Sunday, October 31, 2010

Washington D.C., October 2010, Day 4

After a wonderful day and night yesterday, today is about decompressing.  There will be no crowd of 200,000 to join today.  
The view from our room at the Grand Hyatt Washington.  I am starting to wonder if I have ever stayed in a hotel room without taking a picture out the window.  I think that the answer is no.

We get to meet Sandra again for lunch, and she has chosen a place near our hotel that has a chocolate theme.  Those of you that are loyal Wasters should know that we ate at a chocolate themed restaurant in Rome this summer that was mindblowing.  I will link to that after this meal.
Welcome to Co Co Sala, Washington D.C.'s, chocolate lounge and boutique.  If you think about it, every neighborhood needs a chocolate lounge and boutique.
We arrived early and took a seat at the bar.  The bartender in the colorful shirt has a Sesame Street Burt mask, but he is opting to wear it only occasionally.  Today is, after all, Halloween.
Co Co Sala, Candid, October 2010.

Sandra arrived and we took our seat at a table.  When you read a menu like the menu at Co Co Sala, the intelligent reaction is to ask for, "One of everything."  Sadly, we did not do this, which means that Citrus Ricotta Pancakes with white chocolate lemon cream and Cinnamon Brioche French Toast stuffed with house-made marshmallow, dark chocolate and graham shortbread will not be appearing on the Waste.  Good Lord.
After ordering, we were brought this little taste to begin the meal; Chocolate soufflé fritter.  Yeah.
Sandra ordered the frozen chocolate co co.  There is no alcohol in there, in case you were wondering.  Just hot chocolaty goodness.
I ordered the peanut butter co co.  The menu has a list of seven different hot chocolate drinks.  Yeah.
Barbie and Sandra both ordered the "Bats" For Breakfast Flatbread; with cheddar hash browns, chicken sausage, scrambled eggs, crispy bacon, roasted tomato, and hollandaise sauce on pesto flatbread.  Note: a bat drawn in dark chocolate on the plate corresponds to this dish's Halloween name.
I ordered the "Ghoulish" Grilled Cheese; with truffle-scented brioche, cheddar cheese, roasted tomato soup, and cheese fritter.  Note: a ghoul drawn in marshmallow on the plate also corresponds to this dish's Halloween name.

Of course we ordered dessert.  Are you crazy?
For dessert, I go the PB Cheesecake; peanut butter cheesecake, with mik chocolate and peanut brittle crunch.
Barbie got the Some More Créme Brulee, with chocolate créme brulee, toasted marshmallows, and graham crumble.
Sandra got the Onyx; inside there you find dark chocolate mousse, vanilla créme brulee, salted caramel, macadamia nuts, and brownie.

Okay.  Sandra definitely outdid herself with that place.  We were sorry to say good-bye, but we needed to get going and Sandra actually needed to get to work in a few hours.

Next on the agenda is a visit with Barbie's family.  Her favorite Aunt and her family lives here, across the Maryland border in Bethesda.  I had gotten to meet them only once before, and we had a very nice visit.  One thing that you should note about Barbie's travel arrangements, we often hit many birds with just one stone.

On the way back to the hotel, driving around Georgetown on Halloween, not through it, we passed the Washington National Cathedral.
I would say that the architect most admired Paris' Notre Dame.  This is officially the Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul.  They began building this cathedral in 1907, after a foundation to build it was established in 1893.  The cathedral was officially finished in 1990.  Who says that we Americans rush through everything?

After getting back to the hotel, it was time to pack and order some room service.
Room service and the World Series.  The team we were rooting for won, which is never a bad thing.

Tomorrow, we fly to New York City, better known as Barbie's second home.

Oops!  I almost forgot.  Chocoholics can now look at this summer's turbo-charged chocolate experience in Rome.  Just scroll down to dinner, which you be able to spot by all the dang chocolate.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Washington D.C., October 2010, Day 3

The Rally To Restore Sanity

Today is the day.  This entire Washington D.C. trip was about something that we care about.  Something that we believe in.  And today is the day that this something is going to happen.  For those who do not follow or do not care or do not feel that I have explained the Rally To Restore Sanity clearly enough, allow me to explain it  now.

There are people to the far Left of our political spectrum who, during the George W. Bush administration, carried around posters at political rallies of the President of the United States with a Hitler moustache.  There are people to the far Right of our political spectrum who during the current Barack Obama administration, carry around posters at political rallies of the President of the United States with a Hitler moustache.  These posters are... stupid.  The slightest understanding of history proves both representations to be ignorant at best.  But more than foolish, they are destructive.  Why?  Because there are now multiple 24-hour news channels that devote significant airtime to these ignorant fringes of American politics.

