Monday, July 16, 2018

On Writing -- Editing

Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch series

Years ago -- at least eight -- I tried reading Connelly's police procedurals featuring a main character named Hieronymus Bosch. (Rhymes with anonymous.) Named after the Dutch painter who depicted earth and hell as equally dark and dreadful, Connelly's Hieronymus Bosch pretty much sees Los Angeles like that, a fantastical nightmare.

At that time, I was enthralled with the TV series Castle. Maybe you watched it, too. Rick Castle was a crime novelist who, along with an attractive, New York City police detective solved crimes. Actually, it was probably the very attractive (and funny) actor Nathan Fillion who kept me watching each week. I liked his uncensored mother and independent daughter, too.

Anyway Rick Castle occasionally played poker with real life crime novelists -- James Patterson, Michael Connelly, Stephen J. Cannell and others. I decided to check out those real life writers. James Patterson first. He seemed to be the most popular at my local library. His books went out like hot cakes. I didn't like his books. I read two to be sure. Then Michael Connelly. I read two of his too. Didn't like them either. I never got to Cannell.

I could just never connect with Harry Bosch.

And then. And then. More like now. I've connected with the Harry Bosch character by way of Amazon's series Bosch. Somehow Titus Welliver, the actor who plays Bosch, makes him more likable, more sympathetic. And the series is well enough written that I don't find myself editing the teleplays.

Connelly's books I edit, sans red pen.

This passage is from Connelly's The Overlook. Our little-bit-unlikable hero and his bloodied former lover who happens to be an FBI agent are chasing a bad guy who in the past few minutes has killed two people, tried to kill Bosch, and engaged in a gun battle with Bosch's partner leaving him wounded.

     Bosch turned and saw Rachel come through the door, a smear of blood on her face.
          "This way," he said. "He's been hit."
          They started down Third in a spread formation. After a few steps Bosch picked up
     the trail. Maxwell was obviously hurt badly and was losing a lot of blood. It would
     make him easy to track.
          But when they got to the corner of Third and Hill they lost the trail. There was no
     blood on the pavement. Bosch looked into the long Third Street tunnel and saw no one
     moving in the traffic on foot. He looked up and down Hill street and saw nothing until
     his attention was drawn to a commotion of people running out of the Grand Central
          "This way," he said.
          They moved quickly toward the huge market. Bosch picked up the blood trail again
     just outside and started in. The market was a two-story-high conglomeration of food
     booths and retail and produce concessions. There was a strong smell of grease and coffee
     in the air that had to infect every floor of the building above the market. The place was
     crowded and noisy and that made it difficult for Bosch to follow the blood and track
          Then suddenly there were shouts from directly ahead and two quick shots were fired
     into the air. It caused an immediate human stampede. Dozens of screaming shoppers and
     workers flooded into the aisle where Bosch and Walling stood and started running toward
     them.  Bosch realized they were going to be run over and trampled. In one motion he
     moved to his right, grabbed Walling around the waist and pulled her behind one of the
     wide concrete support pillars.

Just copying this from the book makes me want to tear my hair out. All these words! But they don't give the reader the feeling of an adrenaline charged, life and death race. William Bernhardt, the best writing teacher I ever had, said, "Show, don't tell." And Hemingway touted the mot juste which means the exact, appropriate word. These rules keep the story so close to the reader, that the reader sees it. Hears it. Feels it.

This passage should be built on short, sharp sentences. And don't insult the reader. "Maxwell was obviously hurt badly and was losing a lot of blood. It would make him easy to track." Really? No shit, Sherlock.

At least Connelly uses adverbs properly. Unnecessarily, but properly. How would I write it?

          "He's been hit," he said.
          Bosch picked up the blood trail on Third Street. They lost it at Third and Hill.
     No one moved on foot through the traffic in the Third Street tunnel. Or on Hill
     Street. Maxwell was gone. They'd lost him.
          Then to the left, a knot of people ran out of the Grand Central Market.
          Bosch and Walling ran toward the hulking two-story building. They picked
     up the blood trail again. They followed the wet, red stains inside. The stench
     of old grease and strong coffee hit them like a wall. Noise filled the cavernous
     hall. Guns held at their sides, they followed the blood. Through the maze of food
     booths and produce stands and retail stalls, the trail flickered in and out. It
     threatened to disappear beneath the crowd's milling feet.
          Ahead, shouts and two shots stopped time. Then shoppers and workers
     stampeded, screaming, toward Harry and Rachel. He grabbed her and pulled her
     to safety behind a concrete pillar.

