Luke Chilly Reception in the Nation’s Capital

Tripping It

Lehighton (PA) Times News

February 13, 1971

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The area around the historic Potomac River is a tourist mecca in the summer months; in the winter, with the temperatures in the teens and the moisture from the river rolling off its semi-frozen surface like great berserk steamrollers, it checks in as less than perfect.

Once one battles his way through the bone-chilling winds and manages to figure out the complicated arrangement of one-way streets that are one-way southeast during prime hours and one-way northwest at others, it is possible to have what approximates a good time in the nation’s capital.

The best thing to keep in mind when visiting during the winter months is to confine driving to off-hours while in the city. It seems that pedestrians—and there are great slews of them pouring out of office buildings in noon hour rushes—are prone to walk with great vigor and little discretion when the cold air hits them. The police department manages to be very strict on jaywalking, which cuts the motorist’s problem in half, but dashing damsels, trying to outdistance the cold wind that is making their hot pants merely luke-warm, have a way of flirting with death, whether it be a taxi, police van, sanitation truck, or hardy motorcyclist—and there do be some motorcyclists about.

And speaking of fair damsels: I’m told, by resident connoisseurs, that there is a very favorable of seven girls to each guy. Perhaps at the times we made the sidewalk scene, all the females were safely locked away in the warm office buildings, unwilling to face the cold that would have easy access to various portions of their anatomies. Our survey, at noon four different days, was an even one-to-one basis, so the fabled myth was, at least in the spots we checked, shattered.

We also took time to visit the Shakespeare Library, just a block away from the Library of Congress. It is unfortunate that the rather impressive library lacks more visitors. The main exhibit room houses quite a number of artifacts from the time of the Great Bard. There are renderings of scenes from his plays by world-famous painters, clothes and furniture from the period, an excellent scale model of the Globe Theatre, quarto and folio exhibits, and a room temperature that is high enough to slow the eventual deterioration of the exhibits, which provides a perfect haven from the cold outside. The unfortunate part is that we were the only visitors to the entire gallery, and the building is large enough to completely crush Packerton if it were relocated. Fact is, there were more guards than visitors.

There was a very impressive exhibition of paintings and sketches from Maine artists in the lobby of the Library of Congress. The exhibition also included a few cases of artifacts from Maine’s role in the Civil War, its break from Massachusetts, and its founding. The exhibition was worth the price of admission, which is a nominal gratis, as are most of the “sights” in D.C.

We also spent some time riding around the Pentagon parking lots across the river from D.C. and found that approximately half of the cars there are foreign makes. A half-hour discussion on American military supremacy failed to disclose any reasoning behind the prominence of foreign cars in their lots, unless the people who work there are aware of something they aren’t telling us.

The Swing City of the D.C. area is reputedly Georgetown. A few evenings convinced us that it is a very pleasant section of Americana, but the swinging portion of the area seems to be reserved for weekends. I suppose that the area young people don’t go out too often on weeknights: it gets too hard getting up for the 10:00 a.m. office shift.

A real must in Georgetown is the newly-renovated Canal Square midway along M Street between the Key Bridge and the point where D.C.’s Pennsylvania Ave. turns into Georgetown’s M Street. The entranceway to the square is rather inconspicuous, but once inside it opens up into a very attractive series of shops and strolling areas. On a good day you can also take a ride on the canal, if you can put up with the dampness mixed with cold air at this time of the year. The shops are uniformly attractive and inviting, and a modern art shop near the entrance is one of the best equipped in the D.C. area. The entire concourse is very much like the ones springing up in Montreal’s Old Quarter.

The secret of seeing the place seems to be a combination of several angles: 1.) get someone you know in the area to act as your guide, 2.) take your time at each point of interest (you can always come back some other time and hit the remaining sights), and 3.) avoid young panhandlers on the corners who bring their dates along while they throw the classic line at you: “Hey, man, got any change you can spare?” According to recent reports, the panhandlers earn more than the people who feed them loose change. Ah, America, land of opportunity.