We drove into Washington DC Sunday evening the 4th of November to begin our adventure in the Nation’s Capital. It just so happens we timed it for that magical 4 yearly event called a National Election. In the home of The Whitehouse, Capitol Hill, the Lincoln Memorial, the Library of Congress we are sightseeing at Election Time! I know probably 97 per cent of Americans are sick and tired of this by now and I feel for them I really do but I’m gonna go ahead and admit that I find it all endlessly fascinating to watch. Perhaps the fact that this is not my home, not my politics combined with the whole American way of doing everything bigger, brighter, longer, louder, flashier with more money, more adverts, more debates, more passion, more strident fervour has enabled me to be a disconnected observer to the whole show (and it is entertainment when the decisions don’t affect you directly) and to marvel at the diversity of thoughts, opinions, at the open and blatant use of money to help win elections. But enough of that!
Onto more important things…Day 1 was Monday and a day of walking.
We started off my familiarising ourselves with the public transit system and catching the train to Arlington Cemetery. Which is in Virginia. The DC bit? District of Columbia? Turns out it’s pretty small and every time we catch a train we cross state borders. Cool huh? So anyway Arlington Cemetery in Virginia. Can’t say I have seen a plethora of cemeteries in my lifetime but of the ones I have seen? This one is the most poignant, visually appealing, most memorable cemetery I have ever been to. I have over the past few years developed a great respect for those who choose a career in the military – I may not respect the reasons behind them going to war but I do respect those who do go to war. It was pleasing to see such a respectful and beautiful resting place to honour those who have given their lives over for their own beliefs. We visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier which has an armed guard patrolling 24-7, 365 days per year. Full dress uniform, with a rifle, white gloves everything. They don’t even stop in a Superstorm apparently.
We also saw the Kennedy Memorial – resting place for Joseph, Bobby, John, Jackie, Patrick and Daughter. Some great quotes lined the area and I wondered how the world might have been different if John or Bobby had lived. It was a sombre but still strangely satisfying visit. I’m not sure why. I think I like the idea of the solace such a beautifully kept and clearly well attended place can provide for the living. I wonder if it’s of comfort to the living to know that they will be placed there amongst their friends and family when they pass. I don’t know but it felt right to me.
We moved on to walk across the famous Arlington Memorial Bridge to go check out the Lincoln Memorial. This is a massive marble building that would have felt right at home in Rome. Huge columns surrounding the place and inscribed at the top are the names of the 48 states present at the time of the Memorial’s dedication below that are the names of the 36 states in the Union at the time of Lincoln’s death and the dates in which they entered the Union.. It’s impressive. I was indeed impressed. Even more so by the 19 feet high statue sculpture of him sitting on his chair with the the words “IN THIS TEMPLE
AS IN THE HEARTS OF THE PEOPLE FOR WHOM HE SAVED THE UNION THE MEMORY OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN IS ENSHRINED FOREVER” inscribed above him.
The reflection pool is also huge. I kept envisioning the scene out of Forrest Gump as I looked upon the reflection pool. It’s certainly a site of quite a few auspicious occasions not the least of which was Martin Luther King’s I have a dream speech.
I wanted to know more about this place, so I purchased a book. I want to get informed about Lincoln before I go watch the film. That’s how English teachers are supposed to do it – not the other way around. I read a picture book written by Obama whilst I was in the store. He has some cool people as role models – Georgia O’Keeffe, Cesar Chavez, Jackie Robinson, Martin Luther King, Albert Einstein…the book dedicated to his daughters. The illustrations were great.
Great movie! We saw it in DC which was kinda cool.
Next stop was a bit of a walk – the Washington Monument – the gigantic obelisk, a gift to the USA. It’s very tall and made me feel very small. The monument, made of marble and granite is both the world’s tallest stone structure and the world’s tallest obelisk, standing at about 170m high.
We carried on to the left for the walk up to the Whitehouse fence. I gotta say my perceptions of this were all wrong. I think I just expected it to be sooo much bigger. Like Capitol Hill type size. I’m sure it’s more than spatial enough for the POTUS and his family ( and probably hundreds of staff) but still I envisioned bigger, so apart from an entertaining squirrel doing his best impression of an African Spring Bok bounding across the grass and me subsequently entertaining the idea of training up spy squirrels to infiltrate the Whitehouse to gain insightful knowledge like whether the Pres prefers oatmeal or cheerios in the morning we moved on fairly quickly from this after snapping a few pics through the fence.
