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day 1 in DC

so i’m a little behind on posting, but here’s what i did on friday, my first day in DC. it was a pretty full day–but, using the ever-handy bullet-point system, i’ll try to highlight a few of the cooler things from each of my stops.

  • a tour of the capitol. i wrote my representative and her aide offered me staff-led tour of the capitol (note: because it was my House rep, i only got to see the House side of things. meeting up with the Senate aide Monday for the other half).

    congressmen and women walk/run where the yellow arrow is; everyone else, by the red arrow

  • the congresspersons’ offices are connected to the capitol via underground tunnels–and in this tunnel there is a special section just for the congressmen and woman—so they can (literally) RUN to the floor when a vote gets called. in fact, a bell rings in the building to let everyone know the vote has started and apparently, they book it down there.
  • i thought they voted by roll call, but nope, they vote by this button that’s on the edge of each aisle. there’s far fewer buttons than members of the House, so there is some clamoring and shoving to get in there on time (or so i hear 😉
  • around the House are the busts of many famous lawmakers (ancients mostly, like hammurabi). then there is Moses–he faces the chambers directly as the original law bringer.

after the capitol, i moseyed on over to the supreme court

  • first of all, let it be known that i ATE LUNCH IN THE SUPREME COURT CAFETERIA. yes. along with a herd of other tourists, but still. i ate lunch there 😀

    old supreme court (in US Capitol)

  • ok so about the tour of the supreme court–by far my favorite part of the day. love that place. the tour guide was super knowledgeable. the supreme court didn’t have its own building for a LONG TIME (they were housed in a spare room at the capitol for a long time. that’s the picture  on the right — its the old SC in the capitol — set up the way it used to be. if you are wondering why the chairs dont match, its because each justice can choose their own chair, and they can take it with them when they go. o’connor donated hers. i’d bedazzle mine.
  • Then Taft (the only president who also served as chief justice) became CJ, and he knew enough about the politics of acquisition to push on his friends in high places to get congress to give money for the building of a court. he argued that as a separate branch, they needed a separate facility. seems smart to me! the whole project came in $100,000 under budget, due to plummeting costs of goods during the great depression. the court tried to give the money back to congress, but congress said they didn’t want it, and the court could use it for decor. (so many comments, so little time)
  • the supreme court is the highest court in the land–but on the roof DIRECTLY above the chamber is a basketball court… so maybe that’s the highest court in the land really. (no one is allowed to play during sessions because you can hear the ball bouncing).
  • the supreme court has its own in-house publishing house where its opinions and decisions get published. they used to use the central government printer’s office, but apparently they had a problem with decisions being leaked before the court had announced the verdicts. that didn’t go down well, of course, so the court decided it needed to keep its material in-house. why would you risk spilling the beans on the country’s top lawyers-turned-judges? isn’t that way risky? anyway, i thought that fact was interesting.
  • the whole supreme court part of the day made me want to go to law school again. as in, it made me want again to go. not go-again as in i-have-already-been-once. because i haven’t.

and finally, i visited the library of congress. oh my word. such a gorgeous building—and we had such a good tour guide!

  • my favorite thing about the LC is that its open to any cardholder, and anyone over the age of 16 can get a card. you just have to have a research project–but apparently that includes high school projects! thats so great! when i worked at the british library, i was definitely aware of a kind of elitism about those who were given cards. i love america, what can i say.
  • of the entire LC staff, there is a contingency (i think about 300 people?) who are entirely devoted to research for congressmen and women.
  • thomas jefferson’s library is housed in the LC—and if you can prove you need that exact book to look at, they will fetch it for you and you can look through it!
  • the design and decor of the LC is tremendous and simply wonderful. i can’t even convey it all—but one thing i really loved was this: the whole thing is meant to be after the greco-roman tradition, so the staircases were embellished with little cherubs. but the architect and designers were adamant: these were american cherubs, so they weren’t lazing about in clouds, doing nothing at all. no, they were american, by gum.  hardworking and industrious. consequently, there is a gardener cherub, an engineer cherub, a musician cherub, a scholar cherub, and (yes) and entomologist cherub. he studies butterflies. hilarious right? i love it.

well, that’s all for now—i know this was a blitz through all this stuff. when the trip is over, i’m going to try and put everything together in a more comprehensive (and coherent) way. i’ll have it all up in  my picasa/google album for your viewing pleasure. or just your viewing 🙂

The BEST holidays

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