This summer, many of you will visit this place. But unless you know what to look for, you will see only those things that they want you to see.
To experience the genuine article, today we explore the real Washington, D.C., on this edition of Weird Kingdom.
I'm standing in front of what you no doubt recognize as the Washington Monument. It is one of the totems of this town. Do you know how to get here? Of course you don't. No one does. One of the things they don't tell you is that the Washington Monument is in the very center of things and yet in the middle of nowhere.
The nearest subway stop is blocks away. Which reminds me, if you are looking for the subway, you won't find it by that name. Here, the subterranean mass-transit train is called the Metro. Or, as the locals refer to it, the #%$@ @#$ Metro.
I am standing in front of a Metro station. See that man over there on his cell phone? The one screaming about the #%$@ @#$ Metro and how the "%&*# Red Line is broken again"?
He may be a politician or a lobbyist or a member of the media. Highly self-important, these people are like kudzu - nonnative to this land but overtaking it.
Let's visit some of them in their natural habitat: restaurants.
Shhhh. Don't disturb the group over there, at the corner table. That is a pride of lobbyists. They seem almost beautiful in their black suits. To be sure, they can be friendly. But don't be fooled; they are extremely dangerous. They eat politicians for breakfast.
Speaking of politicians, there are some now. You can tell because none is letting the other speak. Let's play a little game: "TV cameras!" Did you see how fast they scrambled to get in front of what they thought was the media? I admit, that was a little mean. But I just wanted to make a point. Politicians aren't just drawn to microphones; they're nourished by them, much as photosynthesis nourishes plant life.
Oh. Oh. Over by the bar! See that? A perfect specimen of a media heavy. You can tell by the grip he has around a drink and the hunch in his shoulders as he fingers his BlackBerry. He lives and breathes for the tiniest morsel of information. See? See how that one just ordered another drink without even lifting his head from his BlackBerry? He is undoubtedly squirreling away a very important morsel.
Oh, and that cluster of folks with the "Michigan" and "Don't Mess with Texas" T-shirts? Tourists. Washington, D.C., gets a lot of them. Some of these folks feel they will blend in better if they buy T-shirts off the street that say "Property of FBI." Don't be fooled. Those aren't real FBI agents.
Okay, now we're back outside. Wonder what all that honking is? Well, I am standing in the street at rush hour to show you that if you should drive while you are here in the nation's capital, two things are likely to happen. One, you will most likely get lost. Two, you will probably drive head-on into another car.
That's because the direction of the lanes changes at morning and evening rush hours. You will think you are on a six-lane street, with three lanes going one way and three the other. But, in fact, four will be going one way and two the other. And you won't know it until you see a car coming right at you in what you thought was your lane.
There is even one street that changes direction entirely. It's called Rock Creek Parkway. Usually, it is a two-way road. Not at rush hour. In the morning, all of its lanes are closed for cars coming into downtown, and in the evening all of its lanes are closed for cars leaving downtown. It is a trip when you see big white arrows on the road pointing right at you as you drive the "wrong way," which is to say, the right way.
With no stoplight and few stop signs, the curvy north-south thoroughfare is the quickest way to zip through town. But finding it is like a covert operation. Few maps show it, and there is almost no signage for it. You have to know about it.
Then, when you do find it, you’ll learn you discovered only how to get lost. Such is the genius of this secretive people. First, they make their best route known only to themselves. Then they make it impossible to navigate.
I am now standing in front of ... I can’t tell you. That information is classified.