And you can probably figure out an even better way to write it. It needs to read fast, raise the reader's heart rate, leave them breathless.

After finishing the 13th Harry Bosch novel -- four of them in the past two weeks -- I'm taking a break. Patricia Cornwell's The Last Precinct, also a crime novel, but it's safe to say, I'll be checking more Connelly/Bosch books out of the library soon. And I'm looking forward to the 5th season of Bosch.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Day 4 -- National Museum of Natural History

                      The Rotunda of the Smithsonian              Me with that famous 14-foot tall elephant.
                         Museum of Natural History                  The hide, weighing two tons, was donated by 
                        (photo taken from the 2nd floor,             Hungarian Josef J. Fénykövi. When it was 
                         home of the Minerals and Gems            unveiled in 1959, it was the world’s largest 
                         section, and the Hope Diamond)           land mammal on display in a museum. 

Founded in 1846 with funds from and according to the wishes of Englishman James Smithson  “under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge.” The museum opened in 1910. It was among the first Smithsonian buildings constructed exclusively to house the national collections and research facilities. And it is one of my two favorite Smithsonian museums.

It has information and exhibits on everything -- the oceans and ocean creatures, dinosaurs, gems and minerals, human origins, a live butterfly pavilion, mummies, a living insect zoo, and much more. This was my third visit and I still haven't seen everything.

The two must-see sections for me are the Gems and Minerals and the Human Origin sections. So the plan was to get there early, before all the school kids show up and see Gems and Minerals first, then lunch in the museum cafe, and finish with Human Origins.

Gems and Minerals first because the Hope Diamond is in that section and everybody wants to see that so it gets crowded pretty early. The 45.52 carat blue diamond pendant surrounded by white diamonds is beautiful.

At least as impressive is the world's largest, flawless
quartz sphere.
It is 242,323 carats, weighs 106.75 lbs.,
and measures 12.9 inches in diameter.
For comparison an NBA basketball has a diameter of 9.55 inches.

And if you like amethyst, they have a huge geode chock full of the lovely purple gems.

Minerals naturally come in all shapes, sizes, textures, and colors.
                                         Copper                                     Gypsum
Willemite and Willemite, Calcite

The museum's cafe was not operating at full capacity and only had packaged sandwiches which would not do, so we hit the street looking for food. There are, of course, food trucks but one of the guards at the museum suggested a food court not far away.

As it turned out, the food court is in the Ronald Reagan Building which is right next door to the William Jefferson Clinton Building and they're both across the street from the Trump International Hotel D.C. How's that for Washington being a small town?!

On the way to lunch, we passed the Environmental Protection Agency.
Keep in mind that Washington D.C. is beautifully landscaped. There are well-tended flowers and shrubbery and trees everywhere. 

The infamous EPA head, Scott Pruitt had not yet gathered his marbles and gone home. Remember he's the guy who contracted for a $43,000 phone booth in his office and a dozen pens for $1,560 among other boondoggles. 

These are the planters outside the EPA building.

Impressed? No, neither were we.

Oh, well, we had a good lunch.

I had pastrami and corned beef on rye. The grandsons had chicken sandwiches, which were apparently not too different from their routine Chick-fil-A usuals, so they were pleased. I don't remember what son John had, but, as I remember, he was pleased, too.

Then it was back to the National Museum of Natural History. 

I found a seat along the side of the Rotunda and people watched, visited, and rested while the boys checked out the exhibits they wanted to see.

I joined them for the Human Origins exhibit. I have long been fascinated with the study of hominins. Once many years ago we took a vacation to Houston to see Lucy's bones. Lucy is Australopithecus afarensis. She lived about 3.2 million years ago in what is now Ethiopia.

I learned lots that trip, not the least of which is I do NOT drive in Houston. Public transportation makes D.C. a wonderful town to visit.

NMNH's Human Origins exhibit is the best I've seen. There are numerous bronze sculptures of various hominins. This is a Neanderthal offering son John a bit of roasted meat. 

Although generally accurate, this sculpture is much smaller than Homo neanderthalensis. The average height for males was 5' 5" and for females was 5' 1". The depiction of them cooking their food, is, however, accurate. 

