruit Loop because of the sexually confused people all along it. Py stayed over night with us, because he didn't wan't to drive after drinking. What a responsible guy. The rain finally stopped.
Sunday, September 26th: We woke up at about 9am and headed out to the museums. Everything this day was to be done on foot. Py told us he heard that it was supposed to be about 80 degrees today. Our first stop was the Smithsonian Information building to find out where the living Insect Zoo was. It turns out that it was right across the street at the Natural History Museum. There were some tarantulas, snakes, scorpions and a Black Widow spider among the living, quite a disappointment. This happens to be where we had breakfast, since on Sunday, Washington is a bit like Italy on Sunday's (See Italy Story).
Our next stop was the American History Museum, where one can find artifacts of American culture such a Dorothy's slippers from the Wizard Of Oz, and Archie Bunker's Chair from All In The Family. We were looking for Cliff's jacket from Cheers, but it wasn't there. Upon leaving here, the weather was pretty much at the uncomfortable level in the way of heat and humidity. It may have been somewhere around 90 degrees.
We then headed to the Air And Space museum, where we spent a good part of the rest of the day. I will skip any descriptions of this museum, since they were uneventful, although very interesting.
We exited at about 5pm and headed for the Capitol, which was well in the distance, or at least it seemed that way since we were walking ever since we left the hotel. We wouldn't have time to tour the Capitol, so we only went for the picture opportunities. Thom whipped out his rubber frog for one of the pictures. (This is a toy from that he takes with him on trips, or gives to friends who go on trips. It has been to England, France, Bucharest, Germany and many other places.) We passed by the reflecting pool and saw about 500 goldfish in the corner where we were standing. There was also a huge albino catfish about 18 inches in length. This got we wondering; Does this reflecting pool get drained in the winter, and if so, what becomes of the fish? Are they sacrificed, or is there a massive fishing festival as Thom had suggested? I would hate to think that all these fish perish every winter. As we continued walking, we noticed that there were no fish anywhere else, excpet the corners of this pool. Weird!
We headed toward Union Station, the main train terminal, because there is a good Irish Pub that Py knows about, called the Dubliner. I had a Guinness and cajun chicken for dinner. The head on the Guinness was so thick, I was able to pick it up with a fork. We then went to Union Station because our feet just wouldn't hold up for the 2 mile walk back, after walking about 10 miles today. Ten miles isn't that much, but it seems the sneakers I took, Olympia's from Thom McAnn ($19.99 for 2 pair), were not up to it. Union station is like no other train/subway station I have seen. It looks like another museum, and is very clean. We took the Metro back to the vicinity of our hotel. Upon leaving the Metro stop, we headed left, up some street. I am not going to give street names because I think I have been specific enough already, but I can supply them upon request. After 3 blocks, we found out we were heading the wrong way. When we got back to the metro stop, we heading in the right direction for about 6 blocks, then made a right turn, because I was pretty damn sure this was the right way. Wrong again! We finally headed in the right direction and got back to the hotel around 10pm.
After we freshened up, we headed down to the hotel bar for some drinks and some pool. This was not a regulation pool table, and it was a very small bar. You couldn't take a full shot from many sides of the table because the walls were too close to the table. I was really hungry but the bar food was shit, so I walked across the hall to the dining room. It was closed but I begged and was able to purloin a nice piece of chocolate cake. Of course the only beer available was unacceptable to me (MGD), but I suffered. We played until some time after midnight and headed back up to the room. Py stayed over again.
Monday, September 27th: We checked out at about 10am, with Py heading back to Baltimore, and us to the Capitol, by car this time. We got to the Capitol and had a hard time finding a spot. There were quite a few spots close by, but they had two hour limits, and that would cut it a little close, especially since we also needed to eat. We parked down a street where tour buses hang out waiting for their passengers. I made sure that there was no sign that said I couldn't park here. I made sure again, and again. I didn't want to walk out of the Capitol and find no car left.
