I found that cent on Castro St., not far from Mountain View's City Hall. It's the first one I remember seeing with the picture of the U. S. Capitol being built on it. It's been a long time since I wandered through that building, but it never impressed me as one that would be easy to heat or cool. It occurs to me that if they put the House and Senate in a more modern building they could save A LOT of energy. Maybe while they are at it they could add enough seats to the "House of Representatives" to make them representative of more of us, meaning the broader population of the USA, not just the one percent that can afford to buy Congress now.

I don't think of Duke Ellington when I think of the District of Columbia. Instead, I think of the places on this map. When I lived in the area I enjoyed spending an afternoon in the galleries around The Mall. There are enough that you can entertain yourself for a year of Saturdays just browsing old stuff. I've heard them called "the nation's attic". The title fits, in the sense that there are probably more than a million things there that nobody would want to part with. When I was temping in DC in the fall of '95 my desk was at least five stories above the L'Enfant Plaza Metro stop, but still in the same building. During that time the African-Americans had their million man march, and it really was the most incredible crowd I've ever seen. I'd seen as many people there several other times, but never was the crowd as homogeneous, and never was the vibe as good. I shake my head when I try to figure out how Duke Ellington trumped all that. It's beyond me.

I learned some fascinating lessons about activism in DC. Across the street from the White House in Lafayette Square is a Peace Vigil that has been there continuously since something like 25 years ago. At least they were still there last time I visited, most of a decade ago now. I stop by every time I'm in town. One time a guy that I saw there many times told me that official Washington wanted them gone. They had done many things to try and get rid of the vigil. That included getting Supreme Court decisions about how much stuff they could have there (nothing but the clothes on their backs and a clipboard, not much food and not much water). He was proud that they hadn't gotten rid of him, but he was ashamed that the court decision had been used in San Francisco to harass the homeless in downtown. He felt that every time they open the eyes of another tourist about the need for political change around the nuclear war issue a peaceful future gets closer.

All kinds of people go to Washington DC to try and affect US policy. One time I read that a year or two before Yeltsin had taken over from Gorbachev in the USSR he had come to DC to see if they would talk to him. The towns attitude was "who's Boris Yeltsin?" He spent the whole visit drunk in his hotel room. After he got elected the city gave him a lot more respect. Many people have it much worse. St. Elizabeth's (the place where they lock up kooks for "psychiatric evaluation") has a special check off box on the intake form for people that want to "see the President." Some of them even have good reasons for their visits. Some who are lucky enough to dodge that trap end up broke and homeless on Pennsylvania Ave., panhandling for food money or whatever.

I've thought about the relationship between all the above and religion. One catalyst for my thinking was a Herb Block cartoon that painted the oil, car, and drug companies as "sacred cows". Another was an AP story I read at my desk in OC at AOL where a German tourist called the Lincoln Memorial "A Religious Shrine". I thought about the fact that there is a statue of Albert Einstein (one man who understood the laws of physics) overlooking the Vietnam Memorial, a place where I have seen many Americans of different kinds reflect and/or pray and/or leave remembrances (some would say sacred objects). The dotted line on the map traces my "constitutional walk" past many of the icons of American democracy. I figured that since I couldn't directly affect the US Govt., at least I could do no harm by seeing them while I was in DC anyhow. It so happens that I was the last tourist to see the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Magna Carta that day. By coincidence I got to the National Archives building at the right time. I still remember watching the guard putting a cover over one of them before I left. It was a cold, cold day. By the time I ducked into the subway system at L'Enfant Plaza it was also quite dark.

Since those days I've gotten much more careful about the way I use terms borrowed from religion. I still think that pollution prevention is the holy grail of the environmental movement, for lack of a better way to put it.

Short as Harrison's stay in the White House was, there are probably homeless that die on DC's streets every year after being in the district a shorter time than that. He got a State Funeral. They get the least the system can do for them.

A $1.47 trillion dollar deficit in our national budget is hard for me to relate to. I was on Caltrain and I tried to talk about it with the guy across the aisle from me. He was twenty or something like that. He shrugged it off. I told him that back in the '70s I played pinball on a machine where it was something to get ten points, like you had to at least hit a thumper. A winning score was somewhere in the thousands. He mulled the idea, muttering "there has been inflation in that to?" I remain convinced that entertainment value is much more of a one dollar one vote kind of thing. How much fun can it be when the number won't fit on a check?

I was watching the News Hour one evening and some Republicanish talking head said something like "I think people who work on budget issues in DC get some weird problem that disconnects them from what those numbers in the budget on the page mean." Fog is fog, but whatever the weather is, I'm going to remain convinced that a true story is worth a quarter.

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