Mary and I braved the venerable I-95 corridor yesterday for a visit with David in DC. It was great to see David again and to roam around the city with people of like-interest. Here are some thoughts on the day...
1. The WW2 Memorial is a pretty decent memorial. The presentation is fantastic - my favorite part is how it appears that the reflecting pool is flowing directly into the fountains at the memorial because you are slightly below ground level inside the memorial. The more I thought about the overall design, however, there are a few things I don't necessarily love. I don't think the stars were necessary. They were 4000 stars, representing the over 400,000 dead. I don't know, the gold stars give the memorial a nice contrast in color, but I generally don't like this type of memorial. Why not 1 star, or 4, or 40 or 342, if there were over 400,000 dead, then that would mean each star represented roughly 104 or 124 dead, whatever the number, and thus doesn't fit in with the symmetry of the memorial. Speaking of symmetry, the Atlantic and Pacific ends were a great idea, as is being ended by the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument on the other sides. The state and territory monuments were OK, they were necessary in the design I would imagine, but my luke-warm feelings to it are similar to the stars - by trying to be all-encompassing you ultimately end up leaving something, somebody, or some place out and the memorial may lose its effect. I don't necessarily think this has happened at the WW2 memorial, but I definitely see it happening at the WTC with this sub-par "Reflecting Absence" design. At WTC however, the all-encompassing effect comes not from the design as much as the foolish desire to get everyone's "approval" for anything done on the site. I think everyone, especially the families, need to back off a little bit and allow the design at WTC to develop. Not everyone is going to agree, yet they are trying to make that happen in New York. I agree with the criticism that memorials built too soon after the event being memorialized tend to lose their effect. I imagine that if the WW2 Memorial was built in 1948, instead of 2004 (which, of course, was 20-30 years too late), it would have been greatly inferior to the memorial we have today - because of the time that is needed to fully understand the history and see how the event in question affected the world long after (not just 3 years after, especially if the event is of the magnitude of Sept. 11).
2. The EPA building is shamefully too large. Why should a government agency like the EPA (questionable of its right to exist), have more space than the president. Why should said agency, which I believe is a subsidiary of the Interior Dept, have such a large building, one I can only imagine is bigger than Interior's itself.
3. I don't like being approached by homeless people asking for money, that's a given. This is not a statement that should be seen as "anti-homeless" or any other derivative leftist label. It merely reflects my belief that an individual has a right to walk down a public street without being made to feel uncomfortable by anyone asking for money, overtly like a homeless person would, but especially covertly like the person we met coming off the Metro at the Smithsonian did. I guess he spotted Mary and David and labeled them correctly as tourists (if I was first up the escalator, of course, he would have said "Good Morning, Congressman"). He then started to explain where everything was, nicely and enthusiastically - but ultimately unnecessarily - and at the end finally said that he was a volunteer for some sort of something and asked if we could help him out with some money (I think it was something medical). I'm sure it was a good cause - everything is a good cause it seems - but one should not be made to feel uncomfortable walking in a city because they know, hundreds of feet away, they are about to be asked to give money to some cause or a homeless person. If you want to raise money, I don't have a problem with it, but it should be done quietly (following the Salvation Army model), allowing people who just want to walk by in peace to do so.
4. The guy I heard talking about the "House Where Lincoln Died" by sarcastically saying "oh lets go visit some house where some guy died" really bothered me. Sorry, you moron, but that's a famous place, and something that should be preserved and open to the public. If you don't want to visit it, fine, I didn't walk in either, but I wouldn't have minded to walk in, and I appreciate that places like this are still preserved within a bustling metropolis.
4a. I was very surprised to see the major construction project next to Ford's Theatre, with demolition etc just a few feet from the building. You certainly like to see old sections of cities preserved if they can be useful, like Old City Phila., but I guess the former buildings were becoming more of an eye-sore than a connection to the past.
5. The Metro is great, and all major cities need to build up mass transportation and bring them into the 21st Century.
5a. It would have been nice to take a high-speed, inexpensive MAGLEV to DC instead of driving, then I wouldn't have feared dying on the drive home from exhaustion-induced sleep at the wheel.
6. The underground visitor's center at the Capitol, if it restores the grounds and allows for more people to visit efficiently, will be a great thing.
7. The American Presidency exhibit at the Smithsonian was great, but I was expecting something entirely different. I was hoping for a more linear path through history, but they laid out the exhibit in general presidential sections (assassination, inauguration, media and the presidency, tech. and the presidency etc). Washington's cane that was a gift from Franklin, the first page of TR's speech that stopped the bullet in 1912, and the case that held the papers from the Continental Congress of Washington's were three of my favorite things - then there was Eisenhower's golf clubs, Lincoln's top hat, and Harrison Ford's suit from Air Force One.
8. I was wrong about National Treasure's depiction of the National Archives. Of course they were right. It was disappointing that the Constitution on display wasn't the original, but the Declaration and Bill of Rights were originals. I'm nearly positive, however, that the Archives' Rotunda used to be different - I know the Declaration was on the wall, plus Nixon's resignation letter used to be in there.
9. I still haven't seen my boy TJ's memorial. The Simpsons remains correct - everyone goes to talk to Lincoln.
10. The White House still awaits my arrival - I could feel it in the air.