Monday, February 26, 2024

Washington DC Day 6- May 19, 2023

 Dazzling Ducks

Rosa and I started off with the usual breakfast tag teaming. The elevator opening on the way down revealed a welcome desk on the third floor. It was for a cross species asthma conference.
Nothing to worry about here.
The staff were super enthusiastic about plate removal, requiring Rosa and I to guard each other’s stuff warily when the other went for food…
Or when we would glance away from our dish for a moment.
Back up in the room it was time for the required nap and television time, the History channel was on. The sensationalist crap on screen illustrated how far the network had fallen when compared to all the clips from its early years we saw in various museums and the Archives.
For our “Monuments Day” we walked straight south all the way to Anabelle’s beloved Washington Monument for the first time since the day we arrived, passing through the pedestrian area close to the White House. In view of the Presidential Mansion, Anabelle performed the required tap steps for her club’s ritual. (They were “spanks.”)
On the far side of the building was an impressively large sign on the barricade fence highlighting Indigenous Peoples' Rights. This was directly in front of the lawn with the huge Andrew Jackson statue.
They might want to work on that placement.
Or maybe that was the point they were shooting for?
Rosa zoomed in to take photos of the people at the White House door…
In case we found out they were important later.
The White House is always smaller than I expect.
This is possibly due to how massive the Capitol is, or simply because I am a buffoon.
On our way down the road, we passed an ice cream truck playing “La Cucaracha” at ear splitting volumes. It propelled Anabelle and Rosa to dance their way past as it was far too early for ice cream.

We continued heading toward the Washington Monument, much to Anabelle’s delight. Then we turned right and accidentally visited a historic site, because that happens easily in Washington DC.
This followed spotting some people coming out of a little, non-descript, stone building. Stepping inside, we learned it was a Lock Keeper's house. Washington had been built at its location due to water access, and there used to be a series of canals through the area. Most of the ground the main memorials were built on had been reclaimed from the bay. Nifty!
Plus, there were STAMPS! Woo!
We started out our planned visits at the World War II memorial. In recognition of the allied forces putting their feet in the fountains of Europe on VE Day, which I’m sure the Europeans were thrilled about, the National Park Service encouraged visitors to do that here as a tribute. Rosa and Anabelle did. I have enough itchy feet issues in my life to try that before a long day of walking in high tops.

The Memorial did an excellent job of conveying the enormity of that war. Quotes from various leaders were everywhere, along with references to all the states, territories and countries that were involved. Unlike the Korea and Vietnam memorials which listed all the names of those lost, The World War II Memorial had a wall full of gold stars. Each star represented a hundred dead. It was an all around a sobering and relevant site. 

Facing the Lincoln Memorial, we went to the right side of the Reflecting Pool. Anabelle noted unenthusiastically, “The Reflecting Pool is brown.” I pointed out it reflects far better at night.
DC Flashback- The revelations about the Reflecting Pool were all new to Anabelle…
Because it had been completely empty and reflectless for her Eighth Grade Trip.

We found a small circular area overlooking the World War II memorial. Appropriately it commemorated the “Prayer for the Nation” Roosevelt read before D-Day. 

We were walking through Constitution Park to see something else we learned about from Mr. History, Declaration Island. I cannot stress how much the next sentence is an understatement:
It was borderline Hitchcockian.
On the island were tombstone looking things with all the signers of the Declaration of Independence, sorted by state.
The idea was to honor the notion that if the American Revolution went sideways, those people would have all been killed. 

As we continued our walk, in the marshy area by the island we saw many of the red winged blackbirds we encounter just about everywhere we vacation.
I am aware how little anyone else cares.
We also encountered a new bit of the natural world:
A blue jay eating a Cheez It.
Mr. History’s lessons continued to guide our way. Before we reached the Vietnam Memorial proper, we detoured into the little grove to find the Vietnam Women’s Memorial. We did agree with him that it had to be a tribute to the Pieta, and it was incredibly moving.
It was also covered with Scrunchies for reasons that neither we, nor Mr. History had any idea about. It is unlikely there is any connection to the same phenomenon occurring at the top of the Expedition Everest roller coaster, but weirder things have been linked in our lives.
A little further brought us to the main Vietnam Memorial, and it definitely does work better in daylight. With full visibility it was clear that the three men in the statue are looking sadly down at the wall itself. Vietnam was recent enough that Veterans are still truly part of the Memorial. We saw a man with a long pointer solemnly reaching up to identify the name of his best friend’s brother.