In response to this, The Daily Show proposed the Rally To Restore Sanity.  The Daily Show is a television program that provides a comedic look at the news and specifically the way that news media reports it.  Part entertainment and part experiment, this rally represents that it is time in this country to see how many people will show up for a rally that is devoted toward moderation, cooperation, and sanity.  A rally that acknowledges intelligent people can have differing political opinions without accusing each other of plotting to destroy the nation.  And, depending on the number of people who show up at this Rally, it just might send a message to the media and the politicians that the sensible center deserves a voice.

But first... breakfast at the hotel with Greg and Sabrina, the couple from Sherman Oaks whom we met at check-in. 
You bet I got into the omelet line.  I am going to need my strength.  I am going to a political rally.  Me.  A political rally.  For the first time, ever.
My breakfast.

After breakfast we headed out into the streets of Washington D.C.  I had our path mapped out on the iPhone.  No more waiting!
We passed by Ford's Theater and the house across the street where, well, you can read.
The closer we got to the National Mall, the more people walking with us.  And note that everyone is walking in the same direction.  At this point there was already a feeling of excitement and togetherness.  (Barbie makes a subtle appearance in this one.)
I turned around to take this shot.  As you see, the crowd is getting thicker.  You might also notice that people of all ages and racial backgrounds have come together for sanity.
Some signs make a point.  Some go for a laugh.
We are nearly there, and already the area is packed with people.  If you care to know, those signes read, "You're mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore," "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the tears of morons," and "Shave the Whales."  Shave The Whales is pretty damn funny, but please note that it also mocks the stupidity of the average sign at a political rally.  Yes, it is a meta-sign in a post-ironic world.
We are not there yet, but that is the rally, my friends.  From the moment we decided to fly across the country for this rally, I had a tiny fear that the turn-out would be disappointing.  Not going to happen.  
Almost there.  From here we are going to try to get a little closer to the front and towards the center.
Here is a panorama of where we ended up.  We can see the screens and hear the audio clearly.  The only true disappointment is that we could not get close enough to the center to look back and see the Washington Monument.  It is hitten behind trees.
My favorite sign.
As of today, Barbie and I can both officially claim to have been in a sea of people.  At this writing, the estimates of the crowd seem to be coalescing around the number 215,000.  More on that later.
We saw every race, every age, and every creed at this rally.
I needed to be twenty feet tall and in the center of this rally to get the shot I wanted.  Since I was neither in the center nor twenty feet tall, I settled for a 360° HD video.  (Make sure to view it in HD if you have a decently large monitor.)

Self Portrait at the Rally To Restore Sanity.  Made much better by the young women making silly faces behind me.
Barbie joins me for another self-portrait.  I held my arms up as high as I could to show as many people behind us as possible.   Eventually I am going to be able to get a satellite photo of this event and circle our position.
The view in front of me.  This is as close as we could get to a screen and speaker setup.

Then came the rally.  It was a combination of music, comedy, and message.  The message was subtle much of the time.  The entire rally aired on Comedy Central, and if you truly cared then I assume you would have watched it or recorded it with plans to watch it sometime in the future.  At this point, I already felt on thing; what happens next is important.  What do we do next?  Do we organize like the Tea Party (whose rally on the Mall we outnumbered approximately 2.5:1) and do our best to force one of the two main parties to change their platform?  To we attempt to force both parties towards the middle?  Step one was proving that we do in fact have numbers on our side.  Step two remains to be seen.

With a half hour to go in the rally, we forced our way to the side and tried to get to the back of the crowd to see just how far back it went.  It took us a long, long time, but we finally got to where there was some space between people.
I got this shot near to 12th Street, which means that this crowd stretched for half a mile.  More than half a mile, actually. 

And with that, it was over.  We were very hungry and ready for lunch.
I hade to take this picture for my mother.

And with that, Colossal Waste's coverage of the Rally To Restore Sanity is over.

After stopping into the Hard Rock for some merchandise, and seeing that they could not seat us for an hour, we opted to go back to the hotel for a late lunch at the hotel's bistro and bar, Cure.

The people at Cure were overwhelmed.  Apparently this city was not at all prepared for people to show up for the rally.  And the service was borderline awful, from the maitre d' who was rude to everyone without a reservation - wait, we had one and he was still kind of rude -  to the waiters who got orders wrong, lost orders, and basically could not even get around to refilling a water.  On top of that, the soups were not good.  Therefore, no soup pictures.
These sliders were very good, at least.
This mac'n'cheese with ham was pretty good, but not great.

