There is something good and motherly about Washington, the grand old benevolent National Asylum for the helpless. -- Mark Twain, The Gilded Age
Bitch set me up. -- Marion Barry, former Mayor of Washington D.C.
The weather has apparently stopped it's malicious attacks against me; at least temporarily. Although the arctic cold did bring me into the city – which, by the way, was never supposed to be a city. The Founding Fathers never intended that anyone should live here.
And really, someone should have listened to them on that one.
Where the weather left off, though, it seems that the city itself has picked up and carried on.
As I believe I wrote in an early post, my left Achilles Tendon had been giving me fits. This is nothing new. I was born with lousy feet, I have and will continue to live with lousy feet, and... unless they make stem cell repairative techniques free and available to the public, I will die with lousy fee. A little constant pain is nothing. And yes, there are days when I have to let my foot rest. And NO, I'm not 80 years old.
(Or, as my friend and host Eric so wittily pointed out on Facebook: “You're too young to be an old man.”)
I fully expect to have to use a cane someday. But it will be a kick ass one. With flames and arcane and esoteric symbols. And a heavy topper to bop idjits on the head with.
My intention was to report to you, faithfully, about all the usual landmarks in all their phallic and boob-shaped glory. (Don't believe me? Look at the Washington Monument. Then find an aerial view and check out the large number of boobs – I mean DOMES – in the Greater Metro DC area. You can say what you want about them – but the Founding Fathers were a bunch obsessed titty fuckers.
And that may be the most respectful thing I will ever say about them as a group.
On my one and only day out, I managed to get to the National Gallery of Art. I wanted to see the Rothko exhibit – which I wrote about in my last post. On my way to the bus stop, I stopped in front of a restaurant named DULCINEA. The signage also included Picasso's “Quixote.” And not only is Don Quixote de la Mancha one of my favorite old books, but The Man From La Manchais one of my few favorite musicals.
|On Georgia Ave near Euclid, across from Howard University.|
As I was standing there, thinking about taking a picture of the sign for a blog post, an extraordinarily beautiful woman of Mediterranean descent sauntered out and asked if I would be interested in some free food. They had just opened the restaurant, she explained, and were giving way free samples as a way to get people interested. I hadn't eaten yet and I have trouble turning down exquisite olive skinned women with big dark eyes. And the food was pretty good. If you've never tried good Mediterranean food, please do. It's usually fresh, it's interesting, and it leaves you full without feeling disgusting.
I ate, talked to the owner some about the travails of opening a new restaurant, and left, assuring them that I would tell my kind and gentle hosts about them. Then I caught the Route 70 bus down to 7thand Constitution and made my way to the Gallery. And after that calming and meditative experience – and I mean that in all seriousness – I walked around a bit. Walked by the National Archives, the Federal Trade Commission – which, by the way, has stone sculpture in front of it that was clearly influenced by Social Realist painter Grant Lee Wood.
(Social Realism in art, just in case you weren't aware, is rooted in the idea that the people are the backbone of the country, not the government; that inequities need to be addressed. And many artists in the Social Realist movement had communist or socialist leanings... neither of which I see as bad things.)
My friend and host Eric is a librarian at one of the D.C. Public Library Branches; that particular night, he had to work until 9, so I decided to cool my heels, as it were, at the library and maybe read a book I haven't read in a while. I rode the Route 70 bus … the same bus I rode down to 7th and Constitution, near the Gallery... and it went conveniently by library. Across Rhode Island Ave from the library, there was a 7-11. I went in there to buy a cup of coffee and maybe a sandwich. I hadn't eaten much that day, and hadn't had my daily allowance of coffee, either.
I've been in many 7-11's over the years, and many times more convenience stores; I even worked the register at a Dairy Mart in Lexington, Kentucky. And I know that they can, sometimes, get really busy. Sometimes there's a line, maybe 4 or 5 deep. This store had a line to the register that basically started at the register, went back the entire refrigerated aisle, wrapped back up near the coffee and fountain drinks, and into the trail mix. Seriously. There were two registers, and two register jockeys. Only one of them appeared to be actually working, however. The other looked like he was furiously counting out his draw like he was preparing to make a run for the door.
After finally being able to buy my sandwich (FRESH MADE TODAY!) and my coffee (FRESH BURNED DAILY!) I decided to find a seat in front of the library to eat my sandwich and drink my coffee. On my way out, I ran into a woman who asked me for change so she could “buy a sandwich.” She must've seen the one in my hand, because it was clear that she had no intention of buying a sandwich. A bottle, maybe. Or a rock or two. You become aware of the look when you see it enough. And it's not exclusive to the the poor, the homeless, or to inner city blacks (Although I have known people who honestly believe – due to their lack of experience – that this is the case.) I've seen that desperate look in the faces of the poor, the unemployed, the underemployed, drunks, and drug addicts. I've also seen it painted across the faces of unhappily married women, miserable husbands saddled up to the bar, and the young children of Jehovah's Witnesses.
