Washington DC – Our Saviour, Sebastian

There is a knock on the motel door.

Cody already left a few hours ago.

All I remember is that he left when it was still dark, and when he got his call from reception, I remember waking up momentarily to process what was happening before drifting back off to sleep. He told his wife what happened last night, and after he came back inside, I said to him “So. What did she say?”. He didn’t say a word. Just gave me the dirtiest grin, and I knew that was enough.

A picture says a thousand words?

That expression got pretty bloody close to it.

I know for certain that he has left, so I have got no idea why there is a knock at our door. It actually looks like the door isn’t even locked. I think you may have to lock the door from the inside after someone leaves? I actually don’t know, but regardless, I am in my undies, and about to see what is going on outside. As I reach my hand for the door knob, Bec whispers to me, “Babe! Babe, the latchy thing!”. “Good move”, I reply. I swing the latch-lock over it’s counterpart and open the door just enough to see who I am dealing with.

My eyes are still bleary.

It’s 7am.

There is this black bloke, sporting the finest ghetto dreads, that the ghetto has to offer standing at my door. I don’t have the door open for more than half a second before he dips his head, “Oh. Sorry brother”. He turns and walks away. I didn’t even get a good view of who it was. This place is ridiculous. Every time I think about the place we stayed at, I begin to laugh. It is beyond comical as how bad it was.

We doze off for a little more sleep, and our very first stop is to find somewhere to budge off wifi, and sort our lives out. After we get off the train, we head to the markets. There has to be somewhere nearby that we can use. On the street opposite the market, we come across this cafe, loaded with people listening to their own music, reading books, studying, or something else which largely doesn’t require paying the cafe for the space they are providing. We are there for the next few hours, while we bulk message about 10 different hosts on Couchsurfing, to loosely explain our situation and see if there is any way that we might be able to stay with them for the remainder of our nights in Washington DC.

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One particular hero, is Sebastian. He was back in touch with us within 10 mins. Legend. Straight away, he says he is going to host us. Sends us his phone number, so we can Whatsapp him, but has said that we are going to have to hold out till about 9/10, as that is when he going to finish work tonight. We are happy with anything at this point, so waiting that little longer is more than ok. We send a complaint to Airbnb, and request our money back, organise a host for our last stint in NYC, and then we are finished with the wifi, which means that we are free to go. We spent literally our entire morning at this place. Its been a long and methodical morning, but a very necessary morning, as last night so blatantly proved.

Feeling like we are back on the right track, and a little more secure in ourselves, we load up our gear, and get on our way. We head to the markets, which, compared to the markets we’d seen in recent times, was a little disappointing, but at least we can say we had done it, if anyone was to try and tell us to do it later.

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America is so advanced, even their hydrants have antennas

We have to kill time for the rest of the day, and we have to take our bags with us, so we walk with all our gear into the city itself, to check out some of the museums while we wait. As we are walking, we pass this lady taking a photo. She says to me “That is my favourite building”, pointing to the national conservatory. “Oh yeah? How much to get in?”.

“Its free, because it is part of the smithsonian”.

That is us.

Free, and world class.

They don’t usually go in the same sentence. Even some things that you pay for in DC aren’t that great, as we found out last night.

You can’t loose. We head in, and try leave our bags with the receptionist, but due to security reasons, they can’t hold our bags for us. The only logical decision is to carry all our stuff into the conservatory with us. Of course. It’s main area is amazing. Its like an entire rainforest inside a big glass room, with a platform that runs around the walls. Pretty cool. Not with bags to lug around, though.

Once you’ve seen a conservatory, you’ve sen a conservatory. We power through, and head onto the next instalment of the Smithsonian adventure. We walk outside, and to our surprise, it is snowing. Nothing heavy, but it is snowing nonetheless. Bec mentions “You know, it has snowed in every city we have been in so far”. I think for a moment, “You know what? Its possible that we may be able to see snow in every city on our trip”. By the time we reach the top of Europe, we’ll be just coming into spring, so it is possible.

