Monday, September 29, 2008

September 29, 2008.

We still haven’t made it to an auto parts store yet, but it’s on our itinerary.

Yesterday was Christy’s birthday and she decided she’d like to go to the zoo. So we walked up to the Metro station and headed out to the Smithsonian National Zoo.

The zoo is laid out real nicely with wide meandering trails guiding you from one animal exhibit to another. The Panda exhibit is an indoor / outdoor pavilion. We found 2 of the 3 Giant Pandas lounging about in their outdoor enclosures.

The elephant house is laid out so that the elephants can come and go as they please. The only catch is that the

elephants have to walk through a section of cage work that is actually a giant scale. This photo is of the “baby” weighing in at a svelte 4700 pounds.

My favorite exhibit was the Gorilla house.
There are several huge indoor enclosures each housing some gorillas. The cages have interconnecting doors and the gorillas are free to amble from room to room.

There’s a separate enclosure for the orangutans. The people were lined up 6 deep to peer into the huge cage. Orangutans are known to be pretty disgusting sometimes; at times even flinging their poo at people. This crowd was drawn by a slightly different sight.

The orangutans were doin’ it. The orangutans weren’t the least bit bashful as the crowd watched them procreating their brains out. They moved from one position to another and at one time the male was still engaged while hanging from a tree branch. I saw several people taking notes and making favorable comments about the males technique. We only glanced into the cage, when we realized what was going on we moved along, but somewhere we lost an hour.

The zoo was a pretty cool way to spend the day and around 1700 hours the phone rang with an invite for cocktails at 1900 on a friend’s boat. We had just reached the far end of the zoo so we turned around to backtrack. That’s when we realized that we had been walking downhill the entire day. It was a rather spirited hike back up a steeper than we had realized hill. We were both working a light sweat by the time we were back to the zoo’s entrance. After a quick ride back to the boat we had just enough time to freshen up, grab a quick bite and head on over to Steve & Gloria’s.

There ended up being 7 of us there and a good time was had by all.

Today we decided to head back over to the Museum of Natural History. There was a new exhibit that opened up on Saturday. It was entitled The Oceans.

The exhibit encompassed so much more than we had expected. There was a great “floating” spherical screen to display the worlds movement. First it showed the movement of the Teutonic plates. Then it morphed into the prevailing winds followed by Gulf streams flow around the earth.

The display included life forms that were minuscule up to the largest of whales. The display also covered ground from millions of years ago up through today. The waters depths were covered from the 200 meter ocean “shallows” down to the pitch black deepest recesses of the sea.

On the way home there was an art display on the mall. An artist took dozens of huge canvases to Beijing for the Olympics. He had random people paint their impressions of the sea. He clumped artists together on the same canvas by geographic location. There was a European canvas, a Caribbean,

etc. There were dozens of completed panels. The American panel even included Sponge Bob Square Pants and his under the sea friends.

Another great day…….
September 25, 2008.

The weather forecast for today was for big wind accompanied by rain. We decided to spend the day on the boat doing chores.

First up was dealing with the generator once again. Yesterday morning while making hot water for showering it started to run in an overspeed condition so we had to shut it down.

The generator is comprised of a small diesel engine which drives a small electrical generator. The engine runs at a constant speed and this speed determines how much voltage the generator churns out. Unless of course it’s a Fischer Panda. When the generator goes faster than designed, the voltage spikes way up and could damage the boats electrical system. Since I’ve had to make this adjustment several times before I’m actually getting good at it. The governor that controls the speed of the generator really is a bullshit design and just a giant pain in the ass in general.

I had to disassemble a good bit of the engine room enclosure to work on the generator. So when I finished up with the generator I decided to see about the starting gremlin that had once again appeared when we left Herrington Harbour.

I ended up installing our spare starter. Of course when I tightened the large power lead to the solenoid the entire Bakelite end cap shattered. It was brand new but must have been cracked and when I tightened down on the connection it just failed. I ended up being able to use the old solenoid on the new starter so the boat runs again but I will have to find an auto parts store to get a replacement. If its not one thing……

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

September 23, 2008.

Yesterday the day started early for me as I had to get Allyson to the train station by 0430. Big Al was taking the train back to New York so she could be at work by 0900. I accompanied her to Union Station and was back in my bunk by 0500 with my mission accomplished.

We took the Metro up to Catholic University and met Ashlee after her last class of the day. We wanted to see the campus and especially wanted to see the Basilica. I’m not really sure, but I’d be very surprised to find out that it wasn’t the largest church in North America.

We got there in time to take a walking tour with a very knowledgeable tour guide. He had been an altar boy at the second mass served in the building and his love affair with the building actually bordered on being creepy. Yeah, he was a little weird.

Evidently the building was started in the twenties. Construction was halted because of the Great Depression and World War II. Once it was finished in the fifties it seems to have received some really great gifts from various Catholic Orders around the world. For example the tall bell tower was a gift of the Knights of Columbus. The smallest bell weighs 21 pounds while the largest weighs in at over 7000 pounds.

