By the way: I am under no illusion that my voyages are just so fascinating I have to pass along all the wonderful experiences, like someone at a dinner party who can't stop prattling on about their trip to Burma. But I learned things, and it's always good to know new things. Just telling a tale of another place, and hey: it's a break from talking about the grocery store.
That’s the Tudor House up there. It was owned by descendants of Martha Custis Washington, and passed down through the family for a few generations before ending up as a museum, showcasing the way they lived in the 19th century. Most everything about their lives, as told by the tour guide, seems familiar: parties, dinner, sitting in a room talking about war, and sweating until everyone was rank. Between that and the poor dental care, close conversation must have been a constant trial. Perhaps that's why they invented the telegraph.
It was a hike to the place, but not too bad. It was hot, but not unendurable; just the high 80s with 99% humidity, minor DC summer dampness. We had time to explore the gardens, which were nice. Rambling paths through the woods, no sign of the world beyond. Dead smack in the middle of the city:
Apparently in the early years the view was unobstructed; the guide pointed out a window from which the occupants could see the White House burn.
Behold: the epaulets of Navy chief of construction Beverly Kennon.
He had attended the demonstration of a new cannon, the Peacemaker. It was a new design, and they’d built two. From an American Legion website account of the day:
Both of these guns were designed by Ericsson, and were designed with great care. The gun named "Oregon" was manufactured in England and boasted a new technology. Ericsson had red-hot iron hoops around the breech-end of the weapon. This technique reduced the amount of stress that the breech would be subjected to when the huge powder charge was fired.
Apparently wanting to save money, the Stockton family supervised the manufacture of a second 12-inch gun for the Princeton in New York City. Not fully understanding the importance of Ericsson's hoop technology, Capt. Stockton ordered the breech of this second gun to be merely thickened. As a result, the second gun – named "Peacemaker" – weighed in at 27,000 pounds. It also now had an inherent weakness, that the breech was almost certain to burst after an unknown number of firings.
The number was soon known, alas, and the number was Three.
It was decided to fire the "Peacemaker" a third and final time. Many of the guests filed back on deck. President Tyler was on his way above decks but paused to listen to his son-in-law, William Weller, sing a patriotic song about 1776.
As the crowd gathered to watch the spectacle, the huge cannon was loaded and fired. The stress on the poorly constructed breech of the "Peacemaker" was too much; the cannon exploded, sending red-hot pieces of the gun through the crowd. The ship trembled, and a dense cloud of white smoke smothered the deck, making it almost impossible to see or breathe. According to the editor of the Boston Times, an eyewitness, when the smoke cleared, dead bodies and detached arms and legs littered the deck.
Many other spectators sustained burst eardrums, while some ladies had their dress splattered with the blood and brains of the dead. One woman who had been holding the arm of Senator Benton was blown into the ship's rigging by the explosion, but was otherwise unhurt.
Among the dead: the patriarch of Tudor House. There’s a shrine in the corner devoted to his memory.
A fascinating tour, and a nice counterpoint to all the Huge Marble Hugeness. The house seemed heavy with the accumulation of lives and lost memories; places like these always feel as if it’s 3 PM on a Wednesday afternooon in a series of eternal Wednesday afternoons.
There was a small boy’s room that was particularly poignant. The teddy bear on the bed. The model of the Wright Bros. airplane. A banjo in the corner, just like a guitar in the corner of a teen’s room a hundred years later.
They didn't wonder about kids sticking their hands into sharp whirring metal blades.
If you did that once, you wouldn't do it again.
There’s a Traders Joe across the street, which reminds me why urban living is a pain if there’s not enough room. It’s just dense. Crammed. Cramped. The line stretched through the entire store, but no one was complaining because everyone had shining glass rectangles in their hands to occupy their minds. They pushed the carts forward by instinct.
Urban living is a pain even when there is enough room. For most of the morning there was a screaming lady at the corner by the bus stop - whatever line she was waiting for never came, and never will. Periodic orations of obscenities and injustices, punctuated by ambulance sirens that will never give her a lift unless she steps in front of one, and police cars that will never take her to the mentally ill shelter until she pushes someone else in front of a cab, and cabs that will never stop because they’re in a horrible mood all the time. What with Uber and all.
