Sunday, August 1, 2010

July 30, 2010: Washington - Old Time Canal Tour, Old Style Theatre Outing

After a morning spent on my French lessons, and trying to absorb French comprehension by osmosis (or at least by listening to French radio for a long while), I headed out to Georgetown for a tour on the C & O Canal. There isn't a convenient subway station in Georgetown, but since the temperature has dropped (only 31 degrees!) I felt up to walking over from Dupont Circle. It only took 30 minutes, and took me through some quaint, historic residential streets with wonky brick sidwalks (being pushed up by tree roots).

The tour was in an historic canal boat. We boarded at the bottom of a lock, were raised up to the next level (about 8 feet and 40,000 gallons of water in 10 minutes or so) then were towed up the canal by a pair of mules. Our tour guide had lots of information to share about the history of the canal (only turned a profit 3 times in almost 100 years of operation; expensive and dangerous to dig but cheap to operate the boats - mules towed 140-ton boats for 6 hours at a time, then traded off with another pair of mules housed onboard; the canal was finally put out of operation by the railroad - trains were more expensive to run but the tracks were alot faster and cheaper to lay down). And more than anything I was excited to be sitting outside, voluntarily, not oppressed by the heat.

Afterwards I stopped in at the Barnes & Noble in Georgetown and read part of a book about the neuroscience of vision: 'The Vision Revolution' by Mark Changzi - I'll have to return to read more. The chapter I read: binocular vision evolved not to detect depth, but to better enable tracking objects through the visual clutter of intervening leaves, branches and grasses. Interesting theory and convincing experiments.

In the evening we walked up the street to the Uptown Theatre, a classic Art Deco theatre with a huge screen; we got seats near the front of the fabulous balcony, and watched the movie 'Inception'. Interesting ideas, not entirely convincing film. Maybe would be better filled out with enough depth of detail to be a mini-series. I could imagine a good DVD binge of 8 hours or so of it. Still, fun to go out to a local institution, and a nice night for being out for a walk.

Photos: Our boat and period-actor tour guide; at the bottom of the lock; at the top of the lock; pulled along the canal by our donkeys (off in the distance)

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