Throughout our walks I was getting texts detailing the latest disaster at work and asking me questions. However, my surroundings gave me the perspective needed to know I truly had nothing to complain about.
Before going to the Lincoln Memorial, we made stops behind it. First, on the side we were on, we crossed the street to find the Einstein Statue. His nose was extra shiny because students rub it before exams for luck.
I’m sure Professor Einstein would be honored to know his likeness is used as yet another excuse to believe in superstition and not to study.
One element not mentioned about the luck of Einstein’s nose, is that it is upon a metal statue. Due to the sun shining on that nose, and indeed the rest of him, he gets dangerously hot. Anabelle took some mighty uncomfortable photographs before relaying this information to us and forcing a change in strategy.
Behind the Lincoln Memorial my family determined it was now the proper time for ice cream. Rosa had a strawberry bar while Anabelle enjoyed a King Kone.
We saw some statues on the side of the road and walked over toward what we believed was the Watergate Hotel. It turned out we misunderstood Mr. History, the Navicomputer, each other, and geography in general.
We walked a lot and were tired.
I also have no idea what the statues were of. As usual, my documentation skills were a wonder. (As in, “I wonder what that thing we saw was?”)
What we were heading toward was Watergate Steps, allowing a view of the river, which we could already see from where we stood. The Watergate Hotel itself was stupid far across said river.

Instead, we doubled back to my favorite, the Lincoln Memorial. It is always bigger than I remember. This lends more credence to the previously mentioned “buffoon” theory.

Hey, the states are in order of joining the Union around the top edge, not random.

From in front of the memorial, Rosa got her own finger on top of the Washington Monument picture. Yes, Anabelle took it.
Rosa’s knee surgery was still recent enough that going up a bunch of steps was unpleasant. Therefore, we went into the ground level secret entrance and bathrooms.
Hey! There’s an exhibit in there!
That was neat, and educational.
(An apt description for the whole city.)
Upstairs we read the Gettysburg Address and Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Speech. Though the statue is more impressive at night, light and timing removed the option of reading on our Mr. History visit.

Off to the side, was a tiny dark bookstore. Rosa continued her proximity interest in history by looking for copies of various documents. I got my Mom a Lincoln Memorial magnet, so wherever she goes, it can always be “Just over there.”
I am hilarious.
Rosa looked down the lengthy series of steps and insisted there should be a slide to go down. Then she saw the sloping marble on the side of the steps and said,
“I found the slide! Weeeeeee!”
Rosa is also hilarious.
DC Flashback- When relating this story, we learned Morgan slid down this marble structure when the rest of the family visited. Because they're hilarious too.

This is as good a point as any to indicate that, because it was May, we couldn’t take three steps near any of the big attractions without the risk of tripping over someone taking Cap and Gown Graduation photos.
Anabelle learned “Kisses for Abe Lincoln” photos are much harder to get in the daylight, but eventually succeeded, to finish her series.
Anabelle completes our hilarious trio.
On our way down the stairs, we got a better look at the marker commemorating where Martin Luther King made his speech. Whatever mysterious stain was on it in the evening had been cleaned up.
At the bottom of the steps, I took one last close up look at the Lincoln Memorial…
And realized, it’s a temple.