There are dozens of altars, shrines and alcoves which have all been donated to the church by various religious orders. There are some of the finest mosaics in the world in this building. The two most striking features of the building for me were wall treatments at either end of the main room.

Over the doors at the rear was a one piece hand carved scene. The piece of stone was 17 feet tall by over 60 feet wide and after being carved it still weighed in at 38 tons.

Dominating the front of the church over the altar is a mosaic of Jesus. The thing is freaking massive. Jesus’s face, not counting his hair is over 7 feet across. It’s a different type of Jesus as well. Jesus’s face always looks blank to me whenever I see an artists rendering. This one looks pissed. Impressive just doesn’t cover it.

There was one mosaic that they call a polished mosaic. As each individual piece of colored stone is put into place its polished until its completely flush with it neighbor. The dust removed in the polishing process is saved and mixed into the grout for that tile. Using this technique the tiles seem to blend seamlessly and look more like a painting than a mosaic. The artwork in this building rivals any museum we’ve seen anywhere.

Today, Christy and I decided to take the bikes out and do a little riding around the mall. We ended up at the Museum of Natural History, where they have a butterfly conservatory inside the building.

It was a fiberglass pod like structure with pressurized airlocks at either end.

Once inside there were over 1000 butterflies, everywhere. They were on the floor, walls, vegetation and the ceiling. They were even on the visitors. It was pretty cool. The tiny circle in this picture is the butterflies tongue, curled up waiting to dip into a flower for some nectar.

After the butterfly room we decided to take a guided tour of the museum. We’ve taken several of the tours at the Museum of Art but never here at the Museum of Natural History. It turned out to be yet another really great tour. Even though we had been to this building on several occasions we found ourselves being guided through one new experience after another.

To finish off the day we rode our bikes up to the capitol Building to set ourselves up to take the Capitol tour on Thursday.

When we got back to the boat we were treated to an example of yuppie calisthenics gone wild. It’s the new “stay in Shape” rage; Hawaiian war canoes. We’ve seen them in several cities along the way but here in DC it seems to be a little bit over the top. Anywhere from 12 to 20 paddlers stroke their brains out while some “motivator” stands in the stern and screams at them like a lunatic.

One final picture for the day. Is it modern art? It could be. In reality it was just the men’s room door at a Mexican restaurant that we had lunch in.
September 22, 2008.

Since our medical examinations were behind us (pun) we were looking forward to exploring more of DC.

This past weekend, Allyson, the oldest girlchild was due to arrive in DC for the weekend. Since Ashlee now lives in DC and Al was to be here it turned into jam packed tourist weekend.

We walked as much as we could on Saturday taking in all the sights of downtown Washington. We walked the monuments including the memorials to WWII, Korea, Vietnam and Lincoln to name a few.

After several hours of hoofing it we decided to hop on the Circulator Bus and take a side trip out to Georgetown.

Downtown Georgetown has several blocks of shops and eateries. We saw a few sections of the barge lock system that has survived for close to 200 years. There was also an original stone house from 1751. The historical sites were pretty much just background noise when compared with the sights of sidewalks packed with shoulder to shoulder crowds. It was a bizarre mix of the uber wealthy and college kids just shopping and being seen. As usual there were some tragic fashion blunders to be seen strutting their stuff up and down the boulevard.

After Georgetown we walked over to the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. It was a pretty ritzy place and we were tragically underdressed as we walked around while suit and gown adorned couples milled about waiting for an opera to begin. Since we had stopped and eaten lunch so late in the day we decided to retire to the boat for an evening meal of appetizers.

Sunday looked to be another day of more forced marches but the girls had a plan up their collective sleeves. Christy’s birthday is later this week so they packed a picnic brunch complete with cake to celebrate.

We were just finished

with walking the Botanical Gardens when Ashlee produced an impromptu party from her shoulder bag. They even had candles for the cake. Afterwards we walked down the mall to the Smithsonian Metro stop so Christy and the girls could take the Metro for surprise manicure and pedicure appointments for the three of them.

I walked back towards the boat alone and was forced to watch Sunday afternoon football at the yacht club. I’m not sure who had the most enjoyable afternoon but I know that my feet appreciated the time off.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

September 14, 2008.

Today we attended the Arts on Foot Street Festival. Ashlee and Mark met us downtown at an awesome street festival. It was a pretty good mix of tents featuring artist’s wares and various local eateries temptations. There was also live music happening at 2 or 3 venues simultaneously along with some street performers. It would have been a great day but the temperature was up around ninety six, so it was a bit much.

We did walk about for a few hours before heading over to wander about in a Barnes & Noble. We like books a lot, but we were really there for the air conditioning.

EDITORS WARNING: If you are under 50 yrs old, you may not want to read the rest of this entry. On the other hand, if you are over 50, read on and we do expect your sympathy.

It’s been a couple of days since the street festival and I wanted to go and do something fun today but Christy had her heart set on “His & Hers” colonoscopies. Man, the things I do to make her happy.

Actually, it was kind of my fault, I went and turned 50. It seems that our society has deemed it necessary to stick things in your ass when you turn 50. Since Christy is only a few months behind me we decided to get them done at the same time.

