Sunday, June 14, 2009

Fear and Loathing at Mount Vernon

Me and guided tours do not often mix well, or at least have had a less than glowing history. They are the kind of activity I get dragged along to which makes me want to wear Hawaiian shirts and keep a sharp eye out for bats while walking around in a bowlegged fashion. I've been to Mr. Jefferson's house so many times one can't help but call on and compare the steely looks of the nice southern ladies -- their smiles designed to display pearly white teeth capable of taking my nose off with the veraciousness of Danny DeVito playing the Penguin -- when I ask about "the slaves." This was a sport for my teens, but even when I was littler I was quite capable of being a shit on such tours. I can recall one guided tour through the Luray Caverns, where the line was so long through the narrow tunnels that by being somewhere near the middle, I could make up names for rock formations and the people behind me would continue to point them out, not knowing any better since they couldn't hear the real tour guide talking up ahead.

But now it seems of I've become a reasonable mature member of the tourist herd. That or being engaged to a tour guide with a tendency to drive around with broad swords in her car has put me in my place. Whatever the case, I went to Mount Vernon today and behaved myself quite well.

1. At no point in the presence of a tour guide did I...
a) ask where they keep Washington's pimp wagon (because seriously, the guy's presidential carriage was tricked out).
b) I didn't follow said question with a comment about Washington's mad "grill."

(However, when my sister asked what his cause of death was, I did suggest gingivitis.)

2. When discovering the stain glass mural in the main entrance to the grounds which displayed many great moment's from Washington's life (yes, including the damn cherry tree) I did not respond to its suggestion of Catholic Sainthood with any number of possible jokes from the subtle "blessed was Saint Washington" to the full on Reverend Cory Fallswell mode, preaching how all must "give your mon-NAAAY to the holy concession stands, so that YOU can savor the cherry FLAVOR of our presidential savior!"

3. When waiting in the hour plus long line to Washington's house with the couple behind me talking about Demon Seed, I did not offer that maybe the guy's wife didn't like the film because it is all about a robotic house trying to rape a housewife played by Julie Christie and that most wives don't like movies about being raped by houses.

4. I completely ignored the children's wooden guns that were being sold EVERYWHERE. Didn't even touch one.

5. I didn't ask the gift shop people for an Axe.

6. I didn't make any references to thee Jaws Universal Studios ride while on the boat tour.

7. I never brought up the Free Masons. This in itself isn't that shocking since, really, I don't care about Free Masons. I'm pretty indifferent about the whole lot more or less, and I only bring it up because I found the utter lack of masonry involved in the construction of his house hilarious. It looks like it is made from large bricks, but it's actually all wood painted over with a sand based substance to make it look like stone, complete with indentations in the boards to give a brickwork pattern. HGTV was also not addressed.

So yeah, I behaved. Go me.

It's not that I have any real grudge with Washington, or Jefferson for that matter. But I'm not a touristy person. I hate lines. I hate being out in the hot sun. I hate people talking to me in a very robotic fashion, while other people are gathering behind me to hear the same thing again after I proceed on to the next room. Things like this more me to maddness about 85% of the time if not more, so I become a bit evil to stay sane. Yet I've learned to keep it mostly to myself (or at least, hold off to share them on my blog it would seem).

Finally, having been to Washington's house, I can say that the Monticello people really have their act way more together, despite my teasing them for taking things so seriously. Go them for putting up with my asshattery and always having an answer to questions I'm sure they want to kill every annoying hippy/punk kid or Princess Diana grave robbing adult for bringing up for the eighteenth time that afternoon. If anyone is planning a trip to Mount Vernon and sees a long line to the house, SKIP IT. They rush you through, its not a terribly interesting house on the inside, and only one of the four respectable questions that I asked (pertaining mostly to furniture) were the guides able to fully answer. And, you really need to ask questions on the house tour to get a lot out of it, because in a couple of the larger rooms I was able to stick around to hear the compartmentalized guides repeat their rehearsed information and discovered that sometimes really, really cool details about the rooms were not covered when someone asked and only if someone asked (tip: look for and enquirer about the large key on the wall in the glass case). I'm not trying to rag on the place and the people. Everyone was nice, but you really will get more out of the grounds and going to the museum and the other activities offered than waiting all day to walk through the lower levels of his house. If your heart is set on it, then apparently it's a lot better to see the house in December (less people and you get to go to the third floor then). Also, if you've got all day, then yeah, why not? But if you're making a long drive to check it out, I think there is a lot more to be experienced doing everything except going inside.


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