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“Taxation Without Representation”

Friday, November 4th, 2005

Taking a fast sleek train, we are visiting our country’s capitol city for a few days. “Taxation Without Representation” is written at the bottom of D.C. license plates here in the District of Columbia. Don’t know why DC’s fair citizens don’t have any representation in Congress, but we nevertheless enjoy their city.

The weather has been fantastic…sunny, clear and brisk. The trees have become a palette of fall colors. We are staying in a cute little Victorian bed and breakfast called Kalorama Guest House on Mintwood Place NW, (it’s on the web) around the corner from a slew of coffee shops (free internet at Tryst during the week) and ethnic restaurants full of thirty-somethings carrying computer bags and wearing official appearing ID tags. One overheard conversation: “…the working title of my book is The China Wars of 1871…” We think there are a lot of very highly educated people in this city but aren’t sure this is a good thing considering some of the policies coming out of this place.

But alas, our visit will be short. Tomorrow the Red Line of the clean plush subway train will take us from our neighborhood directly to Union Train Station…the most elegant we have seen anywhere in the world except maybe Victoria Station in Bombay..where we will catch our train back to Penn Station in Manhattan.

The gigantic government office buildings remind Bob and I of the utilitarian Nazi-built grey concrete buildings in the eastern sector of Berlin-what used to be East Germany. It occurs to me that at least our tax money hasn’t been spent on hegemonic architecture. But at least a few or more thousand people have jobs in this gigantic bureaucracy.

I spent two days at the National Archives digging up info on my great grandfather who spent 14 months in Confederate prisons, including Andersonville, while Bob roamed the city. We make fun of all the others walking around with cell phones glued to their ears but it’s a darn good thing we have them (cell phones and ears) or we’d still be looking for each other.

Revisionist history: Eisenhower was the first president to send “armed advisors” to Viet Nam. The last time I was in Washington I didn’t notice that the date engraved on the wall of the Vietnam War Memorial…1955… was the date indicating the first death. But the pentagon has revised this date twice in the eighties, explained the park service guide…upping it to sometime in the 60’s. But once a date is engraved you just can’t mark it out with a black marker, the guide wryly remarked…

The city, full of irony, was laid out by, of all people, the same Frenchman who designed modern Paris. The J. Edgar Hoover building is exactly across the street from the Robert F. Kennedy Justice Building-the two men, of course, hating each other during their tenures. Washington was in the south at the time of the civil war and a bridge crosses the Potomac River, at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial, to connect the District of Columbia with Arlington Cemetery on land that was given the city by Robert E. Lee.

The Smithsonian Museums, set up by a foreign benefactor, are free and not to be missed. And the residence of the Vice-President was set up on U.S. Naval grounds in order to save taxpayer money by not having to build another palatial home.

But Bob and I looked at each other with not a little bewilderment when the hop-on- hop-off bus driver/tour guide told us that Washington D.C. had more species of trees than any other city in the world. We wondered how they figured this out.