My brother’s sitting next to me, probably trying to read this without me noticing.
I’m feeling tired, because we’ve gotten up early the last couple days. But I know that I’ll want to spend a ton of time online when I get home, so I’ll just have to caffeinate.
My two days in Richmond were actually spent an hour away, in Williamsburg. Willliamsburg was the second capital of Virginia, during much of the colonial period and the first few years of the Revolutionary War. Thomas Jefferson decided in 1780 that the city was too close to the coast to defend from the world’s most powerful navy, so he moved the capital to Richmond, which is further inland.
The interesting thing in Williamsburg is what they call the “historical area”. It’s a half-mile-square patch of the city that’s been restored to its appearance in 1774; the area includes both the old capitol building and the governor’s house. They’re very careful about making things authentic—if they don’t know what a building looked like they don’t try to build it. Eighty-eight buildings are original, and the others (which I believe number in the hundreds, but I don’t have an exact count) are on the original foundations. If they don’t know what a building’s exterior was like, they don’t build it; if they don’t know what the interior was like, they use it for office space or some other park-related function instead of having it open to the public.
They, of course, have employees scattered about. Some of them are “interpreters”, people dressed in period clothing who give tours, answer questions, etc; others are “characters”, who play a specific, named person from the period (like Thomas Jefferson) and who are virtually impossible to break out of character. (The one playing Jefferson was giving a speech when a train passed by in the background; he merely remarked that Patrick Henry, who was known to be a loud orator, must have started speaking on the other side of town. At another point, a woman playing a legislator’s wife overheard a comment about a “movie”; when she asked about it and was told that a movie was a “moving picture”, she said that the man could move the pictures around if he wanted to, but she really didn’t see the point in it.) All are quite knowledgeable; my mother wants to write a book in that period eventually, and she noted that she’d like to stay there for a week or so to talk to the employees in-depth.
So those two days were enjoyable, although I missed having Internet access. At least the computer kept working.
So, here are my trip highlights and lowlights . . .
- USS Constitution. Before we left Boston, we visited the USS Constitution. The Constitution is the oldest commissioned warship in the world, which means that she’s technically still a Navy ship and could be sent to fight. (Of course, one of the officers there said that “if you ever see her going to fight, you know we’re in trouble”.) She was one of the first warships built for the US Navy, and earned the nickname “Old Ironsides” because her construction, which included a very dense wood only found in North America, was so strong that cannon fire never punched through her hull. She’s still afloat, and she sails a few times each year for special occasions.
I don’t really know why this was as enjoyable as it was. It’s probably because my Star Trek fan complex conjures up romantic notions of exploration on ships of any sort. In any case, this was my favorite part of the trip.
I picked up a simple model of the ship; hopefully I’ll have the tuits to actually construct it.
- Williamsburg store. I was sitting in a store, so bored I was playing with the toys, when I noticed two little girls playing with the toy guns. They were perhaps nine and six, although I’m not a good judge of age. The older one left to do something else, so the younger started boredly shooting at random. When she fired in my direction, I pretended to be shot, which sent her into an insane gigglefit.
We didn’t stop “playing” in this fashion for five or ten minutes, and she was laughing the whole time. It was . . . well . . . extremely cute.
- Three days, no Internet. As relayed above, for the most part.
- New York subway. The NY subway was one of the most unpleasant things I’ve ever experienced.
You walk into a station, and the first thing that hits you is a blast of hot, smelly air. I can’t quite identify the smell, but it’s not exactly the nicest thing you’ve ever smelled. Based on the air, I’m fairly certain that the New York subway is situated directly over Hell.
Then you buy (or at least we bought) day passes. However, as an idiotic anti-fraud measure, the machine doesn’t let you put more than two on a credit card, so you end up feeding wads of cash to the machine.
Then you put your pass through the machine and (damn turbulence) go to the platform. This usually involves walking down one or more flights of stairs, and the deeper you get, the hotter it is. If you don’t put on about three coats of deodorant before doing this, you probably won’t be able to wash the stink out for a week. They air-condition the trains—why not the stations?
Then you check the map and work out how to get to where you want to go. The NY subway system was built over time, and it shows—the only other way you could get such a crazy system was if it was designed by a group of monkeys on crack throwing pasta at the wall. Some lines split off into a half-dozen branches; others follow crazy paths, dodging back and forth or doubling back on themselves. Most other subway systems have simplified maps which don’t reflect the exact geometry of the system, instead using straight lines and (as much as possible) a regular distance between the stations, allowing you to more easily work out how to get from one stop to another; I doubt it’s possible to make one for the New York subway.
There are also normal trains, which stop everywhere, and express trains, which skip perhaps two-thirds of the stops; the normal trains are too slow, and the express trains are liable to skip the stop you need. All of this adds up to make it nearly impossible to navigate.
Plane’s landing—I’ll finish this when I get home.
Back home now. My computer feels alien after working on a tiny laptop for two weeks—everything feels too big.
Anyway, to continue with my NY subway rant . . .
Assuming you can somehow figure out how you’re going to get to the station you want to get to, you now get on a train. Hopefully you get on the right train, since you have to worry about express vs. normal, the correct line on junctions and parallel lines, the right direction (which isn’t particularly clearly marked, IIRC), and a bunch of other stuff.
The trains are air conditioned, which is nice. However, they also don’t have much seating, especially compared to other subway systems I’ve been on. This is . . . not nice. It’s also one of the noisiest subway systems I’ve been on—plenty of ear-shattering screeches and scrapes.
So, you ride to your stop, hopefully not missing it. Then you leave the train, dash through the Hell-heated air, and try to get out before you collapse.
Give me the Underground or the DC Metro any day. Just please please please not the NY subway.
Anyway . . . yeah. I’m home, I’m not dead, and I’m happy. Good trip, but it was time for it to end. :^)