14 February, 2012

Mr. Mick Goes to Washington, Part 1: Pagans, Politics, and Gay Vikings

Aside from the murders, DC has one of the lowest crime rates in the country. -- Marion Barry

Politics, n. Strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. -- Ambrose Bierce

My first full day in our nation's capitol has been spent nursing the Achilles Tendon on my left foot -- which has, at this most inconvenient time, decided to stiffen and swell, making it difficult to stand, much less walk. I fully expect to be able to hobble around just fine tomorrow, since I'm planning gimp around Capitol Hill and at least ... at the VERY least... check out the Rothko exhibit in the National Gallery. 

I have a rail pass I need to use and I intend to use it. Even if it means I ride the subway all day people watching.

[Yes. I just might. Even though my dear and lovely, my one and only daughter informed me when visiting her that my tendency to eavesdrop and people watch makes me a CREEPER. I reject this, of course. It's research. Pure research.]

The trip from Norfolk (pronounced Nor'fuk) was relatively uneventful. I somehow managed to procure a cab, even though the light dusting of snow the night before pretty much shut the city down.  I have no tolerance anymore for people that don't know how to handle weather. Apparently the city trucks were out -- while the snow was falling -- spreading salt on the streets.  The problem is, of course, that it helps to have a layer of it down BEFORE the snow hits. 

But since that makes sense ... and the Norfolk is a DOD (Department of Defense, in case you were wondering) town ... it's too much to expect anything about it to make sense.

I got to the bus station in plenty of time, though. And I even managed to get some more sleep while I was waiting... though every good spot to stretch out was taken. There was a delay,though, because the driver didn't want to load the people from another bus onto our bus. And that took entirely too long to work out.

Finally, though, After a short stop in Hampton and Richmond, I made it into D.C.

My first order of business was to find the landmark that would lead me to my friend, Eric. Eric told me to find a bus on one of the corners of the circle in front of Union Station. And I found it, after wandering around in downtown D.C. for a bit. Downtown D.C. on a Sunday afternoon reminded me of downtown Cincinnati on a Sunday. Nothing was open and the streets were deserted. Like post-apocalypse deserted. Like near that scene in  The Devils' Advocate deserted.

To remind people that it's not a place for free speech. 

Yes, it's true. In Washington, circles have corners -- which, as far as I can tell, explains just about every stupid thing about government that I've ever noticed.

Union Station is a monstrosity. Meant to be confusing, designed to look like a prison from 1 NE Street and like a scrubbed up Bastille from Massachusetts Ave, Union Station is the kind of place everyone gets lost.  It's the kind of place that makes sense once you've been through it a dozen or so times, and not all that forgiving to the first time rider. That they're in the process of renovating a big chunk of it doesn't help with finding your way around.

I finally made it outside on to the circle, only to find that it, too, is partially under construction. Commuter cars and taxi cabs, along with one stretched limo... out of which stepped a snotty looking 20-something who clearly didn't earn any of the money that paid the old negro chauffeur to get out and open the door for him. My bus was across the circle, on the south east corner (See?). This meant that I had to reach deep into the well of skills honed from early 1980's video games and Frogger my way across the circle -- crossing traffic twice.

I've lived and walked around in cities before, so I understand the basic assumption that everyone in a car is trying to kill pedestrians. I don't particularly see this as malevolent... that is to say... intentional on an individual basis... but rather, I understand the passive aggressive homicidal impulse. It's not that they hate pedestrians especially; they simply resent anyone or anything that comes between them and their destination and since most people won't give into the urge to kill the people they really WANT to kill (bosses, snarky co-workers, rude baristas, spouses) they end up taking it out on the innocent (pedestrians, the homeless, spouses, children, school teachers).

I blame these people

After making my way across the circle, dodging traffic and construction, I waited for the bus. The winter storm that's been chasing me across six states finally caught up with in Norfolk and it beat me to D.C. It was cold as balls when I arrived on Sunday. It took a while for the 96 bus to arrive, but when it did I paid my fare -- $1.70 -- and sat down as the bus wound it's way up Massachusetts Avenue, Capitol Hill, and back on to Massachusetts, up to 15th, my stop.

Eric volunteers on Sundays at the Open Hearth Foundation, a D.C. based Pagan Community Center. Eric is helping them organize a small but respectable library... and by organize, he's making sure that the library has online system for tracking the books, they're properly labeled and enumerated ... using the Library of Congress system (which made me smile.). There are advantages to having an active volunteer that's both a librarian and a practicing pagan.

I hadn't seen Eric in around 20 years; we reconnected on Facebook and had chatted some. When he heard I might be heading this direction, he graciously offered to let me crash with him and his husband Arc.

Arc(As in Archimedes) is a rugby player. He plays in a gay rugby league. My arrival happens to coincide with his first practice of the season, and so he eats, sleeps, talks, thinks, breathes, rugby. This drives Eric a little nuts, but since they've been together for several years, surely he had some clue as to what he was getting into. Arc sort of looks like a slightly short Viking. He shaves his head and has a blondish auburn beard. The only thing he talks about as much as rugby is men... and that, I suspect, is because the two things are linked in his spacial memory. Sometimes I think maybe he's trying to play "Mess With the Hetero"... but I've been drunk around theater kids... it takes A LOT to throw me off. I also once walked in on an instance of gay restroom sex at a Greyhound Station in Mobile, Alabama. Impromptu anal sex has a... SPECIFIC... odor. I won't illuminate further.

The Open Hearth Foundation is currently jammed into too small a space above a liquor store and a laundromat at the corner of 15 and Massachusetts in what looks like a thoroughly residential neighborhood. The building looks like it was built in the late 60's or early 70's... has that sort of watered down Art Deco look with an exterior that's been painted several times... this time white with blue highlights.

Out in front. Every city should have something like this.

Once up the stairs, I was made immediately welcome by Eric and his friends Xenia, Donna, and Donna's daughter, Adaryn. The conversation was light, and interesting. Pagans and witches are, by large, interesting folk to know. The best of them are open minded, interesting, and stress free to deal with. At least, the ones I've met. (And, believe it or not, this was NOT my first experience with pagans or witches or practicing Satanists.)  Donna had lived for some time in Tucson, so we talked about Arizona some. Her daughter, apparently, is infected by the same itchy footedness as me. According to Eric, she's a professional body piercer who also just got a job at the Hard Rock Cafe. 

She had several herself, so this wasn't a stretch for me to believe. Piercings make sense on some people; on some people they don't. I used wear earrings, but I got tired of dealing with, Adaryn is one of the cryptically beautiful and interesting people who looks precisely the way she ought to look... if that makes any sense at all. But then, I've always like intense and interesting people.

When they were finished for the day, Xenia -- who was getting ready to do some traveling herself -- drove us to the nearest subway station to catch the Green Line. Xenia is just a nice person. Bubbly, with a very Earthly vibe.

By the time we made it back to Eric and Arc's house on Fairmont, near Columbia Heights, my left foot was throbbing out of my shoe, but otherwise, my introduction into the city has been relatively successful. 

More to come...

[If you like what you read here, you can help by:
  1. Passing the link around.
  2. Graciously donating to the cause using the button on the right hand side of the screen, or by going to paypal.com and donating to mickp@gmx.com.
  3. Contact Catherine Sellers at Greyhound, 415-331-6049. Tell them you are asking about a sponsorship when the operator picks up. I write about them enough. They should be helping me help them. Right??
  4. NOTE: My next stop will be NYC, after which I'll be swinging back through the Midwest to in order to take care of business in Illinois and to gather steam for a push west. Stay tuned.

Thanks for reading.]