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DC, day 2: 20 June 2007

Started: 2007-07-12 17:30:54

Submitted: 2007-07-12 17:57:53

Visibility: World-readable

1215 EDT 22 June 2007

Currently westbound on the Metrobus 5A, en route to Dulles. Taking mass transit to Dulles is painful; whenever they manage to build the Silver Metro line to connect Dulles to the city will be a great day for DC. Flying into DCA was a brilliant move on my part.

On Wednesday, Kiesa and I took the yellow Metro line from Crystal City to the National Archives/Navy Memorial/Penn Quarter stop. (First we packed and dropped our bags at the front desk so they could give us a non-smoking room.) We wandered onto the Mall in the mid-morning overcast light (it rained briefly as we walked to the Crystal City Metro stop, but it was too warm to notice; I left my rain coat at home because I didn't want to try to cram it into my luggage and drag it along). Our first stop was looking for tickets at the Washington Monument; we're supposed to queue to get tickets early in the morning, and we didn't show up early enough to get them. We headed west down the Mall and saw the new (at least since the last time I was in DC -- fourteen years ago) World War II memorial, nestled between the eastern edge of the Washington Monument Reflecting Pool and the hill on which the monument sits. I thought it was a great memorial, showing the two theaters of the war and remembering those who died -- with stars representing 100 lives lost. This may be too big of a stretch, but the pillars representing each US state and territory involved suggested both the stark monolith that is the Washington Monument while also representing the neo-classical columns of the Lincoln Memorial and many government buildings in Washington.

We walked around the south side of the reflecting pool and visited the Lincoln Memorial and its tiny gift shop. (Kiesa is looking for aprons on this trip after finding and buying one at the Imperial War Museum in London. Lincoln did not have an apron for sale.)

We headed down the steps and visited the Vietnam Memorial, the simple granite wall that makes no political statements but remembers those who died. I didn't know any names to look up -- I was born after the conflict ended. We walked along the wall and tried -- and mostly failed -- to comprehend the massive loss of life.

1605 EDT 22 June 2007

Now on 5A bus again, heading back to Rosslyn after a fantastic time at the Air & Space Museum annex. But more about that later.

After the Vietnam Memorial, we swung south around the west edge of the reflecting pool and visited the Korean War Memorial, another relatively recent addition to the Mall. I didn't do quite as much homework on this memorial to be able to identify the artistic intention behind the ghostly figures, frozen in patrol in a field of living juniper. Kiesa wondered about the wisdom of planting the famously-sprawling plant but speculated the intention may be to have a growing memorial that changes over time.

We headed south and walked around the west shore of the Tidal Basin, past the plaque proclaiming the future site of a memorial to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to a sprawling open-air FDR memorial. Despite asking for a memorial no larger than his desk, FDR ended up with a four-room memorial, complete with a gift shop, with quotes and comments from FDR that seemed to stand out in stark contrast to the right-wing conservatism of the Bush administration and his War on Terror and unlimited detentions at Guantanamo Bay. (That's not to say that FDR's presidency lacked its controversies, but the facet which the memorial's designers chose to portray was quite different. The contrast was especially interesting given that the memorial was built in 1997. (One might even go as far as to say "prescient".))

While we were visiting the memorial, a quartet of Blackhawk helicopters flew overhead, presumably en route to the White House with President Bush aboard or to pick him up. I photographed the aircraft and wondered if I managed to record Marine One.

We continued around the Tidal Basin, found and under-documented garden with a statue of a guy whose name escapes me, and continued to the Jefferson Memorial, with yet another founding father statue inside the domed monument.

By that time, I was beginning to wonder about lunch. We walked north, onto the Mall, past the neo-classical Department of Agriculture and the modern, basically Brutalist Department of Energy to the Smithsonian castle, whose gift shop, cafe, and visitor's center all failed to inspire us. Kiesa pulled out her Palm, which included a cached version of vegdc.com's listing of vegetarian-friendly restaurants in the District. I studied the list and we took the Metro from Smithsonian to Capitol South to eat at Burrito Brothers, a burrito place not unlike Chipotle. (DC also has Chipotle, Denver's favorite home-grown big-burrito chain. Advertisements in the Metro tell me that DC is another market where Chipotle serves naturally-farmed meats.) The tiny place was packed with a spectral assortment of DC employees, which led me to believe that it is popular among the locals and has a devoted fan base, so it can't be all bad.

We took our food and ate in front of the James Madison building of the Library of Congress. Since we were in the neighborhood, we queued to enter the Jefferson Building and caught up with the guided tour, which included a visit to the upper galleries of the main reading room, still under renovation (or under renovation again) and apparently recently the location for filming a sequel to National Treasure. (Kiesa didn't think it was appropriate to call Nicholas Cage a "combat librarian".)

We looked around on our own at the conclusion of the tour, but I was feeling tired and my legs were beginning to hurt from too much standing and walking. I consulted the map and decided to go to Union Station in search of coffee and a place to sit. I wasn't inspired by the food court, but I did find an establishment on the third floor that I deemed sufficiently worthy to serve me a latte.

1700 EDT 22 June 2007

Now eastbound in the Metro, heading from Rosslyn to DC under the Potomac River.

At Union Station, we contemplated our options for the rest of the day, which were complicated by the fact that it was after 1600 and most museums closed at 1730. We considered getting tickets for a tour bus but didn't think we had enough time to take the whole tour before they shut down for the night, and the tours were fairly expensive. We decided to see the National Archives. I can't remember off-hand whether I saw the Archives when visiting DC in 1990; this is when having scanned and reviewed my journal from that trip seventeen years ago would have come in handy. Whether I visited the archives before, my tour books tell me they were upgraded recently to show off the most important documents.

1012 EDT 23 June 2007

Eating breakfast in Caribou Coffee, 1155 15th St NW.

We took the Metro to Archives/Navy Memorial/Penn Quarter, but I arrived on a train earlier because I ran into the train while the doors were closing and Kiesa wasn't quite as bold. I made some cryptic hand gestures in an attempt to communicate that I would get off at the next stop, our target stop, and wait for her. She didn't quite get the message, but we reconnected at the next station anyway. We visited the Navy Memorial, which featured bollards that looked like they belonged on ships and reliefs of scenes from Navy history, including two I photographed for Willy: Navy airships and recovering Freedom 7.

Apparently everyone else had the same brilliant idea we did, to visit the National Archives when the other museums closed. We queued outside and eventually went through security. (Every building has a slightly different procedure for security screening; most have airport-style x-ray machines and metal detectors, but none of them apply the same consistency or rigor the TSA applies, and most get distressed when I try to actually empty my pockets.) We squeezed immediately in front of a school group and headed upstairs into the galleries, where we saw the Decleration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. I noticed Amendment 9 indicates that other, non-enumerated rights also exist and wondered how many constitutional scholars pay attention to that clause today. (A right to privacy would be a good candidate for extra rights provided by this amendment.)

We looked at other historic documents and eventually departed and contemplated supper. We decided on Thai Place, a Thai restaurant near George Washington University and across the street from the World Bank. I tried to come up with clever World Bank and Paul Wolfiwitz jokes but none sprang to mind.

After eating, we headed back to our hotel and were pleased to get a non-smoking room. We contemplated our plan for the next day, but Kiesa had already seen what she came to see -- the Library of Congress -- one of the most holy sites for librarians on this continent.