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In which John is threatened by an utterly fearless squirrel and contemplates the neoclassical architecture of our nation's capital, Washington, D.C. Along the way, he and the Yeti visit several museums; look at the art of China's most important living artist, Ai Weiwei; visit the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, and the World War II Memorial; and consider the history of cars that are also boats.


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A Bunny
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[crowd under a large tent outside] Good morning Hank, it's Tuesday! So Hank a couple weeks ago I was in Washington, DC meeting 1800 people on the National Mall, approximately… here, where I returned Sunday for a slightly quieter day. Sarah's organizing a stop on the tour of the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei's show “According to What?” and so we came to the American opening of the show, which Ai Weiwei couldn't attend on account of the Chinese government refusing to give him a passport. In this famous triptych, “I dropped a Han dynasty urn and let it smash to the ground”. That morning we went over to a sculpture park featuring a house that reminded me of the insufficiency of human eyes and a fake tree by Roxy Paine that was real enough for birds. The Yeti and I sat down on a park bench and she fed me popcorn, which was adorable, and then disaster struck. John: “This squirrel is inadequately afraid of humans! [Yeti laughter] Squirrel! I am a threat to you! We are enemies! Please get off my bench… oh god! Oh god, don't touch m… oh god!” Then we briefly went back to the hotel so that I could recover [John, looking at wallpaper] “There's a lot of president heads.” before walking down to the national mall… Am I wearing skinny jeans? Oh my god, I am. Our nation's capital has a lot of Neoclassical architecture; it's all stone and columns and intimidating facades. These buildings give the appearance of something between a church and a fort, which I guess is what governments are. I mean, even the freaking bathrooms are intimidating. This astonishingly impressive building, for instance? It's the Department of freaking Agriculture headquarters. John: [singing] “Lone bird, perched atop the Department of Agriculture, thanks for watching over our nation's grain.” Right so we walked down to the Washington Monument and noted the metaphorically resonant fact that the US capital stares out at Washington who in turn stares back at congress, a symbol made all the more obvious by the fact that to keep airplanes away the Washington monument now has terrifying blinking red lights like the triangular faced Washington is staring at congress with his blinking devil-red eyes saying, “You are not what I had in mind!” We walked further and found ourselves at the very moving World War II memorial, about halfway between Washington and Lincoln whom, I noticed, were also staring at each other in much the same way that Washington and the capitol were, which made me think about the fact that even though we think of Washington and Lincoln belonging to different historical epochs, in fact, Lincoln was born just 10 years after Washington died… Tour bus, I am trying to consider the relative youth of our nation and you are ruining it! Anyway, then we saw a boat that was also a car. Hank, it will no doubt not surprise you to learn that the inventor of the boat-car… car-boat? Boat-car. The inventor of the boat-car was Oliver Evans, an American, who designed the first steam-powered amphibious vehicle in 1805. John: “So we're going to the National Museum of American History; what are your feelings on American history?” Yeti: “hm, uh, I'm… mixed.” We saw Abe Lincoln's hat and some excellent presidential pajamas and Dumbo, but mostly it was just this exhibit, which explained that we have been at war to some degree or another pretty much constantly for the last 250 years John: “Alright Sarah, now that we've left, how do you feel about the United States?” Yeti: “… still mixed.” Then we walked over to the National Gallery of Art, where we saw a Jackson Pollock and a room full of Calders and a Chuck Close painting that upon closer inspection was made of fingerprints, and it occurred to me that everything we'd done that day was available to all people for free. It struck me that once you got inside the temple-fortresses of Neoclassicism, the American ideas of equal opportunity and equal access still live. So I guess I share Sarah's mixed feelings about US history, but more than that, I feel like it's just too soon to say. Hank, as I walked around this city of monuments meant to evoke our history, I couldn't stop thinking that, for better or worse, the United States is just getting started. I'll see you on Friday.