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August 22–25, 2002 — Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, MD

Happy Birthday to Me!

John and I had a great last weekend in Washington, D.C. We first headed down on Amtrak for a Thursday night rendezvous with long-time art bear friend Jim Adams and his partner of just about 10 years Joseph Dress. A delightful fun-filled couple they kept their eyes propped open after a busy week and toured us around a few of D.C.’s monuments. We got out of the car at the Vietnam Memorial to walk along its ground-lit pathway. Very cool with scaled walls sloping towards a tall center and receding again as you go up the path. The walls of this memorial are cut into the earth and at the highest point hold back a 10-foot wall of earth. Each panel is chiseled with names of men who have been confirmed as perished in the war. I didn’t know that the Vietnam War began in 1959! This was a great walk at night. Spooky ground-lit pathway, a few lights in the distance, and quiet.

We then walked on to the Lincoln Memorial and ascended the steps to the giant sculpture of Abraham Lincoln. One wall is chiseled with the Gettysburg Address (which I had never read before) and I forget what was on the other, and there’s color murals at the top of each wall. Lincoln looks pretty cool up close. Some TV show about DC was shooting out front.

It was funny about DC because I had seen all this stuff in movies before, and never really had much interest in it, but once it was right in front of me I felt like checking it out. It’s sort of like seeing an actor on TV and then seeing that person on the street and even if you’re not really into that actor it’s exciting to see them. Kinda.

The next day we woke up early and took the train to the Holocaust Museum, which I had been reading about for awhile. The entrance was pretty wild, with elevators that sort of seem like gas chamber doors closing. Each visitor is asked to pick up an ‘I.D. Card’ which has a photo and life description of someone who lived during the Nazi regime. My guy lived.

When you exit on the 4th floor for the permanent Holocaust exhibit, a large photo of American soldiers surveying a pile of corpses and wood in a pit at the Ohrdruf concentration camp is the big splash entrance. To the left are a few gray and black striped prisoners outfits in a triangular class case, and then it begins with the Nazi rise to power, including some images in color I hadn’t seen.

The Holocaust in color really brings it right up to the present. In black and white, it seems long ago, far away. In color, it seems like today and helps with the realization that Poland wasn’t a bunch of people living in the fields harvesting, that the Jews weren’t all chassidim, etc. Europe was a fairly modern world and Warsaw was a major hub. Incredible stuff. The beginning of the self-guided tour is a little claustrophobic, shoving everybody down a narrow glassed-in hallway, but I think that’s the point.

We spent six hours here total. And it wasn’t enough time. I had made it to the Partisans exhibit on the 2nd floor and was excited to read about the Death Marches when they shut off all the sets and kicked us out. I also couldn’t make it to the Hall of Remembrance with all the candles and the names of the six death camps. I really wanted to light a candle there on my birthday. And Leni Reifenstahl turned 100 the day before I turned 34!

I’m looking forward to going back. I read every little placard, spent a few moments on almost every image on the way down through the exhibit. There are some changes I would make if I were involved in this exhibit, but overall it’s pretty classy. Although there are a few things visitors are allowed to believe, like the train car that you walk through was an actual car used to transport “pieces” (the Nazi word for Jewish human being), when it’s really just an authentic rail car, and wasn’t used for transporting Jews (although I couldn’t really get the real story behind this car. I just didn’t notice any numbers painted on it which the Nazis did for a few reasons).

My favorite exhibit was the sculpture by Mieczyslaw Stobierski, a scale model of Krema II (Crematorium II) at Birkenau (also known as Auschwitz II). This is actually a recreation of the one at the State Museum of Auschwitz, and this original was seen in Claude Lanzmann’s film “Shoah.”

A pretty cool museum with a couple things I could see being made a bit more important, but the people walking through were pretty quiet and there were a few crying people so people get out of it what they do. And I was able to spend six full hours and still had about 20% more to see in the permanent exhibition alone so it’s a pretty dense collection.

On Saturday we trained via Acela (which is better if you want to spend a few extra bucks) to Baltimore for the Weekend, in time to catch Douglas Clegg reading from his autobiographical horror novel “The Hour Before Dark” which is due out sometime in September. Doug’s readings and speakings are always great. He’s got a great voice and his humor spikes up during his readings and talks carrying them well above just reading the stuff at home. We couldn’t check in to our room until 3pm and we were pretty bushed so we choked down some amazingly gross hotel food, wandered through the dealers room, caught the Gerard Houarner and Tom Piccirilli reading and finally crashed for a little bit.

One of the cool things about Brian Keene’s Weekend convention is the amount of ultra-die-hard horror fans that show up. The costumes were really incredible. The main winner of the whole contest was this big scarecrow guy, complete with broken scarecrow cross and crow on his back. He had stilts and moved really fast. Amazing. And much to the ‘horror’ of the horror fans one man dressed up as Adolf Hitler, missing only the swastika on the armband, leaving it white instead. The guy obviously had some oddness in his brain and we shot a quick pic together. He won for Best Period Costume, but there was a noticeable silence when he walked up. He MUST know that people would freak out this, in a way that even Osama bin Ladin doesn’t cause gasps. Bruce Campbell (the actor serving as one of the judges) asked him why he was dressed like that and the guy replied, “I am the greatest monster of all!”

So we had tons of fun and hit the parties at night but were just too tired and crashed, and sadly learned that there was absinthe about which was broken out moments after we crashed. C’est la vie. We had a nice time at Rod Gudino of Rue Morgue’s party and it was really a great time overall. I love seeing all these people and found a new fan too! This one guy, George, just gushed all over me in his praise for Funeral Party, which is just swell to hear. He said he had also visited the Holocaust Museum but he was on acid at the time so he had a little bit of a different experience than we did.

A fairly uneventful trip back on the train except for the unfortunance of sitting across from a horrible couple who just bitched at each other the entire 3-hour journey back. The guy was just fucking gross and looked like a lawyer or something, and his lil’ blondie wife kept trying to read her romance novel. Yuck. John and I finally started talking loudly about them, hoping they would shut the fuck up, but his needing to shit on his wife took precedence and no matter what nasty comments John and I came up with, his relentless cruelty towards his wife would not cease.

Well, we had more fun than them anyway, and I had a great birthday!