Thursday, July 26, 2018

Day 7 -- Air and Space, National Gallery, and The Hirshhorn

Yes! I was here.

Day 7 of our History Vacation we started at the National Museum of Air and Space. It's my favorite of the Smithsonian Institute museums. 

Maybe it's because of when I grew up, but All Things Space just rock my world. In the Fourth Grade I drew space stations. Some wheel shaped so they could spin and produce an artificial gravity. On some, the inhabitants wore magnetized shoes. Also for a sense of gravity. They were all complete with living quarters, labs, observation windows, a cafeteria, a PX, a movie theater. All the things a fourth-grader thinks are necessary for life.

So, okay, none of my space stations were shaped like the Mir or the International Space Station. I still wasn't totally off point with my space stations, the ISS has living quarters, labs, and observation windows. But it doesn't have artificial gravity. Or a movie theater.

They have all manner of manned flight and unmanned flight. Human powered to nuclear powered to solar powered. Land based, sea based, and space based.

    (Smithsonian photo of
      11-foot model of the
          USS Enterprise)

We spent a lot of time in the aircraft carrier exhibit. Son John was especially interested because his uncle served on the USS Enterprise during the Vietnam conflict. The Big E was the eighth naval vessel named Enterprise and the first nuclear powered aircraft carrier. She was commissioned in 1961 and served 50 years. She was home to as many as 3,200 crew and an Air Wing of 2,480.

The USS Enterprise had all the amenities I thought a space station should have, plus natural gravity!

John Glenn's Freedom 7 Mercury Capsule is there. John Glenn was one of the Mercury Seven, America's first group of astronauts. He was the second American astronaut in space and the first to orbit the Earth, circling it three times. 

Thirty-six years after that flight, while serving as a United States Senator from the State of Ohio, Glenn became the oldest person to fly in space as a crew member of the Discovery space shuttle and the only person to fly in both the Mercury and Space Shuttle programs. 

John Glenn truly had the Right Stuff. (Which, by-the-bye, is the title of a very good book by Thomas Wolfe.)

And a Lunar Module is there. This is LM-2. It is not one of the six that landed on the moon. Parts of those are still parked up there.

Although this particular lunar module never flew in space, NASA used it to ground test the stability of the Saturn V rocket and spacecraft. (The Saturn V had previously developed severe pogo oscillations -- up and down.)

The Smithsonian's LM-2 was also used in a drop-testing program to ensure that the electronic and mechanical systems could withstand a lunar touchdown.

That's son John in the yellow t-shirt.
The Wright Flyer is in this museum and the Spirit of Saint Louis. And so many other significant aircraft -- the actual aircraft. It is definitely a Wow-fest and more than you can see in one day. 

We were on the last full day of our History Vacation so we cut our visit to the Air and Space Museum short and went to lunch in the Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden Cafe where the food is good and you can eat outside in the beautiful garden.

Then it was on to the National Gallery which I loved.

There are two buildings divided by a terrace with fountains and glass pyramids through which you can see into the connecting underground of the gallery. 

Three of my favorite paintings

Gustav Klimpt's, Baby (Cradle)
                                    Lionel Feininger's                                        René Magritte's
                                    The Bicycle Race                                    The Blank Signature

Then as the finale, we went to the Hirshhorn Museum of Modern Art. I didn't like it so much.
This is my favorite picture from there.
That's Grandson Silas in his squid hat lying on a bench before an art installation.
We were both tired by then.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Day 6 -- National Cathedral and Spy Museum

The National Cathedral
Its Mission --
 to serve as a house of prayer for all people
and a spiritual home for the nation.

Sunday, the sixth day of our History Vacation, we went to church. The only day we went by car. Our Lyft driver to the National Cathedral was a long-time Washington resident. Before he started driving for Lyft he drove a taxi, so he was very knowledgeable both about how to get where we wanted to go and about what we saw on our way.

