and a happy time was had by all

Um, then again, maybe not.

So, I really liked traveling by train. Talk about leg room! I’ve flown 1st class exactly once in my life, and that was only because a bunch of us missed our connections in Miami coming home from Santo Domingo a few years back and Wubby and I were lucky enough to catch the last 2 seats to DC, 1st class. From there, it was the back row of a Dash-80 to Raleigh. “The last shall be first, and the first shall be last.” Or something like that. Did you know that you can see the PILOT from the back row of a Dash-80? You do now, don’t you?

So anyway, train was fun. Rest of trip, not so much.

I’ve helped plan a lot of trips to places for teens in my career as a professional chaperone, and let me tell you, this thing might have planned well, but it was executed poorly. First and foremost, the heat index was 120. 120!!!! People, this is dangerous, hello, get a clue! Day 1 was spent at Arlington National Cemetery, followed by a play at the Kennedy Center (that I skipped because I couldn’t walk or breathe.) Day 2 was spent touring government buildings (Capital, Supreme Court, Library of Congress), Smithsonian American Indian and Air and Space, National Archives, then a night “tour” of the monuments. The info we got from the trip coordinator said “tourmobile”. There was no tourmobile, it was a WALKING night tour. I spent this day in the National Gallery of Art (the Impressionism exhibit in the West wing is being renovated, FYI), the American Indian Museum and the Archives. Then daughter and I bugged out of the night tour and high-tailed it back to the hotel before I croaked, literally.

Day 3: I got late check-out, then enjoyed the lobby and lounge at the hotel while students went to Holocaust Museum, American History (where they saw the 1st ladies dresses and NOTHING else), and Natural History (where they saw the Hope diamond and NOTHING else). Then back to the hotel, catch the train and come home.

Long story short: that was $800 that could have done so much more. Lesson learned (as if I didn’t already know this one): take your kid to DC yourself, as we’ve already done twice and will probably do again unless the country goes completely to hell in a hand-basket next Tuesday. And for heaven’s sake, have a plan B for things like insanely hot weather, hurricanes, floods, blizzards, etc.

We got back to the train station Sunday morning at 12:39 AM exactly on time, back home by 1:30, and slept for 18 hours straight. Sad, but true. Now it’s almost a week later, and I’m just about back to 1 week post-surgery, where I was 2 weeks ago. I miss my brain.

Arlington always overwhelms me, and this time was no exception. Everyone always stands at JFK’s gravesite and talks about where they were, etc. I was not quite 3 years old then; I don’t have a clue where I was or what I was doing. RFK’s assassination is what I remember. We acted it out at after-school care every day for weeks, everyone wanted to be the first one to play charades so they could stand up then fall down.

We watched the changing of the guard at the Unknowns, always sobering, all of us standing quietly, sweating bullets, while these men repeat the drama every 30 minutes, completely without emotion, so precise, so dedicated to what they do. Then we headed behind the amphitheater to the mast of the Maine, but I stopped, couldn’t cross the street. Just sat on the curb and cried. Partly because I was so hot, partly because of what I’d just seen, and partly because of what was in front of me on the other side of the street. Something that really isn’t that emotional, but….it was the memorial to the Challenger Flight Crew. THAT is a day I will never forget. I was working at my first programming job, went to lunch w/ my parents since both of them worked nearby, and we went to a stained glass supply store so my dad could buy some glass. He was an artist with glass. They dropped me off back at work, I walked in and heard about Challenger, and we all just sort of sat there and stared at each other.

I walked across the street and up to the Challenger memorial, along side the Columbia memorial, and a memorial to the service men killed in 1980 in the failed attempt to rescue the hostages in Iraq.

Later that night, while the students were at the Kennedy Center, I scribbled something down about Arlington, which is already posted.

Here’s the last thing I saw as we were leaving the Cemetery:

Seemed appropriate, a male Cardinal…the color of blood.


4 responses to “and a happy time was had by all

  1. Red also happens to be a happy, cheerful color. Put that damn lizard back in your mouth.

    Very nice post. I particularly enjoyed the part about the First Ladies dresses and the Hope diamond. Of COURSE that’s what they saw :-). I wish you’d been there to see that too. And I mean that.

    That was an awful lot packed into a terribly small amount of time even if it had been a perfect 75 degree day and even if shuttle busses had been involved it would still have been way too much too much. I’d have died a thousand deaths of sheer overload.

    I am always overwhelmed by these things, these monuments, moments, small and large places and I sit down and weep. It feels right and good and I am connected to the world where I’ve become disconnected or I’ve remembered that I’m still connected or discover connections I never knew about – sort of like visiting the Western wall in Jerusalem for the first time and then shocking the hell out of myself by bursting into tears and then crying for two straight hours. Couldn’t explain that to save my life. But the thing is nobody looked at me funny.

    Apparently that’s perfectly normal. A normal reaction from a non-denominational tourist. It’s as if there’s a sorrow that runs so deep coming out of that wall that proximity is enough. I was right up against it for thirty minutes. I put my forehead up against the rock after I took my silly little prayer for world peace (can you believe I had the audacity to actually write that down and shove it into a rock wall as if this is God’s problem?) folded up tight and stuffed it into one of the cracks.

    I was in class when the space shuttle blew up. I was still an early childhood ed major. Christa McAuliffe, I still miss you being in the world.

    Anyway, so all this stuff. It just is. We experience life and I’m glad you’re experiencing it. Congratulations, in all seriousness, you are not dead above the neck. However, what we make up about it is something else altogether. Or maybe what I mean, what we make up about how we feel is something else. Turn it on it’s side. Just a little.

    The bird is the color red. Red is the color of many things but mostly Red is just red. Let me tell you, it beats the living hell out of GREY. It is one of the most intense colors, one of the three primary colors. It vibrates on an extremely high wave length; hell, it even tastes better than most of the rest (except for Blue, I’m quite partial to Blue). If you listen very carefully you can hear it singing. It’s a Mezzo-soprano.

    Blood = Life

    Make a joyful noise. I dare you.

    Nobody in a foxhole had in mind that you should live to make sad noises (not that anybody in a foxhole was thinking about anything other than ‘oh hell no!’) but you know what I mean.

    If you want to find your missing sense of humor you’re probably going to have to put down your political history books for just a little while and pick up a bit of whimsy.

    Anyway. What are you afraid of letting go of? And what would happen if you did?

  2. What am I afraid of letting go of? Possibly the thought that this life, as if looks today, is the best it’s ever going to be again. You know, all the jokes about turning 40, or 50, or whatever and the ride being all downhill from this point on. I guess I have a bit too much of my father in me. He always seemed to be an “old soul”, whatever that means.

    I think my estrogen level needs adjusting just a tad. 🙂

  3. Well that’s cool then. At least you know.

    And then what happened?

  4. Got my estrogen level adjusted….still trying to figure out the rest of it

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