Tuesday, January 22, 2002
In DC, Anna and I were welcomed
Anna's home in Washington DC.
Snow in my beard.
Tibetan monks working on a sand mandala.
Lisa, Ult, Fran, Steve, Sarah, Anna, Gina.
by her parents, Steve and Fran, and her sister Sarah. Anna was
headed up to New York after a few days, and offered to let me
hang out until then. Steve works for a non-profit whose mission
is to provide internet access to countries without it, such as
the nations of the former Soviet Union. Fran is involved in
improving the education system -- I think she's president of
the PTA, for example. Sarah seemed a little shy at first, but
she's a bright kid and I gathered that she plays basketball,
and the walls sport more than a few academic awards.
In their position, I might have been less than thrilled to
have a stranger staying in my house during a small family
reunion, but they showed no signs of this and were extremely
nice and welcoming to me.
With some time on my hands, I took a trip to "The Mall," the area
where Washington DC's many monuments are, to be a tourist. Our
nation's capitol had received its first snow of the year the night
before, and the flakes were still drifting down. The long strip
between the Washington Memorial and the Capitol Building was lined
with museums and galleries, and in one of them happened to be a
group of Tibetan monks from a monastery in South India. The monks
were painstakingly creating a sand mandala, a sacred design, to
promote healing after September 11th. Thus inspired, I built a
snow-Buddha in front of the capitol building.
In the evening, I accompanied Anna to an Ani DiFranco concert, where
she was meeting some friends. I didn't fully appreciate the degree
to which Anna and her friends followed their favorite groups until
I listened to them talk after the show. Names like Ani, Tori, and PJ
dropped like the snowflakes outside, along with stories of road trips
to shows across the country and endless bits of inside information.
The group had reunited for this show from as far away as Boston,
Connecticut, and NYC, and tomorrow would return home.
While I wouldn't put myself in a league with these hardcore fans,
I was surprised how much I enjoyed the concert. Ani DiFranco is
a folk singer, a self-described feminist with a strong liberal axe.
I consider myself apolitical and gender-neutral, but her energetic
presence and powerful singing style were so passionate and honest
that I was carried away with her. Perhaps her dreadlocks appealed
to me as well.
Thus, I found myself hanging out with a party of Ani fans, most (but
not all) college-aged liberal feminists. They were pretty fun,
contrary to the stereotype. (Q: "How many feminists does it take to
change a light bulb?" A: "That's not funny.")
Sometime after midnight, Gina and Lisa finally showed up. They'd
been trying to get to the show from New York, but the snow had
made hitching impossible. Finally, after being stuck in the middle
of nowhere in the back of a gas station attendant's booth to avoid
the blizzard, a very concerned and aggressively helpful policeman
put them onto a train bound for DC. They missed the show, but at
least they were able to enjoy our fabulous company.
The four of us crashed at Anna's, then woke up to Gina desperately
phoning everyone she could think of to cover her shift at the
Knitting Factory, the club in New York where she was supposed to
work that evening. "If we leave now, I'll only be twenty minutes
late," she would say after another unsuccessful call. Finally
she found someone and we were able to have a leisurely afternoon
breakfast before heading to the Big Apple.
I'd never entered New York City by car before -- to be honest, I
didn't think it was possible for mere mortals to drive in the city.
It turns out it's not much worse than San Francisco -- we even found
a parking spot within walking distance of our destination.
Gina's apartment was quite spacious for a shoebox. The bedroom
expressed its nature uncompromisingly; a pair of bunkbeds filled
it from floor to ceiling. The kitchen was flanked by two tiny
closet-like rooms, one a shower and the other a toilet. The door
to the toilet was brazenly embossed, "Women."
Gina teaches me banjo.
Anna, fellow speed-demon.
Can't quite make out Lisa's new dreads.
The living room was a dense puzzle of bookshelves and musical
instruments. Gina was the only one who could actually play
any of them, which we managed to demonstrate undeniably with
an impromptu concert -- can you imagine a more spontaneous
and exhilarating lineup than a saxophone, a violin, and a banjo,
all in the hands of novices? We decided to take five before
the neighbors called the record company execs in blue suits
weilding conductor's batons.
The conversation flowed like a river through the valley of the
night, its currents twisting and bubbling from topic to topic.
From the World Trade Center to corner store community, from
Tori Amos to Noam Chomsky, from college to traveling, and from
babysitting to dreadlocks.
Lisa's dreads were in the fetal stage, beginning to form one
matted mass in the back of her head. With the intention of
showing her how to help them along in their development by
using a comb, I surprised all of us when after several hours
where was no more left to do -- her head was now covered with
newborn dreadlocks. Now I could count two victims in my
dread-assisting career. Who's next?
After breakfast the next afternoon -- sleep had rarely taken
place at night since leaving the west coast, it seemed -- the
girls dropped me off in Chinatown, where I caught the cheap
bus to Boston.
I was sad to say goodbye to my new friends, even though I'd only
known them for a few days. I feel extremely lucky that Anna's
and my traveling style matched up so well, and to have had so much
fun in the process. Thanks Anna!
Thanks also to Steve, Fran, and Sarah, for their hospitality.
And to dready Gina and Lisa from NYC for so much entertainment.
And Ani fans Steve & Nancy from Connecticut (for interesting
conversation), Michelle from NYC (for ulongtong and mizza),
Nicole from DC (for your living room -- I hope you could get
back into it after your security card broke), and to Lisa
from Boston (for making plans).
In NYC, we had breakfast at Kate's Joint, a diner with some
character and some vegan items. 56-58 Ave B.
The Chinatown bus goes direct between Chinatowns of NY and Boston.
Depending on the time, it costs $15-$25 one way, or $10 only for the
11:30pm from Boston. There are several companies that provide
roughly the same service; the one I used was called Fung Wa,
NYC: 212.925.8889, 139 Canal Street & Boston: 617.338.8885,
68 Beach Street. It seems like they overbook and then
put you on a bus a half hour later if they don't have room for
the bus you ask for. Buses go every hour or two from 6am to 11:30pm.
The buses are fairly comfortable but don't have any room for storing
luggage. I put my giant backpack in the center aisle without much
trouble. Another Chinatown bus company is called Travel Pack,
NYC: 212.925.1886, 88 E. Broadway.