(An aside regarding Lyft -- my daughter reminded me that when she was growing up I taught her not to arrange to meet strangers on the internet and not to get into cars with people she didn't know. Now we make arrangements with strangers on the internet to get into cars with them.)

Having grown up in Oklahoma where there are no natural lakes and now living in Colorado which is High Plains Desert, the concept of water travel is very exotic to me. The Potomac River which empties into the Chesapeake Bay which in turn opens out to the Atlantic Ocean is an important feature of the City of Washington and an endless source of fascination for me. On the way to church we passed through country that was a combination of city buildings and sail boat masts.

Like the Washington Monument, the National Cathedral was damaged in 2011 by the strongest earthquake east of the Mississippi since 1944.

The magnitude 5.8 earthquake struck about 90 miles southwest of Washington D.C. and was felt by more people than any other quake in U.S. history. It was felt in 12 states and several Canadian provinces.

The Cathedral still has scaffolding in place and is trying to gather enough money to repair the damage.

Each of the doors across the front of the church is covered by beautiful ornamental metal gates.

                 The left entry gate                                                  Two details from the left entry gate

On Saturday, the day before we went to church, Washington had its big Pride Parade to celebrate its LGBTQ community. We were unaware that the parade was taking place so we missed it.

The entrance procession for mass typically includes all who will serve during mass -- the ministers who will serve at the altar, including acolytes or servers, the deacons or priests who will serve as assisting clergy, and the celebrant.

To acknowledge Pride Week, the procession also included a woman carrying the cross festooned with rainbow-colored streamers.

The Reverend Canon Jan Naylor Cope's sermon emphasized diversity and unity. She stressed that all are welcome in our nation and to this church. And that we should strive to overcome the deep divisions within our country and work together for the good of all.

A fitting service to bless our History Vacation.

Among the many striking features of the National Cathedral is one that is not there. The entrances have no metal detectors to walk through and no one examines the contents of your purse. Although, I felt perfectly safe everywhere we went in D.C., I must say, I felt safer there even without the righteous, post 9/11 security practices at all the museums.

From church, we took another Lyft to the Spy Museum. Well, actually, he let us out at the Spy Museum, but there was a Shake Shack right next door. Ah, yes. Burgers all around.

The Spy Museum is not one of the Smithsonian museums and is not free. It also ain't cheap. You get $2 off if you get tickets on line, but for an adult they're still $20.95.

For that, you get all things spy. Both real spies and fictional ones. The information and artifacts about real spies are real, not a bit cheesy. But, if they were, they might be less disturbing.

The kids, including my adult son, enjoyed the Spy Museum immensely. My personal favorite was James Bond's car. (Photo by the museum.)

Think I'll stick with the fictional spies.

On the walk from there to the nearest Metro Station, we were treated to some unique and beautiful Washington architecture.
St. Patrick's Catholic Church, est. 1794

When you turn away from St. Patrick's, right behind you is the most amazing building facade.

It's a seven story building with the bottom two stories decorated with painted cast iron.

                    Detail of painted cast iron facade                      Story of the building

Don't forget. You can click on the photos to enlarge them.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Day 5 Holocaust Museum & American History Museum

Some of the thousands of shoes confiscated from arriving prisoners
at the Majdanek concentration camp in Poland.

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is not part of the Smithsonian Institution. On November 1, 1978, President Jimmy Carter established the President’s Commission on the Holocaust, chaired by Elie Wiesel. Two years later the United States Congress voted unanimously to establish the museum, and the federal government provided land adjacent to the Washington Monument for construction.

In October 1988, President Ronald Reagan helped lay the cornerstone of the building, and on April 22, 1993 the museum was dedicated amid speeches by American President Bill Clinton, Israeli President Chaim Herzog, Elie Wiesel and others of note. Four days later the Museum opened to the general public. Its first visitor was the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet.

Admission is free, but to tour the permanent exhibit you need a ticket which you can get ahead of time online. You can also get tickets on the day of your visit, but just be warned, there'll be a line.

