As much as I dislike politicians and whatnot, I've been to DC an awful lot. For the obligatory 7th grade field trip where I knew too little to not be awed at the murals in the rotunda and the halls of power and memorials and all that. That was during the Clinton years, I guess. I saw someone get mugged in broad daylight in College Park and our bus cut through the Northeast quadrant past a bunch of go-go clubs and buildings that were all burned out and the dome of the Capitol rose over the most intense urban decay I'd ever seen (I was thirteen, after all, and not yet urban exploring or venturing to Detroit for kicks).
And then when I was fifteen, also during the Clinton years, I went to a March for Life with some friends from my parents' church. I had a teenage crush on a boy who was along with us, who grew up in the suburbs but talked like he was from the hood and was best friends with this metalhead kid that I got along with really well even though other kids' parents said he was bad news. The three of us snarked our way through the same places where I was once awed. I'm sure you can't make jokes about anthrax in your bookbag while going through White House security nowadays.
I also got stuck in the Air and Space Museum for four hours and was bored out of my mind. One of the other kids in our group who used to talk about sniffing airplane model glue had a godawful cassette of country music so rightfield it made Toby Keith seem like Steve Earle. I remember having a blast but sometimes feeling like the cause takes on the role of religion itself for some people either way.
(for what it's worth, the right-to-lifers are a beautifully mixed bunch, which is something I don't feel like gets discussed enough. I saw Buddhist monks and imams and Catholic friars hanging out and uber-conservative large family homeschoolers rubbing shoulders with purple-haired anarchists and every conceivable economic class and shade of melanin and of course the more wackjobby ends of the spectrum too. It takes all kinds for any cause I guess.)
And then the third time, with some activist friends who were going to some demonstration about Darfur and there was an extra seat in the car. It was a cheap weekend out, and I was ecstatic to wander around somewhere different for a few days. We went to the Holocaust museum and they insisted on attempting to assuage their white guilt by talking to every single person who hit us up for change which was a dead giveaway that we were wholesome Ohioans.
We got some Sudanese food and they got a bit of a shock when the owner said this whole human rights atrocity was a conspiracy by western powers to take their oil. I ended up buying a Jawbox record at a show and talking about Pere Ubu with the door guy, but by this time the sheen of the halls of power and the relative kumbayah pointlessness of sloganeering in front of the White House seemed a little self indulgent.
So this time, there were no causes or adults, just me and my cousin who lives in the burbs outside the city and who's moving back to Ohiostan since he had a lousy job and roommates that he should've quit awhile ago.Before loading up his moving van, we adventured into DC via the uber-expensive Metro (is it this pricey because heaven forbid that powerful people have to ride with riffraff otherwise?)
And everything seemed even more gentrified than last time. I was wearing a Bad Brains shirt and people kept starting conversations with me about all things punk rock and DC, at the museum, at the restaurant, walking down the street, and I thought this was strange at first that this was happening, because in Clevelandia, there's a lot more people that look like me and if you get anything, it's maybe a nod of acknowledgement once in awhile, but then as we keep walking, I realize that I'm the only person that looks like me on the street anywhere we go except for the record stores in Adams Morgan.
And I'm not even all that punk rock, but all the white people around me except the blatant tourists and the occasional Hot Topic teenager look like they're straight out of a J. Crew or Brooks Brothers catalog, either really rich or pretending to be. It's almost disconcerting. I can't imagine if I wore a Dead Boys or Devo shirt in my neighborhood that anyone would notice or care.
Anyways, we did the museums, admiring dinosaur bones and awesome crystals at the Natural History Museum, wandering through the National Gallery of Art (my cousin was a good sport through the Diaghilev exhibit), sad that all the cool stuff about Murka wasn't at the American History Museum. We got noodles in Chinatown and geeked out in some bookstores in Dupont, saw some awesome street musicians in the circle, wandered into random shops and the Scientology building where we looked unconvincing but did snag some really hilarious pamphlets, and did a lot of walking, which I love, and he's not as used to.
And now it's back to the daily grind, of the onslaught of students, a new class that promises to be pretty swank, petsitting for amigos on Labor day vacation, and drinking coffee and listening to tunes with good folk, pondering the state of the world, plotting musical ventures, and drinking too much caffeine at late hours. I remember again why I love coming home.