Day 2: April 9, 2016
Cold Day, Hot Night.

Comment via blog

Previous Day
Next Day
Site Home
Trip Home

When I first started thinking about this trip, I figured today would be spent strolling about the mall with a decent chance of seeing lots of cherry blossoms. The cherry trees bloomed a little early this year and recent rain essentially cleared away the last of the blooms. Temperature in the thirties and rain mixed with a few snowflakes pretty much ruled out any sort of strolling. This would be an inside day. I took yet another picture of the capitol dome as I crossed Pennsylvania Avenue not far from the hotel.

The fact that the National Museum of American History was the closest of the Smithsonian museums only influenced my decision slightly. I really did have visiting it in mind for this trip. The last time I'd done so was in 2006 just a couple of months before it closed for two-plus years of renovation. I've been in DC twice since it reopened in 2008 but didn't get inside either time. Today I reached to museum a little before opening. A fair sized line had already formed so I had to endure a few minutes of the cold until the doors opened then a few more as guards checked bags and wanded people who tripped the metal detectors.

The Museum of American History is where the Smithsonian's role as "America's attic" is most readily apparent. I found these two items with semi-personal connections in my initial aimless wandering. The bass drum is from Gene Krupa's days with the Benny Goodman Orchestra. Krupa was a childhood hero. My first drum kit was a used Slingerland (the brand Krupa played) set with the owner's initials on the bass drum just like Krupa's are on this one. I'm pretty sure the deal was clinched by the seller's offer to replace his initials with mine before I took possession. The family of one of my earliest friends owned a small fleet of Oliver tractors and a more recent friend's father worked for the company. This scale model of an Oliver 77 was made by Slik Toys in 1948.

BONUS RAMBLING: That Slingerland kit can be see in this 1965 photograph. I was not a member of the high school stage band but accounted for both sets of drums in the picture. The Slingerlands are on the right and have probably been recently sold. My initials have been removed. On the left is the Rogers set I custom ordered and picked up at the factory in Covington, Ohio. I believe I still have that "Coachmen" emblazoned head cover around here somewhere.

When I looked over the America on the Move exhibit on that 2006 visit, it was my second time seeing it. The first was in 2004 shortly after it opened. I've managed to keep that semi-personal connection thing going just a little longer by including a display related to Cincinnati during its steamboat building heyday. The steam locomotive Jupiter was built in 1876.

About the only semi-personal connection I can conjure up for the red car is that it was manufactured in Ohio. It is the 20 HP Winton that Horatio Nelson Jackson and Sewall Crocker drove across the United States in 1903. It had never been done before and the adventure was the prototype for both road and roadless cross country automobile trips. The last picture has a Lincoln Highway marker on the right and a (clipped off in the thumbnail but visible in the full size photo) Route 66 "sign" on the left. The "sign" is projected from above onto a real slab of Route 66 from Oklahoma.

ADDENDUM: Apr 13, 2016 - I've since corrected it but when I originally entered Jupiter's year of construction I hit a nine instead of an eight. Friend and reader Alex Burr caught the error and provided 1868 as the construction year. In checking and fixing things, I discovered why the name Jupiter had seemed familiar to me. A more famous Jupiter was constructed in 1868 by the Schenectady Locomotive Works. It was one of the engines used in the 1869 Golden Spike Ceremony that marked completion of the first transcontinental railroad. The Jupiter on display at the Smithsonian was constructed in 1876 by the Baldwin Locomotive Company. It was originally used by the Santa Cruz Railroad in California.

The Golden Spike Jupiter is long gone but I saw a reproduction at the site of the ceremony in 2014. There is information on the one at the Smithsonian here.

Here's some more of that "America's attic" aspect of the museum. Please note that the Smithsonian really does present things in a much more organized and coherent manner than my photos indicate.

