Tuesday, November 17, 2015

My Trip To DC

Really not sure why I never published this. It was written about a trip that I took with my son to Washington, D.C., in April of 2013, when we hoped to see the cherry blossoms, although it proved to be too cold to see them yet, at the time. Still, it was a cool trip, and I thought it was worth sharing some of my thoughts and experiences. 

Yet, it was apparently never published, and fell through the cracks here, which was obviously not my intention.

So, it seems appropriate to go ahead and publish it.

Hey, better late than never, right?

I always enjoyed Washington, D.C.. It is a town with a special kind of allure.

If you get past all of the ridiculous politics that can, understandably, be a huge turnoff, then the city itself has a decidedly Old World feel at points. It looks decidedly more European than many other American cities.

I remember the first trip that I ever took to the city. I think it was 1982, or 1983. Reagan was President. I was six years old.

What I remember most about that trip was seeing all of those famous sites in person, for the first time. The White House. The Capitol building. The Lincoln Memorial. The Washington Monument. The Jefferson Memorial.

It felt amazing at the time. I did not realize that the city was actually relatively close and easy to get to. But for me, it was a big trip that my grandparents had taken my brother and I on.

Ironically, one of the things that I remember most about that trip really did not have to be specific to Washington. My grandparents got us a big breakfast, and I ordered a waffle. It was really, really good, but it was also huge. After finishing it, I remember feeling stuffed like I had never felt before. I had weighed myself before then, and knew that I weighed 55 pounds. Once we came home after the trip, I weighed myself, and was amazed to see that I weighed sixty pounds! At the time, it seemed obvious that it must have been that huge waffle that had made me gain five pounds, pretty much all at once.

The next time that I went to Washington was for a class trip towards the end of my eight grade year. We were graduating from junior high school, which they counted as elementary school. The traditional seventh grade trip was to Stokes Forest, in northwestern New Jersey, but I did not go on that trip.

However, I did go on the Washington trip, and remember just having a blast. It was late May, a beautiful, warm but not steamy time of the year to go. The monuments and buildings looked pristine, and much of it were surrounded by plants that looked as ideal as you could ask for, with green lawns and colorful beds of flowers all over the place. It looked incredible, and we all got to enjoy it with friends. It was just a lot of fun, I remember. That was the one and only time I ever visited the Capitol to date, and we also went to the Washington Monument. If memory serves, we even got to meet a Congressman - Frank Lautenburg. I still have the class picture of that trip somewhere. For some of us, it was the first real taste of being able to be away from parents, even for just a few days. A taste of college, perhaps, well before hand, with hotel rooms serving as temporary college dormitories.

One thing that stands out about that trip, for whatever reason, was related to the Cold War which still was relevant back then. We were on the bus, driving through the city in a guided tour, and of course, the guide was mentioning quite a few things. He was pointing out many of the embassies, and he mentioned one that had, until recently, been the largest embassy in Washington, physically. But it had been replaced by the Soviet Union's new embassy, that had recently been built.

Some kids expressed their disapproval. I remember one in particular, a blond-haired, blue eyes young man, who threw up his hands in exasperation, and tiredly said, "Of course!"

Not sure why that particular memory resonates, but it does, still even to this day.

But those memories are from childhood. The next time that I would go to DC, it would be as an adult, and it came nearly a decade after the class trip. This, too, was supposed to be a class trip, but we went separately. This time, it was with my then girlfriend, who would, in a few years, become my wife. This trip was far grimmer than the others, for a variety of reasons. We visited the Holocaust Museum. Also, it was November, which meant it was cold and overcast. No cherry blossoms or colorful young flowers to be found then. Still, I was glad to have gone. The only I remember now about that trip that stands out was that Evander Holyfield won a huge match. I think it was the one when he avenged his earlier defeat to Michael Moore, although I can no longer be sure. But that was what was making big news at the time, on the television in the hotel room.

Since then, though, I have been back to Washington numerous times, and for a variety of different reasons, including protests (against the Iraq war), trips to see events (concerts and games),, a trip with a former girlfriend a few years ago, and now, most recently, a trip with my son, which was mostly spent seeing the major monuments.

A few years ago, as I mentioned before, I went to Washington with a girlfriend at the time. She was very good at knowing some small, out of the way things and points of interest whenever we went on the road, and this was no different. She showed me one restaurant, a local eatery that had become something of an institution -Ben's Chili Bowl. Interesting story behind it, but I will try to incorporate that into another blog altogether. But if you are in DC, I would definitely recommend it.

Also, there was a restaurant that we went to in Alexandria that was really awesome! I don't remember the name, and we met a friend of hers who lived in Alexandria, who drove us there. It was a fun place, and the food was great! Maybe I'll do some research, and try and go back there for my next time around in the DC general area.

Now, often times, when I think of Washington, I think of the famous Cherry Blossom Festival. As a stamp collector, that takes me back to the "Plant for a More Beautiful America" stamp series of 1966-67. That was a program to try and grow trees and other vegetation in order to try and make the nation more beautiful.

On a couple of those stamps, both cherry blossoms and the nation's capital figure prominently. You see the Washington Monument, the Capitol, and the Jefferson Memorial, which itself is seen behind some cherry blossoms that frame it.

These were nice stamps, and they really resonated with me. For me growing up, the sixties were a different time, with a greater emphasis on idealism. These stamps, with their idealized visions of beauty in the country, seemed to symbolize that. Why not plant more, in order to create greater beauty in America?

Of course, there was some politics behind all of this. It was a story that I was not so familiar with, at leas not until adulthood.

There are others that are not so specific to

 "Ugliness is so grim," Lady Bird Johnson once said. "A little beauty, something that is lovely, I think, can help create harmony which will lessen tensions."


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