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We decide to head to the Museum of Modern Art. To get there, we have to walk behind Capitol Hill. As we are walking, we look to our left, and see the big DC monument spire. To our right is Capitol Hill. This is tripping us out. Two of this hideously historic icons in view at the same time. It’s pretty unreal.

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Disclaimer: Taken with iPhone…

We get another tourist to take a pano with us featuring twice in the shot. He then wants me to do the same thing. I dont want to. It’s my idea, but in the spirit of fairness and not-dickery, I do the shot for him too… Jesus still loves me.

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We continue to the Art Museum. We are fortunate enough to have found a place that does bag check. This is brilliant. We then drop off everything except for 1 bag to take with us. It is the best feeling to not have to lug them all around with us.

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We have got till 5:30 here, but our experiences with Modern Art Museums have been that we can spend a good few hours there, permitted that the art isn’t this interpretive pop art trash. We should be able to fill our time pretty easily. We start checking everything out, and my word. It is amazing to see the incredible skill in the artists and painters from 100+ years ago. Standing in front of paintings that are older than anyone I have met in my entire existence has a certain element of sombreness to it.

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Literally 110 years old. 10/10 would buy… If I could buy.

It is quite surreal to be looking at history like this.

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When the LSD hits ya.

We spend the rest of the afternoon walking around and seeing art that actually really gets the brain ticking. There was this photography exhibition on also. The pieces were incredible. From the royal family’s photographer, to this photographer that has done a collection on empty building interiors. The list goes on, and man, it is just what you need to get some creativity back in your life hey.

The older I have got, the more I have appreciated Art’s influence on culture and depictions of times and events. This museum was no exception.

5:30 comes around, and the museum is closing.

We collect our gear, and head in search of a local watering hole that we can use to keep ourselves occupied while we wait for a few hours to pass before we can meet our Couchsurfing host. We zigzag, and chop and change our mind, until I get to the point that I am getting hangry. I need food, and I don’t care what it is.

We sit down to eat a sport bar.

Our waiter is a champion. We try and play fair. We have got heaps of luggage, so we sit outside. Don’t really wanna be taking up too much space if we are going to be there for so long. We tuck into a burger, chips, and a few sides as Bec flogs me in Yanis (this new card game that Micky and Damo taught us). It does not matter what I do, or how I play, I cannot for the life of me work out how she is consistently beating me, but she is.

She’s loving it.

The time gets closer and closer to us needing to get a move on. I had told Sebastian that we would grab beers before we came over, so we head to a bottle o, on our way around to his place. We jump on the train, and I nearly fall asleep on the half hour ride out from the city. We get off from the train, walk under the rail line in the direction we need to head, and we have been out of the train station for no more than 4-5 mins, when we hear this loud BANG.

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We are walking along a footpath. There is someone else who has just jumped off the train a hundred meters or so away, and they don’t seem so fussed. Straight away, I naturally think, “Its a gun”, but to calm my imagination, I then think to myself, “Maybe just a backfire?”. We all know how quickly our minds cycle through scenarios, so before I could even finish that thought, there were another 3, followed by the whizzing of a ricocheting bullet, followed lastly by another 2 shots being fired. I’m trying to come up with every reason not to think that they are gunshots.

I can’t.

Then, we begin to hear this yelping.

All this sounded like it was only a hundred metres away. Maybe more, but not much.

Bec turns to me, and says “Tell me that is a dog”, I reply, “If it was a person, I’m sure we would be able to tell”. We have about a 500m walk to the place we are staying. I mean, it has to be better than the place we were at last night, but we really aren’t sure right now. We’re both just like “Stuff it. Lets go”. So, we continue our walk, in the direction of the shooting. The yelping has stopped. A few mins later, and we are met with a police car hooning around the corner.

Not too bad, I must say. The response time was quite impressive.

We rocked up to his house, climbed the set of stairs, knocked on the door, and we were ready for anything at this point.

