Thursday, September 6, 2007

Tripping DC

The last week of August, Judee (my wife) and I spent in Washington DC. It was an extremely inspiring and uplifting venture---of course we did not see any politicians.

But we did get to sit in the gallery of the House of Representatives, and imagine Sam Rayburn dispensing power. We humbly climbed the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and read the engraved words of the Gettysburg address: of the peple, by the people, for the people ....

We slowly walked the trail of the Vietnam Memorial. It is a difficult thing to pause and read the names of those who would be my age today, if only .... We passed hundeds of geese enjoying the waters of the reflecting ponds and scrounging for food from the grass. They will be flying south in a few months I suppose.

We reached the magnificent World War II Memorial with its dual tribute to the Pacific and European theaters. And finally the spire of the Washington Monument, reaching some 55 stories up into the sky, centering the city.

Arlington Cemetary was next. Our shuttle moved slowly through what appeared to be millions and millions of white crosses. Hushedly we walked toward a beautiful green slope of grass. At the top of that hill was Arlington House, one-time home of Robert E Lee. Turning back to the east you could see the Lincoln Memorial to your left, the Washington Monument straight ahead, and beyond it the beautiful dome of the capitol building. Two weeks before he died, John Kennedy stood on that slope and said it was so beautify that he could spend eternity there. His grave with the eternal flame now lies at the foot of that slope.

Granite tablets hold some of the words from his 1961 inaugural speech.

Now the trumpet summons us again--not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need--not as a call to battle, though embattled we are-- but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out, "rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation"--a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease and war itself.

And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you--ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.

Having just lived a few, too brief moments with Lincoln, these words invoked such a longing that we could have leaders today who could dream such dreams and heal such hurts.

And we watched in silence the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers in Arlington. Every thirty minutes, 24/7, all kinds of weather that ritual is repeated.

At the capitol building our tour guide explained the interior of the dome, tooks us downs stairs to a room filled with statues donated by each state (Sam Houston represesnted Texas). And, gave us passes to the gallery of the House of Representives (Congress was not in session).

On to the museums: the Air & Space Museum held the Spirit of St. Louis, rockets, space station mockups, the lunar rover, planes from WWI and all the others, even a large model of the Star Ship Enterprise. We saw a 3D Imax movie on the building of the space station; and a planetarium presentation on the universe that was outstanding.

And because the History museum was undergoing renovation, some of the exhibits had been moved to the Air & Space: Dorothy's red shoes from Wizard of Oz, Lincoln's top hat, Mister Rogers' sweater, rocks from the moon, etc.

The Indian Museums was very thorough and informative, even inspiring at times.

We did not get to see the Jefferson Memorial nor the White House (a visitors center is available, the actual White House was not).

Great praises for the DC Metro system. For twenty dollars my young wife bought a ticket that allowed her to travel all over DC all week. My ticket cost $10 (Senior Citizen) and lasted until Thursday. Our hotel (Radisson, Crystal City) was about two blocks away from the Metro Station and we travelled by rail all over DC and Arlington. Never rented a car. But, they do rent cars (Zip Cars) for $7.75 an hour, and I wish I had rented one to go to the Jefferson Memorial. We loved riding the rails and find it hard to understand why Texas is pushing toll roads instead of the rails.

It was a great week.