Wandering DC at Dusk

It’s amazing how long you can live in DC and miss some of the museums. I’ve been here for about five years now, and I’m still just making it to the Smithsonians. Yesterday, my friend Dave and I met on the mall late in the day, hoping to take advantage of the summer hours at the Natural History Museum, only to be greeted with a sign that told us that those summer hours don’t always apply. Instead, we headed over to the National Archives, as neither of us had seen the Constitution or the Bill of Rights since the new exhibition opened, or, rather, since high school.

Wandering through, I was amazed at the Public Vaults display. I’m something of a technologist, which is just an interesting way of saying “geek”, and so the idea that you can see the handwritten request for a writ of certiorari from someone in a corrections facility, or the diagram for the bus that Rosa Parks was arrested for riding, is pretty damn cool. One of the things they’ve done fairly well is the use of touch screen flat panels that have access to content like letters from the archives, or video footage, and it’s displayed in an amazing fashion.

The reason to go, though, was to see the Framing Documents, and despite the number of junior high schoolers running around, we were able to. Of course, it didn’t help that despite the numerous signs that read “Do NOT take Flash Photography. Ever. We mean it, we’ll take that camera and crush it,” we saw a few flashes go off.

Afterwards, dinner at Saint-Ex (where I believe it is entirely possible I was the homeliest person there by an order of magnitude), and the massively good Old 97s at 930 club. What amazed me about their set was how much better they sounded live than they sound recorded. For a lot of bands, how they sound in the studio is the best they’ll ever play, aided by countless digital production tricks. Not so, the 97s. With their Refreshments-meets-Social Distortion-with-a-dash-of-western-swing sound, and Rhett Miller’s impossibly rubber limbs, they dominated the stage. On the way out, wandering down U St in the early early morning, the four us (as we’d grabbed Jay and Beth for the sold out concert) headed back on the Metro, tired, but quite pleased with our day in the heart of the city.

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