For those unfamiliar I’ll lay it out for you. It’s a two part procedure. The first part entails you going down to the pharmacy and filling your prescription for magic beans and a gallon of misery.

Our appointments were for late Wednesday afternoon so that meant no food after midnight on Monday. On Tuesday we consumed the four magic beans. These magic pills are a mild laxative and once you’ve have had a bowel movement you can start drinking the gallon of misery. We had to gulp down a glassful of Satan’s own sweat every 15 minutes until the gallon was gone. It turned out that it is a not so mild laxative. They actually burn this stuff in those big booster rockets to get the space shuttle off the ground.

The 1 gallon jug comes from the pharmacy with some powder in the bottom. You mix in a gallon of water and they supply you with several taste enhancing flavors. I chose cherry, but much to my disappointment, once it was all mixed together, it tasted a lot like shit. Its gonna be a while before I can trust a cherry again.

Once you’re about a quart into it, the non stop fun begins. Incredible cramping followed by the rocket shits. Actually, I think that the cramping is all of your other internal organs trying to hold onto each other so they don’t get sucked out through your rectum. With the two of us in the same state of distress and using one toilet, let’s just say that the seat never had the chance to get cold.

The only thing we were allowed to eat was Jell-O. A couple of Dixie cups of Jell-O all day, although once the severe abdominal cramps set in, the hunger pains didn’t seem to matter any more. By the time bedtime came we were both "almost" empty.

On Wednesday morning we had, that’s right, Jell-O for breakfast and watched the clock until our good friend Nancy came to drive us to the doctors office. The patient information packet the doctor’s office had supplied us with said we had to have a driver as we would be loopy from the anesthetic and unable to drive. You know that you have REALLY good friends when they are happy to take you for colonoscopies. Thanks for a great day, Nancy!

When we walked in and the receptionist realized that we were both getting colonoscopies back to back she was amazed. She asked how we had been able to get two appointments together as that just never happens. I told her that when we called we told them that we were conjoined twins and had to come in together. She just kind of looked at me with a furrowed brow.

As we filled out our paperwork the receptionist remarked that the stuff they knock you out with will give you the best 20 minute nap you’ve ever had. Fine with me; bring it on, maybe I’ll dream that I’m not here. What I got instead was an intravenous drip that dulled my senses but didn’t knock me out. So I didn’t feel any pain when the doctor stuffed the Hubble telescope into my rectum. It was bizarre to be awake and chatting with the doctor as he and his nurse enjoyed a walking tour of my ass.

As soon as I was done, Christy was next and her experience was pretty much the same as mine except they talked about sailing during her procedure.

So after 30 minutes of recovery time we walked out hand in hand, happy in the knowledge that our intestines are in fabulous shape. They gave us a written report complete with pictures but they came out kinda crappy ;) so Christy said that I couldn’t post them. I’m even considering a career as a prostate model as soon as I can figure out what catalog that would be in.

Let’s eat………

Sunday, September 14, 2008

September 13, 2008.

Yesterday we took the Circulator bus uptown to the museum area. The bus runs several different intersecting routes and you can transfer from one to another as often as you like all for the initial purchase price of a buck. Bargain.

It was threatening to rain so we ducked inside the Museum of Natural History. Once inside we decided to take in a movie at the IMAX theater. It was a forty minute flick dealing with the life cycle of some amphibious reptiles from back in the age of dinosaurs. It was really interesting and very entertaining as well.

After that the skies had cleared so we went for an outdoor walk through one of Washington’s sculpture gardens. Modern art in the wild. I was allowed to take plenty of pictures so I’ve posted some for you to enjoy as well. This one was a simple pile of cinder blocks, that’s art?
What amazed me more was that on the other side of the pile there was a guy with a video camera taking video of this pile of cement.

This one had us both a little confused is it a construction site, is it performance art, is it modern art, can you feel the sense of hope that the artist is trying to convey? Was it just time for lunch? WTH?

After our walk it was time for a quick lunch and then a stroll down the mall. We arrived in front of the Freer Gallery and decided to head inside. This gallery houses a huge collection of Middle Eastern and Asian art. It held no real appeal for us until we walked in. There was one room after another of beautiful scrolls, statues, pottery, metalwork, paintings and glass.

Most of the items on display were part of the personal collection of Charles Freer. He donated over 26,000 pieces to the museum and this large building can only display about 8 percent of his collection at one time.

It was hard to grasp just how old some of these pieces were. There were pieces that dated back more than a thousand years BC. The colors on some of these pieces were as vivid as if they had been created yesterday, it was an amazing display.

There was the only known surviving example of a certain type of canteen. It was made in Afghanistan when that country was predominately a Christian land. It featured the likeness of the Virgin Mary with her child. The thing once hung from a camel’s saddle and was almost 2 feet in diameter. The workmanship was amazing.

The one common denominator in most of these works of art was the detail involved. It was hard to imagine an artisan living 500 or 3000 years ago creating things that were still so beautiful.

After retiring to the boat for dinner we decided to rendezvous with some other crews from the anchorage up at the yacht club bar. It was a great evening spent listening and telling some funny stories.