Five years ago, when the girls and I visited Washington on our History Vacation, I started the tour of the permanent exhibit, but like this year's tour of the Museum of African American History and Culture, it was too intense and I had to leave the tour. 

What the tour does is exactly what it is meant to do. It brings home to your heart that the Holocaust was not only a horror committed against millions of Jews and other Europeans, but murder and unspeakable cruelty against individual people. Some, seniors like me. Some, children like my grandchildren. Some, well-educated professionals. Some, working class. Each a person had their own past, their own hope for the future, their own story. Each person had a name.

During my abortive visit five years ago, I waited in the reception area for the girls to finish the tour. I met a woman also waiting. She was a little older than I. An immigrant with an accent. She was a Holocaust Survivor. She was very young when her family was sent to one of those camps. And she was the only one of her family who lived. We didn't talk very much about what happened to her in the camp. We talked about how she came to the United States. How she met her husband. About her children and grandchildren. For me, she is living proof that humanity can endure and rise above hate and tyranny.

The museum and that woman's experiences remind me that we cannot be bystanders. Germany during that time was not a nation of monsters. I'm sure they never believed their country could perpetrate such evil. It can happen here. It has happened here. Perhaps not so efficiently or on such an industrial scale, but wars, both formal and informal, against Native Americans. Communities' tacit acceptance of lynchings of African Americans. Cultural abuses great and small against immigrants, minority religious groups, the physically or developmentally handicapped, people who somehow deviate from the "norm." 

To protect against becoming a Nazi-Germany-style nation, it is absolutely necessary that we speak out against hate and prejudice whether we're in line at the checkout counter in Walmart or in the voting booth.

My son John and his wife decided before the D.C. trip that nine-year-old Silas was too young to go through the Holocaust Museum so he and I did our own thing while John and J.R. went to the museum. The plan was to meet up after lunch at the Museum of American History.

If you recall, Silas's priorities for the vacation were to swim in the hotel pool and go to an escape room. First of all, being locked in a room anywhere is not my idea of entertainment. For that matter, neither is swimming in a hotel swimming pool. I didn't even take a swimsuit. 

Luckily for both of us, the hotel had a lifeguard on duty, so I didn't have to get into the water. While Silas swam, I read. Paragraphs liberally sprinkled with "Grandma Claudia, watch this!" A good book spiced with a child's enthusiasm -- the best kind of reading.

Washington, D.C. is a wonderful town to eat in. You can partake of any cuisine from any place in the world. 

To celebrate this abundance of choice, we had pizza from a food truck. 

We ordered. Pepperoni, of course. Watched them make it. And ate on the terrace of the Museum of American History.

Our only food truck meal while in D.C. It was really good.

While we ate we talked about the flag we were going to see inside the National Museum of American History. The flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the poem "Defence of Fort M'Henry." His words would become the "Star Spangled Banner."

The museum houses artifacts from all aspects of American History. Many of the exhibits follow American culture more than American history.

Americans, it seems, have always been on the move so transportation from human powered and horse drawn to steam driven engines, internal combustion engines, and electric powered machines. They have water craft of all stripes from canoes used on fresh water streams to ships for the high seas. There are locomotives and bicycles, motorcycles, and automobiles.

(To be honest, I like the Forney Museum in Denver better when it comes to bicycles, automobiles, motorcycles, and locomotives. Of course, the museum in Denver is solely focused on those items with a few manikins dressed in clothing from whatever period a vehicle is from.)

The exhibit following changes in American foods, food is preparation, preservation, and marketing over the years is fascinating.

Americans, no doubt because we are a country of immigrants, have brought our ethnic foods from all the nations of the world.

The Hello Kitty bento box is an excellent example of our adoption of things Japanese. After all, what American college student has not existed nearly exclusively on ramen noodles after growing through their childhoods admiring Ninja turtles. Okay, so the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are a peculiar American take on Japanese folktales.

