Yesterday (Day 2) was more scattered than wanted. Things started well when I found free parking about a mile East from the US Capitol Building near the intersection of Pennsylvania Ave. and Potomac St.
The walls of the Mammals Section are lined with posed animals. The taxidermy is outstanding. The animals are frozen in motion with alert, fierce, or grimacing facial expressions, and corresponding flexed and contorted posture. So rad!
I admire any parent who brings their kid there. It’s a complete sensory overload for most of them. Their interest, impossible to match in enthusiasm, I could only exceed in depth.
“Mom! Look at the whale! With the belly! Mom – Look! You’re not LOOKING!”
The whole family will sleep well tonight.
I stopped to talk with a curator about whale evolution, and I gained a new respect for whale predecessors.
Evolving rapidly to fill a niche that was left vacant after the dinosaur extinction, whale ancestors looked like streamlined wolves with webbed feet. They had teeth like an alligator and powerful limbs. Many proto-whales were originally classified as reptilian before more careful examination.
Last night I sent out a few Couch Surfer messages to see if I could stay somewhere besides the parking lot of a Virginia Walmart. Michael welcomed my request and met me on the steps of the museum with his partner. There was a miscommunication, so I conceded to Michaels offer to show me around The Mall and explore the Cherry Blossom Festival (site / wiki) instead of staying at the museum. We walked through the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden (site / wiki) on the way to the National Botanical Garden (site / wiki).
The majority of homosexual men I’ve met are affectionate by nature and often overly sexual for my taste. These two men, in my limited opinion, were good for each other, and their public displays of affection, though out of my element, were not enough to dissuade me from staying the night on their couch. It was the way Michael interacted with me that put me off.
I would hypothesize that it’s difficult for him to interact with another man in a way that I don’t find suggestive. Kindof like a funny guy that can’t take things serious or a serious person that can’t enjoy sarcasm. It’s just something they have built into their personality at this point.
Another way to put it is that he made it clear to me what ways heterosexual men must put off women. Seeing it from the other side is a unique experience.
The body language stands out more than anything spoken. Bumping into me, crowding me while walking on the sidewalk, standing close during conversation, prolonged cheeky eye contact. Like I said, I’m not convinced it was intentional, but it was recognizable.
Anyways, this is just my side of the story. It’s likely that a fraction of my take on things is because I saw what I was looking for. In other words: I expected there to be some tension, so I saw the tension I expected.
Afterwards, I read his reviews on Couch Surfer and men and women only have great things to say about him – so who knows, maybe I overreacted by calling it off. Scientifically speaking I feel conflicted about extrapolating the data the way I did. But yeah.. I had no interest in risking either of our comfort on the sound insulating qualities of his walls.
Blegh. I re-read what I just wrote, and it sounds shitty.
I don’t know what to say. I’ve met gay men that I get along with and I’ve met gay men that I don’t get along with, and our compatibility tends to pivot on the amount of respect and legitimacy we give to each others sexual preference. The bottom line is that it’s tough to talk (or write) about, and I hope by recounting my experiences to further conversation between men.
The Botanical Garden was just ok.
Much of the large landscaping, boulders and some trees, are plastic, and I think my mom’s backyard is a better display of desert plant life than theirs. That being said, it must be agonizingly difficult to maintain plants that are constantly ravaged by the curious hands of tourists, and, privy to only her family and friends, my mom is a fantastically motivated and knowledgable gardener who specializes in drought resistant plants.
I realize that not everyone thinks like me, but I was unsettled by the way things were laid out in the museum. The attention of the main level centered on two things: the performance floor, featuring tribal dances, which was cool, and the art vendors, featuring jewelry and trinkets, which was not as cool. Don’t forget, you’re hearing the opinion of a young dude traveling on a budget, but I don’t feel like the most important thing Native American culture has to offer is something that can be bought.
I’m currently reading Travels in Alaska by John Muir, and the way he describes the people native to the Alaskan Territory is fascinating.
Obviously their reverence of the natural world is something that I admire, but their hospitality to strangers, their stern yet warm treatment of toddlers and children, and their belief in the unity of all things, namely that if you devalue something or someone you are devaluing yourself because you share common ground with everything and everyone – all being manifested by the great Creator.
For me “Creator” could be substituted for “natural physical processes of the universe” but I don’t see any of that message losing value because of it. I would have preferred that side of the culture to be emphasized instead of jewelry.
Blegh Blegh. More negativity. I think I just have a bunch of pent up angst about how Natives were and are treated. And haunting the most spooky thoughts of mine remains the hypothetical:
Would I, as a settler, a businessman, or a politician, have treated Natives any differently without my nobel shield of financial security and my judicious sword of hindsight?
Hah – also, just to really pile it on, I bet if this article ever reaches the eyes of a Native American, they’ll read my recommendation and rightfully scoff.
“We tried that already, sharing our culture was Plan A – look where that got us.”
This post wound up being heavier than I expected. Thanks for getting through it. Maybe it’s the lurching sleep I had last night, maybe its the second beer I’m cutting myself off at now, but its definitely how I feel.