That deep down misery, that brokenness, that desperation – can be soothed in any number of ways. Drugs and booze are only two options that happen to be the most accessible. There are others. If you don't believe me, watch Hoarders sometime.
Thems some fucked up folks.
I didn't have much, but I gave her a few bucks for whatever her intentions were. You can call it enabling if you want. I don't really care. The difference between her and me is as thin as a strand of hair. The difference between most of you and her is, too, if you're paying attention at all.
The neighborhood kids were running around and playing in front of the library as I ate my sandwich and drank my coffee. I'd had a pretty good day, all in all. I felt at peace with myself in way that I hadn't felt in a long time – even before leaving Mount Carroll. And the fact that I was in the process of planning my return – albeit temporary – to the Midwest didn't disturb the peaceful mood I was in. Quite the contrary. I already had my New York plans laid out, and had just gotten a short trip up to Boston to visit another college friend and compatriot, Collins, worked out. I was in the process of deciding the best foot forward... that is, how keep myself writing and mobile while being as little a burden to my friends as possible. I do my best thinking – and some of my best writing – when I'm on the move. The human mind is designed to work better with increased blood flow – which is the reason why I like to walk as much as possible.
Any one who knows me knows I hardly ever exercise for the sake of exercise. And while I have enormous respect for people who do – like, for example, my friend Washington Eric's husband Arc (I wrote about him a little in my first Washington post.) – who is a vegan/gluten free gay rugby player. He's also something of a masochist – which partially accounts for why rugby appeals to him – and he could, in all likelihood kick my ass. He exercises and counts all the little numbers that people count when they actually care about their bodies. As far as I'm concerned, when I'm done with this meat sack, there won't be enough of it left to cremate. I plan on running it into dust.
I felt a bit more ready to take on another beginning... transgress some new boundaries... erase lines and write new ones... move forward into an unfolding present tense.
Which is why, I'm certain, that Washington D.C. – the heart of which thrives on petty nostalgia, useless sentimentality, and a very American tendency to believe in some lost utopian past – felt the need to trip me up. Literally.
During the remainder of Eric's shift, I read through half of Saul Bellow's Henderson, The Rain King. I don't like all of Bellow's work; but I do like this one. A lot. Henderson is a protagonist/narrator I have always been able to identify with; because he's a guy who's never been comfortable in his own skin, and is never at home in the world, no matter how hard he tries or what his intentions are.
After Eric's shift, we waited for the Route 70 bus and headed back toward Georgia Ave and Fairmont, the street he and Arc live on. We were walking past the Howard University Campus, enjoying a nice conversation about the neighborhood and how eclectic it was; I showed him Dulcinea's and we talked a bit about literature. That's one of the nice things about having librarians for friends – they actually read. They don't always get to avoid the lousy stuff, of course – but reading is part of the job. We had just passed Euclid, the cross street, when I looked up from our conversation and noticed two women walking towards us. They were busy talking – one of them speaking in an animated fashion, sort of waving her hands around. The other woman was shorter, blonde, wearing a skirt and heels.
I guess this is the place where I mention … again … my odd affection for power women. Don't ask me why.
I moved to the right, trying to move out of the way. That portion of the sidewalk is made out of brick. Not that it makes a difference, you understand. I can trip and fall on nearly any surface, and I have. But I would also like to point out – by way of defending myself – that I hadn't drank anything stronger than coffee and that the edge of the sidewalk... because it's brick … was uneven.
If I HAD been drinking, I wouldn't have fallen. And I would've gotten the blonde's number, too. Because in spite of myself, I am occasionally charming when drunk.
Instead, my foot rolled off the edge of the sidewalk – I had stepped towards the inside, rather than street side – causing my ankle to bend one direction and my body to fall in an entirely different one.
Good thing for me, I know how to fall.
It's a gift of long experience.
Luckily, I landed on my ass – no kissing the bricks for this experienced tumbler. I sat there for a minute, cussing like a sailor and looking at my right ankle to see if looked broken, It looked like it hurt. Because it DID hurt.
Now, it's important after a fall like that, not to get up too quickly. For one, you need to catch your breath. For another – and this may only be me – sometimes falling makes me want to throw up. So I was sitting there, Eric was standing there asking me if I was ok, and so was the blonde – whose shapely legs had caused me to side step in the first place. In between wondering whether I'd be able to walk the rest of the way back to Eric and Arc's I thought:
“I bet Eric never has this problem. There's no woman's legs anywhere that cause him to fall and look like an ass.”
She asked me several times if I was alright. And, once I was able to answer, went on her way into the darkness and into permanent anonymity.
Luckily, I was able to hobble home, but my ankle was swollen to the size of a lemon... which, to be honest, is what I felt like at just that moment. The following morning, the swelling had gone down, but the ankle was tender. I could still move my toes, though.
D.C., it seems, counts casualty in it's own way.
On the upside, though, the sudden fall had caused an endorphin release that actually made the Achilles Tendon on my left foot start to hurt less. The inflamed swelling even went down.
So what can we learn from all this?
If your head hurts, stub your toe. Sounds odd, but believe me. It really does work.
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