And speaking of food (see below), I had lingered at the Library well past lunchtime, so as soon as I left I made my way to a restaurant near the Capitol that my (actually, Abigail's) guidebook described as being a popular hangout for Congressional staffers. Where, for the price of my rather average grilled chicken sandwich (question: is it even possible to make one of those that actually tastes good? because they all come off as about the same to me), I got to eavesdrop on a young (about college-age) congressional intern talking to a woman who seemed to be a professional staffer who knew his family, giving him advice on his career and suggesting networking strategies. Then they finished their lunch and I was left with only the crazy guy selling Street Scene and ranting about his uncles to listen to, which may be a metaphor for something, I'm not sure.
Okay, not a lot of time, still a lot of things to see. I had to pick and choose through the remaining museums for the things I wanted to see the most, and get to all of them before I had to leave at five to make it back in time to catch my plane. In the end, the choice went to the Natural History Museum, particularly after I looked in at the Air and Space and was overwhelmed by the noise and chaos and powerful waves of barely-post-pubescent hormones that I fled as soon as I found a clearing.
I made one more stop on my way to Natural History, at the Freer Museum of art. Not because I am so fascinated by their fine collection of Asian and early American art, but because they have the Peacock room, possibly the world's only publicly viewable display of spiteful interior decor. With peacocks!
But the main event was across the Mall, past the tour buses and up a flight of steps to the second floor, where the American People's collection of gems and minerals lives. The Hope Diamond is the main attraction here, of course, along with a fairly spectacular array of jewelry representing all your major gems. (Overheard in the exhibit room, from a child looking at a giant, four-foot tall quartz crystal: "Is that the Hope Diamond?") It is probably a sad commentary on my nerdom that I actually ended up more interested in the minerals part of the exhibit, particularly the crystals. There are a lot of cool crystals in the world. I felt like I was being too rushed to learn anything, though I did end up with the word "feldspar" stuck in my head for the next day or so.
I also swung by the dinosaur exhibit, but I find those less exciting ever since I realized that they don't display the actual bones (for the very good reason that they are valuable research specimens), and everything you're looking at is a plastic model. Of course, I guess you could consider the real fossils are basically molds too, albeit ones made over a somewhat longer period of time.
And speaking of time, I was almost out, so I made my way out through the front hall, past the schoolkids and the group of buddist monks, back to the Metro, just as soon as I figured out which direction it was.
I was going to do a whole additional post on the trip back, and the plane delay, and the trouble of getting in touch with your roommate who was going to give you a ride when you don't have your cell phone, and the taxi line, but then I realized that would be incredibly boring, so I won't.