To our delight, a very sane looking individual greeted us. Hand, extended, “Billy! How are you?! Come in. Come in”. Feeling 10x better already. We don’t even have our stuff down for longer than 30 seconds, and he’s like “Tell me about the experience last night”. He is this cool, down to earth, laid back democrat PA (for lack of a better term), and he is full of laughs and good times. We crack open the beers, and he brings out his chilled pint mugs. This is already a good start.

We begin telling him about the night we had last night. We’re a few minutes in, and he interjects, “This is in DC?”

“Yeah man”

“South East of DC?”

I stop to think for a bit. “Yeah. Thats the one”. I hadn’t mentioned any suburbs yet, but it sounded like I didn’t need to.

“Oh dude… Someone should have told you…”

I have a feeling that whatever he says next is going to clear a lot of things up about last night’s Airbnb experience. We covers his mouth with one hand and tips his head back on the the top of his couch, while he clutches his beer tighter with the other. He tilts his head back down, to look us in the eyes, and starts his sentence, while still peering through his fingers.

“That is a really really bad area of town man…” I know that this is going to make last night’s story that much better. “The south west is good, north west is good, and north east is good. The South east is the down side of gentrification. That is where all the bad news happens”. Ok, so I’m still kinda waiting for the punchline though. Every city and town has its bad spots. He continues, “Of the 2500 police that are in Washington DC, 1500 of them look after the South East”.

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Right…

That is pretty bloody significant.

Thats more than half the police force, for less than a quarter of the population.

“You know how bad Chicago is?”

“Yeah”, I reply. I know it is known at the murder capital of America.

“South East has a higher murder rate, per capita than Chicago”.

I immediately begin to think about the car speeding around the corner, and pulling up. Maybe it was insane amount of bags that we were carry is what deterred the driver from pursuing matters further. He just kept saying “I am so sorry”, thrown in there with an occasional laugh, at the absurdity of the situation we found ourselves in last night.

Meeting Sebastian made our trip both way better, because of the company and way more interesting because of the local knowledge. We stayed up, talking about the way American politics is run, and I took the opportunity to clean up all the misunderstandings I had to do with anything about American policies, politics or laws. Being that he works government, he was the perfect person to talk with.

We exchanged cultural phrases and stories, all the while comparing Australian governments to their American counterparts. The more we spoke, the more you could put together the pieces of the puzzles that the governments are picking up from each other. Its really interesting. I can’t remember what he had said, to which I replied, “Oh, thats Mickey Mouse”. I stopped for a second, “Do you guys use Mickey Mouse as a saying?”

“Nah”

“Right. Pretty much means something is perfect”, I had to correct myself quickly, “Except to a kiwi, it means the opposite”.

Sebastian, then stands up, and says, “I’ll show you something Mickey Mouse”, as he heads to his bedroom.

He walks back out with a box with the American flag printed on the lid. He opens it up, hands it to us to hold, and says “This flag flew over the top of Capitol Hill”.

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“What?! Really?”

I turn to look at Bec, and she is just as surprised. We have just been hammered with surreal moment after surreal moment since arriving in DC, and now we get to hold in our hands one of the flags that actually flew over the capital hill of America. That is just unreal.

“Yeah. That’s yours”

“Whaaat?!”

“Yeah. Keep it”

If I am to be honest, American patriotism can often be just way to much for me. This, however, was really awesome, and I am totally bringing home an American flag. “Yeah. They use them as gifts at work, and they had a few left over, so I swiped one”, he tells us.

Legend.

“You think thats good? Come have a look at this”. He leads us into his room, and on his wall is a mammoth flag, covering the entire span of his room. He then tells us how he found out about the Macca’s staff member who was always really lazy and would leave their flag on the ground at night when they were packing up, so that night, at 3 am, he drove up, grabbed the flag, jumped back in his car, and blitzed it. The only thing that the employee did, was do the ‘frustrated arm flop’ as he watched Sebastian drive away.

The night leads on further and further, and we continue to tell stories of our respective cultures and travels.

Its bed time, and its been a great night.

We’ve had a skin full of beers, and its time to sleep.

Come back tomorrow,

Billy

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