Showing posts with label Washington D.C. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Washington D.C. Show all posts

17 February, 2012

Mr. Mick Goes to Washington, Part 2: Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor, Your Gimped Up Transient Techno-Hobos

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.

[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 and donating to THANKS FOR YOUR SUPPORT. If you DO decide to donate, I will mention you in the blog. Promise. 
  3. Contact Catherine Sellers at Greyhound, 415-331-6049. Tell them you are asking about a sponsorship when the operator picks up. At this rate, they're losing my love to Amtrak.
  4. NOTE: My next stop will be NYC, and then Boston for a long weekend. After that 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. And if you like the blog, and think it's worthwhile to keep my homeless ass moving along, please donate. It's good for your soul.

16 February, 2012

Mr. Mick Goes to Washington, Intermezzo (Necropsy, Report #1)

“Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.” - The Buddha

Real generosity toward the future lies in giving all to the present. --
Albert Camus

Just as I was able to hobble around on my left foot, last night I fell and hurt my OTHER foot... the ankle, to be precise... so I am spending today (again) on my hosts' couch... which is entirely frustrating. The ankle is fine... swollen, but fine. Having fallen many, many, many, MANY times in the past, I know there's no need to worry. The swelling has already gone down from last night, when I tripped walking up Georgia Avenue with my friend and host Eric Riley. I stepped off the edge of the brick sidewalk to make room for two women walking the other direction... one of whom was a not unattractive blonde in a short business skirt and high heels.

And here, I must confess -- though I am staunchly opposed to Capitalism, the women are hot.

And while that may not be definitive proof that chivalry is painful, it at least provides more evidence to suggest that at least some of the pain some men put upon themselves comes from sex and it's related mess.

I hobble forward -- metaphorically -- however, undaunted.

Prior to my first real tumble (no metaphor) in more than a year, I had spent several hours that afternoon in the East Building of the National Gallery of Art. My plan was to visit several sights of interest and report to you, Dear Readers, on it all; and that may happen yet, since no one knows what tomorrow brings. But I did know I had to go and see ONE THING, even if I didn't get to see anything else:

3 of more than 30 of the Seagram Murals.

Rothko has been one of my favorite painters for several years. Prior to seeing these up close, the color field paintings were my favorite. But now... at least at this point in my life... these are my new favorites.

These three are part of a series he painted as part of a 1958 commission for the Four Seasons in New York by Joseph Seagram. Rothko, notoriously OCD about how his work was shown, and feeling like a restaurant wasn't the proper place to show his work -- maybe out of fears that people would be too busy eating to really pay attention -- pulled out of the commission. But continued to paint the series anyway.

These three murals -- and really, all of Rothko's later work, including the color fields -- are all about boundaries for me. You see this more by comparing these to his other works; but the work is in all the fine detail. Sometimes he paints staunch impassible lines through which no color bleeds. In others -- like these in the National Gallery of Art, the colors bleed. (To see the difference, look at  these Rothkos at the Tate Museum of Modern Art.)

I sat in front of them for a little over an hour, taking them all in. It was something of a religious experience for me, sitting there

-- even with the insufferable noise of some stuck up art critic trying to impress his views on a much younger and thoroughly enraptured student about the "message" of a surrealist mural placed inappropriately near Rothko's murals.

The word that kept filtering through my mind was boundaries. Rothko battled them in his work, and in the end, when he sliced his wrists open and committed suicide in 1970. I've always fought them, too. Boundaries define us as much as they hinder us. As Americans, we have grown accustomed to boundaries... set by government, primarily... but also those boundaries set by other people.

And it is those I found myself meditating on.

I started this blog with the tagline:  NECROPSY OF THE AMERICAN DREAM. Okay, so I tend to be ambitious, and I'm still gaining momentum. Traveling around has always suited me. Visiting friends, seeing places for the first time or revisiting them with new eyes. You can't get a sense of the country you live in while you're on a guided tour. To really see it -- and to have a chance to experience it without someone else's interpretation -- you have to set out and see it.

One thing you begin to realize is that most boundaries mean very little except to others. State boundaries. County boundaries. City and town incorporation limits. Abstract. Nothing. They bleed, always bleed, whether provincially minded residents believe it or not. Every place I've been in my life, someone has said:

"That's the weather here in [insert locale, county, region, or state]. It can turn in 20 minutes." 

[Translation: the weather is never as predictable as we'd like.]

Boundaries bleed, and sometimes the blood is real. We have proof enough of that in every war in history.

I've been dealing with a sudden lack of boundary... which is freeing and terrifying and heartbreaking all at once.  And this first segment of my travels has been, in some ways, a methodical autopsy of the relationship.

But the boundaries bleed.  A marriage in America is about more than love. It's tied into tax money, real estate, visions of success and failure, manhood and femininity. Marriage in America, like it or not, is tied to our culturally driven definition of The American Dream. That's why political sex scandals are so interesting. Most politicians are married -- because the electorate like "family oriented" folk -- so when a politician gets caught diddling the intern or looking for anonymous gay sex in airport bathrooms, we become hyper-focused. Marriage -- and our conceptions of it -- is tied to everything.

And when a marriage is over, all of those things change.

For me, there's a still certain bitter-sweetness to all of it. 

Yet as I sat in front of Rothko's murals, the proof of his own struggle with the boundaries that defined and confined him, I began to reflect on the fact that even though I've been essentially decompressing and dealing with a complex amount of emotions, that I've also felt pretty good. Settled in my soul, somehow. Because while I may need to eventually find a place to store my books and keep my cat and have a place to write, I also just need to be able to go. 


If you're into Post WW II American Artists, it's worth checking out the Jackson Pollock they have in the same gallery as Rothko:

Number 1, 1950 (Lavender Mist)

This one, too, and the rest of Pollock's splash paintings, also remind me of boundaries; but we each have our own ways of fighting them.


(More today. Still.)

[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 and donating to THANKS FOR YOUR SUPPORT. If you DO decide to donate, I will mention you in the blog. Promise. 
  3. Contact Catherine Sellers at Greyhound, 415-331-6049. Tell them you are asking about a sponsorship when the operator picks up. At this rate, they're losing my love to Amtrak.
  4. NOTE: My next stop will be NYC, and then Boston for a long weekend. After that 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.

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 and donating to
  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.]