Pizza and pasta from Italy. Brats from Germany. General Tso's Chicken from China. Tacos from Mexico.

Speaking of tacos from Mexico. What would a good Mexican meal be without a margarita?

Yep, this is the World's First Frozen Margarita Machine.

Make mine with salt on the rim, please. Thank you.

Many of the exhibits tend toward light-heartedness and nostalgia. Like Micky Mouse and the First Ladies' evening gowns.

But some are quite serious like the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II and the dispersion of immigrants throughout America. Reminders that history continues to be relevant to and revelatory of history as it goes forward from today.

The pièce de résistance:
The Star Spangled Banner

On September 13, 1814, the British Fleet attacked Ft. McHenry. The bombardment continued through that day and all through the night. On the morning of September 14, the oversized American flag was raised over the fort for reveille, just as it had been every morning for a year. The American forces had held. The British attempted land and sea invasion at Baltimore was defeated.

          Oh, say can you see by the dawn's early light
          What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?
          Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
          O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
          And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
          Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
          Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
          O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

It is our responsibility to continue the fight for "the land of the free." No longer against the British, but as Walt Kelly's comic strip character Pogo said it so well, "We have met the enemy and he is us.”

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Day 4 -- Marine Barracks

The Marine Barracks Washington
Established in 1801

Our History Vacation continued late into the evening of Day 4. We attended the Friday Evening Parade at the Marine Barracks.

Admission to the parade is free, but it's a good idea to make reservations online. The gates open at
7 p.m. for people with reservations. At 8 guests without reservations are offered the unclaimed seats.

A band member showed us to our seats then asked and answered questions. He was pleased to learn that the son and grandsons are from Texas. He is, too. He answered questions ranging from his duties with the band and as a Marine to how they get those white pants so clean. (Detergent, Oxyclean, and bleach.)

Son John and Grandsons JR and Silas waiting for the Parade to begin.

Established in 1801, the Marine Barracks is the oldest Marine Post in the United States.

Completed in 1806, the Commandant's House (the white house to the left) is  the only original building left in the complex. They light all the lights in the Commandant's House and as night falls the house's floor-to-ceiling windows shine out into the parade grounds. I was struck by how welcoming those lights seem.

I have long bemoaned the fact that the TV-powers-that-be have decided not to show the marching bands during half-time at college football games. Instead they have old football guys talking about other football games, old football games, future football games, etc., etc., ad nauseam. 

               The Marines in red jackets are the band.        Those in blue march in formation.

It was a joy to get to see a marching band sans football! Plus, these people are fine musicians.

And, and! The Silent Drill Platoon is amazing. The 24-man rifle platoon performs their drills with bayonets fixed to M1s. The 10.5 pound rifles were standard issue for the Marine Corp from 1936 to 1959. 

The routine ends with much spinning and tossing of the rifles. Where we sat, we couldn't see most of their performance, but we could see the bayonets flashing in the lights as they spun high in the air. To see a Youtube video click on the Silent Platoon Drill.

At the end of the parade, the flag was lowered, the troops withdrew, and a single bugler played Taps from atop the barracks. This reminds us that these Marines are not just for show. In the War of 1812, they fought the British during the burning of Washington, D.C. It is traditionally held within the Marine Corps that, out of respect for the brave showing of the Marines at the Battle of Bladensburg, the British refrained from burning the barracks and the Commandant's house. And these Marines continue to train and are ready to answer the call to arms, should the necessity arise.

Of course, with kids in tow, no experience is complete without a visit to the gift shop. I think everything in D.C. has a gift shop. But the Marine Barracks gift shop was special. We got to meet Sgt. Chesty XIV, the Marine Corp Mascot.
The Marine looks sharp in his proper white cover.
Silas's squid cover may not be proper but he's pretty cute.
And he scored a stuffed toy Chesty in the gift shop.

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!