What I especially like are the forensic reproductions of heads. They are accurate and set on pedestals at their average heights, so you can look them in the eye, as it were.

This Homo erectus female would have been about six feet tall. So I looked up to her.

Like all the Smithsonian museums it is open to all, free of charge.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Day 3 African American Museum

The Smithsonian Museum of African American
History and Culture

The Museum of African American 
History and Culture is the first building on The National Mall that you come to after the Washington Monument, if you're coming from the west -- where the Lincoln Memorial is. 

We arrived there after walking and exploring everything on the Mall. Actually not everything at all. Not the Martin Luther King Monument. Not the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Monument. Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

Son John and the grandsons were doing pretty well. I however was hungry, thirsty, and tired -- conditions that conspire to make me impatient at best. But I knew all the museums have cafes. So approaching the doors gave me hope that relief was at hand.

However, the guards at the door explained that you have to have tickets to get inside. They're free, but you have to get them before hand or at the door. Not the door where we were. It was for people who already had tickets. The door around on the other side of the building. Not a small building, nor a short walk. Hope dashed. 

I didn't know exactly where we were, but I knew there were more museums close by and all we had to do was go to the next one. But I needed to sit down and rest a bit. While John checked his phone for what was near us, two young African American women approached the guards at the door. They would be let in. As it turns out, they had extra tickets -- four extra tickets. Some of their friends had not been able to come with them. The boys and I -- count us. Four! The young women generously gave us their extras.


The cafe there is wonderful. Sweet Home Cafe serves food representative of four regions in the U.S. the Agricultural South, the Creole States, The North States, and the Western Range. Considering I love all things Louisiana (one of the Creole States) I had a catfish po' boy and two big glasses of water. 

Fed, watered, and rested, I thought I was ready for the Museum.

The cafe is on the Concourse which is one level below street level, so we hadn't far to go to start exploring the museum. There are two more levels down. The lowest begins with 1400 and follows through to 1877, "Slavery and Freedom." The next level up explores the years 1876 - 1968, "Defending Freedom, Defining Freedom: The Era of Segregation." The third level up is "A Changing America: 1968 and Beyond."

I didn't make it all the way through the lowest level. The subject matter is so intense and the rooms felt confining to me. I had to get out. A member of the staff helped me to the elevator and went with me to get out into Heritage Hall which is at street level. Apparently, I am not the only one who reacts strongly. The top-most level below ground, is the Contemplative Court -- a quiet place where people can reflect and decompress.

The boys made it through and I'm glad they did. They should know what happened. Plus, they got to meet Joan Trumpauer, a Freedom Rider, and hear her speak.

Click on the photo so the text is large enough to read. It was the young people then who made a difference.

Society so often depends on the courage of the young. On their courage and, what some may call, naïveté. They haven't yet been indoctrinated with what us oldsters believe is impossible.

Here was Ms. Trumpauer, June 7, 2018
a small, white-haired lady -- one of many
to whom I and America owe a debt of gratitude.

The museum is not all sad and distressing. It celebrates African American culture from music to literature to art. The upper floors are filled with beautiful things and good feelings. And, I'm glad to say, the place was awash in adolescent Americans of all colors and backgrounds.

Just one of the beautiful things, a tapestry by Romare Bearden
Reflection Pool

I grew up in the Jim Crow South where drinking fountains were marked "white" and "colored," where black children did not swim in public pools with white children, and white people did not eat in African American restaurants. Churches were segregated. Schools were segregated. Towns and cities were segregated.

To see people of every color together in a museum dedicated to African Americans is an inspiration and an affirmation that the future is bound to be better.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Day 3, Part 2 -- The National Mall

This is looking east along the National Mall
from the terrace in front of the
Lincoln Memorial toward the Washington Monument
and my grandsons, J. R. and Silas

The National Mall is 1.9 miles long. It is anchored on the west by the Lincoln Memorial. The Washington Monument rises from about it's midway point and the Capitol sits at the east end. It and the Capitol Dome are the two most identifiable objects you can see when coming in for a landing at D.C.'s airport, Reagan National.

Between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument are the national memorials to the military people who have died serving The United States of America.

A bit northeast of the Lincoln Memorial is the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. I didn't go there with the boys. Nor did I go when the girls and I took our History Vacation seven years ago. I saw it some twenty-five years ago while on a work assignment -- my first trip to D.C.