We walked the three blocks to the Capitol and walked through a passageway that said, "Danger: No pedestrians." Oh no, we just broke a federal law. I checked to make sure no FBI agents were waiting around to take us away to federal prison. About 15 minutes into our tour, we passed by a window and saw that it was pouring rain outside. After the tour, we were getting pretty hungry and tried to find food in the Capitol. We passed by one cafeteria, but there were about 20 people on line, and since it was the most accessible eatery, it must have sucked. We looked for another and asked a guard, and he said we may be able to eat in the basement, but wasn't sure if we were allowed. We tried, but a sign said that it was only open to Capitol staff. Since we already broke one federal crime this day, we decided to wait the extra time to find another place. We also got lost trying to find our way back upstairs. The cafeteria we passed by before, now had about 60 people on line. We headed outside, and just as we stepped out, the rain stopped. We walked briskly to the building next door, which was some Botanical Garden. The only food here was that which was hanging off the trees. We walked outside to find a "You Are Here" map, and noticed the closest place with a cafeteria was the Art Gallery, about a quarter mile away.
The food was fairly expensive, but it was worth it. I paid about 8 dollars for a turkey sandwich, small cup of low-fat frozen yogurt, and some Snapple-like soda. We had our best meal of the trip here. The elderly black lady serving the sandwiches had too good a personality to be working in a cafeteria. We headed upstairs to leave, but the rain was back. We were only 2 blocks away from the car, but as we waited for the rain to let up, it just got harder. It got so hard, it looked like a monsoon. We ended up taking a taxi two block to our car for $2.50. Finally, we were on our way to Baltimore in the rain.
We got to Baltimore about an hour later, at about 3pm, but no one was home at Py's girlfriends house. (Here is the part about the house I referred to on page one). This also happened to be his cousin's house. He met his girlfriend while visiting his cousin. We waited in the car for about 10 minutes and Py pulled up. We went inside and I was shown the Elvis bathroom in the basement. The ceiling is only 5 feet 6 inches high, it is tiled in hot pink, and there is a velvet Elvis hanging in there, along with an Elvis calendar.
Py told us about a tornado watch in effect for the area, the first one he recalls in his lifetime there. We had to wait for Py's girlfriend to get back at 5pm, so Thom and I walked to the Seaport, or Harbor. Like we really needed more walking. After walking about 8 blocks we asked some guy where the seaport was, thinking maybe we weren't doing this right. He looked puzzled, then said, "Oh, you mean the Harbor?" Couldn't he figure out what we meant without questioning us? We were heading in the right direction, for once. This place is just like South Street Seaport, with lots of little shops, most of them eateries. I picked up a box of Jurassic Park Raptor Bites; little wild cherry jawbreakers. Then we had a beer at Hooters, a loud college crowd eatery and drinkery which for some reason, attracts lots of guys. There weren't really many "hooters" here, but by the looks of the lower half of the waitresses, it should have been called "Shorties." We headed back to the house, and Py was just leaving to pick up his girlfriend.
They arrived 10 minutes later, and his cousin also came home. The four of us, minus his cousin, left for the baseball game on foot, naturally. We ate at some dumpy pub where we all had crab cakes, but since the beer was the usual unacceptable American boring brand, I stuck with water. We got to the game in the middle of the first inning, with the Yankees ahead 2-0.
We entered behind the outfield fence, and it was like another seaport here. Many little food shops, and wall to wall BBQ grills. There were picnic tables set up so you could eat and watch the game without having to go to your assigned seat. You could also hang out on a ledge overlooking the rightfield wall. This ballpark is my idea of a greatness. We went to our seats WAY UP there, and Py met us there about 10 minutes later; He had to pick up tickets for tomorrow's game. The Yankees won 9-1, and we left right before the bottom of the ninth, and headed for a local bar.
I had a Guinness. After about 45 minutes, Pat Kelly, 2nd basemen, 1993 NY Yankees walked in. Or at least, I thought it was him. Thom asked me how I would know what he looks like. I thought that was a dumb question, since I am a Yankee fan and watch the games all year. He left after 5 minutes, and upon leaving, someone said something to him, and he waved. It turned out that it was him, along with his soap opera girlfriend. We took a cab back to the house, and turned in. I slept in a sleeping bag, which I did not get from Ann Walsh, extension 6343.
We woke up the next day, and went to breakfast along with Py, at some small coffee shop. I had French Toast, and then we headed to the Baltimore Aquarium, our last highlight. We parked somewhat closer than where the house was, but still had to walk about 7 blocks. I will leave out the details about the aquarium. We headed home from here, but since we would need lunch, we stopped in on Matt in Bensalem again. Just like last time, he wasn't home, so I left another note, then headed for Taco Bell. The taco salad costs 10 cents more here, for anyone who cares. We decided against going to the Franklin Mills Mall, a mall of outlet stores, and headed home. Got home about 6pm.
By the way, I had the worng apartment for Matt. It was the next one over.