Sunday, April 19, 2009
Washington DC: Mission Improbable
Word came to me in my bunker late on a Sunday night whilst I dined upon a chorizo burrito. Disconcertingly, my visit to the nation's capital the previous autumn had not actually succeeded in solving all of the nation's problems - much less the rest of the world's own particular dilemmas. Not one to give up after one failure (I usually wait for two) I vowed to return and set things right. It just so happened that my cousin Jen was getting married and I already had a hotel room and flight booked, so I said what the hell, let's do this thing.
As a history major I learned that we often repeat the same mistakes over the years - if we can learn what our errors were in the past, maybe we can avoid similar glorious fuck-ups in the future. Therefore, I chose upon arriving to review these foregone events by visiting the Smithsonian Museums located on the Mall leading up to the Capital building, the place where Congress takes a dump on our lives whenever they can be bothered to be in session.
While beginning to peruse the roughly seven billion exhibits, I realized I may have overloaded my plate at the buffet as it were. I should probably have given myself more than a couple days to try to look at that many things. Too late though, since my flight was scheduled to leave on Sunday, I had to make the best of it and learn what I could. I decided to stick mainly to a couple of museums - the newly restored American History Smithsonian, for the previously stated reasons, and the Natural History Museum because I like to taunt dead things and gaze upon pretty rocks. The latter museum was probably a bit off mission, but I am a bit A.D.D., so what are you gonna do?
I learned a great deal from my wanderings. After the first floor exhibits, which included areas dedicated to Native Americans, slaves, and Jews I gathered that our forefathers were excellent at killing and enslaving people. Our generation has really slacked as far as that goes and we really need to get back to the basics. Whenever our ancestors were having a rough time they could just massacre a tribe or whip their chattel. What our society really needs is a scapegoat to blame for all our problems - then we can just blame them and pretend we are in no way responsible. It doesn't solve our difficulties, but it sure can take the edge off. Let me recommend the gay illegal immigrant welfare recipients as an excellent target, they piss off just about everyone.
After solving our nation's complicated domestic issues I meandered back to my hotel, where after the maintenance men managed to open the broken lock for the second time (not my fault either time surprisingly) I got dressed for the rehearsal dinner. We joined an intimate party of thirty family members and friends at a tapas restaurant called Jaleo, located in the Crystal City area just south of the city proper.
The meal included fried potatoes, spanish omelets, red beet salad, sauteed spinach salad, wild mushroom rice, seared salmon, mussels, shrimp, hanger steak, pork sausage, and chicken, with a custard and a hazelnut and chocolate mousse for dessert. All of this was washed down with a variety of sangria. If you think that sounds like an impressive pile of vittles you are indeed correct.
As round after round of food appeared I felt like a bruised and battered Muhammad Ali, taking a stomach pounding every time I got in the ring for three minutes to battle another dish. Okay that's a bit of an exaggeration, the boxing bit sounds painful and the experience was anything but. In truth, the dinner better resembled a medieval banquet. I was treated like a king that night, the only thing missing was the peasant servicing me while I munched on a chicken wing and guzzled ale.
I could not forget that I was on business as well, so I ducked out early and met up some friends of mine, one of whom works in military intelligence, to get a better read on the international relations scene. After several hours of drinking together at a bar - or as we call it in the biz, networking, I was well prepared to face the foreign boogie men that I would confront upon the morrow.
I woke early, around eleven A.M. or so, and prepared to take on the international scene. Unfortunately, due to a blackout in no way induced by alcohol, I had forgotten my buddy's advice from the previous evening. Oh well, they say military intelligence is an oxymoron anyway.
My hotel was located in the vicinity of a couple of embassies so I decided to check them out to see if they were worth having relations with and such. Tunisia's was right across the street so I headed there first. From my research I learned the country was formally known as Carthage, which was destroyed by the Romans centuries ago. The next thousand years were little better, the Tunisians were run over by a conquering Arab horde and converted to Islam, which is still the state religion there today. This pathetic loser country even fell to Ukraine in the 2006 World Cup. No self-respecting American would want to befriend these surrender monkeys. I decided to go elsewhere.
My distaste for Tunisia left me with only one other option if I was going to make the wedding in time. The glorious republic of Kazakhstan! According to reliable sources Kazakhstan is number one in potassium, other countries are inferior in potassium. In addition, they have the greatest prostitutes in the region, except, of course, for Turkmenistan.
Claiming that all other countries are run by little girls, Kazakhstan has also never lost a war. They haven't participated in one either, since the country is only twenty something years old, but that is entirely beside the point. We are a nation of winners currently in need of friends and, hey, these guys at least aren't losers yet. As if all that weren't enough, they had a bad ass statue of a knight riding a winged dog in front of their building. What else do you want in an ally America?
There were probably one or two global conflicts still unresolved yet, but I had run out of time. I threw on my monkey suit and headed to the Carnegie Science Hall (not to be confused with the Carnegie Deli or even Carnegie Hall, where I one day plan to become the first performer clothed solely in sandals and a bow tie to simultaneously juggle unicorns and chainsaws), the site for the solemn ceremony.
This exchanging of vows was the first I had ever attended that did not involve WASPs or similar people awkwardly feigning Protestantism as their religion. Having grown up and lived my entire existence in the bible belt, my exposure to non-Christians has been extremely limited. There was a total of two Jewish kids in my high school and the poor guys probably felt like zoo exhibits most of the time. I was excited to expand my cultural horizons and view the Hebrew version of the sacred event. If my cousin and her husband are any kind of example, the whole thing involves a lot of laughing - scratch the word solemn from the last paragraph and replace it with laid back.
First off, a Jewish wedding is known as kiddushin, which translates as dedication or sanctification. The couple undergoes the ceremony while standing underneath a canopy, known as a chuppah (which I believe is named after the main bad guy in Super Mario Brothers). The chuppah symbolizes the roof or home under which the two will spend the rest of their lives, assuming they aren't homeless Jewish people I suppose.
The central aspect of the rites is known as the ketuvah or marriage contract. The document state's the groom's responsibilities towards his new wife, which include food, clothing, shelter, and a little of the stinky pinky from time to time. After the reading of the ketuvah, the groom seals the deal by stomping out a poor, defenseless wine glass while the spectators yell "Mazel tov," a Hebrew expression of congratulations. If you find the death of the wine glass destructive, I suggest avoiding Greek weddings, where an amount of china equivalent to the GDP of Peru is usually shattered.
These proceedings are then followed by dancing, the high point of which is "Hava Nagila" a traditional Jewish wedding tune. During the song the friends and family of the bride and groom cavort in circular ecstasy, climaxing in the seating of the couple, who are then picked up while seated and shaken about. Somehow, no one died.
Of course there was also booze, and enough food to have fed the Russian army for the entirety of World War II. I would go into the detail about this smorgasbord, but my editor is publishing a monthly magazine, not the Oxford English Dictionary.
After a quick breakfast the next morning and a trip to Arlington National Cemetery to honor our nation's fallen heroes, my trip came to an end. My visit may not have had the Super Friends world-saving aspect to it that I had hoped, but I did learn a great deal about people that are different from myself. I think if we could all do that there is a good chance a lot of humanity's would take care of themselves.