Monday, November 17, 2008

Washington, D.C. and other messy junk

Everything upon arrival in D.C. has been somewhat of a mess.

I didn't get any sleep on my red eye, I broke out all over my face, my posters got lost and I was issued a booth violation the day after I setup in the convention hall. And it took forever to get anywhere because of some G20 conference being held at the white house, and the entire street next to my hotel is blockaded off because of some head of state. Forget about sleep. Sirens are going off constantly in the middle of the night. So no buses are running down the street and only a cab. I am getting ripped off by 5 dollar cab rides to and from the convention center because it is raining, hard. Honestly, I am ready to break in half. I can't take the stress anymore. I really want to quit. And to top it off, I get bitten by lots of mosquitoes. Yes, in D.C. which is rainy and humid the day I arrive. At last count, 10 big bites and I have _not_ even left for a malaria zone yet. Sleep dep to the point of being sh*t faced. I feel miserable. I want to punch somebody.

After about a day, it sort of calms down. I have to remember that I am here in one piece, and lucky to be attending neuroscience. This is a massive conference. I've never seen that many people jammed into one room. Seriously, there are more than 30,000 people here. It takes about 25 minutes to clear the hall when the day ends. It's like herding cats, but they're extremely chatty brain/cog/neuro/psychiatry/psychology people. I've never heard such noisy scientists before. These guys like to yak. yak yak yak. yik yik yik.

Monday morning, I head to embassy row. I need a visa for Mozambique and have been too lame to get one. So, I'm going to take advantage of the fact that I'm here in D.C. and do it. When I finally get to the Mozambique embassy, I get buzzed into this small office downstairs. A really nice lady that I can barely understand takes my passport and paper application. She then reminds me that I have to give her a copy of my flight itinerary, which I don't have on me. Luckily I pull out my iPhone and email it to her; back tomorrow to pick it up. There is no place more UN than DC; even before you get to embassy row in dupont circle the embassies start showing up, each stately with their own flag. But it's not all embassies... there's weird stuff in between. I see Chile Embassy, Australian Embassy.... Association of Computing Machinery (wha?) .....University club(huh?) I could have taken the subway or bus'd it, but the sites are worth seeing, even though it is a good 25 min walk.

After the convention closes for the day, there is an afterparty at Madame Tussauds (the place with the wax figures). Its really disorienting inside. The people are so realistic you think its a real person in your peripheral vision a lot. And then you check yourself and think "nope, wax". Surreal. Every major president is inside. George Bush Jr. is taller than we guessed. And looks even more stupid in wax. Clinton is shorter than expected and Bush Sr. and Reagan are both shockingly tall. They made Hillary look pretty. The best one I'd say was of Julia Roberts. Damn did that one look real. The posture and dress just made it happen.

I need to feed my addiction. So after a while I split with the gang and I leave Madame Tussauds to walk south and east. South, there is a place called the Sculpture garden facing the national archives. And in front of it, starting fortuitously in mid november is an outdoor ice rink! I get to lose my outdoor skating virginity. In DC of all places. Yeah I know, I've been skating for years but never did it outdoors. Just never happened.

But. I forgot my skates. The guy at the counter convinces me to give the rentals a try. So I rent a pair and put them on. Suddenly, I'm skidding everywhere. I'm actually shocked that I don't fall? They're too big, and with no support. So then I trade them in for a smaller pair but oddly the left one is still too big. Curious. So I swap the left for one size smaller. I'm wearing a size 4 and on the left and a 5 on the right. It makes for an interesting dynamic because the blade length is also different. I had to think for a while, but I think the lefties tend to get stretched a lot because public sessions tend to go in one direction only, counter clockwise, and people put more pressure on the left foot. It was tiring, and I gave up after 20 minutes. Kind of useless to keep trying to do something with crappy equipment. I will be back tomorrow with my own pair.

On my way to my hotel, I pop into the gift store to take a peek at the election memorabilia. Practically everyone here is proud of Obama. All Obama/Biden stuff is full price. All McCain/Palin stuff is 75% off. Compared to DC in 2007 it finally feels..... right? I mean seriously, just walking around DC, with the demographics the way it is, it just didn't feel right with a white man in the white house. 3 blocks north of the convention center is where Howard University starts. I went by to see what it was like. It's also where the projects sort of are. I got stared at a lot. The local supermarket made me feel really weird. Oh, and the checkout stand is weird. They actually have checkout stands where there are no magazines, by parent request. Guess the little ones are out of control? I wonder what it would have been like for my dad when he was at Howard in grad school as a minority scholar in the 1960s. One asian dude in a sea of black. He doesn't really talk about it much. But I could imagine.

I'm back at the rink the next day and it is COLD. No, not 100% cold but 2000% colder than the day before. It bites. The wind is really painfully cold on the ears. The rink guard tells me that it snowed during the day and the ice is a mess. It is hard to breathe with the wind chill. Standing around for about 3 minutes without moving gives me cramps and chills. Even worse walking around. I am now officially a Californian wuss. No more east coast thick winter skin. I am so cold I have trouble breathing. Some woman is also visiting from So Cal and says I have no excuse. We talk and discover that we are actually here in town for the same reasons, same convention. Apparently I am not the only one that has a childish obsession with this sport, frequently referred to as a child's sport. I feel a bit better and not so guilty.

Next stop, Boston.

No comments: