“Washington is a city of Southern efficiency
and Northern charm.”
— John F. Kennedy
A few weeks ago we made a quick trip to Washington for a taping of NPR’s news quiz show “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me.” For those of you who have not discovered the show I must explain that this was the final show for Carl Kasell, the venerable newscaster who has been the show’s “official judge and scorekeeper” for years. The much-prized award for callers who answer correctly is having Carl record the message on their home answering machine. (He will continue to provide this prize even though the new judge/scorekeeper is “legendary newscaster Bill Curtis.”) The surprise party favors for the evening were a Carl Kasell tote bag and doll (with a pretty good likeness). The show is always fun, but this evening held extra charm and sentiment for the changing of the guard.
Our other entertainments included one old favorite and one new one. The National Zoo (one more branch of the Smithsonian) is the old favorite. When we lived in Maryland thirty-plus years ago we saw adult Giant Pandas there as the “hot” new residents. Now
there is a nine month old baby Panda, Bao Bao, who brings in the curious animal lovers. The adults still eat bushels of bamboo while looking very much at home, as if in the panda version of “man caves.” The zoo also has nine month old tiger cubs and two month old lion cubs (making public debut in June.) The young animals are wonderful ambassadors for the zoo’s conservation efforts. Cute works! You too can become a FONZ (Friend of National Zoo) at any time.
The new thing we did on this trip was visit the Newseum. This is a new museum dedicated to news reporting in all its variations. From the invention of the printing press to the latest internet options, you can see and hear examples of all the great (and not so great) developments in reporting in the US and around the world. From the street entrance you can read the current front pages from many of the world’s newspapers. On May 15 we read the sad story of the Bruins’ defeat from the Globe and the joyous, heroic tale of the Canadiens’ victory in the Montreal paper. Because it is all about news the exhibits here are lively and change frequently. Your ticket is valid for two days so you don’t have to try to see the entire collection in one visit. But Washington has many other enticements so don’t count on having time to come back on another day.
One thing to remember when planning a visit to Washington is that this is a very popular destination for school trips. We had clumps of teens all around us at both the zoo and the Newseum. All were well-behaved but they did increase the body count and the noise level. I am not saying avoid school trip season; it would be hard to say when schools would not be touring. Just don’t be surprised when you see large groups everywhere. Most of the attractions and museums in Washington are free and all are educational in many, many ways. It would be hard to find reasons not to go.
Boundaries divide. Travel unites.
5 June 2014