Tuesday, April 24, 2007

More fun in DC

I spent most of the day of the wedding with family, at the ceremony itself and at the party afterwards. I really love weddings, and this one was especially good. Family, food, drinks, maybe even made a few new friends.

I did manage to cajole my parents into eating at an Ethiopian restaurant for lunch earlier that day. The experience is probably just as important as the meal itself. Everyone sits and crowds around a low, small table that resembles a drum. A single platter of various foods is laid out, and a bread is distributed with which to dip into and pick up the assorted sauces and meats. The bread is probably the most distinctive part of the meal. Its like nothing I've ever seen. Injera, as the Ethiopians call it, is a sort of crepe like consistency. When they brought it out, my mom thought that they were hand towels. Very unique. Floppy and thin.

The next day we got up bright and early. We put our sightseeing gamefaces on, and drove into the middle of the beast that is downtown Washington, DC. In case anyone is thinking about visiting DC, I will warn you, nay, implore you. Don't drive a car in DC. Take the bus, or the metro, or a taxi. The traffic in DC is some of the worst that I have witnessed on this earth. Post 9-11 security measures mean that large swathes of perfectly good streets are barricaded with numerous blocks of concrete. That cuts down on the available places to stop and cry when you can't find parking. Next comes the layout of the streets themselves. There is the usual grid of streets that the sane person can accept. Then, there's the diagonal streets that just cut through this framework for seemingly no reason. Then add in a sprinkle of circle drives. Next several bridges cross the river to bottleneck everything that might want to move. Keep in mind that back when these streets were named, J and I were pretty much the same letter, so don't bother looking for anything between I and K streets, because you will find only heartbreak. Mix this all together and you will understand why the president travels by helicopter.

So fast forward through the cursing, and aimless driving, and screaming at the map. Once on foot, we saw all kinds of wonders. A whole long line of Smithsonians are laid out for the visitor. Even mildly discovering these museums would easily take a week of ones time. The National Air and Space Museum is especially excellent. The world's most visited museum holds everything from the Wright Flyer to the craft from the Apollo missions. I enjoy IMAX movies, and try to see them whenever the opportunity presents itself. Here I saw Magnificent Desolation, a movie about the moon and the men that have been there, narrated by Tom Hanks, who is totally dreamy. After I finished my space ice cream, we all continued on.

Next we visited the National Postal Museum. I have been a bit of a stamp nerd at various times in my life, so this museum was a kind of interesting to me that others might not share. I still learned plenty of thing about the postal service that many people might take for granted. The museum was very interactive and interesting.

A quick visit to the exterior of the Capitol building was followed by a visit to the interior of the Washington Monument, which had a great view of the surroundings. If you look closely, you can see where the color of the stones in the monument abruptly change. The construction of the monument was halted for a time due to lack of funds and the Civil War. When building resumed, the original stone was no longer available.

We managed to get tickets to see a tour of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. It wasn't as cool as you might think. No photography was allowed, and all of the machines were chugging away behind several glass windows. I much preferred visiting the Jelly Belly factory in California. Now that was fun. A humorous sign pointed out that the workers present were creating more money in an hour than they would ever earn in their lives. God Bless America.

Ford's Theater is conveniently located across the street from the house where Lincoln died, for obvious reasons. It was more of an excuse to sell crap than a legitimate museum though, and I advise the casual traveler to give it a pass.

The plane ride home was unexpectedly eventful. Due to a lucky alignment of the stars, the direct flight between Dulles and Springfield Capitol Airport began the day that we returned home. Mayor Tim Davlin and a small delegation were on the flight, having just thanked Senator Durbin for the grant necessary to begin the non-stop service. When we walked into the Springfield Airport, a large group of people were there celebrating the first flight. There was free food and beer for everyone. We even got some nice stone coasters commemorating the occasion. Hurray. Best flight ever!

Thursday, April 19, 2007


Today was the first day of my exciting Washington, DC travels. I am with my family, as the purpose for the trip is a wedding. Its only the first day, and I am already having a good time.

Straight out of the airport, we drove to Mount Vernon, the plantation home of George Washington, which is also the site of his grave. The whole compound was really enjoyable. Activities included a tour of the house, viewing the grave, and wandering around in a museum about the life of George. In the museum, I saw many parallels with the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum, which isn't surprising. It was very multimedia, which little movies intertwined with many of the exhibits. A set of Washington's dentures were displayed in a case, and a sign explained that the false teeth were a mixture of human and animal teeth.