The permanent encampments of the homeless seem less numerous, but there's a guy living in a tent on Washington Circle. He has several URLs written on his tent flap, and on a piece of cardboard. He has a YouTube channel for his wish-list. You know, the things we should give him. It's a long list of guns. From his website:
My chiritba psychology knowledge can change human society in this world. Chiritba Psychological theory is based on the beyond kanseptet. *I'd like to have Window Body Plane with amphibious model and bullet proof body,parachute,5000 nm range with comparable concorde speed. *Around 4 inch group at 100 yards with Browning Safari BAR Mark II and American Eagle 30-06 FMJ was my first and last skill at hundred yards. It was Arm Rest,Open Sight.-You know it is Semi-Automatic. So, I love FNAR.-FNAR is Browning Safari Bar Super Baby. "Newell Coach is best in u.s.a because they use only first grade equipment. I just need Bullet Proof Body,Satellite internet,Satellite Phone,Satellite TV." Beautiful white lady with bullet proof body Benz F700 is one of my choice. (Of course,black community and gay community is very jealousy about it.Even, they love to bypass between beautiful white lady and me in the street. -This much they are jealousy and mad about my attention to any beautiful white lady and asian lady.-
And so on, interminably. Sometimes it attains a sort of mad poetry:
Strand Craft Xhibitionist by Gray Design is the number when you put around the same décor. Have them hang and freeze! Lotte department store in vodka and packs and salty salty squid and Ronnie, Pearl ham sausage, rat, Baekseju, Asiana air plans to make it through? -Drink ' Noah ' driven by the faith of the drink bottle to a gallon in the hobby
Have them hang and freeze! Anyway, the guy is mentally ill and talks a lot about guns and evil and corruption on his website. And he lives in a tent on Washington Circle. With a URL on his tent telling everyone where he is and what he thinks.
Anyway. It’s raining now, the usual late-afternoon downpour.
We used to wait these out in the bar then totter home in the freshly-washed streets. Back to a small apartment in an old place that had seen so many come and go the elevator buttons were loose and undependable. They really didn't care if you went up or not. Up, down, up, down, all day, month after month, year after year since 1937. Could be worse. Sysyphus never got to meet any chicks.
Everyone else is at the Women’s Museum and I’m not. I said I was going to go to the Men’s Museum. Which one is that? I could have been mean and said “the rest of them” but I just said “the Air and Space Museum. What? What’d I say?”
(Just did a Find My Friends. They’re at Nordstroms.)
Last night we took the Metro to Alexandria to have fish by a body of water, since that’s what one does. It’s been a long time since I’ve been down in the Metro, and as much as DC has improved, the Metro has become careworn and shabby. Almost as if money wasn’t being spent to maintain it. As if the people were expected to put up with it because Shut Up. It has the most charm any Brutalist system can have, thanks to the coffered ceiling . . .
. . . . but it feels like one of those 70s dystopian movies now. The stops are announced by someone who has a mouthful of marbles saying words through a kazoo, with the bored flat contempt of someone who gets paid no matter what, so shut up. The train periodically stopped, and when there were questioning looks from our group I explained that maintenance meant they were operating on single track for certain distances - something I think Ms. Kazoo said, but who could tell.
This was one of my favorite locations: the astonishingly loud mechanical drone as you descend into a concrete maw.
Trust me, it was loud.
Also, they’re letting elves on now.
Anyway. The evening was perfect. Insert photo of authentic upscale prefab-rehab waterfront here. We tore apart sea creatures with our teeth, then went home. It was 11:10 by the time we got back, and I went out to the patio and banged out the column I would revise the next day. That was Sunday . .
Up and out early the next day to the Capitol. We had a tour, arranged through our Senator; the two tour guides were Minnesotans, the two other people on the tour were Minnesotans; just like home. You get the sense that you’re seeing the Capitol! but you’re just seeing some unused parts and the Rotunda, which is spectacular enough - and also thrilling and secret and old, with narrow passages and ancient stones. I hope our FFES enjoyed it, because holy crow: the history and glory and art and magnificence we’ve seen has been remarkable, and all this makes me want to live here again.
I know, I know, no. But each time I've come back since I’ve left Ive felt the old pull in directions I never expected.
Well, no one retires to DC, so forget it.
The sisters aren't getting along these days.
It was desiged to sit above the new Senate Wing in the 1850s. Scupted by Thomas Crawford. This was the model; the final sculpture, according to a placard, was removed, because it had deteriorated. It was also made of marble, but that's a stone quite subject to smoke and prevarications.
The beauty and symmetry and rationality of the building is a testament to the Ancients; they would have been delighted to see we kept working in their styles, and improved them.
This is amusing.
The painting at the top of the rotunda. The Apotheosis of Washington. Wikipedia: "The Apotheosis of Washington depicts George Washington sitting amongst the heavens in an exalted manner, or in literal terms, ascending and becoming a god." The exact and distinct opposite of what he wanted, but what the hell.
Ornate and stately - but it's practically a Pbilip Johnson house next to the riot across the street. The Library of Congress. Now that I know a bit more about the late 19th century, I have more context for the design and ornamentation.
Which is insane and wonderful.
The Lunettes all pass the Bechdel test:
There was an exhibition on WW I - the period we never discuss. The era that goes remarkably unexamined. I mean, relatively so; if there's a LoC exhibit I can't say there's some strange cover-up to obscure the truth about the first two decades of the previous centry.
Some of the posters . . . yeah. Well.
What we call in the newspaper business call The Big Wood:
At the bottom of the page:
The second one would be Bob La Follette, I think.
That's enough for this entry. Tomorrow: The worst person in an elevator, ever. Ever.