With a little creative license and its proximity to olden–day German settlements kept in mind, one might be forgiven for assuming that the ‘DC’ in Washington DC stood for das kapital, but no; it stands for District of Columbia, which is a nice way of saying “we didn’t want to put our nation’s capital in just any state, so we took a tiny bit of land from the surrounding states and made a tiny tiny tiny ‘district’ to call our own. Also, Columbus was a cool guy. Kudos to him.”
And if there’s one thing that makes DC stand out to tourists like us, it’s the abundance of historical (and totally free) sites (and sights) dotted around the city. One of our first plans was to see Me First and the Gimme Gimmes play at the Black Cat, which bit us in the ass when we found that the show had sold out, but we bounced back. Nothing a sixer of Nasty Ice wouldn’t fix, and nothing a few days traipsing the marvelously architected Washington metroscape wouldn’t make us forget.
DC is fabulous, it’s inspiring, and, unfortunately, it’s the home of George W Bush. But if you ignore that last little fact you’ll probably come away loving the place. The Franklin Roosevelt memorial —which we visited on a whim to see one of the scenes from Deception Point up close— turned out to be fantastic (and, incidentally, somewhere GW clearly doesn’t visit too often); the Washington memorial, the Lincoln memorial, the Jefferson memorial… all great. The assorted war memorials were a little spooky, but that’s something I can live with, and the museums… oh the museums.
The Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum is a playground of awesomeness; a veritable garden of earthly delights. There were portions of that sucker that we ran through without reading a damned thing and we still spent an entire afternoon in the place. I could gladly spent a week moving from exhibit to exhibit reading plaque after plaque after plaque in the Natural History Museum… and I dare say that one day I will. It’s that good.
DC is also home to some pretty great clubs: the keyword being “classy”. Guys, if you aren’t dressed appropriately, you just won’t get in. Dave and Mike had to go buy new shoes… poor bastards. Covers can be expensive, but then again if you’re a tourist and have anything of a silver tongue (I’m not talking about myself, obviously. I refer to Mike) you won’t have any trouble making your way into most of these places for free. A little more luck and you’ll have more than a few of your drinks paid for, too — something women have been exploiting for way too long and I’m glad to see from the other side.
MCCXXIII was a fantastic bar. Fan–tastic, with a particularly delicious business model for Friday nights: manufactured scarcity through free availability of booze.
We’ve all been to pubs and clubs that keep you waiting at the door even when the place is empty —I live across the street from one in Perth— and they do it because it makes the place look busy. For reasons I’m yet to understand about human behavior, a place that looks busy is somewhere you want to be. It may be ridiculous to the guy lined up for an hour to enter an empty pub, but it makes good business sense: people arriving at a bar at 9PM confronted with a two–hour lineup will learn to arrive early. The busier the bar is early, the more money it takes during an otherwise–dull period and the more appealing the place becomes to the late–arriving crowd. Suddenly, after all the regulars have learned that a 9PM arrival equals a two–hour lineup, the bar is choc–a–bloc full by 6.30 in the evening: and that makes it a red hot destination. By making those people line up later, even when the place is empty, they’re manufacturing scarcity; manufacturing urgency. It’s a vicious cycle for the consumer, and a total pain in the ass, but it works.
MCCXXIII’s solution is somewhat more graceful. Between the hours of 5PM and 9PM, your twenty dollar cover charge means you aren’t paying for any drinks. It’s all–you–can–drink, on the house, assuming you can make your way through the twenty–people–deep horde at the bar. The allure of seemingly free booze, rather than the fear of lining up for hours, brings crowds to this bar from 5PM onwards. By nine o’clock, if you’ve been drinking on the house for four hours, you’re ready to go home and free up some room for all those people lined up outside waiting to take your spot. Having scored one of those most highly coveted couch positions (thanks to some friends in the know) we had some excellent service from a very cool barmaid — a woman who eventually stopped asking for drink orders and just brought us fresh gin and tonics every ten minutes. What a girl. With a lass running between the bar and our nook for us, we were free to mingle without the pain of waiting for service at the bar. Again, MCCXXIII is a great place for a Friday night out… even if you do end up stumbling home before midnight.
DC? Nine out of ten — and that’s saying something.