Tuesday, November 22, 2011

March on Washington

Despite a very full schedule of conference presentations in Washington, I did manage to see some sights, some of which will never be seen again.

It was nearly a full moon my first evening in town.
Yeah, that little white speck in the middle right.  It was crisp and cool, with the smell and color of autumn leaves, something I hadn't experienced for a long time.  My cheeks were rosy and tingly. And dry. Still, a nice evening for a walkabout.

I strolled down to K Street, which was under occupation.

It all looked like any homeless campout in Hawaii, except for the creative take on the D.C. license plate (which actually reads "Taxation Without Representation."  I didn't know that.)  It all would have seemed utterly ordinary except for the police on watch.
I wanted to get close enough to photograph the really interesting thing, a police horse with a really huge head, patiently waiting in his van to be useful.  My friend R noted, "You wouldn't want THAT charging at you."  (Later, back at my hotel, I watched an episode of Frasier, in which he and Niles buy their Dad's beloved but pastured police mount as a birthday gift. It's sad.  They're both too old to do much of anything.)

Just below K street was the Treasury Department:
And the White House:
Everything was very benign.  It seemed like there should have been...news.
There could have been. But even the newspaper office was dark and quiet. There in the outdoor atrium, another monument to the obsolete: a Merganthaler Linotype that had been used to set most of the important hot-lead stories of the past.
I fingered the Linotype's "etaoin shrdlu" keyboard, which summoned a security guard out of the inner lobby. "Oh sorry, sorry," I said, "but this is SO cool."  "What is it?" she asked.  I wound up giving a little lecture on the history of printing and journalism, there in the outer lobby of the Washington Post, inspiring her to be even more protective of the artifact.  Oddly, when I emailed the photo of it back home to my husband, he told me he and our son had just an hour before been having a discussion about Linotypes.  The synchronicities of this trip were beginning to weird me out.
In its bizarre and complicated mechanical presence, I was thinking of the Linotype and the real freedom and power it represented in its time before offset printing, desktop publishing, email, blogs and Twitter. I once composed headlines on a Ludlow, its little letterpress cousin; I still have raw lead blocks and type I set from those days; I use them as paperweights to hold my Chinese painting paper in place on the table.
The Linotype was still on my mind the next day when I stumbled into the Laogai Museum, a little monument to the lack of a free press and expression, a sort of Chinese Holocaust Memorial.  (I've never been to that place, having grown up in a time all too aware of the Holocaust.  I don't need to see all the photos and shoes and eyeglasses to remember the horror.)  But the Laogai...I hope my Visa statement for a book I bought there doesn't hinder my visa application for my next China trip.  I probably should have paid cash.)
It took me two Harps to sober up at my new local on Dupont Circle where I also enjoyed some French onion soup and shepherd's pie.

If you get bored in Washington, there's something wrong with you.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Marching Out of Atlanta

Three days of torture by Powerpoint in Atlanta was sufficient that I began to relate to General Sherman.
Burn This City...Now!
I don't know what he would have thought of ATL's big ants, but they certainly convinced me to march out of my hotel early, to get to the airport to make sure I didn't miss a delayed flight.
Sherman's Army Ants
Alas, no Red Carpet Club in Delta's hub. But I did find a nice R&B & fried chicken bar, albeit a little ersatz, owned by Budweiser, decorated with fascinating memorabilia of the early days of R&B and soul music. Sort of Hard Rock Cafe, but small and black and in an airport concourse. No ants, just record albums and flyers of Dinah Washington and Etta James performances and photos of blind Delta blues men. I was enchanted by the photo of a disc jockey who seemed to be watching me as I fortified myself with some meaty wings and brew for my pending foodless flight to D.C. (indirectly via Chicago).
Alley Pat
I thought the DJ might have been the bartender in earlier days; the bartender told me if it was him he'd own the place, not work there, and he told me the DJ's name which I promptly forgot. It's Alley Pat. I've learned a great deal of interesting stuff while tracking it down. Now pushing 90, he was one of the originals for WERD, the first African-American-owned and operated radio station in the country.

