Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Land of the Free and the Home of the Extremely Frightened

Washington, D.C., the city of my birth, has been transformed into East Berlin.

This was the thought that struck me this morning when I attempted to park in the underground lot at the (I can barely bring myself to type the name) Ronald Reagan Building to attend a work-related conference in the Mellon Auditorium next door.

The last time I saw anyone use a mirror to inspect the underside of an automobile for contraband was when I went through Checkpoint Charlie between East and West Berlin in 1980. I was reminded of this when it was done to my truck this morning, after I had handed proof of my identity to a surly policeman, who protected the Homeland from, well, from me, by checking out my undercarriage.

Seething slightly from the good officer's presumption of malice aforethought, I descended into the most hellish parking garage I have ever in my life experienced. Descending level after level into this dank, dimly lit, claustrophobic concrete Hades, seeking a place to deposit my truck for the day, I had on the CD player a marvelous recording by Dock Boggs, circa 1930, of a tune called "Old Rub Alcohol Blues":
When my worldly troubles are over
And my last goodbye I've said
Bury me near my darling's doorstep
Where the roses bloom in their bed
Honestly, I began to freak out.

Oh, Jesus, Dock, I thought. You couldn't have known. You died, and anything like humanity, like things measurable on a human scale, died with you. You were at least allowed to have the blues. You could sing about it, and somebody -- even some poor Morlock in a concrete bunker 150 below the surface of the earth trying to find a parking spot -- would hear you, and know what you meant.

And I get... this.

Back on the street again, grateful just to see daylight, I wandered, misinformed, into the Environmental Protection Agency Building to ask for directions. I ran smack-bang into another crowd of surly cops, daring me to brave their metal detectors and magnetic wands. Staring down at me from the wall, smiling like oblivious goons, were the grinning gargoyle visages of both George Bush and Dick Cheney. The Fear sank its claws even deeper into my skin. Having received a reasonably coherent answer to my question from one of the scowling DHS minions, I turned and made to leave the lobby.

As I left, it occurred to me that a photograph of those two hideous, grinning faces on the wall of EPA would make a marvelously ironic memento of an encounter in the lobby of a once-proud agency that those two bastards had done their best to destroy. This idea lasted just about long enough for me to make one impulsive move toward my camera-case in my backpack.

Then I thought better of it.

They'd have had me down on my stomach, knees on my neck, Tasers sparking my spine, cuffs around my wrists, before I knew what hit me.

East Berlin.

I did get to have lunch with Jared Spool, though. That was cool. Nice guy.


Blowing Shit Up With Gas said...

A man in D.C. checked out my undercarriage once. But, that was when I worked in Dupont Circle.

Smashed said...

East Berlin's not so bad. Here's some of what they have to offer:

The days of Ostalgie (nostalgia for the East) have passed, but East Germany's iconography has reemerged as trendy. An East Berlin design that was first discontinued after unification but then won wide appreciation is the figure that appears on the crosswalk traffic lights. The stocky Ampelmann ("street-light man") wears a wide-brim hat and walks with an animated gait. He has regained his ground in most of East Berlin and, since 2004, has even inched his way into West Berlin neighborhoods. Now one of the most distinctive Berlin souvenir icons, the Ampelmann adorns coffee cups and T-shirts and there's even candy made in his image. Entire gift shops are dedicated to him, such as in the Hackesche Höfe in Mitte and the Arkaden mall at Potsdamer Platz.

Sounds like a GREAT place to visit...

gregra&gar said...

Sounds like they've got you just where they want you, Neddie, afraid to move.

Anonymous said...

This is the age of the security guard, the uniformed face of Fascism there to greet you in every public building. I wouldn't be surprised if they knew who you were by your nom-de-blog: "Look, here comes that f**king Neddie Jingo guy!"
And just wait until Blowing Shit Up With Gas shows his face in the lobby of a Federal building....with a name like that he'll be blogging from Gitmo! (Do they have Internet ports at Gitmo?)

Sunny Jim

Brenda said...

You had lunch with Jared Spool? How many other people at the table did you have to share him with? He is a good storyteller. What do you think it would be like to have Jakob and Jared together at lunch? Tense or fun?

nonny goat said...

I just can't decide whether I should take out an extended warranty on this new flat screen.

Does anyone know whether fascist states are capable of sustaining themselves over the long term as such, or is fascism just a transitional phase on the way to eventual self-annihilation?

ct said...

aha... that said, I attended User Focus today (Friday), which YOU did not, but were supposed to, attend. Missed you!

Jared's a fucking blowhard.

Tom said...

If you haven't read Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash, you might want to just for its description of the U.S. Government post-privatization-of-almost-every-function as just another corporation, albeit one that's a bit more paranoid and inefficient than most.

EmployeeoftheMonth said...

Here in Las Vegas, to pull into the property of the large casinos the goons, hired goons, mirror your undercarriage, look in your trunk and routinely interrogate mindbendingly "what's your business here" type questions.

"um to eat at one of your shitty restaurants and lose $40 playing blackjack."

Nguyet said...

You had lunch with Jared Spool? *jealous*

It's probably a good thing I didn't; I'd probably end up spitting out too much food from laughter to actually eat lunch. He's a good story teller.

And yes, someone mentioned Snow Crash and I second them.

Smashed said...

At least we can still send panties to Burma...