Much like the folks who commissioned and created the Apotheosis of George Washington painting in the Capitol Dome, I don’t think those who made this really understood the man they were honoring.
With all of our wandering, we really needed lunch. This was a problem as the far side of the Lincoln Memorial was fairly desolate when it came to food options. The stand on the opposite side of the Memorial didn’t tempt us, leading us to the southern end. (That’s the left when facing it, for my compass challenged wife.)
Near the stand, we saw a lame duck. This had nothing to do with election timing in the capital city of our country. It was a female mallard with a limp. We threw her a couple extra French fries out of pity. Given this is where she lived, those are most likely the main part of her natural diet.
Rosa had some gluten free leftovers with her or got a salad. The upcoming iced tea fiasco ruined my concentration. Anabelle was happy with the prepackaged breakfast sandwich. I should have joined her. This is where I finally figured out that, while I like Impossible Burgers, I’m not a huge fan of generic Veggie Burgers. This is because the latter tends to be a bunch of grains and vegetables mashed into a general patty shape and then fried.
Due to limited selections, exhaustion, and general confusion, I ordered Anabelle’s iced tea… with no ice.
Then I had to get another cup of ice for her.
This led to much ragging on my state of mind, spillage, and her creating a meme to commemorate another example of my buffoonery.
We walked back to where the memorials were but on the other side of the Reflecting Pool. Rosa took many photos while walking and Anabelle and I worked diligently to keep her from wandering into the pool.
Rosa noticed the back of my neck was a dazzling shade of bright pink.
Rosa- “Did you put sunscreen on?”
Me- “No.”
Rosa- “Why?”
Me- “You never asked if I put sunscreen on.”
Did I mention we walked a lot?
And that I am a buffoon?
On our way to the Korea Memorial, we were attacked by a bird.
I have no idea what this means, but who am I to doubt my notes?
The names on the “tables” of the Korean War Memorial were not only sorted by branch of the service, but by rank. It was a stark demonstration of the astronomical difference between how many of the lowest level soldiers were killed compared to those giving the orders.
Back on the path around the Reflecting Pool I had been thinking that it didn’t feel like there was as many steps as I remembered for the Lincoln Memorial. Then I turned around.
Because we took the side access, we didn’t take the steps that go ALL THE WAY down to the Reflecting Pool.
Reflecting on the pool we were right next to…it was nasty.
Any still body of water that shallow is going to be. Being next to it made it more obvious that it was built for reflecting at night.
Rosa was impressed when the Jefferson Memorial peeked through the trees.
“We walked East Jeezus over there?!?!”
What I found more impressive was we had walked far further this day and she made no comment about that.
The World War II memorial was hugely impressive and had water. After the hike we looked around it once more, and then ALL put our feet in.

Then we had yet another duck moment.
A mated pair of mallards was swimming along the edge of the pool. We figured when they got to us, they would simply swim further out.
(Spoilers- They did not.)
Instead, they swam directly at us. We recoiled a bit, awkwardly, until they continued on their way after asserting dominance. Over at the corner of the pool, there was a group of children. One child had food. Another next to him grabbed one of the ducks and lifted it out of the water. The ducks then had an existential crisis trying to figure out if they should stay close to the food, or away from the grabber.
By this point we had dried our feet and walked over to the building with the kiosks to look up relatives “on site.” 
It was closed.
We resolved to look them up online again, and I remembered only four months later. Not bad for a buffoon like me.
We did a last walk around and found the “Kilroy Was Here” graffiti added as another tribute to true events of the war.

Anabelle basked in the proximity to the Washington Monument as we walked towards it. She also blocked her mother’s view of the Capitol whenever she could, because driving parents crazy is a hobby all kids share.

Once the basking was complete, we walked down the little hill again, and hopped the rail, to gain access to the Washington Monument gift shop.
Rosa got her very own little Capitol.
Not content with walking about two miles through various monuments, we crossed over into the National Mall side and kept strolling.
Anabelle had already said her goodbyes to Rosita and the Hirschhorn exhibits we’d visited. Therefore, spurred on by Mr. History describing the famous Japanese print of The Wave, we walked most of the way down the Mall once more to the Freer Gallery of Asian Art.
Remember when I said I noticed Mr.History described all the cool Air and Space stuff that wasn’t currently on exhibit?
(Spoilers- I should have remembered too.)

It was an oddly shaped museum with an inner and outer square, and we knew there would be back tracking. We passed through a China section with Anabelle telling us, “Don’t look at this stuff,” as she navigated the route featuring a return through that room. A large part of the collection was American art that looked Asian. 
If you squinted a lot.
And really believed.
There was also some Teddy Roosevelt stuff, because
“He’s everywhere.” – Anabelle.
Yes, we were dehydrated, exhausted, over walked, and in an art museum in the late afternoon.
Just another day in Washington.
We learned the exhibit with The Wave in it had closed a while ago.
Anabelle dubbed the small Egyptian section boring because there was no William. (The blue hippo that is the mascot of the MET.)
This museum connected underground to the “Sackler Gallery of Other Asian Art that Wasn’t in the Freer Plus Some Weird Modern Stuff.”
Again, I’m paraphrasing.
We saw a display made by someone who doesn’t know how to make a cow.
There was also Ay O’s “Happy Rainbow Hell.” It was kind of a multicolored, acid trip version of an infra-red camera. There were a bunch of brightly colored stills and an interactive part that was a lot of fun. The photos with (highly distorted) images of naked people had to be cut up into puzzle like sections to make it safely out of China. Can we please all agree to stop voting for those spouting authoritarian, overly puritan believes before they wreck everything?
Thank you.

