Monday, October 7, 2013

Shutdown but not shut out

This weekend, Sam and I headed down to our nation's capital to meet up with some friends and family. Due to the government shutdown, we weren't able to partake in any of the free Smithsonian museums or view the monuments, but luckily we found plenty of establishments willing to take our money. It was an incredibly hot and humid weekend in the district, a sad turn for October, but it didn't stop us from walking all over the city. There was extra walking for those of us who were too cheap to pay DC metro prices.

On Saturday, we followed a wonderful brunch with an aunt and uncle with a visit to the Spy Museum. I'd never actually considered going to the Spy Museum (despite spending time in their gift shop in the past) because why pay for a museum when you're surrounded by free ones? I have a feeling they're experiencing a bit of a boom with the Smithsonian not operational, or who knows, maybe it's always that crowded. Nevertheless, it's a fun and very interactive museum. It reminded me of Astoria's own Museum of the Moving Image with its many hands on exhibits. There were air ducts to crawl though, secret identities to memorize and call up later, and bugs that enabled you to listen to people in other parts of the museum (although I found their murmuring to be about as boring as the murmuring of museum patrons directly around me, so that was quickly tired of). The museum also has a number of artifacts (radio transmitters in shoes, eyeglasses with space for a cyanide tablet, things of that ilk) from real spy organizations. All and all a very interesting collection.

For the more Hollywood, rather than historical, look at espionage, they also had an exhibit on Bond villains. That served to remind me that I haven't really seen very many Bond movies, mostly because they all seem the same. Nevertheless, the exhibit was slick and well managed. They had a bar that could be raised for you to hang on as if you were Bond hanging from a helicopter/building ledge/what-have-you. It is much harder than it looks. For those who made it past 20 seconds, they would also blow wind on you.
Sam displaying his superior grip strength. 
 After the Spy Museum, we had the usual (for my vacations anyway) trouble of having to find something else to do in order to work up enough of an appetite to eat again. This led us on a walk to the White House in part because Aileen had never seen it. There were a few protesters afoot and one large group one speaking against negotiating with Iran, but overall less hoopla than I would have thought. In the far window, we could see a man pacing around. At one point, we also became convinced that we saw the head of a Portuguese Water Dog in the same window. I took the picture below, thinking I would be able to zoom in and confirm the sighting. Unfortunately, if anything without the movement, it's less clear.

Look for evidence of Bo or Sunny in the far right upper window. Keep in mind that black blob was definitely bobbing. 
On Sunday, after a visit to DC institution Ben's Chili Bowl (where both Bill Cosby and Barack Obama eat for free), we visited the Museum of Unnatural History. This is actually a store affiliated with the DC branch of 826, an organization I've mentioned a number of times on this blog. While the New York off shoot has the Superhero Supply Company, San Francisco has the Pirate Store, and Chicago has the Incredibly Boring Store (actually a spy retailer), DC's branch is devoted to all things made up. It had a number of unusual displays of taxidermy and some very silly dioramas. To support the cause, I add to my 826 tshirt collection.

Me in front of the store. I don't know what I'm doing with my hands. 
A specimen from the Museum of Unnatural History.  If the Smithsonian doesn't reopen, this could become the new world order. 
 After some walking around in the heat on Sunday and a failed expedition to the Newseum (a museum on news), we headed out for home. Sam took this final picture on our walk to Union Station to get our bus.
Where all the magic isn't happening. 

The eight-hour (provided you don't hit traffic) round trip bus ride to DC makes for all too short weekend visits, but it was a fun weekend and definitely worth it. Thanks to Carolyn and Aileen for hanging out and for Neel and Diane for a lovely brunch.

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