Washington, DC is the crown jewel of our nation’s system of capitals. Built upon one of Maryland’s most prominent dongles, the District of Columbia has served as the seat of government for nearly a millennium, rounding way up. Every year, millions of tourists come to visit its historic monuments, world-class museums, and revolving domes. There are many lovely stone parks and a profusion of architectural wonders in neoclassical and proto-fascist styles, and many interesting Masonic symbols encoded into the spacing of manhole covers. To help you navigate this embarrassing and utterly shameful abundance of riches, I’ve put together some of my thoughts about the best that our most famous outlying territory has to offer.
Of course, the primary attraction is the city’s Metro system, the underground system of pneumatic tubes that provides succor and comfort to the suffering inhabitants. After you take the hotel shuttle to the bus station that takes you to the Vienna, Austria station, you are whisked comfortably to the very center of national glory: Watergate. This is where all the other “-gates” come from. It’s an extremely ugly hotel and you wonder why you bothered. Fortunately, the half-hour excursion to re-find the Metro entrance allows you to plunge into its subterranean warrens with a palpable sense of relieved dehydration. Welcome, friend: the Metro is the source of all our solace.
Finally, after waiting for the correct train and then figuring out that they are not painted to match the map, you wind up at the heart of this proud city of museum-shunning inhabitants: the Smithsonian! Situated on our nation’s finest outdoor strip mall, the Smithsonian Institute is not one place, but a sprawling complex of isolated buildings guaranteed to fracture your family into grunting factions of fighting monkeys. “What’s that over there?” asks one of your innocent children, and you laugh, saying, “that’s an optical illusion created by the evaporating sweat of a thousand ape-clans. But it does resemble FDR.”
Any of these extraordinarily windowless buildings are worthwhile destinations, but let me recommend two in particular: the National Air and Space Museum’s outpost in suburban Virginia, which only attracts people wealthy enough to pronounce “Udvar-Hazy;” and the red-brick Smithsonian “castle,” which attracts no visitors because it only has a visitor center. The former contains a space shuttle and the latter administrative offices, and they are equally free from the nascent wars of fast-evolving chimpanzees that have colonized the Hirschhorn.
The only other attractions I would suggest are the giant Washington Maypole, which is capped with aluminum foil and, at night, blazes with the nostrils of Sauron; and the Memorial Temple of the Ancient and Terrible Abraham, whose fire-breathing sunset shows are a wonder to behold, though frightening to children. Just be sure not to fall into the sacrificial pit of World War II statuary that honors fallen strollers. You’ll be taken to the Smithsonian lost and found offices underneath the Jefferson Memorial, and be constantly told that no one ever goes there.
But you must also get to know the people and culture of Washington, DC, as well. About that, one or two books could be written, but let me suggest one particular experience that will allow you to understand the unique life that its inhabitants live. Around about five-thirty in the afternoon, begin looking for a Metro station. At six o’clock, enter it and join the throngs of government workers, corporate do-gooders, and non-profit shills who are panicked at the prospect of having to find another Metro station. Observe their dreary mannerisms; their sallow complexions characteristic of fluorescent overexposure; their stooped postures reminiscent of office chairs—these are the people that make our country run by redistributing tax revenue according to Lotus 123 formulas.
Like you, they, too, came to Washington full of hope and optimism about our nation. Like you, too, they once tried to visit some museums. Take time to thank them for their diligent service. Take time to admire their thankless devotion. But don’t, in any circumstances, try to steal their bananas.