Saturday, May 28, 2016

War Memorials...More than Giant Tombstones: World War II

 Between The Washington Monument and The Lincoln Memorial there is a large fountain surrounded by 17 foot pillars--one for each state and territory--and two 43 foot arches--one for the Pacific and one for the Atlantic theaters of World War II action.  It honors the 16 million who served  and those who supported the war effort.. There is also a field of 4,000 gold stars honoring the more than 400,000 who died. It is grand and lofty and could be only that, but a series of bronze sculpture panels embedded in the walls gives it a softer appeal--depicting ordinary Americans, both here and abroad, as they gave of their lives, and sometimes gave their lives. Each one shows a recognizable job--like pilot or gunner--or an event--like the Normandy landing. They are windows into the war.

I captured a few of them with my phone camera. The last ones are darker, because they were on the other side of the memorial and were getting less sun in the evening.

 Turtle wanted me to take his picture near the Arkansas column. That's his home state, and he wanted to recognize that they served in this momentous conflict. Thus, in some small way we honored his father, a wartime airplane mechanic who spent his service in the islands and the rest of his life touched by the difficult things he saw and endured there. It was fitting that WWII Veterans get a memorial, and a little sad that so few are now alive to see it.

Friday, May 27, 2016

The Metro...and Transit Tips

Forget driving in downtown D.C. Leave that for the locals, the buses, and the Ubers. If you are able to walk, get to a metro station. They are fast and don't get caught in the traffic tangles. Better yet, invest in a good map before you go or check it out online, so you can choose  lodgings within walking distance of the train station. I know it's a little confusing at first for those of us from the mid-western plains, but after a couple of days, you will be swiping your card without hesitation, and figuring out that the first few cars are usually the least crowded, so you should walk forward instead of waiting with the clump of commuters at the middle.
There is some underground riding and walking to do, but most of the line is above ground and well thought out. This station had a lot of vegetation and we were even able to watch as two groundhogs went about their day, ignoring us completely.

So North, South, East, and West are harder to understand, and that's one thing that tourists have to puzzle over, but since this station was the end of the line, it was no biggie. We just had to step on the train and it took us downtown.  Every car had a large map, and the station names were clear.
Of course everyone knew we were tourists. Who else would snap pictures on the metro, or stand and hang onto a pole when there were seats available?
And one had to be fast. Stops are brief and unforgiving. If you miss the train, you have to wait for the next. However, they are usually well-spaced, especially during rush hours. Signs in the stations count down the minutes and there are covered places to wait should it be raining.

So unless you love to engage city traffic and drive around forever looking for a parking spot, don't drive in DC. If the trains look daunting, take a tour bus, because parking is impossible in the center of town. (It costs fifteen dollars a day to park at the train station parking lots and garages, but that's still better than buying a tank of gas a day so you can drive around all day and wish you were enjoying the sights) If you are close enough to walk to the station, you can save even that fee. I don't know if that's possible....since we stayed in Maryland and had to drive about an hour every day just to get to the stations...but if I go again, I'll set that as a priority. After all, walking is a stress-reliever, and that brings us to the next topic: Walking Shoes

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Washington DC

I've just returned from a week-long visit to the most historically moving place in the nation--the capital, Washington, District of Colombia, and I have to say one thing: Every American should go visit that city. Of course it would help if those Americans have had a course in our history and seen and studied great works of art. It would also help if those Americans looked at maps and previewed all the places to see, then saw them on days I wasn't visiting them. But, if you appreciate great works and great words and great people and if you understand what it means that people who lived before you sacrificed their entire lives to build a nation we now enjoy; If you want to feel the enormity of that: visit DC. The buildings and monuments alone merit that. Here are a few pictures of the highlights. I'll post specifics in upcoming days.
The Metro

A Very Young Hero Indeed

Overwhelming Architecture

From the WWII Monument Wall

Lots of Walking through Beautiful Places

Memorials that Overwhelm

Dazzle at the White House

Pictures of People You Recognize

Tributes to Heroes from Every State
Audacious, Gaudy Art that made me Smile

The Original Smithsonian



Korean War Memorial

I could have spent another few weeks there and not seen it all. It's pretty amazing. In general, what impressed me was the accessibility of it -- lots of security checks, but no tickets or fees for any of the memorials, museums, federal buildings or parks. I walked in and saw my own constitution...yes, the original document, and I walked out through the front doors of the White House and onto that very lawn we see in the news. I saw the flag that flew over Fort McHenry, the Spirit of Saint Lewis, and the Hope Diamond. I spoke with Senator James Lankford from our state of Oklahoma and stood in the spot where John Quincy Adams once had a desk, and I'm just an ordinary American with no special honor, talent, or finances. That's what made this trip so special. Ordinary Americans have access to America.