Wednesday, August 22, 2007

A Cool Day in DC

Today was a day-trip to our nation's capital, known in this neck of the woods as simply "DC." I left about 10am, took 81 to 66 to Constitution Avenue, turned left on 7th Street and parked by Woolly Mammoth Theatre, where my friend M is in the final stages of rehearsal for a new show that opens next week.

If you've driven into both New York City and Washington DC, you're struck by how different the two experiences are. To get into New York, it's such a production, whether you take bridges or tunnels. All the lanes merging, all the nosing in front of other people (it's nose or be nosed) and then even when you get onto Manhattan, it's not like you're seeing anything famous.

DC is so different! The interstate BECOMES Constitution Avenue, and immediately on your right is the Lincoln Memorial. Before you know it you're driving past the National Mall, the White House, The Washington Monument, the Smithsonian, the National Archives, Commerce Department, with a view of the Capitol in the distance.

I love visiting DC. It's a really pretty town, and the height restrictions on buildings there have kept the built environment at a human scale. I worked in DC in the 1990's, first interning at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, then later getting a master's degree from The George Washington University (don't forget the The or the alumni association will get you). During my master's study, I met a really interesting woman, R., who does museum exhibit evaluation. I was a data collector for her for a bunch of projects, which meant that I got paid to hang out in museums and ask people questions about things like storms and spiders and American Indian artifacts. Finally, I worked as an Arts Administration Fellow at the National Endowment for the Arts, back when Jane Alexander was in charge. The NEA offices are in the Old Post Office Pavilion on Pennsylvania Avenue, not far from where I parked today. I love knowing my way around--for the uninitiated, DC can be a really confusing place to drive!

I took Metro to an appointment in Bethesda, MD, a schizophrenic suburb of DC which used to be a nice little city, you can tell, but these days the old main street is dwarfed by 12-story office blocks. I used to work there too, and even 15 years ago I thought Bethesda was all mixed up.

And's a system that is showing its age. Half the announcements were about elevators out of service, line delays, and rather scolding-sounding warnings to Stay Away from the Doors!

Ah well. Dinner with M near Woolly Mammoth was great, though too short of course. And when I was killing time at the nearby Olssons Books & Records cafe, in walked Michael Kahn, head of the Shakespeare Theatre, so that was my Famous Person sighting for the day.


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