Thursday, July 26, 2007

Baseball Trip 2-Why I Love This Country

As if our plan to see three baseball games wasn’t American enough, our free lodging trail ended in a suburb of Washington D.C., staying with a friend’s mom whose husband was in the FBI. A 30-minute bus ride and a subway train of the same length took us into the capital city, where we would quickly tour the limestone and marble buildings that tell the story of our nation’s history.

With time so short, we knew we had to prioritize. Our main goal was to get a tour of the Capitol, no matter what the cost. Okay, so if there was a cover charge, we probably wouldn’t have gone, but that’s one of the reasons I love this country. The museums in Washington that house our nation’s most precious treasures are free admission, and we’re probably the only country where the people throw around the word “constituent” like it gives us some entitlement.

And that’s exactly what we did: We called the Georgia congressmen from the Athens, Columbus and even Hartwell districts, asking for a guided tour. When none of them came through, we went for the Senate. In 2000, I did eight hours of volunteer work for Saxby Chambliss’ Senate campaign, and I was determined to use the hard time I served making signs and doing phone surveys as leverage if Mr. Chambliss happened to be too busy to get us in.

The Senate was nearing its annual recess, and the Sax was not in the office, but he had a full staff of interns who were more than happy to accommodate us, even though we arrived just 30 minutes before they stopped giving hour-long tours.

Strangely enough, we finished our tour with plenty of time to spare. Our three-man group wove through droves of hapless tourists, and our fast-talking guides (one of which was from Columbus and knew Evan) led us to many interesting sights.

Here’s a very abridged version of what we saw at the Capitol:

-Apparently, this Italian guy named Brumidi did a bunch of the craftsmanship in the Capitol. He worked on the smoky gray mural (the frieze) that circles the rotunda, and to thumb his nose at his overseers, he added his own face to the picture. Speaking of the rotunda, can you guess who is the person most pictured there besides George Washington? Pocahontas. Disney fans rejoice.

-In one of the halls where the Senate used to meet, there are gilded ceilings, and there’s one spot where the acoustics are so perfect you can hear a whisper from the other side of the room. One of the senators eavesdropped on the others while they were preparing their arguments, and they could never figure out why he made such great rebuttals (John Adams?)

-There’s a little starry, circular design on the floor in the catacombs beneath the rotunda. Washington D.C. was built around that very circle.

-Speaking of catacombs, a sweet little underground train takes the Senators to the Capitol, and to get on it you have to pass by a life-sized replica of the statue that stands atop the Capitol.

-It’s a little disappointing, but just about everything in the Capitol was made in Europe. The floor tiles were imported from England, and all the marble was brought in as well. Even the architecture was stolen from ancient civilizations. It’s kind of like how the Statue of Liberty was made by the French. I guess you can save face if you call your country a "melting pot."

By the way, the game that night was pretty dull. The Nationals did please the RFK Stadium crowd by getting an extra-inning victory. The guy behind us said that it was the best game they’d played all year, so apparently we got lucky. I hope that’s not true. If so, I would have to cry on behalf of Washington baseball fans. One more stadium down, two to go.

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