As if that was not enough activity for one day, tonight things get taken up yet another social notch.  Well, taken up a notch for me.  You see, one of Barbie's best and most famous clients happens to be in Washington D.C. with his wife, and they have invited us out for the evening.  Sure, I have friends who are working actors and I am by no means star struck when I see celebrities around our neighborhood, but what happened tonight is delightfully surreal.

The famous man and his wife invited us to see the musical Hair with them, and then to go to dinner after.  Good thing I brought a sport jacket this trip.  We hopped into a taxi and I shouted, "To the Kennedy Center, my good man!"
It is funny.  I cannot think of the musical Hair without thinking of the word Hippy, and I cannot think of the word Hippy without thinking of Cartman on South Park.  That said, I know the music to this show and there are some great songs in it, so I was sincerely looking forward to this.
I remember seeing this style of sculpture in the 1970's.  Between you and me, I am not sure that it stands the test of time.
The show was, in the words of a man in the know, kind of like a High School production of Hair.  I agree entirely.  Awkward choreography, uninspiring production design, an onstage band that played like they had just met and did not like the music, and performers who did not quite know how to connect with the audience.  Look at that!  I just became a snarky theater critic.

Between you me, I wondered if it was not too much of a challenge to stage this play today.  It is not just anti-war, it is anti-enlistment.  At the time it was first staged, this was all about Vietnam.  But with nothing in the musical that addresses whether it is against all war or that war specifically, it is a lot harder to not side against the hippy's and instead support the parents who were proud to see their son go off to fight for their country.  Time can be cruel to art.

After the show, our gracious hosts invited us up to their apartment next door to the Kennedy Center -- in the Watergate.  This is tremendously cool.  Do not get me wrong.  I think that the use of the suffix -gate for every stinking political scandal is one of the more stupid traditions in our culture.  Heck, when Britney Spears appeared in public without proper underclothing I believe some called it Panty-gate.  Still, the Watergate complex on the Potomac River is a seriously famous place.  How cool is it to be invited up to a seriously famous person's apartment in a seriously famous location?  
For the record, I am not going to divulge this person's name.  He was incredibly nice to me, and we walked and talked as friends all night.  He even referred to me as both "young" and "thin," two adjectives that I rarely get to hear applied to me nowadays.  So, besides respecting his privacy as far as being mentioned on my travel blog, I feel like I should treat him on the Waste as I treat most friends, which is to not mention them by full name and let them start their own blogs if they choose.
It is October 30, by the way.  A Saturday night the night before Halloween.  We walked to Georgetown and the streets were packed.  There were times we had to slowly work our way through the crowd.  (Yes, it was not at all unlike the rally earlier in the day.)

And, as we were weaving through the crowd, I would say that every minute or two a young person dressed for Halloween would double-take toward the man walking next to me, and one in five of them would shout his name with a smile, while others would mention a television show or commercial or movie he has appeared in, and then some would ask to have their picture taken with him.

At one point he said to me with a grin, "It's wonderful to be famous."  I would add that it is especially wonderful to be famous on Halloween in a neighborhood filled with college aged women.

After the pleasant and extremely entertaining walk through Georgetown, we came to our destination; Clyde's.  The other night we got to eat at the fancy, new Clyde's next to the local NBA arena, tonight we get to eat at the Georgetown original.

The conversation was great, as was the food.
I got the Marathon Pasta.
Barbie got the Ravioli.
For dessert, Bread Pudding and Ice Cream,

We walked back home, taking some back roads that would allow us to avoid some of that Halloween madness, and arrived back to the Watergate.
That is the Kennedy Center reflecting its lights on the Potomac.  The Watergate is just to the left.

We said good night to our lovely hosts and hopped in a taxi.  This might have been our fullest day ever in North America.  A massive political rally followed by an evening with a man who pleasantly enjoys his place in our celebrity culture.

It rarely gets better.

Live from the Rally To Restore Sanity

I cannot tell you how many are here, but everyone here is here because they care about this country and do not support the extremists on either side of the political spectrum.  That much is clear.

This video gives you a better idea of the sea of people at the rally.

(Nerd Brief:  Thanks to the miracle of spreadsheets, this video is sized 576x324 for you, the perfect 16:9 ratio to match the HD ratio in which it was recorded.)

Friday, October 29, 2010

Washington D.C., October 2010, Day 2

Journey To The "Rally To Restore Sanity" Part II

Tomorrow may be the Rally To Restore Sanity, but today is Sandra Day.  Sandra is one of Barbie's oldest friends from Los Angeles, but after she took a job with the U.S. Government they soon brought her out to Washington D.C.  The benefit of this is of course that we have someone to visit in D.C.

