In the District, Part 2Posted: April 18, 2012
One weird thing about Washington, DC is that everyone seems to work in an office. Or, more specifically, everyone seems to work in the same kind of office–the rush hour “look” is homogenous; there are no people coming home from the overnight shift, there are no weirdo actor/performers in audition drag, there are suits and there are nearly-suits, there are no day laborers standing on corners. It doesn’t look like New York at all. (I am not sure whether I thought it would…)
That’s what I noticed first about riding the Metro from the hotel in Dupont Circle down to the Mall, where we tried to visit the Holocaust Museum before hearing the docent give us a brief speech about what we could expect from both the line, the ticket counter and the galleries themselves. Ultimately, we decided we didn’t have enough time to visit the museum proper, and so we left the line after five minutes of waiting.
Let me take a moment here to say that there needs to be some kind of Oscar for people who give Otherwise Unnoticed Public Performances. For example, this docent walked up and down the line explaining to the masses how we should ask questions of the other docents and not the ticket-seller, as that would just hold up the line, cause confusion, etc. He also did this with the kind of practiced, careful alacrity that only comes from repeated and thus distanced performance. You see this kind of brilliance sometimes in flight attendants, or in public transportation operators, sometimes the sample-maker at Costco is like the most brilliant performer you’ve ever seen. For the first honor, I’d like to nominate Lea DeLaria’s speech-to-the-audience at the end of On The Town years ago, for Equity Fights AIDS. Her appeal remains the one of the most indelible moments in my personal history of Otherwise Unnoticed Public Performance.
When we got to the Lincoln Memorial, the fire alarm was going off. Really. Fireman, like busy sardines poured out of the trucks and climbing up the stairs to figure out where the problem was. We waited patiently with 100s of other tourists on the plaza until they gave us the ‘all clear.’ Immediately, some young boys, maybe 13 years old, two of them, started sprinting up the stairs. I was jealous of them for a moment–they got to be the first people back inside the empty Lincoln Memorial. Who can ever say they’ve been inside that thing all alone. Even if it’s for five seconds. But hell, what a rush.
We strolled through the Vietnam War Memorial, stopped along some pond-area to watch the baby ducks (and to hear a nuclear-family have a nuclear-meltdown about the kid falling on her knee and the mom not getting off the phone fast enough.) Then through the Sculpture Garden where this Oldenberg has been given a nice grotto-like spot. Everything else–the Tony Smith, the Louise Bourgeois, the Alexander Calder–feels crowded. But, if you’re looking for a brief survey, very brief, it’s an incredible garden full of singular, beautiful ideas. They don’t need me to tell you how great it is.
After we saw the First Ladies exhibit at the Museum of American History, where the infamous Jason Wu dress worn by Michelle Obama on Inaguration Day is on display along with maybe 20 other first lady gowns (I’M LIVING!!!,) Hazel was feeling a little unwell, puking once or twice. I’m not sure if her stomach was acting up, or if she was commenting generally on the state of American history, the curatorial choices, or the commentary from the trying-hard-but-victimized-by-patriarchy-masses. The language of a six-month old is direct, but not always specific. One of her mother’s decided that maybe she just wanted some fresh air and–as much as she could remember–we delivered Hazel to the lawn where she had her very first ever feel of grass.