Nearby was a couple of “blind boxes” we stuck our hands into. There were feathers, or air blasts, or something in them. It was Anabelle’s favorite part. Meanwhile, I was standing there having anxiety attacks remembering the Gom Jabbar trial from Dune.

There was something else in that room that prompted Anabelle to state, “It’s a bong.”
As the evidence shows, it was a highly cultural afternoon.
Knowing the rest of my extended family well, we decided this would be the perfect place to get souvenirs for most of them, as there was no chance they would have visited this museum.
We were right!
Anabelle also scored a pair of fancy, origami crane looking earrings.
As the museum threw us out, we noticed merchandise from The Wave still available.
We reached the end of operating hours with some disappointment in an art museum.
Again, again, again.
The little map stand informed us if we passed around the Smithsonian Castle there was a fountain.
As it turned out, we had seen it on the way in, but since there was no water in it, we didn’t recognize its fountainness.
Rosa got some more pictures of, and with, the Butt of Freedom again as she fawned over her beloved Capitol building one last time. Anabelle and I sat in the mall to order our dinner from Chopt. I had learned my lesson from the hotel food fiasco the other night.
We picked up our order. Food in hand, we stopped in Wawa to grab some PowerAde for my dehydrated carcass and chips as a side for all of us.
A possibly homeless, but very cordial, individual appointed himself as door man and was excessively friendly to all who entered or left. It was well worth the tip.
On the way back home, a young couple with several suitcases asked if we knew where the Metro station was. Between the two of them and the three of us, every map available, including digital and paper, indicated it was exactly on that corner.
However, none of us could find any evidence of it, and we had to leave them to their own devices in more ways than one.
Rosa and Anabelle had decided to stop at a place nearby called “Potbelly” for shakes. At first, I was upset that I was settling for Chopt since it sounded like a barbeque place. After seeing the menu, I realized that this time I had made the right decision.
Potbelly was out of Oreo shakes but the two women thought the strawberry ones were excellent, and the chocolate one I had made a fine dessert.
Back at the hotel, the lobby tables where the theoretical restaurant existed served our purposes for dinner. Rosa went up to the room to grab the rest of her Mushroom burger from the night before.

While she did, I downed most of the PowerAde bottle instantaneously.
Anabelle mocked me, pointing out that even when thirsty, she drinks (and milkshakes more so)  like she’s savoring a canteen in a desert, while I guzzle fluids like a caveman.
In another display of our exhaustion clouding our observation skills, Anabelle was stunned that Rosa’s burger was made of meat. She figured “mushroom burger” was not, “A burger with mushrooms” but in fact “a burger made out of mushrooms.” I’m not sure they can do that yet.
Back at the room there was much packing and washing up. Anabelle looked up other Yayoi Kusama exhibits and found out there was one in Manhattan. That led to an Anabelle and Mami day in New York, which in turn led to her and I seeing Little Shop of Horrors.
When done, Anabelle was playing with “Abigail Addams the Second,” the googly eyed rock she got from the Art Vending Machine. She described it as, “Five dollars well spent.”
On the television was the San Diego Zoo show, and more Say Yes to the Dress. Anabelle theorized about Washington DC wedding locations. First, she thought the Hirschhorn would be the best idea for a ceremony. This was followed by her definitive pick:
“No… In front of the Giant Blue Chicken.”
I read many comic books while they went through these exercises. Then Anabelle asked for more Washington DC trivia. Many of the questions were based on things we had learned that very day. She did not know the answers because, as I long suspected, “I don’t listen to you.”
Sleep came quickly and with the dryness of the room really hitting, I was informed my snoring sounded, “Like the lawn mower, but with less swearing."
20225 steps
7.9 miles

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