During the last week of January I spent 3 days in Washington,
D.C. being interviewed for a Discovery Channel documentary about
Edgar Allan Poe. This will probably air around Halloween --
I'll post details as I have them. When I lived in North Carolina,
I used to go up to D.C. for concerts and shows all the time,
but I hadn't been back in 14 years. I'd forgotten how interesting
On the first day, I filmed the interview, built a really pathetic
snowman, and met Doug & Lynne Winter for delicious Ethiopian
food at Zed's on M Street -- highly recommended, as well as
nice and soft for my poor, recently-root-canaled tooth.
On the second day, I went to 3 branches of the Smithsonian:
Natural History, American History, and Air & Space. I am
irrationally afraid of these modern fighter planes that look
like UFOs. The F-117, the Stealth. Of course, it is not irrational
to be afraid of them, but my fear of them goes beyond rationality
-- it feels like something atavistic awakened by their evil,
unnaturally streamlined shapes. I was very brave by purchasing
tiny models of the above two planes at the Air & Space Museum
gift shop and carrying them around in my coat pocket, then keeping
them by my bed (though I couldn't have them pointed at me).
There was and is an experimental NASA base in New Orleans East,
near where I lived when I was little, and I think I was traumatized
by something flying over.
Made myself look at those and African millipedes in
one day. I'm such a badass. Highlights of the Smithsonian included
the Insect Zoo, the giant squid exhibit, the manatee skeleton,
and fossilized cycads (one of the world's most primitive and
interesting plants -- for more on them, read Oliver Sacks's
THE ISLAND OF THE COLORBLIND) at the Museum of Natural History;
Ella Fitzgerald's fancy outfits, Dizzy Gillespie's horn, Michael
Jordan's final championship jersey, and Victorian mourning jewelry
that contained the hair of John Q. Adams and his wife at the
Musuem of American History; and designing my own fighter jet
at the Air & Space Museum. Then I went to the Supreme Court
building for the express purpose of taking a picture of myself
giving it the finger (for appointing George W. Bush as our President).
Got in an argument with an anti-abortion protester. It so
felt like the Washington Experience!
On the third day I interviewed the charming and fascinating
James E. Starrs, Professor of Forensic Law at George Washington
University, in connection with a story I'll be writing later
this year. Then I went to Chinatown, where I wrote the following
in my notebook: "You see more fur coats here than in N.O.
-- duh, because it's colder -- but also more than you see in,
say, N.Y. Status symbol not to care? Or leftover Texans from
inauguration? Woman in hotel lobby the night I arrived -- paying
$400 bill in cash -- big long blonde hair and full-length mink
coat -- look of a stripper who married a rich customer. My food
is taking forever to come. Lunch crowd is totally clearing out
and I have nothing. Sad and scurrilous. The lone gwailo is not
a valued customer. Now they're asking if I've had my check --
I said, 'I haven't even had my food yet.' So they brought me
a menu. There is severe miscommunication going on here. Possible
persecution. May have to give them a taste of the knuckle."
(I've been reading way too much Hunter S. Thompson, and D.C.
only exacerbated his "scurrilous" effect.)
After that I tried to take the FBI tour, but there was an hour
wait, and anyway I was slightly afraid they'd be able to tell
I was a bad person just by looking at me. Went to the Holocaust
Memorial Museum instead. They had a Wall where one can post
comments, which allowed me to partially make up for my disgraceful
(according to Chris) behavior at the Amsterdam Jewish Museum's
Wall -- apparently you were supposed to write down memories,
but I thought it was some kind of Wishing Wall and wrote a card
wishing for Matt & Trey nooky, the ability to translate
my obsessions into art, and maybe a little money. I have had
no peace about this ever since. This time I wrote that discrimination
against any group can lead to discrimination against all groups,
so pin a fucking halo on me.
It was hard to ask the cab driver to take me to "Ronald
Reagan Airport." For a hippie freak child of the 80s that's
like saying "Please take me to Satan Airport," only
not as cool. But it certainly is convenient to the city, not
an ordeal to get to like the New York-area ones, and they have
a branch of Legal Seafoods where I ate Kumamoto oysters on the
Discovery Channel's tab, so I can't complain too much.