The District of Columbia
Oakland Internaltional Airport
It is good to not fly out of San Francisco Airport. Oakland Airport is so much closer for us, which means we do not have to get up anywhere near as early. Sleep is precious and must be maximized.
It seems that trans-America flights, these days, almost always require a stopover in one of the central states. When I traveled for my work as a consultant, years ago now, I used to refer to them as fly-over states as I would never consider landing in one of them. I guess the USA is massive, and if you want to maximize your passenger flights you must have stopovers.
With this current requirement, our flight today had us land first in St. Louis. There we switched aircraft and continued on-our-way to Trumpsville USA. Well I assume, given his recent misbehavior, that the new President would like to think that Washington D.C. is his town now. Perhaps it is?
Julia and I are visiting D.C. for her work and my pleasure. Julia plans to engage in the ancient American art of lobbying the government. I, on the other hand, will take in the sights of the many museums and galleries in this fine city.
We visited the Congressional Capital Building this morning. Once there we took the tour through its cavernous interior and discovered a varied and interesting history. Out front, of this temple to America, we watched as they dismantled the stands from the recent (poorly attended) Presidential Ingurgitation, oh sorry I mean ignoration, no, no inauguration. The disarray of wood and metal in front of this shrine to capitalism, imperialism, and Americanism seemed appropriate given everything that has transpired since that day, which will go down as a day of infamy I'm sure.
Our tour guide brought to our attention that we could visit the Senate, which was in session. In fact, a historic vote was underway to confirm Betsy DeVos as Education secretary. The vote was historic because it appeared to be tied and that if so it would require the Vice President to cast the deciding vote.
We ventured forth on a journey to view this vote not realizing how unlikely it would be that we would see it happen. Undeterred, we took on our first obstacle which was to collect a senate pass from one of our two Californian Federal senators. We left the Capital Building and crossed the very wide road to the Senate Buildings. We got lost and ended up wandering through a maze of underground passages until we found Dianne Feinstein's office where we retrieved two senate passes. We rushed back to the Capital Building having discovered along the way that the historic vote was to happen at 12:00 noon; it was now 10 minutes to! We endured our third security check for the day and were ushered up to the public galleries of the US Senate where we were confronted with a very long line.
We became very disillusioned and sure we would be too late to see the vote. We were about to give up when an usher assured us that it would not be too much longer before we could go in, and so we persevered. Finally, we were seated in the public gallery and watched as Senators Bernie Sanders, Al Franken, Nancy Pelosi, and John McCain walked back and forth on the blue carpet of the impressive chamber. Then a flash of white hair appeared and there was Vice President Mike Pence. He took the podium and slammed his gavel down endorsing his pick for Education secretary. And so, ended the hopes of so many Americans.
We finished this busy day by visiting the National Museum of African Americans, which I must say is worth spending time in. It is an impressive building, but the history it holds within should be experienced by every American. It is a history of shame and inhumanity and something that should never be forgotten or allowed to happen again.
The temperature here in Washington D.C. was a record high 65 degrees Fahrenheit. The day was so warm and lovely we decided to stay outside for most of it. We visited the amazing Smithsonian Sculpture gardens and visited the reflecting pool in front of the Capital Building too.
It is difficult not to visit museums while in this city of museums, so we did take in the Hirshhorn Modern Art museum and the National Museum of the American Indian.
Given the history we experienced at the National Museum of African Americans and combine it with our experience today at the National Museum of the American Indian, I must say that I am ashamed to be an American. The genocide of native Americans is on the scale of the holocaust and we as a nation have done very little to appease this horror against humanity.
Our balmy weather left us abruptly this morning. Temperatures plunged from yesterday's 65 to a freezing and bone chilling 33 today. As I left my warm hotel I got an inkling of the change, but when I emerged from the Smithsonian Metro onto the vast expanse of the National Mall I was made fully aware of just how cold it can be here in winter. The ice-cold wind was howling down the open field causing the wind-chill to drop below freezing. It was cold enough to make my unshielded ears smart with pain.
It wasn't quite like this, but close
Still, it was worth braving this artic-blast as my destination was, one of my favorite museums here, the National Air and Space Museum. I have visited this gallery every time I have toured this city, and it never ceases to influence me. I guess there are two reasons for my fascination with this museum. The first is my age. I was born in 1957, which was the beginning of the space-race that ultimately led to the USA landing men on the Moon. For totally illogical reasons I've always felt connected to human space efforts because of my random birthdate.
The second reason for my fascination with the National Air and Space Museum was my 25 years of being a private pilot. During my time as a fly-boy I clocked over a 1,000 hours of flight time and attained IFR (instrument flight rules) certification. This experience was driven by my fascination with all things aeronautical. Spaceflight and aeronautics are well represented at this stupendous museum.
During this visit, I strangely feel less impressed with Homo Sapiens' clever space and flight inventions and achievements. It seems to me that we made our most progress in both these fields via systems developed for killing other humans. The space-race and subsequent Moon landing was really driven by the USA's need for orbital dominance. We got a man on the Moon and created orbital spy networks to boot. Even my very flightworthy 51 Juliet was the result of aeronautical technologies honed via incremental development of flying-machines created for the sole purpose of death and destruction.
Oh, I so long for a simpler time when I could just look at an airplane and marvel. Maybe I'll be able to return to this meeker perspective, but somehow, I doubt it. Once the genie is out of the bottle there's no putting it back.
Julia and I decided to see a show at the infamous Ford Theater. From 1860 the theatre was innocently used for various stage performances. But the theater became notorious when it was transformed to the site of the assassination of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln on April 14, 1865. After being shot, the mortally wounded president was carried across the street to the Petersen House, where he died the next morning. These events inextricably linked the Ford Theater and Petersen House for all time.
After this dastardly deed the theatre was closed for some time, used as a warehouse, and then an office building. In 1893 part of it collapsed, causing 22 deaths adding to the horror associated with this ill-fated structure. In 1968 it was renovated and re-opened as a theatre once again. Then it was renovated again and reopened to the public on February 12, 2009, as part of the commemoration of the bicentennial of Lincoln's birth.
The despicable history America has with the murder of its government officials is not exceptional. Sapiens have a long and sordid history of such crimes. We all must own our propensity for violence if we are to ever change.
We watched a performance of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf at this somehow western theater. Martha and George's relationship reminded me of the left and the right political views in America. As the two constantly fought through the play it was slowly revealed that they could not live without each other. So, it is too, with liberals and conservatives.