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Monday, June 25, 2012

Mall Rats

When I was a kid, I remember borrowing a picture book of Washington, D.C. from the Corona (CA) public library, seeing all the photos of the famous places and pestering my dad to take the family there. It took over 40 years to do so, but today I finally got around to seeing some of the scenes that so piqued my interest during my childhood. Better late than never, right? 

Taking the Metro to the Smithsonian station, we walked over to the Washington Monument. Though the obelisk has been closed since the 2011 Virginia earthquake, at 555 feet (169 meters) in height it was still an impressive sight, especially on a beautiful (if somewhat warm) day such as this Sunday:



I look forward to being able to ride the elevator to the top once the earthquake damage has been repaired:


From arguably the most symbolic...er, symbol of Washington, D.C., we made our way over to one of the capital's newer memorials, the National World War II Memorial, which opened in 2004. Sitting between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial, this salute to those who served during the Second World War consists of two arcs separated by a central fountain. Amber took advantage of the cool breeze created by all that water:


Chiseled into  the walls of the memorial are quotations from such luminaries as Dwight Eisenhower and Franklin Roosevelt:



In the center of the two arcs are 43-foot (13 meters) towers labelled "Atlantic" and "Pacific" (for obvious reasons if you know your history), both of which contain identical sculptures of four eagles holding a wreath:




There is a curving wall that contains over 4000 bronze stars that represent the 405,399 dead and missing from the conflict:


The memorial also contains 56 17-foot (5.2 meters) high stone pillars, one for each of the US states and territories at the time of the war. Guess which one I had my picture taken in front of:


Despite the controversy surrounding its design and site location, I liked how the architecture of this memorial evoked a style more reminiscent of the New Deal than its early 21st century construction date would suggest.


Lunch consisted of hot dogs, a turkey pita and lemonade on a park bench, where we entertained an audience of ducks and geese:



The Vietnam Veterans Memorial. 58,000 young lives squandered in another country's civil war far from home that we had no business being involved in. For me, the greatest thing about this beautifully stark memorial is that my father's name isn't etched on it, and for that fact Amber expressed her gratitude:




The last stop on our tour of the National Mall was the Lincoln Memorial:


Looking much like an ancient Greek temple, the Memorial was as grand as I had imagined it since childhood. Inside, of course, sits the justifiably famous seated sculpture of America's 16th president:



Gazing up at the 19 foot (5.8 meter)-high statue of Abraham Lincoln, I found myself feeling more than a little annoyed at how a certain memorial to a certain corrupt dictator who brutally ruled over a small island off the coast of China after getting driven out of his homeland tried to borrow so much from Daniel Chester French's magnificent work of art. 

Back to the more morally correct memorial in the District of Columbia, on the north and south walls inside the hall are some impressive, if somewhat dark, murals, and two of Lincoln's most famous speeches - the Gettysburg Address and his second inaugural address



If you sense that there's something missing from the photograph below, you're right. The Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool is in the process of being restored, and as a result, it's been drained of all its water. I didn't think a long bed of concrete would've added anything to this picture:


Amber proudly shows off the two books that we bought for her at the memorial's tiny bookshop: Hello, Washington, D.C.! and The Story of America's Birthday. Let the civics and history lessons begin!:


As I said before, it took more than four decades, but I've finally arrived!:


Before leaving the Lincoln Memorial, Amber insisted on having her picture taken with a police horse:


On the way back to the Foggy Bottom metro station, we stopped in front of my new place of employment for one last photo op:





If all goes according to schedule, we're going to be in Washington, DC until next February. I'm looking forward to seeing more of the sights the nation's capital has to offer, and posting photos of them here. And now that my wife understands that the word "mall" in the National Mall does not refer to a large shopping center, I'm sure she'll be more appreciative of all that iconography she'll be seeing in the weeks and months ahead.



3 comments:

  1. Jim, i couldn't help but notice the irony of your t-shirt (although i like that shirt a lot!). you almost said something complimentary about Taiwan there. better watch it! lol

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  2. There were a couple of people in a group of Chinese tourists who looked a little surprised at the shirt I was wearing!

    ReplyDelete