The bartender was friendly and talkative, and posed under Alley's picture for me.
Not Alley Pat
I arrived in D.C. very late with some of the leftover Atlanta wings for a snack, and then went to the hotel bar for a nightcap.  The bartender got me my G&T and then said, "Didn't you used to work at XYZ Corp. in Hawaii?" Why, yes...it was R, a great guy I worked with at XYZ more than 20 years ago.  Not someone I think about frequently, but remember fondly.  Curiously, I actually had been thinking of him just a few days before I left on this trip.  "Wonder what ever happened to R, where did he go?" And there he was.
My friend R
My G&T was on the house, and after R's shift ended, we went to the hotel bar next door and did serious damage to a couple bottles of fine chardonnay.  This answered my question, "What do bartenders do after they leave the bar?"  They go out for drinks.

And at least I was out of Atlanta and in the company of a friend.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Hail Atlanta!**

Recently home from an exhausting business (with some pleasure) trip to the Mainland. It started out very mapped, laid out, itineraries through no less than seven major cities between Honolulu and Atlanta, but despite effortless packing and wrapping up of last minute details, I still felt as if on a treadmill, a little too lockstep for fun. Still, it was a beautiful flight east, with no seat mates, not even row mates. Flying away from the sunset, I caught the last glint of the day's sunlight on the port wing.  I  should mention it was Halloween.

Then the trick or treating began.  A departure delay due to "mechanical problems" put us in late at LAX, missing a connecting flight to Atlanta via Cleveland.  (The flight attendants wondered why I wasn't on the Houston to Atlanta run. "You should do that," they said.  From now on, I will book my flights through the cabin crew not based in Mumbai. ) A midnight to 5 a.m. hotel stay was arranged where I discovered hotels don't provide toothbrushes anymore.  Fuzzy teeth were bad enough, but the view out the window of one of those big L.A. industry billboards was more disturbing.  (We don't have signage like this in Hawaii.)

All night, I felt like I was being watched.  Even from a prone position in bed. Talk about peeping toms!

If it had to be a film star, why couldn't it have been this one?

I could have closed the drapes, but I was relying on the sun to wake me to get back to the airport where they had neglected to rebook me on the next flight out.  They had to handwrite a ticket!  Eventually, about 24 hours after I left Honolulu,  I arrived in Atlanta, all groggy and jet-lagged with bad breath and disoriented after a long walk from gate to baggage claim, past an endless display of somewhat disturbing sculptures by an artist from Zimbabwe.  I waited patiently --what else can one do?--with a bunch of people at a carousel that kept recirculating the same bags and no one was claiming any of them.  I had a nasty feeling my own bags had gone missing.  I looked up at the ceiling and experienced a truly Kafka-esque moment.

I'd been rerouted to Antlanta!  As if the hideous Zimbabwe bronzes weren't enough, these guys --at least 24 inches long, antenna to tail--formed a strange welcoming committee.  And I have confirmation that I was not hallucinating. Whose idea was this? Promoting Georgia red fire ants?  Just what a person after 24 hours in the air with missed connections and lost luggage needs to see.  Was it a promotion for a remake of Them?

My wayward luggage was eventually delivered to my Atlanta hotel, which also makes me wonder about yet another of the art installations at this curious airport.

This "piece," cleverly named "Samsonite," appears to commemorate the loss of luggage by travelers from all 50 states.  If I had had the presence of mind, I would have searched for the Hawaii license plate to photograph.  It reminds me of those charm bracelets composed of tiny enamel maps of all the states in the union. (I have one.)  But I just wanted to get away from those ants.

And this was just Day One.  

**I also wish I had had the presence of mind to have written the first comment on this Youtube link. I take the liberty to quote it here:
Atlanta was a city, landlocked, hundreds of miles from the area we now call the Atlantic Ocean, Yet so desperate the city's desire for tourism that they moved offshore, becoming an island and an even bigger Delta hub. Until the city over-developed and it started to sink. Knowing their fate, the quality people ran away, Ted Turner, Hank Aaron, Jeff Foxworthy, the guy who invented Coca-Cola, the magician and the other so-called gods of our legends. Though gods they were, also Jane Fonda was there.