Of the 1,117 fully electric EV1s manufactured by General Motors between 1996 and 1999, this is the only one that remains completely intact. Most were crushed and the remainder had their drive trains removed. Most people are at least somewhat familiar with the story of the 1948 Tucker. Either of these cars can feed hours of car-nut what-if discussions.

George Washington as Greek god could probably feed discussions of a different sort. The big round thing is a Civil War draft selection wheel. The gunboat Philadelphia was sunk by the British in a battle on Lake Champlain in 1776. She was raised in 1935 and came to the Smithsonian in 1964. She has her own display area which includes a lot of artifacts found with her and many details of her preservation. The last picture is of Thomas Jefferson's polygraph. Admittedly not as efficient as copy-and-paste but a whole lot classier.

I imagine there's at least one rally or protest going on every day in Washington. When I was last here in 2014, I stumbled into a rally for Coalfield Fairness. Today a rally/parade approached on Constitution Avenue just as I left the museum. The marchers were calling for Punjab's independence from India. Punjab is populated almost entirely by Sikhs and persecution by the Indian government is claimed. To an outsider like me, the colorful Sikh dress gave something of a festive appearance to something that was clearly quite serious.

The line at the American History Museum was much longer when I left than when I arrived. Everybody wanted to get inside somewhere. Walking further from the hotel and risking standing in line at another museum didn't sound good to me so I headed to where tonight's concert would take place. At a minimum I could look it over and maybe I could even pick up my will-call ticket. The Hamilton is a very nice and very large restaurant and bar with a concert venue below it. There was no afternoon will-call and I couldn't get into the actual concert area but neither mattered at all. I hung out at the bar and tried a few pretty good regional beers. I learned that I would be able to order food at the concert and for a while that was my plan. I didn't stick with it, however, and downed a pretty good 'burger and some of the best French fries ever before heading to the hotel for a short break.

A line had formed by the time I returned about fifteen minutes before the doors were to open. It filled the visible stairs and disappeared around the corner. Not being familiar with the place, I had no idea how long the line really was. Not terribly, it turned out. For this show The Hamilton Live offered two levels of general admission tickets: seated and standing. I had purchased the seated variety but was a little concerned about the good seats filling before I made it inside. The tables nearest the stage are a row of six-tops set perpendicular to the stage's edge. The front pairs were all taken when I got my chance but many other seats remained. I snagged what was effectively a third row seat between Matt and Willie's microphones. I'm guessing that it's largely because most people (maybe all) came in pairs that the "second row" seat beside me stayed empty all night.

Singer-songwriter Billy Coulter opened the show accompanied by Max Evans. It was a good fit and a very enjoyable set. I took the picture from the back of the room when I went to the restroom between bands.

This is what I took a nearly fifteen hour train ride to see. Willie Nile fronts one of the best four-piece bands in rock 'n' roll. I've been listening to his just released album, World War Willie (my review here), almost non-stop and thought he might play the whole thing tonight. He did that at last Saturday's release party in Asbury Park but not tonight. Not quite. He did perform more than half of the songs on the new album and filled out a great show with a variety of past favorites. One tune qualified as both -- with a twist. Lou Reed's "Sweet Jane" is the only cover on the new album. It's also a song Willie has often performed in the past so also counts as an old favorite. Tonight it took a little turn and morphed into a crowd pleasing version of David Bowie's "Heroes". Maybe I should have been expecting that but I wasn't and I enjoyed the surprise. Little surprises are part of what makes a Willie Nile concert fun. Although I know it didn't surprise everybody, for me the night's biggest surprise was closing with "Hard Day's Night". Cool!

I sure can't use the word disappointed for this or any other Willie Nile concert but I was kind of looking forward to hearing "Trouble Down In Diamond Town" live for the first time. That will just have to wait and hearing "Forever Wild", "Beautiful You", "Grandpa Rocks", and other new stuff left absolutely no room for disappointment.

[Prev] [Site Home] [Trip Home] [Contact] [Next]