Vacation, vacation, where will you go? Somewhere exotic? Brazil, perhaps? Nope, not this guy. Maybe somewhere fun, like New York City? Fuck that place. Seriously. Worst East Coast City EVER. What about a tropical island, you could lay on the beach, get some sun, go swimming. HELLO? SKIN CANCER ANYONE? Fuck no. Where am I going to spend my winter vacation? In Washington D.C. That’s right the Down Low District, Diamond City, South of Heaven, North of Hell. The greatest fucking city to ever be a city.
I opted to drive to the metro today. It was cold when I left my house, just after the 10:00 AM mark. It took me a bit of time to decide that this was what I wanted to do. Despite a curtain of fog, draped over the earth from the heavens, I grabbed my camera, fresh memory card in tow and hit the metro. I love taking the train into the city. It is so much more relaxing then driving. I can actually pay attention to the music, today’s selection being The Most Secret Method. I also took the opportunity to snap some shots from the moving train. Spying opportune scenes of graffiti, I was able to catch a glimpse of some great suburban art before I descended down into the tunnels.
My first stop was American Apparel. This store has replaced my visits to record stores. It is my mecca for guilty consumption. Like this white boy needs another fucking t-shirt. But I did have some gifts to buy and very much wanted a “Legalize Gay” Human Rights Campaign t-shirt. It feels a bit more universal than the Prop 8 one. But lets face it, it’s an American Apparel t-shirt in support of the gays. Like I need more of an excuse. Even though the beautiful looking boys and girls that work there make me feel like a bridge troll, I left very satisfied with my purchases and decided to seize upon the day.
I headed up 12th or 13th. I don’t remember which exactly. I came across some science foundation building. It had this weird looking sculpture by the front window. I felt like it depicted the universe being destroyed or something. It was kind of evil. At least I thought it was. As I was taking this picture some little kid was watching me. I think he was trying to talk to me, but between Paint It Black blasting from my iPod and his mother yelling at him, I think he gave up pretty quickly. Kids are kind of awesome. I wish I was less shy about the camera and people. I don’t really like asking people if I can take there picture. You never get a good, honest reaction. But this kid was rad. I tried to sneak a shot, but he ran off his over-bearing mother. She was probably from the suburbs. Or really rich. Or just an asshole. Whatever. It was time for me to move on.
I decided that Ben’s Chili Bowl was my destination for the time being. I must have somehow decided that subconsciously already, because I was walking north after all. Further, I must confess, that I decided I was going to hit up Ben’s at least once on my vacation, having just seen State of Play, the Hollywood thriller staring Ben Affleck as a politician and Russel Crow as a reporter. Despite Crow being far too muscular to be any kind of reporter I have ever seen ever, the movie rules. But what rules most about the movie is that there is a scene that takes place in Ben’s Chili Bowl. This dude has a small speaking part in it. Dude has been serving me veggie chili and veggie burgers for a long fucking time. He was stoked when I told him I saw him in that movie. It’s well deserved. He played the part like a natural. No one could have done it any better. I sat at the counter, drank a root beer, murdered another set of Veggie Chili Fries and red the new Burn Collector.
A visit to Ben’s Chili Bowl is not complete unless you are approached by someone with a CD-R of their new album. I think there must be some sort of hierarchy, because some people are allowed to solicit inside Ben’s while others seem banished to the alleyway outside. I don’t know what the deal is, but as I was destroying more starch and soy, a dude who calls himself Pookanu started chatting me up. He went into his spiel pretty quickly, and usually I smile, nod and say I only have enough money for my food. But fuck it, I was on vacation and he was only asking five bucks for twenty songs. I am now the proud owner of S.M.E.A.R.S, the new demo CD by Pookanu. Available at Ben’s Chili Bowl if he’s there. (The internet is telling me he actually works at Ben’s, so I guess that’s how he gets slinging rights within the holy walls).
After Ben’s, it was time to walk off the delicious meal and lethargy that set in from too much sitting. Realizing I was just shy of the great meridian that marks my fair city on the map, I headed just a bit further north to the seat of Malcolm X Park. This little oasis has long been a favorite photography destination of mine and now was the perfect time to return to it’s beautiful surroundings. I had one statue on my list to make sure I captured. For whatever reason, the Serenity statue has always seemed to elude me. I honestly didn’t even know it was there until I drove home from a show at St. Stephens last fall. It’s tucked at the bottom of a hill, and I’ve missed it during every trip. This time however, the decaying beauty was all mine. The face of the statue looks at though it’s been chipped away, and it’s arm has been severed. I took a bunch of shots of it however, and had a great time climbing all over it. Unfortunately, some weird dude was eyeballing me, so I decided to ascend up the hidden hill and make my way towards some of the other sights. I was sad to see, as I approached her atop her horse, that Joan of Arc is looking even more unkempt then usual. The copper is turning into that turquoise color, like the statue of liberty, the city obviously loosing interest in this park. She is not alone in this however as both Dante and Buchanan are also slowly being overtaken by oxidation. At the rate the city is going that park will probably be sold off and turned into more condos. But who am I to bitch? I’ve lived in Virginia my entire life. But seriously, Malcolm X park is one of the reasons I keep coming back to the city. It’s state of decay is a fucking shame.
At this point, I didn’t really know where to go. I felt like I went to all the best places the city had to offer. I had a new T-Shirt, I read my book, I was listening to Fugazi and I was getting a little sleepy (not to mention, for reasons still unknown my glutes fucking hurt and my legs were stiffening up). But soldier on I did and decided to walk to Dupont Circle. I wanted to pay my homage to Lamda Rising, DC’s oldest gay bookstore which is closing the beginning of January. With the Blade having the rug pulled out from under them and now this, I truly wonder where the important writing and conversations are going to come from. As I walked towards Dupont the streets became more crowded. I saw a dog park that had astro-turf. What the fuck? Really? How is it a city like DC has money for shit like this and not, I don’t know, schools? The mystery will never be solved. As it stands, this was my last straw. I wasn’t going to linger much longer. I hit the Circle and immediately someone tried to get me to sign a petition. Fugazi was still going strong in the ears though, so I just walked by, like a smiling asshole. The streets suddenly seemed to erupt with people, my cue to exit stage left. I dropped down into the bowels of WMATA and quickly caught a train. Not really paying attention too much at this point, Amy Farina’s drums banging in my ears as Alec Mackaye screamed “CHUCK YOUR BRAINS OUT“, I missed Metro Center by about three stops and had to switch back directions.
The rest of the ride home was pretty uneventful. I read DC Agenda, the new paper trying to replace the Blade. Some old dude gave me dirty looks. But that’s to be expected, train bound for the suburbs, back home to Franconia Station.