As you can see on this diagram, it angles slightly to its center point. The highly polished, black granite wall is cut into the earth. It tapers from less than a foot to ten feet deep at it's center. It bears the names of people killed in that war. Not listed alphabetically, but chronologically by when they died, They are named with those who died with them.

The walk follows the wall as it goes below the level of the ground behind the wall. Away from the wall, the ground rises gradually so you don't feel like you're entering a tunnel. For that matter, it doesn't feel like you're walking down into the ground, but more like the wall is rising above you.

The diagram shows how near the streets are to the Memorial. And they are busy streets. You would think traffic noise would intrude, but the way it slopes down into the ground, the earth dampens the noise.

When I visited that morning so many years ago, I was the only one there. The newly risen sun shone on the names of the fallen. Most of them from my generation. I wept for them in the days when they were dying. Then I wept again when I saw the wall. I do not need to see it ever again to remember them.

Southeast of the Lincoln Memorial is the Korean War Veterans Memorial which includes statues of American GIs wearing ponchos and carrying full battle gear.

The statues are taller than grandson John Riley and son John at six feet and six-three, respectively.

A foggy, misty day could render this tableau more than a little frightening.

At the east end of the Reflecting Pool is the World War II Memorial. White granite arches stand on either side of a large oval pool with fountains. One commemorates victory in the European Theater of War and the other the victory in the Pacific Theater of War. The 56 pillars stand for the 48 states, the District of Columbia and the then territories of Alaska, Hawaii, Guam, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Commonwealth of the Philippines (as of the 1945 end of WWII.)  The Philippines became independent in 1946.

It seemed like the walk from the World War II Memorial to the Washington Monument was all uphill. But by that point I was more than a little tired and very thirsty. You'd think that living in the High Plains Desert that is Denver's setting would have had me carrying my water bottle everywhere. Silly me, I left it at home and didn't think to get another one.

Standing at 554 feet, 7 11/32 inches, the Washington Monument is the world's tallest stone structure and tallest obelisk. It is also fenced off. It has been closed off and on for various and sundry reasons including, but not limited to, security upgrades following 9/11 and damage from a 5.8 magnitude earthquake in 2011.

After the Washington Monument, we were all ready for lunch. A late lunch and a break!

Day 3 -- The Lincoln Memorial

The Lincoln Memorial was Number One on Grandson John Riley's priority list, so Day 3 found us making our way there. Inside is a huge statue honoring our 16th President.

As we face the statue, to our left is inscribed the text of the Gettysburg Address. To the right is his Second Inaugural Address. On March 4, 1865, during the final days of the Civil War and only a month before he was assassinated he ended his address to a war-torn nation with these words:

                         "With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness
                          in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to
                          finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to
                          care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow,
                          and his orphan—to do all which may achieve and cherish a just,
                          and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations." 

Seated, he is 19 feet tall. Given the same proportions, he would be 28 feet tall if he were standing. At 6 feet 4 inches, President Lincoln was indeed tall, but no where near that tall! Considering his character, perhaps 28 feet tall is not too great an exaggeration.

Two of my favorite Lincoln biographies are Carl Sandburg's which is divided into two The Prairie Years and The War Years and Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals which is a more politically in depth focus on his presidency.

While the boys took their time inside the Memorial, I sat near the top of the first set of steps and looked east from the Lincoln Memorial, across the reflecting pool along The Mall toward the Washington Monument.

As I sat there, a teacher talked to her class seated on the bottom three rows of steps. She talked about the building of the Memorial -- how long it took, how much it cost, where the stone came from to build it.

I thought about the Civil War, the bloodiest war in our Nation's history. The war that could have destroyed The United States which by that time had stood as a constitutional democracy only seventy-two years. Enough time to see a person into old age, but as a nation, only as many years as to bring it into adolescence.

We deplore the divisions wracking this country today, but it is nothing compared to that. The Nation survived that. The Constitution survived that and civil rights were nominally expanded to all men. Not enough, but a beginning.

There were scattered groups of people milling about. I met a couple from Switzerland using the Memorial as a landmark, a place well-known and easily identified, to meet friends. There was a tour group of Asians, another of Spanish speakers, another of Middle Eastern people, and more and more -- people from all across the nation and from around the world. There were families and couples and singles scattered about the grounds. But there were spaces between the groups.

