Thursday, January 19, 2017

Hodgepodge 82/365 - Washington, D.C. (Arlington Cemetery and the Mall)

Visited Arlington Cemetery this morning: I'd never been there before, and it was beautiful. All the graves—and there are a lot of them—were decorated with wreaths (still from Christmas?). We headed up to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier for the changing of the guard—which, for me, was curiously unmoving. A lot of clicking of patent-leather boots and manhandling of rifles and yelling, and a very careful inspection of the incoming guard: as if the sergeant-at-arms was looking for a stray mote of dust on the soldier's gloves. What did move me was the beautiful playing of taps (as wreaths were presented by high school students, twice) and seeing all the servicemen at the bottom of the hill in their camo stand at attention.

On our way to find John F. Kennedy's grave we stumbled on Arlington House, the home of Robert E. Lee—actually his wife's house, inherited from her great-grandmother, Martha Washington and her first husband, Mr. Custis. I did not know that connection. We got a private tour of the basement, with its beautiful big kitchen, and the upstairs bedrooms (the Lees had seven children: it must have been quite the busy household).

Arlington House is at the top of the hill and was the oldest part of the cemetery. It was the center of the Lee plantation. And the view is spectacular! Here are a few photos from the morning (click on them to see them large):

The broad street on the left is the Arlington
Bridge, leading to the Lincoln Memorial.
We had planned to walk across it into
Washington, but it was closed to all traffic
because of a concert celebrating the inauguration.
The Washington Monument, Jefferson Memorial,
and Capitol are also in the picture.
The kitchen of Arlington House.

The JFK eternal flame and
Arlington House at the top of the hill.

After that, because we couldn't walk into town, we took the Metro all the way around. Got a late lunch, then walked to the Mall. It was amazing to see Constitution Avenue trafficless: just a long line of police cars parked down the middle and dozens of horse trailers along the sides. Everything is cordoned off: workers have been putting in lots of hours to make this little festivity well controlled.

Still, when we reached the Mall, it was totally open. Well, barricades everywhere, but they weren't fully set up yet. (It must be crazy out there tonight—all the last-minute security being put in place.) So we walked to the Capitol, enjoying the inaugural busyness, but also sorry we couldn't enjoy this place in all its open views. (One of our party, Lynda, has never been to DC before. She's definitely getting a unique first experience of the place—and will have to come back to enjoy it in its splendor.)

We met a fellow from Charlotte, David, here with his eight-year-old son, Blake, for the inauguration. David has been to many of them (maybe all of them?), ever since he first came with his father in 1989, for George H. W. Bush's inauguration. He is a civics teacher, and said his household was all for Hillary—but this is a lesson in democracy and he wants his boy to experience it. Good for him. (He also had photos of Blake getting an autograph from Joe Biden, and his daughter hanging with Chelsea Clinton. Living in Charlotte has its perks when it comes to political celebrities.)

We also ran into a few people who are here for the Women's March. We seemed to recognize each other. (In the case of a pair of sisters, pussyhats helped.) But mostly, we saw people wearing Trump hats, or star-spangled scarves, or flying Trump flags. People are definitely here to see the man become president, though I wouldn't exactly say they are here in "droves." The downtown area is surprisingly empty, in fact.

Here are a few photos from the afternoon:

It's a beautiful city, and it is kind of amazing to be here for an inauguration. I just wish I wanted this president. But that's why we're here: to protest this guy and his minions. It'll be a fascinating few days.

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