We started the long walk up to Capitol Hill walking through what I believe is called the National Mall – where many of the Smithsonian Museum buildings are present. Sussed out where a few things were along the way for future visits.
So Capitol Hill is where the US Congress meets and where the Federal Government legislates stuff. I’m calling it stuff because I really am not informed enough to pretend to know what all the important terminology means. This place is actually a neighbourhood of around 35 thousand residents. That I did not know. Biggest neighbourhood in DC too apparently.
We came, we saw, we tooks some photos and by that time we were hungry having not bothered by lunch so decided to do our obligatory Hard Rock cafe visit and have dinner there. Our server was very kind and informed us to get outta dodge early as we could see from the clientele in the restaurant that it was full of teenaged girls and their mums from about the age of 8 upwards all having a feed before heading over to the Verizon centre to see Justin Bieber. Caught in the middle of a Bieber fever concert crowd completely! We escaped to the movies and saw Affleck’s Argo which was excellent. Finished the night off catching up with The Walking Dead and Dexter. All in all a very productive day.
Day 2 and we were heading to the Smithsonian again but this time to the National Gallery of Art. It took us all day to do both the East and West Buildings of this Gallery – and it’s not something I can just encapture here in a neat and tidy couple of paragraphs. It’s a great Art gallery and the Lichtenstein exhibition and Augsburg exhibitions were just fascinating. And all free.
My predisposition to enjoying graphic novels and comics has certainly meant I’m a little biased towards the art of Roy Lichtenstein. It’s clean, colourful, simple yet can be full of action and emotion. I’m definitely a fan and this exhibit was a pretty comprehensive coverage of his life’s work. I was interested in seeing what his other, lesser known projects and experimentation phases looked like.
The Natural History Museum was just as entertaining. It really does blow my mind how everything here is free. It’s like the Utopian Educational Historical environment. If you want you can just come for a casual look over, giving passing glances to the things that catch your eye or you can really take in each exhibit in detail, reading the information and simply teaching yourself about history in all kinds of areas.
We stopped in at a Texas implant called Hill Country and had BBQ for lunch. Deliciously tasty but no Austin’s Franklins BBQ. But definitely hit the spot.
National Air and Space Museum was a great way to spend a number of hours.
The Hubble!! What a BRILLIANT idea this was…especially once they fixed it 😉
Out in space. Most expensive service on a piece of space craft ever 😉
I don’t think I’ll ever quit wondering if I’ll make it into space one day. If advancements in such travel will progress far enough in my lifetime.
And so we headed home and managed to get caught up in the Election news…surprisingly out on the streets of DC there was very little fanfare – a couple of corners had people encouraging people to go vote and offer bus lifts to those who needed but other than that it was pretty low key. I guess I notice election days more back home because they are always held on Saturdays and so everyone is usually not working, this country always has them on a Tuesday. Strange but no doubt grounded in some sort of motivations way back when it was decided. And so we stayed up and watched the news, followed it on Twitter, watched the reactions online. I’ll be honest and say I was pleased Obama got in…I just felt there were way too many Republicans running for office in this race that had made way too many public errors of judgement when it came to their choice of words. I can see why many people are upset as well. I think it’s very idealistic to assume all is well now that the candidate I would have voted for has won. All the same problems and disappointments are there, there’s still going to be the mud slinging and muck raking, gridlock in congress etc etc. But what it came down to was the thought of which of these two candidates instilled less fear in me for the future of my friends that I’ve made in the US. For me that was Obama. I do know that no matter what, the people I’ve met here have the strength of spirit and the tenacity of will to see them through in spite of their government. And trust me – I wouldn’t move to Australia just based on who is in charge despite that trend on twitter. Come for our lovely beaches and beautiful weather instead.
And that’s it for my political two cents…which you can have in America – it’s five cents in Australia. First post on Washington DC done! And don’t forget to watch Supernatural. It’s a great show I may have mentioned before.