Tuesday, August 24, 2010

August 21, 2010: Washington - The Zoo, National Cathedral, On To Virginia

On Saturday morning Jenn and I headed up for a walk around the National Zoo. I was hoping to finally see the orangutans out for a climb on their O-line, since the best time for observing them is 11:00 - 11:30. However, they were all inside the Great Ape House, fascinated by a zoo employee who was washing the floors outside their enclosure. However, the entire gorilla family was outside for the first time, enjoying the leaves and grass, and apparently waiting to be fed. We also enjoyed seeing elephant shrews (which really do look like tiny elephants, with their long, mobile snouts).

And on a sign near the entryway was an explanation for Washington's famous black squirrels, which I had never yet noticed in all my previous visits. In the early 1900s squirrels in the area were in danger of becoming extinct, because they'd been hunted down as pests (it was even possible to pay your taxes with squirrel pelts), so the National Zoo imported some squirrels from Ontario to boost the population. And, since black squirrels are common in Canada, the proportion of black to gray squirrel in Washington has been climbing ever since. All of which was particularly apt because Jenn's called her short story blog "The Black Squirrel", recalling her fascination with the (to her) unusual black squirrels in Toronto during her time at school.

In the afternoon Mark joined us for a trip to the National Cathedral. The behind-the-scenes tour that I'd been on previously wasn't available, but we still saw a great deal of the building. The light seemed even brighter than I remembered when I was there before - walls were lit in different colours from the reflected light of the stained glass windows all around. And, since it wasn't as hot as on my previous visit, we even managed to make a complete circuit around the building's grounds afterward.

In the evening Jenn and I took the Metro out to Virginia to meet up with Delores and Quoc. We picked up dinner at a Salvadorean chicken place (ridiculously cheap - $6.95 for a half chicken and two substantial servings of roasted plantain and rice with beans). Then we settled in for a mishmash of tv (North and South - kind of an Industrial Revolution era Pride & Prejudice mini-series) and YouTube videos (Jenn introduced us to the series of literal music videos, which hilariously describe everything outlandish taking place in 80s music videos, set to the original tune of the song).

Photos: an orangutan seems to be making friends; the gorillas outdoors (their lounging about poses oddly remind me of scenes from the low rises in 'The Wire'); a solitary gorilla; the exterior of the National Cathedral; an itty-bitty Mark and Jenn in front of the cathedral; the scene of Creation; the ceiling with glowing light; a reflection from the window on the floor; the famous Space window which includes a piece of moon rock (see the black dot?); a medical-themed window; an abstract modern window; more reflected light; an Arctic capital on a column; a view from the Bishop's Garden; me and Mark; me and Jenn in the cathedral grounds

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