We woke up, got ready, and prepared to walk to the corner to meet Sandra as she emerged from the Metro.
I will tell you this, Waste reader.  I no longer feel at all dorky when I pause in the middle of the street to take a picture like an absolute bonehead tourist.  A younger version of myself would be too cool for this school, but middle-aged me figures that the people looking at me and thinking that I am lame will never have any effect whatsoever on my life.  And someday one of them might appreciate such a photograph, not even realizing that they looked at the photographer stopping in the middle of the crosswalk and judged him harshly.
After meeting up with Sandra on the streets of D.C., we walked over to the W Hotel where Sandra has made a reservation for lunch at POV.   It is great to have friends living in the cities you visit, but it is even better if they are the type of friend who makes reservations at the hippest places in town.
Sandra makes an appearance on the Waste.  As you can see, POV is a rooftop bar and restaurant.  Wait until you see the view.
The view from our table at POV.  That would be the White House, my friends.  Home to the person generally considered to be the most powerful on our planet.  It is kind of cool to eat lunch and look to your left and note that you are looking down on the White House.
Lunch has arrived.  Two BLT's and a boygah.
Did you need more proof?  There sits Barbie's BLT with the White House in the background.
At the other end of POV one sees this view of the Washington Monument.  It has not gotten cold enough yet for the leaves to truly change color.  These colors do not please me.
We have adjusted the exposure to the sky, not the foreground, and the contrast pleases me.  Fellow photography enthusiasts should note that what you get from the clouds is far better than what you get from trees whose colors displease.
After lunch, Barbie presents the W Hotel's lobby lounge.

Sandra has planned our day.  First up, hitting a small portion of the Smithsonian.  Time to descend into the Metro.
I first came to D.C. as a child, around the age of ten or so, when this subway system had recently opened.  It was clean and beautiful then, and I found it completely majestic.  More than thirty years later, it remains one of the cleaner, nicer subway systems around.  If I had never been to Copenhagen with its subway that literally makes you shield your eyes from its glistening shine, I would consider D.C.'s Metro the best I have seen.
The blur of motion.  I love it.
If you are annoyed at all the Washington Monument pictures, I recommend you find a similarly shaped object and sit atop it.

Maybe not today and maybe not tomorrow but someday I am going to collect every picture that I have ever taken of an obelisk, and the picture above is going to be one of the best.
The Smithsonian National Museum of American History.
A wall in the exhibit devoted entirely to First Ladies.  There are gowns and letters and all sorts of historical First Lady objects here.  This all begs the question... what to do when there is a First Mister?  Does he get added to this gallery or does sexism prevail and he get his own exhibit over by the Men's Room?
The television set used by Julia Childs.  I am a bit cynical regarding her importance, but I suppose there are those who could accurately argue that without Julia Childs there would be no pictures of gourmet food on the Waste, at least within America.  And if she made the Waste a better place, then I suppose she deserves to not be a victim of my cynicism.
Barbie poses with Carol Burnett's homage to the Gone With The Wind curtain dress.  It would have meant more to her to pose next to the the actual dress, and not the parody of it, but that was not an option.
Would you be disappointed to see that Dorothy's ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz feature no rubies, only red sequins?
An original Kermit.  This must be the most photographed puppet on the planet.  I could not even get close enough to read if this is the orignal or what.  And I suppose I should apologize immediately to all my friends who were offended by my use of the word puppet.  I am sorry.  Kermit is more than a puppet, I know.  He is a puppet with marionette hands and feet, making him a muppet.
This colossal George Washington statue is, well, horrible.  To look at it from the front is to see a very poor approximation of classical Greek sculpture.  The artist has also given him a physique that borders on embarrassing.  Barbie and I were both mildly repulsed by this statue.  That said, I like the way it looks in near silhouette.
I liked this sculpture in front of the museum very much, but did not take the time to snap a picture of the plaque.  That is my tip to you when you are travelling; take pictures of plaques and menus.  The information in those pictures pays off at a later time.

Next stop, the Smithsonian's Museum of Natural History.
The Hope Diamond.  They have it on a rotating base with the light levels always changing, so that you can see the blue in it change based on the amount of light passing through the gem.  I cannot pretend to understand just how large 45.52 carats is, but it is big.  This diamond has a long history, being cut and recut, passed from royalty to aristocracy, being stolen and then sold, and eventually finding its way to America where it was eventually donated to the Smithsonian.
Fun with a crystal ball.  (More likely glass.)
Upside down Barbie face.
There is not a Museum of Natural History in the world without a stuffed elephant.

