Washington Friday the 13th

We got out of the house about 8, and had a large and late breakfast in Cranberry PA around 9:30. It was an uneventful trip, mostly listening to Beck and Rush (the talkers, not the rockers) and paying way too freaking much to the PA Turnpike. We also visited a rest area in Frederick that positively screamed “Stimulus money.” But we hit DC too close to rush hour, the co-pilot was inefficient, and we ended up at Wolf Trap before correcting course.  We noticed that almost nobody on the Beltway drives an American car; and when they do it’s an SUV. Made it to Constitution Ave. and I thought, “What a boring city, nothing but monuments and parks.” We found DC Shore OK, but my directions from Mapquest to the church were done backwards and didn’t take into account one-way streets. We finally found out way to the National Shrine.

Oh. my. God.

I was sick with the beauty of the place, as if I’d eaten too much rich food. The very bulk of the building was imposing, but then the detail, the perfectly polished marble in the most obscure stairwell, the plethora of side chapels…. Rusty went nuts photographing Madonnas.  We were up in the basilica and somebody started playing organ. Now. I have never until now understood the power organ thing, that love of making a big sound. I’d thought it was an artifact of gay culture, maybe, a desire to get a thrill up your leg. But I heard a perfect match between the size of the space and the size of the organ sound, and I got it. I also got nervous, as the only way that organ could handle my Mass would be with a choir of a hundred or so. It turns out the concert is not in the basilica but in the Crypt Chapel, a more modest space with a baroqish organ which I got to hear at the end of Mass there.  Rusty asked one of the guides/minders about hotels, and he sent us out US1 to College Park. where we are domiciled in the Clarion, nice but a bit spendier than we’d wanted.  We hadn’t felt like lunch, and by 7:30 we were way past due for food, which ended up being Chipotle for lack of a clearly better alternative nearby. We also bought some cheap bathing suits as we hadn’t packed ours, and there’s a pool.


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