Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Being Good Tourists in Our Nation's Capital

The hostel puts on a lot of free activities, including a tour of the monuments of the National Mall, which, due to its overwhelming popularity, is scheduled at 9am so only the truly devoted and patriotic will rouse themselves to attend. It has been led for almost eleven years by a sweet, earnest Vietnam veteran called Larry. Throughout the tour he filled our eager heads with historic trivia, and proved to be unendingly patient, tactfully ignoring my worrisome need to constantly tack obnoxious comments to the end of every single thing I hear. Larry, if you are reading this, I appreciate you very much. And you do a fabulous impression of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

There are a lot of very important memorials and monuments that one must stand in awe in front of, and they are not close together. They are scattered around something called the National Mall, which is thankfully nothing like the Mall of America. Larry's tour led us to, past, through, over, and under the White House, Washington Monument, Capitol, Jefferson Memorial, FDR Memorial, the Korean and Vietnam Memorials, the Lincoln Memorial, various impressive statues of men on horses, imposing government buildings, and multiple bodies of water with important historical significance. Some highlights I took away from Larry's font of knowledge:

  1. A private group started constructing The Washington Monument in 1848. However, they ran out of money 1/4 through, and it was not completed until 30 years later, using public funds.
  2. The Tidal Basin south of the Mall is lined with thousands of Japanese cherry trees that have been donated as diplomatic gifts from Japan since 1912. 98 of these are originals from the first group and are over 100 years old! They celebrate them each spring when they bloom.
  3. FDR had an adorable dog called Fala that was his constant companion throughout WWII. We took a picture with her at the FDR Memorial.

  4. Most of our founding fathers had accomplished amazing feats by their early thirties, which means I need to get my act together.
We celebrated the filling of our minds by then crossing the Potomac for lunch at Ray's Hell Burger in Arlington, where their T-shirts say "Go to hell." Now, this is not meant to be a political publication, but this summer, Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev were spotted munching burgers together there, and any place that can bring Russia and the US together in juicy grilled beef harmony is a place that I will gladly patronize and give free advertising to, not that they need it.

I spent the afternoon touring Georgetown University, which was recently voted to have the nation's best International Relations graduate program.

Before bed, we watched the 2009 Danny Glover/Steve Zahn disaster Night Train, which was equals parts confounding and infuriating. The quote which demonstrates the horror best would have to be the following, by Glover:

"This train is a dictatorship, and I am the dictator. Now put down the meat cleaver and go back to your seats!!!"

This film was not on my Top 100 list.

1 comment:

  1. Fala was a he and was buried next to FDR upon Fala's death.