ezekiel returns from babylon, bearing gift certificates

I’ve known M since we lived together on ‘Manslaughter’ street in New Haven back in the 90s, and have loved her with as pure a love as this corrupt hulk can manufacture. She is now a professor, married to a writer and historian (who, she told me, just won one of Mexico’s most prestigious prizes for a book he published last year) in Mexico City, and has two incredibly beautiful kids. She was giving a talk on a panel at the Society for the History of Science conference in D.C., and floated me a ticket to come up and see her.

So I flew into the Ronald Reagan airport with the kind of funny feeling Ezekiel would have had if he had were going on an all expense paid weekend to Babylon. D.C., after all, is at the very center of the American Jitters that have knocked me severely askew for years now – it is the symbolic embodiment of all that is lunatic, corrupt, short term and blind in this land where God shed his grace and the corn grows as high as the genetically altered elephant’s eye.

When I was a kid, I went to D.C. a lot. My Mom’s people lived in Montgomery county. They were all, or mostly, Republican, and – such are the tricks in this life – all worked for the guv’mint. Except my Democrat Uncle Harry, God bless him. First big Democrat, first big cigar smoker, first Catholic in my life. Otherwise, it was a nest of Southern Baptists. In truth, at the time I was less interested in Democrats and Republicans than cops and robbers, cowboys and Indians, or the huge slide in the park in back of my grandmother’s house, which had one of those nice shiny and sharp metal edges at the end of it now banned in most places and replaced by softer outdoor environments made of plastic and painted with candy colors and holding no threat. I suppose that is a good thing.

However, since I came into a man’s estate, I have not often walked the streets of D.C. And not at all since it was infested with Bush.

As it turned out, though, the stooge tourist in my soul soon fell in love with the monuments and book stores and coffee shops, worshiped the God Lincoln in his temple, went the dutiful round of National Museums, and even had a few kindly thoughts for the Crystal Gate Marriott, where the History of Science wingding was going on. There were a lot of microhistories that receded into the micro a bit too much, and there were the cocktail hours that had the odd flow you get when you put cheap wine and expensive bottles of beer in the hands of the chattering academic type and confine them to the unimpressive architecture of international blandness characteristic of mid priced hotels – imagine the buzz that would arise from a special flypaper that caught a couple hundred intellectuals, and you get the soundscape. My people, obviously. The HSS Hazen lecture, ‘How Science became Technical’ by Theodore Porter was my own personal highlight of the conference. Porter works in areas dear to my heart, and upon which I am probably going to poach for this review I am way behind on, namely: quantification, precision and the construction of the system of objectivity.

M. is a walker. She once walked me down the entire length of Miami Beach to the very end, across a bridge, and deep into Miami’s Colombian neighborhood. A journey that looms larger in my mind than it does in hers. We did considerable urban hiking, however. And once we resettled in cheaper digs at Day’s Inn, after the Marriott business ended, we rather radiated out from Connecticut avenue – to the left, into the heart of Georgetown, and to the east, to the Capital and such. We did most of the things we set out to do, except finding some boots for C., M.’s daughter, and finding a particular pale blue shade of tights – in quest of the latter we must have sorted through every Benetton’s and Sisley’s in the precincts of the Capital district. We even included in our sweep the clothing stores in Union Station.

Pale blue tights are hard to find this year.

There are three things about me that irritate M. I always leave food on my plate. I have a terrible sense of direction. And … well, I can’t remember what the third one is. In the main, however, we get along pretty well as traveling companions. She wanted to see the the Natural History Museum and the Botanical Garden, and I wanted to see the WACK! exhibit at the National Museum of Women in the Arts. We were pretty well satisfied with our choices. I will write about the WACK! exhibit in my next.


Scruggs said…
They were all, or mostly, Republican, and – such are the tricks in this life – all worked for the guv’mint

It's that way in every family. All the Scruggses who assured the rest of us that they wanted to get big guv'mint off the little guy's back have traditionally collected salaries for keeping it on him. They also (traditionally) hoard pale blue tights. I'm so sorry, Roger, and of course my apologies to C. and M. too.
roger said…
I don't have the heart to diss GOP-ers in blue tights, man. In my hierarchy, the muse of the ludicrous is far above the local demons of politics.