11 May 2009

In and around Washington DC

It's always nice to travel around and see new things. And the capital city of a nation is always a good place to be - especially if the nation involved is, for now, still the greatest superpower in the world.

Here are some sights I saw in and around the Washington, DC area over the past few days, that would be of interest to Sarah.

The National Gallery of Art, located toward the northeast end of the Mall, is the premier depository of fine art in the US. It normally handles American and European art, but I could find a small section containing hundreds of Chinese porcelain objects.

And what would a Chinese porcelain section be, without a likeness of Kwan Yin, the transgender Goddess of Mercy?

Here is something more typical of National Gallery of Art - a famous French sculpture.

Although there is nothing transgender about Auguste Rodin's famous Le Penseur, I had to throw it in, because in an early draft of a scene I wrote very early on, Sarah was supposed to nag Kirsten about her lesbianism while touring the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art together. The two would come across a smaller likeness of this sculpture, and Sarah would talk about how embarrassed the guy would feel, sitting naked and showing off his goods to someone who couldn't care less. Of course, back then, Sarah was supposed to be boycrazy, but since then, I've turned her into a hardcore lesbian herself too.

For all the muscle mass, Le Penseur isn't too well-endowed. Honestly, I think Sarah's pre-op body is better endowed, though at this time she should be under the knife, turning her oversized clit into a smaller clit AND a vagina.

Across the Mall, the Freer Gallery of Art is where most Asian collections are stored. Freer is part of the Smithsonian system, and is located next to the Smithsonian Castle. I do have to say, however, that Washington, DC is not the best place to see lots of Asian art - that's better done in other American cities, in Europe, and obviously in Asia.

Here is a likeness of Shiva, sprouting multiple sets of arms. Shiva's wife, Shakti, is often considered to be a different aspect of the same Shiva, and the two are often fused into one body (though I couldn't find such an example today). Kwan Yin takes both her transgender history and her multiple arms from Shiva.

Here is a Nepalese rendition of a male Avalokitesvara. And yes, he's got six arms.

Here is a 12th Century Kwan Yin, hailing from the Kingdom of Dali, which occupied what is now today's Yunnan Province, China. She certainly looks female, but she does have an exposed male torso.

This statue certainly reminded me of the one I had seen over at South Korea's greatest Buddhist temple, Bulguksa. Bulguksa's Kwan Yin looked a lot like this, except that she actually had a very nice six-pack on her very masculine torso.

Another Chinese Kwan Yin. Dating from about 703 (Tang dynasty, near Xi'an), this Kwan Yin is sprouting eleven faces. Unfortunately, most of the faces have been mutilated. Also notable is one exposed, rather flat boob.

Another Kwan Yin. This one is from Northern Song Dynasty, dated 1095, and depicts Kwan Yin of the Water Moon, who takes a special significance in Chan Buddhism (which is better known by its Japanese name, Zen).

The inscription says that those who look up to this likeness of Kwan Yin will be spared from the pain of having his/her father pass away early.

I toured a few more museums while I waited for a local friend (Karen Bradley of Democracy Cell Project) to return to her place, a mile east of the Capitol. I somehow ended up at the National Air & Space Museum, at the extreme southeast corner of the Mall, and the most popular Smithsonian museum. This was my third visit.

There is a section devoted to commercial aviation, and I am looking at an exhibit showcasing progress made by women in the industry. From the 1970s on, women started working as pilots. And as shown here, pregnant women could still fly as flight attendants. The uniform was issued by United Airlines in the early 1990s, and was the first official maternity flight attendant uniform.

Sarah certainly has no use for a maternity uniform, but it's glad to know that the flight attendant profession now has the room to accommodate the likes of her.

Time for a look at the life of a 1950s air stewardess. The mirror and the checklist show all the things that a 1950s air stewardess had to go through, in order to carry out her work.

In addition, an air stewardess had to be between 5'2" and 5'6" tall and under 125 pounds. She also had to be single, attractive to the point of being just below Hollywood standards, under early 30s, and of course female. A two-year college degree and/or a nursing credential was also required. I don't think Sarah could meet any of these requirements.

