Sunday, July 23, 2006

Thanks, Jackie! Thanks, Pierre!

I grabbed my DC walking tours book today and took a stroll around the White House. Here are some things I learned:

1. You can run but you can’t hide. I discovered the Renwick Gallery, a museum I’ve walked by many times, yet it never registered that it’s there, part of the Smithsonian. It’s a weird, eclectic, thing – one room holds the Indian collection, hundreds of portraits of Indians made in the first half of the 19th century. The rest is a museum of decorative arts. And in the men’s room, of all places, a poster commemorating my employer’s gift to the museum.

2. Pierre L’Enfant rocked. He should get some kind of posthumous Pritzker Prize for urban design. His design for Washington, DC is great, tying seats of power and monuments together logically. A note: my guidebook says that the White House, the Washington Monument, and the Jefferson Memorial were supposed to lie on one axis of the plan, but when it came time to build the Washington Monument, the site was too marshy, and it had to be moved slightly to the east. Lucky thing – that off-center Monument behind the White House is very photogenic.

3. Jackie Kennedy rocked. We already knew she was an architectural preservationist – her remodel of the White House is legendary, and she went on to save Grand Central Station. But while she lived in the White House, she also managed to save the Executive Office Building, and the graceful mansions that line Lafayette Square. Thanks, Jackie.

4. The Boy Scouts of America are one very strange outfit. The Boys Scouts Memorial, which sits just off the Ellipse, was proposed in 1959, the 50th anniversary of scouting in America, and was dedicated in 1964. The statue, however, is more reminiscent of the muscular realism popular in the 30s – when I run across it in Italy, I call it Mussolini Modern. It’s an interesting monument, but what’s up with those homophobe scouts presenting a naked Dad figure? Mom, I should point out, is far more demure – and little Billy has not a single merit badge. 

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Haircut on Capitol Hill

If you can’t find it on Google, post on Craig’s List. Mine said this:

Where’s a Military Barber Shop? – Guy in town for a few months from San Diego. Used to paying $8 for my buzz cut at barber shop right outside MCRD. Can't see paying $25 for a high-n-tite ... any advice? Thanks.

I posted it in the gay listings, figuring some gay service member would point me in the right direction. Good call! I got about ten responses. One instructed me to go to the shop next to the visitor’s center in the Pentagon. Another suggested Fort Myers. All the rest had the same answer: Sneed’s Barber Shop, across the street from the Marine Barracks on Capitol Hill.

(I mentioned this on the phone to my partner, who works on a USMC base near San Diego. “Oh yeah, I’ve heard about that. I Street, I think.” I get the address, and indeed, it’s at the corner of 8th and I Streets, SE. The man is scary, but we knew that.)

So on a Saturday morning, I took the metro to Eastern Market, and walked the few blocks to Sneed’s. On the way, I discovered that Capitol Hill is a great neighborhood, and made a mental note that there is definitely more to DC than Dupont Circle and Georgetown. Ethnically diverse, cool restaurants, galleries, gay bars, specialty markets … I’ll be back, for sure. After a few blocks, I came to Sneed’s.

The place is open 5am to 4pm on weekdays, and 7am to noon on Saturdays. At 9 on a Saturday morning, I expected the place to be packed, but to my surprise I got a chair immediately. Only four chairs in the place – one had a Marine, another a gay guy getting his head shaved, the third a little boy with his dad proudly watching – and me. The barber made me nervous, he mumbled to himself in a Tourette’s kind of way, but he gave me a good haircut, using a straight razor, which is rare. On the wall across from my chair was a signed picture of President Bush, and the price list:

Civilians … $15
Marines … $7
Military Police … $12
Mustache/Beard … $10
Bush … $20

Dirty joke, or put-down of Fearless Leader? I didn’t have the cojones to ask. The barber rang up $7, but I owned up to being a civilian, paid my $15, and walked home.