Two consecutive days off. We all bundled into the car to go to Washington DC. The drive is just under an hour from our hotel in Annapolis. I wasn’t sure what to expect. Hundreds of movies and TV shows had given me some idea, but nothing competes with the reality. The layout took me by surprise. It’s really very nicely thought through and executed. I guess they had the money and the time. It is the capital of this nation, after all.
We started with The White House, experienced as is traditional – by looking over the garden, past the fountain. Just a few meters from where we were all taking selfies two uniformed young men with about three guns each were laughing in conversation.
Without coffee we wandered to the Washington monument – an obelisk that’s definitely taller than you’d think. The hub of a wheel of monuments and civic buildings. You’ve got an eye to all these huge stone homages to leaders and warriors. Segway tours are popular here, as there’s a lot of stuff to cover, but we wanted to pound the ground.
It’s the 244th anniversary of the US Navy today. We were walking the trail with lots of veterans in matching T-shirts. At the Vietnam memorial one of them was studying the wall at a particular spot very closely. I saw him find the name he was looking for and spend a moment in the past. Strange to see his haunted eyes. I gave him some space. Too much space. I stepped over the fence to take a call I’d been expecting and got shouted at for being on the grass.
We had a huge amount to consume though and nothing like enough time so we were pushing ourselves forwards. I was hoping for a coffee, but all the vans were either selling bad street food or “MAGA” hats that were (genuinely) made in Vietnam – I checked the label.
There’s artistry here. The Korean War monument is strange and evocative. The relatively new one to WW2 is strong as well. And of course Lincoln, iconic with the long rectangular pond, the huge steps and the man himself, vast and towering above us, fasces on his armrests, his hands spelling out my name in sign language. “A L”
We broke off to find a museum. We walked down Pennsylvania Avenue past all the vast stone museums and libraries. We stumbled on a little urban garden with hidden benches and sat for a while. We ran in horror, much as Descartes did at the Eiffel Tower, but not from any of the edifices. We ran from the ice cream vans. They are a plague, and each of them has a different version of auditory hell to offer you. One had five hideous electronic seconds of “chopsticks” playing on an eternal loop. The guys working the van next to it must feel like they’re in Guantanamo. Another was playing Jingle Bells and Deck the Halls on the 12th October. Thank God I didn’t happen to be carrying a sledgehammer. I would have done the USA a service by destroying all of their speakers and probably earning a monument all of my own for services to the people.
We went into the Museum of Native American History. It was depressing to contemplate the extent of betrayal perpetrated. Educational, but less story than I had hoped. I was glad they acknowledged the evils we can do. I had hoped for a bit more folklore. I love a good myth. There was some satisfying stuff though, particularly around astronomy. But it was conflicting to engage.
We are driving back to Annapolis now. Kaffe just yawned hugely and said “I wanna beer”. I’m in full agreement. We packed it in today, but we barely stopped. A good meal. And a beer…