These requirements were dismantled starting in the 1960s, thanks to the civil rights laws of the era. In the 1970s, larger, more fuel-efficient aircraft appeared, not only increasing demand for flight attendants (and the clout of the flight attendant unions) but also allowing the masses - not just businessmen - to take to the skies. Flight attendants were seen as less of pretty faces/sex toys for the businessmen, and more of safety professionals to cater to the needs of the new air travelers.

Here is the first Boeing 247 built. It was one of many models that were launched by the airline that Sarah now calls home. (And just a few days ago, I flew on the last of that long lineage - the Boeing 777.) Early on, it competed in the England-to-Australia air race, before returning to United duty.

Notable is the United route map of the era, which ran east from Chicago to New York, and west to Denver and San Francisco, and from there up and down the West Coast. The current United network still uses Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, and San Francisco as key hubs, though the main East Coast hub is now Washington-Dulles, and New York is only a minor footnote.

This section is also populated by a number of other aircraft. One is the nose of an American DC-7 with the registration number of N334AA. That registration was re-used on a Boeing 767 in 1987, but that 767 was the first plane to be hijacked on September 11, 2001. Another noteworthy exhibit - and a new sight to me - is the nose of N601US, Northwest's first 747, which flew from 1970 to 1999. The cockpit is open to the public, but due to the height of the 747, entry is from the upper level rather than the ground level.

The gift shop has these flight attendant pictorial books for sale. The middle one is discounted to $8.

I picked up both books. The photos certainly hark back to an era when the profession of air stewardess was considered very desirable and prestigious. Unfortunately, the reality was that flight attendants of the era were little more than sex objects, especially noted in the micro-miniskirt uniforms of the late 1960s. I did see a photo of United flight attendants wearing early 1970s colorful minidress uniforms; mercifully, those minidresses were of respectable length.

It is a nice era when a tall transgender woman in her 30s, in a lesbian marriage, is more than able to get and keep her flight attendant position, and even climb up the seniority ladder, using nothing more than her expertise and friendly personality. All the best to Sarah!

I didn't buy this one, but I took a photo anyway. It is a United Airlines Boeing 737-300 in the airline's current "Rhapsody in Blue" paint job. The 737s are being phased out due to fuel costs, however. And if I needed a scale-model United airliner, I'd pick the 777 instead, preferably in the 1990s "Battleship Gray" paint job and sporting the "Worldwide Service" slogan on the nose. After all, that's how I often showed up in some of the world's greatest cities - including Washington, DC this time.

I soon caught up with Karen afterwards. She told me that her transgender cousin, Aaron Raz Link (whose memoir, What Becomes You, gives a very fresh angle into the trans experience), is now based in Southern California. Maybe I need to meet him, say hi, and talk about various trans issues.

In addition, I had a blast in Arlington, visiting its Unitarian church and meeting up with my trans lesbian contact there. I ended up visiting Freddie's, northern Virginia's greatest LGBT hangout, with a group of lesbians. I'll be returning to Freddie's one more time, for its weekly karaoke night, before my time in the area is up.


Anonymous said...

The photo of the maternity uniform (United) is not a flight attendant uniform but a female pilot's maternity uniform.
Flight Attendant
Tucson, AZ

Rachel said...

Thanks for the correction.

Either the caption was wrong or I read it wrong. I was under the impression that the uniform was for a flight attendant (though the cap would indicate otherwise, now that I look at it again).

I do know that United has more female pilots than any other airline in the world. Hoping that one of them will fly my flight today - which will be in just seven hours.

Anonymous said...

There are more and more female Pilots these days. It's great. Most are very professional and friendly. I really look forward to a trip when I see one or both of my pilots are female.

Hope you had a great trip!

Flight Attendant
Tucson, AZ

Rachel said...

Thanks for your comment again.

I've had a good number of UAL women pilots in the past. Had three on my last transoceanic run - San Francisco to Seoul in 2004. Two on the outbound, one back.

Always nice to see womensfolk fly even the big iron. And also to see them fly to places where male supremacy is still the rule.

Thanks again.