Instead of spending more time in the wonderful museums of the Smithsonian, we decided to walk through the National Mall and take a look at the setup for tomorrow's rally.
There she is.  If you right-click-open-in-new window, you just might be able to see the stage.  Both Barbie and I found ourselves feeling a great deal of excitement just being there.  Seeing the National Mall ready to go for tomorrow was almost euphoric.
The stage itself is way down there, close to the end of the mall where the Capitol Building sits.  Around a city block from the stage are two screen & speaker setups, and a city block from there sits another two screen & speaker setups.  It looks like people as far as three city blocks, the length of maybe three football fields, will be able to see what is happening on that stage.
A little closer now.  We have no idea how close we will be able to get tomorrow... we got as close as we possibly can today.  We wandered around with other excited people, taking pictures and smiling, while they tested every microphone on that stage.  There is absolutely a feeling of brotherhood and friendship between everyone who has come for the rally.
Proof that we were there.  Unfortunately we had to look directly into the sun to get this shot.
Here is a shot from the side of the stage.  I have to tell you that the mood of everyone around here is euphoric.  People are excited.  Something truly great might happen tomorrow.  The question is... how many people are going to show up?

As long as we are here, we might as well walk over to the Capitol Building.
Architecturally, I love that building.  Emotionally, I would like to think of the amazing laws that have been passed there.  Cynically, I think of it as a place where ridiculous politicians make stupid statements in an effort to pander to slivers of their constituencies.
One of those trick panoramas; the view facing the Capitol Building and the view facing away from the Capitol, facing the Washington Monument.
A good shirt.  On the back it notes, "I am a little afraid of spiders."
Sunset behind the Washington Monument.  Add this to obelisk greatest hits tape.

After wearing out our feet, we hopped on the Metro and headed to Virginia to check out Sandra's apartment in Pentagon City.  I confess that it still strikes me as novel to be able to go to another state within minutes.

When it came time for dinner, Sandra had a restaurant in mind for which she had a Groupon.  We do not do Groupon at home, though we have a few friends who do.  Instead of explaining Groupon, let mer just share this; using Groupon, Sandra bought a $50 gift certificate to Zengo, an Asian-Latin fusion restaurant, for $25.
We took the Metro over to the restaurant, and soon realized that we were on the same street where we ate last night.  In fact, this restaurant is probably thirty feet away from the Chinatown gateway that you saw yesterday in black & white.   You also saw it with no people around.  Friday night there is a swarm of activity around here.  It feels like we are in the hippest place in town.
The upstairs dining room at Zengo.  Hip, modern, loud and buzzing with activity.  I have a hunch that there is a long list of young guys who bring every first date here.

The food was simply spectacular.  The combination of Asian flavors with Latin dishes and Latin flavors with Asian dishes was perfect.  I will not bother telling you after every picture that the dish was great.  It was.  This was a fantastic meal.  Consider it praised, and below will be the menu description for each item.
Peking Duck Daikon Tacos; duck confit, curried apple, orange-coriander sauce, sliced cucumber taco wrap.
Thai Chicken Empanadas; chile poblano, Oaxaca cheese, mango curry salsa.
Unagi Mango Masago; eel, avocado, tempura flake, kabayaki.
Yuzu-Butter Poached Lobster Tacos; miso black bean puree, avocado, flour tortilla, chile de arbol salsa.
Charred Tuna Wonton Tacos; sushi rice, mango salsa, guacamole.

That, my friends, completes the first course.
Braised Beef Short Ribs; Oaxaca cheese mashed potato, huitlacoche-shiitake, dragon sauce.
Pan Roasted Scallops; Okinawa sweet potato, black garlic mojo, hibiscus-ponzu oranges, lemon oil.
Chipotle-Miso Glazd Black Cod; Daikon radish, asparagus, lemon-togarashi aioli.

And that, my friends, concludes the second course.  Did we need dessert?  No.  But then we heard about the churros with dark chocolate sauce and...

This concludes our meal.
Washington D.C. Candid, October 2010.  (Featuring Barbara Howard and Sandra.)
Walking back to the hotel after bidding adieu to Sandra at the Metro escalator, Barbie spotted this rat.  Let us not bother with a politician-related comment.
The Grand Hyatt Washington Atrium, filled not with people here for the rally but with people here for a Howard University reunion.
Yours truly, handling the Waste at the end of the day.  I included this picture to shine a spotlight on the fact that my feet still have noticeable tan lines from their European summer.  Or should I say summers.  I tell you that after wearing the same sandals under the Mediterranean sun for two summers in a row, my feet may never lose that stripe.

Comments welcomed.