Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Of Masons and Moon Launches

For the long President's Day weekend, the BF and I went to stay with his brother, Big Scientist, at his new apartment in Washington, D.C. I always like taking a little trip on the train, though the tracks from NYC to DC take you through a pretty awful part of the country. Baltimore, for instance--I haven't seen such a shitheap of a city since I was in Lima, Peru in 1992. We're talking the worst kind of dilapidation you can get without bombs. Philadelphia wasn't much better. I guess that's the thing about neighborhoods on the wrong side of the tracks: you see them when you ride the train.

But DC is always nice to visit. Readers may recall my last visit to Washington DC for the National Postmaster's Convention in 2009. I have this idea in my head that DC is a cold, gray place because I keep going there in late winter/early spring, even though I'm sure it has other, much prettier seasons. At least there are very few crowds when you go in the middle of February.

The first night we were there, BS and his GF took us out for seafood and then to see the Oscar-nominated animated shorts. I pushed hard for the animated shorts rather than the live action shorts, because the live action shorts are always terribly depressing and there's usually at least one film about the Holocaust. The animated films always put you in a much better mood. One short was about a mouse looking for a nut in the forest, and I'm pretty sure I remember reading the picture book when I was a wee grom (The Gruffalo, does anyone else remember that?). And Pixar's stuff is, as always, delightful, though I'm hoping their entry "Day and Night" loses this year to a lovely Australian entry called "The Lost Thing," which was soft and quiet and hopeful and included giant octopus/hermit crab inside a red tin can. And there was one terribly depressing short that began with a dead goat and ended with a dead mother. Thanks, Germany.

The next day, the BF and I went to the Air and Space Museum so we could be astronauts. It was awesome, though my neck hurt from looking up at all the planes, satellites, and rockets hanging from the ceiling.

We had lunch at the National Museum of the American Indian, which is widely regarded as the best museum for eating on the mall. The food stations are regional, so we had tacos at the Mesoamerican section. Runners-up included salmon at the Pacific Northwest station, and buffalo burgers in the Midwest section. And I saw an outrigger canoe.

Our last day, President's Day, was a bit rainy and cold. BF said that he wanted to tour the Big F*cking Thing we'd seen in the car the day before, when we were going to the grocery store. It looked a bit like a pyramid on top of a tower, and the BF said something to the effect of, "Look at that Big F*cking Thing! Can we go inside?" An Internet search and a phone call confirmed that it was the George Washington Memorial Masonic Lodge, and one can, indeed, go inside for a tour. At first we thought that we were going to be the only people going, but it being President's Day, there was actually a fair-sized group of about 20.

We learned a lot about George Washington and the Freemasons that day, but I'm going to share my favorite little factoid. First, some background: The Freemasons is a fraternity--a gentlemen's club--of men who want to improve their minds, bodies, and spirits. One in five men in Washington's day was a Freemason; today it's more like 1 in 200, but they're still an active organization worldwide, especially in their charitable offshoots, like the Shriners. Lots of notable dudes were and are Freemasons, including 4 US presidents, and...

Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins, also known as the guys who landed on the moon.

See how this whole trip is tying together?

Those three men happen to be Master Freemasons. To set up a new Freemason Lodge, all you need are three Master Masons to open and close a meeting in the new lodge location. So, during the Apollo 11 space launch, the three astronauts established the first and only extra-terrestrial Freemason Lodge. If you're a Mason, you can join the so-called Moon Lodge, and go to their party every year in Texas.

So, this is what I gained from my trip to the nation's capital: a burning desire to know why someone hasn't yet made an off-off Broadway musical called "Masons in Space!"

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