Fulbright riffs, 1991 — day 64, Thursday August 1st
Rowland is attending a Peace Camp in Washington that lasts until Sunday. We have a hotel room booked in central DC. We set off in the Oldsmobile at 8.30 calling first at the Maplewood post office, where we bump into Joe (Great Swamp Joe) who has narrowly avoided breaking his foot unloading filing cabinets from lorries.
The four-and-a-half hour drive down the New Jersey Turnpike via Baltimore is uneventful, punctuated by a staggeringly awful breakfast at a service station. I never thought there could be anything worse than the British equivalent.
We arrive in Washington in brilliant sunshine, Crawford’s Statue of Freedom atop the Congress building glowing above the government buildings and Library of Congress. Rowland drops me outside the Madison Building where I am met by Wynn Mathias, Gerry Gibson having sent his apologies. We adjourn to the canteen as it’s his lunch break. I unwrap my own salmon sandwich, which may have been a mistake as the filling has been in Rowland’s dodgy fridge for a couple of days. My stomach starts to feel delicate. I learn a new phrase in the canteen: ‘please bus your tray’.
Wynn hands me over to the affable George Kipper who guides me around the basement playback area. It’s an impressive set-up, fairly empty of researchers in this holiday month. There is so much to look at that I decide to come back tomorrow as the library closes at 5pm.
I take a walk from the Congress buildings down Capitol hill to the Botanical Garden with its bromeliads, flamboyant cannae “Lucifer” and orchids.
Away from the civic area, built uniformly about 100 years ago, the streets quickly degenerate and again I am wary of crime figures, but vibrancy and character quickly resume at Chinatown on H Street, which is where our hotel, the Hyatt Regency, is located. (It looks surprisingly similar to the Hyatt in Brighton). Beyond reception a white-suited piano player plays unobtrusive melodies on a white boudoir grand in the middle of a blue lagoon. Tasteful. The room is comfortable and spacious but the corners are already filling up with squashed tin cans, thanks to Rowland’s recycling obsession.
I write to Jayne on the above postcard showing the Library of Congress, telling her more or less what I’ve just written here, then venture out into the cooler evening air for a Burmese meal. The jovial waiter, Zarni, explains the menu and fortunately my appetite has recovered so I can relish the spicy feast of fish cakes with Kokang sauce, papaya salad and sour mustard plant (a bit like Sauerkraut) with chicken and a substantial bowl of boiled rice. It’s all washed down with tea as they’ve run out of Chinese beer. Zarni gives me the address of his cousin’s restaurant in New York.
Relaxing back in the hotel before Rowland gets in, I watch some gems on CNN: a static surfing wave machine; 10th anniversary of MTV (38 Madonna and Rod Stewart videos); a new fashion craze — gunshot jeans from Tennessee.