- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 7, 2002

Tourism is down in the city, flying manhole covers are up, and Doug Hill is in search of the last 10-flake blizzard of the winter.
Spring is in the air, and the feel-good appeal from the Washington Convention and Tourism Corporation is: Please come to our city. We're not as unfriendly as it appears.
We photograph, we ticket and we tow. However, we do not bite, with the exception of Mike Tyson, who is seeking permission to showcase his well-known eating habits here.
As Tyson's supporters point out, there's nothing like the atmosphere of a heavyweight fight, especially if one of the participants has a "constellation of neurological deficits." As far as freak shows go, it beats paying two bits to see the bearded lady.
Otherwise, Washington has plenty of breathtaking sights, if it is possible to reach them from behind the ubiquitous concrete barriers. Most cities plant trees. Washington plants concrete barriers.
Washington seemingly shuts down one roadway a day. The rest are under construction. The city has two official emblems: the orange cone and the concrete barrier. You're out of luck if you come across one or the other.
Most up-to-date maps of Washington are enhanced with detailed footnotes. The maps show where everything is, plus rate each monument or memorial by the number of concrete barriers around it. A four-concrete-barrier rating is the highest, a must-see site, if you possibly can solve the mazelike restrictions.
Washington also has two rivers, three if you count the frequent breaks in its prehistoric system of water pipes.
Washington requests that you not feed the pets, the rodents in particular. They have their own special diets, mostly leftover fast food and grease. As the teary-eyed members of PETA note, vermin have needs and feelings, too.
The city is hoping the National Cherry Blossom Festival, beginning later this month, prompts a surge of cash-carrying visitors.
See the trees in all their glorious color. Incur a parking ticket.
Check out the U.S. Capitol. Resist the urge to put rabbit ears on the talking heads using it as a backdrop.
You are advised to be careful around the diplomats, particularly on Massachusetts Avenue. They have the freedom to navigate as they please. A diplomat's license comes with only one stipulation: "Let your conscience be your guide." They are allowed to park anywhere they like, even in the middle of a street if they are in a hurry, and they usually are.
There is no truth to the rumor that Mayor Anthony A. Williams is considering a proposal to stick a camera by each hotel bed, possibly to measure the rapid-eye movements of our visitors while they sleep. We care; therefore, we take pictures.
No one loves photography more than the city's leaders, and that includes the Japanese, most of whom refuse to go out in public unless they have three or four cameras dangling from their necks.
The city is making strides, assuming Rep. Gary A.Condit of California is making plans to move away after losing his Democratic primary Tuesday night. We hardly knew you, Gary. Fortunately, we are still around to be thankful for that.
The city is more diverse than ever, and classy in spots, starting with the newspaper carriers in bow ties stationed along various intersections across the city.
As always, our homeless will work for food. Our leaders merely impose quality-of-life fines for theirs.
The Rev. Al Sharpton drops into town on occasion, mostly to exercise his vocal chords and pose for pictures. Incidentally, he takes a very good picture these days after losing a considerable amount of weight in Puerto Rico. If he fails to become the next president, he could open a weight-loss clinic.
Washington is not really a bad city, just a place stuck between the post-September 11 fallout and the bureaucratic proclivity to squeeze as many dollars as possible out of the citizenry.
It is a public service. Wink, wink.

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