I sat just feet away from where Dr. Martin Luther King addressed the nation so many years ago. When Dr. King spoke, there were no spaces between the people gathered on the Mall. It was a sea of people -- so many, so many. As far down the Mall as you could see. In his I Have a Dream speech he gave our Nation his vision: 

                 "I say to you today, my friends, even though we face the difficulties of today
                  and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the
                  American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up,
                  live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident,
                  that all men are created equal.'"

That was August 28th, 1963, in the midst of a nation divided by the same questions of civil rights for all our people. It was less than three months before another president was murdered -- President John F. Kennedy. A difficult time. A difficult time.

Since then, we have made giant strides forward, but there is still a ways to go. We will endure this current setback and advance civil rights still further for all people and "live out the true meaning" of the American Dream.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Day 2, Part 2 -- SCOTUS

Grandsons John Riley and Silas
That's the U.S. Capitol in the background.

And the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) is across the street in front of them. This is an area known as Capital Hill, and it was a pretty uphill trek from the Metro's Capitol South Station. Nothing like my Green Mountain at home though.

The thing about Washington, D.C. is that wherever you look, there is something beautiful and/or amazing to see just from the street. Our walk to SCOTUS took us past the Library of Congress's Thomas Jefferson Building. As a writer, this is a big deal for me.

                             Thomas Jefferson Building,              King Neptune and his court,   
                        one of three Library of Congress                     at the base was                   
                             buildings on Capital Hill                sculpted by Roland Hinton Perry           

The Library of Congress is the largest library in the world and the oldest federal cultural institution in the United States. And, no, I didn't get to go inside. I didn't go inside the Capitol, either. We just didn't have time. One week is not enough to see everything I want to see in D.C. Guess I'll have to take another History Vacation. "Don't throw me into that briar patch!" she cries.

So many things in D.C. seem so big to me. Now, I live at the foothills to the Rocky Mountains. Believe me, I understand "big." But all this human-made big takes my breath away. The sculptures at the base of the Library of Congress, the Capitol Dome, the portico and columns of the Supreme Court building.

This is the Great Hall in the Supreme Court Building. It runs from the giant sized bronze front doors to the court room. The door there in the back opens into the court room. The court room itself is not huge. It's a good two stories tall, and lushly appointed with classical friezes depicting powerful men, patrons who administer the law and portion out justice. The women figures seem to be supplicants rather than patrons. Beautiful, but a little testosterone driven for my tastes. Of course, this building was completed in 1935 barely 15 years after the 19th Amendment guaranteeing women in the United States the right to vote.

And marble and bronze and more marble everywhere!
        Behind these bronze doors is an elevator                               This is the entry to
        complete with an actual human elevator                                 the women's room
        operator. I remember from my childhood                               on the third floor.
        when all the elevators had human operators!

We had lunch in the cafeteria there. My
barbecue ribs were excellent, and       
I know from good ribs, because         
   my husband makes the best.                    

After lunch we caught the last lecture in the courtroom. It wasn't long, but the young woman giving it was personable and knowledgeable. There were many young people in the audience. Along with some adults in attendance, they asked perceptive questions. 

It seems that finishing the 8th Grade bestows on American students a school trip to Washington D.C. The city was awash with them. Very fitting, now that I think about it. John Riley just finished the 8th Grade, too.

We left the Supreme Court under threatening skies. Little did I know just how threatened our Supreme Court would soon become. Justice Kennedy, I don't begrudge you your well earned retirement. I just wish you had waited at least until after the mid-term elections.

Back at the hotel John and I left the boys watching TV. They don't have regular TV at home, so it was a draw for them. Cartoons, cartoons, cartoons.

John and I went out for dessert. Remember that Irish pub we saw the evening before in the square "within walking distance" from the hotel. Sine Irish Pub and Restaurant, to be exact. He had a Guinness Brownie and I, Bailey's Cheesecake. Each topped with enough whipped cream to sink a ship or my diet.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Day 2 -- Arlington National Cemetery


In Washington, D.C., street art is everywhere. These mosaics were on the wall of a highway underpass which is around the corner from the Crystal City Metro Station. You can't tell from my photos but many of the tiny tiles were mirrors and sparkled beautifully. Note the bicycles. It's common for locals to ride their bikes to the subway station then take the subway to within walking distance of their destination.
Grandson John Riley at "our" subway stop

We each got 7-Day Metro passes. That way we could get on any time we wanted at any station and go wherever the subway went.

