D.C. has changed since last inauguration
Published: Sunday, January 9, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 8, 2005 at 11:00 p.m.
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Smith Point, a preppy bar in Georgetown, has become the fave hangout of the presidential daughters, Jenna and Barbara Bush. The Wonkette is now the online gossipmeister of the nation's capital. Pennsylvania Avenue is once again a pedestrian plaza in front of the White House. New museums and memorials have opened to commemorate spies, American Indians and the World War II generation. The Washington Monument has closed for fortification.
Ah, what changes people attending President Bush's second swearing-in ceremony on Jan. 20 will find in this historic city since his first inauguration.
Not that everything that fascinates visitors falls into the realm of the historic.
For instance, the Bush twins, having reached legal drinking age during their father's first term, regularly join their cohorts in the basement bar called Smith Point at 1338 Wisconsin Ave. in the trendy Georgetown neighborhood. When dinner time turns to drinking and dancing time, a Smith Point doorman goes on duty to screen entrants.
Named for a landmark on the Massachusetts island of Nantucket, the club attracts a clean-cut, late-night crowd in khakis and blazers and not-too-revealing skirts and tops. Coincidentally, it has been open about as long as Jenna's and Barbara's dad has been in the White House.
A good way to keep up on sightings of the twins and other gossipy goings-on in Washington is to log onto www.Wonkette.com several times a day. During the first Bush term, the Wonkette - a.k.a. Ana Marie Cox - has become a cyberspace cultural spy of sorts in the capital city.
''I'm the expert on talking dirty, I guess. I think people love to read it,'' she explained on CNN's ''Reliable Sources.'' ''I'm a media vampire. I completely rely on other people to do all the real legwork. I get a lot of tips from reporters who have something that they can't use.''
Not just reporters but bartenders, congressional aides, White House staffers, party-goers, makeup artists, cabbies and waiters regularly phone or e-mail their on-the-scene reports to the Wonkette, who promptly posts them in her blog. For tourists, it can be a real-time, albeit often profane, guide on where to go to eat and drink and gawk.
Here's an example of a sighting: ''We saw Owen Wilson, just like everyone else, on Saturday early afternoon on M Street in Georgetown in front of la Madeleine (gross, hope he wasn't eating there) talking on a cell phone. His hair is super blond, blonder than usual, but you can't mistake that nose. No one seemed to recognize him or act as if they did. He's cuter in person than in 'Starsky and Hutch.' "
In this spirit of surveillance, the nation's capital is now home to the International Spy Museum, which bills itself as ''the first and only public museum in the United States solely dedicated to espionage and the only one in the world to provide a global perspective on this all-but-invisible profession.''
The private museum opened in 2002. It's exhibits feature tools of spycraft ranging from a lipstick pistol to an Enigma cipher machine to miniature cameras. There are belongings taken from the wreckage of Francis Gary Powers U-2 spy plane that was shot down over the then-Soviet Union in 1960. The cultural aspects of spying are displayed through objects and depictions from James Bond movies, the ''Mission Impossible'' films and TV series, and the sitcom ''Get Smart.''
In its first special exhibition, the museum is exploring ''Terror in America.'' It shows that terrorist attacks did not start on Sept. 11, 2001. The artifacts include J. Edgar Hoover's telephone, a bright red Ku Klux Klan robe and wreckage from a plane that hit the World Trade Center.
The International Spy Museum is located at 800 F Street NW, directly across the street from the National Portrait Gallery and near the Gallery Place/Chinatown Metro Station serviced by the red, yellow, and green lines. Admission is $13 for adults, $10 for children aged 5 to 18, and free for children under 5. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The most historic change on the Washington landscape during Bush's first term was the opening of the World War II Memorial on the National Mall. Located about midway between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument, the 7.4-acre oval of granite and bronze cost $172 million to build and honors America's beloved ''Greatest Generation.''
''At this place, at this memorial, we acknowledge a debt of long standing to an entire generation of Americans - those who died, those who fought and worked and grieved and went on,'' said President Bush at the dedication on Memorial Day.
''They saved our country, and thereby saved the liberty of mankind.''
At its north and south entrances, the memorial features 43-foot archways that represent the Atlantic and Pacific theaters of the war. Inside the sunken oval between these arches, there is a wall of gold stars. Each of the 4,000 stars represents 100 American deaths. There are also 56 pillars surrounding this central plaza, representing all the states and territories at the time of the war.
Most of the 16 million Americans who served in uniform during World War II did not live to see their memorial. Only about 4 million were alive for the official dedication, and these vets die at a rate of more than 1,000 a day.
Near this newest memorial is the Washington Monument - now closed and surrounded by a fence. Concentric rings of concrete barriers are being built around the obelisk as part of tightened security in the wake of Sept. 11.
Within Washington, the Smithsonian Institution has had a couple of openings since the last presidential inauguration.
The National Museum of the American Indian opened in September on the National Mall. ''Visitors will leave the museum experience knowing that Indians are not just a part of history. We are still here and are making vital contributions to contemporary American culture and art,'' said founding director W. Richard West, a Cheyenne tribesman.
The museum's textured, golden limestone exterior and 40 giant boulders or ''grandfather rocks'' are an architectural contrast to nearby government structures. The museum contains more than 8,000 objects - everything from a totem pole to exhibits about gambling casinos on reservations.
Admission is free, but passes are required. Same day passes are available starting at 10 a.m. at the museum.
With Americans in battle abroad, the inauguration will salute not only the commander-in-chief but also the nation's military forces. This theme is also followed at a new permanent exhibition which opened on Veterans Day at the Smithsonian Museum of American History on the National Mall.
Along with George Washington's uniform as commander of the Continental Army and other such epic relics, the everyday icons of ordinary soldiers are included in ''The Price of Freedom: Americans at War.''
The exhibit features the camp chairs that Gens. Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee sat on at Appomattox Court House, Va., as the Confederacy surrendered to end the Civil War. But also displayed are primitive sharpened sticks called ''punji stakes'' that the Viet Cong used to booby-trap American soldiers in the jungles of Vietnam. There is the buckskin jacket worn by Gen. George Armstrong Custer before the Battle of Little Big Horn. And there is also ordinary Iraqi currency with pictures of Saddam Hussein that another generation of American soldiers collected as souvenirs after the fall of Baghdad.
The new $19 million Military History Hall presents ''a sweeping and memorable overview of America's military experience and the central role it has played in our national life,'' said Brent Glass, director of the National Museum of American History.
Finally, earlier this fall, First Lady Laura Bush officially reopened the stretch of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW between the White House and Lafayette Park. Although security concerns cut off vehicular traffic years ago, the newly landscaped plaza is open to pedestrian traffic.
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