Friday, October 07, 2005

Hell on Wheels...

So around 6:30 this evening, after a brief sprinkle, I throw a leg over the fixie and head into DC via the Custis trail to catch a documentary called Darwin’s Nightmare. The film is the first of several in a three-day series sponsored by Amnesty International and held at the National Geographic Society Headquarters, Grosvenor Auditorium (see previous blog entry for more details).

From the trail, I take Key Bridge into Gee Town and begin to pedal east up M Street. Almost immediately, I hit a line of stalled cars that stretches for blocks on both sides of the street. Not that unusual, it is rush hour. As I weave through traffic, I notice up ahead what I take to be an errant patch of fog. Then the pungent smell of burning rubber hits me, and I realize that the fog I’m rolling into is actually smoke, billowing towards me and filling the street. I kick up the pace a bit, hoping to blast quickly through it while trying to breathe as little of the acrid fumes as possible. Presently, I see that a throng has gathered on the sidewalk up ahead of me. A few quick pedal strokes and I’m on the scene: an SUV is ablaze on the other side of the street, flames engulfing the engine compartment and roaring out from all sides, tires bubbling, the whole thing forming a literal ball of fire. The spectacle is surreal, like a scene, I imagine, out of modern day Iraq or Palestine, minus the instigating blast. And me without my camera. I try to rubberneck a bit as I pass, but the traffic is acting even more chaotic than usual for the area: oncoming cars whip u-turns in the middle of the nearest intersection to avoid the jam, horns blow, vehicles inch up to fill any available gaps--a lengthy lapse in attention might send me caroming off a sideview mirror. One more look, and I hit it hard; don’t want to be around when the gas tank goes supernova, something the gawkers gathered directly across the street apparently aren’t thinking about.

Another block, and at last I see DC’s finest rolling down Potomac Street, pulling up short at the intersection with M because a Metrobus is blocking the lane. I continue on, half expecting to hear an explosion and screams of panic, but nothing happens.

I locate the NGS HQ, conveniently placed right on M street, lock up the bike, and take my light in with me to grab my ticket. I’ve got 15 minutes to spare, which is cool, because I need to pound an energy bar to get me through the show. Bar gone, I grab a seat and settle in. After a speech by Philip Bennett, Managing Editor at The Washington Post, about the critical role of the media in uncovering the abuses of global power (there’s your irony), the lights dim and the movie begins.

(Quick film synopsis to follow. Next up for viewing is State of Fear, which uses Peru as a backdrop to discuss the balancing act that occurs when a country is faced with maintaining the rights associated with a democracy while trying to fight a “war on terror.” I recommend it. And worry not, while there’s a disgraceful dearth of bike racks in the area, the railings outside the auditorium accommodate u-locks quite nicely.)

1 comment:

DT said...

Nice! Digging the BIG MEATS logo, turned out really well.