The rehearsal dinner was at a place called the Monocle, which I read is a place that big time political people like to hang out at, as its really close to the capitol building. Not only that, but the Senate actually owns the restaurant. Really cool.

Monday, April 16, 2007


The last week or so was very busy for me. I did a bit of local sightseeing. The first place that I went to was the Lincoln Depot. Abraham Lincoln's final speech to the people of Springfield was given here. The next time this town would see Abe would be in a casket, delivered to this same train station. The depot's website is very weak, and it is generally the ugly duckling of the area's Lincoln attractions. It is owned by the nearby State Journal Register, which might account for it's low-budget presentation. It was worth the quick visit, despite its shortcomings.

I made another visit to the Dana-Thomas House. Frank Lloyd Wright is the most famous American architect of all time, and one of his masterpieces is sitting right next to the YMCA that I used to hang out at. It really is an excellent place. It is tempting to underestimate a house that I have driven by and ignored so many times, but it is a real gem. I definitely recommend it. I've probably been there five times now, and I still enjoyed this latest time very much. The design is so excellent that at it times things seem very new rather than very old. Of particular interest is a personal bowling lane situated in the basement. There is even some occasional Japanese influence hiding in the house, which is of particular interest to me. He even designed a few structures that were built in Japan. What a guy.

I took Angelica to the St. Louis airport on Monday, and I've been doing alot of running around getting her ready to go home. We still don't know her visa results, so who knows if she is even going to come back here. Luckily I still have my trip to Colombia to look forward to, or that would have been a much more depressing drive home.

Today has been pretty slow in comparison. I voted in Springfield's local elections today. I didn't really have to do much soul searching this time. My main local concerns are few. I think that the smoking ban needs to stay in place. The write-in candidate for mayor, Mario Ingoglia, seemed to be running on an interesting working man, populist kind of campaign. Once I heard him say that he wanted to get rid of Springfield's smoking ban, though, I stopped listening. True, it might bring a few more jobs, but the big increases wouldn't be in the waitress or bartender positions. I think they the big increase in jobs that smoking brings is all the nurses needed to bring jell-o to people dying of lung cancer. No thanks.

The other thing that bothers me is all of the people sleeping at the library. They've got to go. Let's find a better place for them to stay, maybe. But turning the library into a scary shanty town isn't going to do anything but shoo away the few people that want to take advantage of the lincoln library. Laziness is enough of an obstacle to keep people from reading, panhandlers will pretty much seal the deal.

Other than that, I am working like a beast of burden everyday. I watch my Lost, play the occasional video game, and do my best to keep it real.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Finished up in Collinsville

I successfully concluded my battle with the computer villains in Collinsville. Once I had escaped the office, I headed over to hang out with my friend Seago on the MO side of the river. We ate at a pretty excellent Indian place, India Palace. It was a very unique establishment. Housed at the top floor of an old hotel, it has a pretty nice view of part of the city. The view was especially nice at night when all the blue lights from the nearby airport's runways were visible. Kind of a ghetto light show, but nice. The food there was the most authentic seeming Indian food I've had, but that might not be saying much. One of my last days in C-ville I went on a little side work trip to Wright City, MO. Not especially noteworthy from what I witnessed, but a welcome diversion from a workweek without a weekend.

I did have a work trip planned for later this month. It was going to be in a small city very near New York, NY. Unfortunately it was moved to the same time that I am going to be out of town, so I am no longer scheduled to go on that trip. I am going to be in Washington, DC from April 20-24 for my cousin's wedding. I am excited about going, but this will be my third time going in probably three years. Inevitably, there will be some overlap of sightseeing, but I think I can survive that. One thing that's great about DC are the restaurants. The last time I was in DC, I was with some college buddies of mine. We ate at an Afghan place, and an Ethiopian place, of course a Japanese restaurant, among others. It was great. I'm definitely excited about eating something weird while I'm there.

I've been doing a bit more planning involving my upcoming Colombian excursion. Angelica lives in Bogota, so I am going to split my time between there and Cartagena. Cartagena sounds really cool. It is an old Spanish fort city, reminding me of something out of Pirates of the Caribbean. This is normally the part where I link to a bunch of crazy google maps, but those lazy bums don't have any of the roads or even cities in Colombia mapped out... No fun. Maybe I should take that as a bad sign... Hehe.