The boys soon learned escalator etiquette. You stand as far to the right as possible, so the locals can run past you down to or up from the trains.

Keeping in mind that I have a fear of heights and those escalators are multi-stories high -- the first time I was in D.C., I stood as far to the right as possible, clinging white-knuckled, to the railing. Praying silently, "Don't touch me. Don't touch me." as men and women in office attire carrying various and sundry bags and brief cases hurried past me. I just knew if one of them bumped me I wouldn't stop rolling until I hit the bottom.

I asked the boys what they would most like to see. "The Lincoln Memorial," John Riley answered without hesitation. And John said the Supreme Court. Silas, the nine-year-old, wanted to swim in the hotel swimming pool and go to an escape room. Well, nine is almost old enough for a history vacation.

Arlington Cemetery is the third subway stop from the Crystal City Station, so we got off there that second day.

Arlington National Cemetery is today a 624-acre United States military cemetery. In 1864 at the height of the Civil War, the property was owned by Mary Anna Custis Lee, great-granddaughter of Martha and George Washington and wife of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. Mrs. Lee sent an agent, to pay the $92.07 in property taxes (equal to $1,400 today) due on the property in a timely manner. The government turned her agent away and refused to accept the tendered payment because she had not come in person. Now, if your husband was the head of a rebel army, would you present yourself to his enemies?

Then in May 1864, a call went out for eligible sites for the establishment for a large new national military cemetery. Arlington Estate, now forfeit due to failure to pay the property taxes, was deemed the most suitable property in the D.C. area. It was high and free from floods (which might unearth graves); it had a view of the District of Columbia; and it was aesthetically pleasing. Also, rendering the home forever after unavailable to Robert E. Lee, the leader of the armed forces of the Confederate States of America, was a valuable political consideration.

Even with all the people visiting it, the cemetery is peaceful and quiet. This city of the dead is full of life, wildlife. I loved hearing Mockingbirds with their many varied songs and Robins whistling. We have Robins in Colorado, but not Mockingbirds.

     A Momma White Tailed Deer                     A Robin sits atop a headstone.   
                   had parked her fawn in the shade    
                 of a headstone in a quiet area not far 
                    from President Kennedy's grave.                                                            

I was intrigued to see headstones for World War I veterans identifying their places of origin from all over the world. The National Park Service estimates that about 500,000 immigrants from 46 nations served in America’s armed forces during World War I. And they were eligible for a fast track to naturalization by virtue of their military service.

I recently saw The Notorious RBG, the documentary about Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. She reminds me of my grandmother -- a tiny woman with a will of iron. And always a lady.  If you haven't seen the film, I highly recommend it.

I was hoping to find a Notorious RBG t-shirt for my souvenir from this D.C. trip. But it was not to be. We did happen onto her beloved husband Martin's grave.

I got tired walking so I headed back to the Visitors Center. I always have whatever book I'm reading with me so I can entertain myself while others of my party trudge on.

One thing about resting in D.C. you meet the nicest people from all over the world. When I first sat down to read, a child sat down next to me. I purposely did not "notice" him. I find that young children are like many young animals, they are more comfortable making first contact. So we sat side by side for a bit until he told me that he likes chocolate chip cookies. That he would give me one but they were in a bag his mother had. I asked how old he was. That's always a good ice-breaker. "Six," he told me in his most grown-up manner. 

I met his two older brothers -- the middle one was probably 11 or 12 and the oldest about the same age as John Riley. People that age are less inclined to chit-chat with some unknown adult. Then his mother came over to visit. The family is from South Africa, the Free State which is in the central part of the nation. Then I met his father, who is here helping build a new chemical plant in Louisiana.

They moved on and I got to visit with a woman originally from South Carolina, but she's lived in the D.C. area for almost 30 years. She recommended we visit the Spy Museum, telling me that her grandchildren loved it.

While I visited in the Visitors Center, the boys explored the cemetery. They were particularly looking for Audie Murphy's grave. He's from their hometown in Texas. Audie Murphy, perhaps better known as an actor back in the '50s was one of  the most decorated combat soldiers in World War II. He received every military combat award for valor available from the U.S. Army, as well as French and Belgian awards for heroism.

Not only did they find Audie Murphy's grave, but they saw former President Bill Clinton. He, of course, drew a crowd so they couldn't get close enough to talk to him, but they did get to see him.

Leaving Arlington, we reboarded the Metro and headed for the Supreme Court of the United States.