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Please Talk to Strangers

Taking the Silver Line on the Metro from Tyson's Corner into the city takes thirty minutes, give or take five minutes on either side of that estimate. Because I'm not big on staring at my phone, during my journey into the city Wednesday, I began reviewing some of the zoo photos on my camera. Wonder of wonders, the woman sitting next to me began looking over at them, asking how I was going to use them. Quietly we chatted about photography, geography, and anything else that came to mind, becoming so engaged in our conversation, I nearly missed the Smithsonian station! My son Matthew is a great trip planner, lining up all his activities beforehand. Well, I'm here to tell you that he did not get that skill from me!

Sure, I spend time researching before a trip, but mostly I just wing it. Coming up the stairs of the station, I was confronted with this view looking one way,
and this, the other.
Now what? With no map in hand, I decided to somehow make my way to the Washington Monument. A clay walkway led me to Constitution Avenue and I began walking with no real plan. That is until, walking along the sidewalk here,
I encountered a uniformed woman, with map in hand, giving directions to a couple, nearly as clueless as I. Edging closer, I asked if I could join the conversation. Well, of course you can!! From her we learned there is something called the DC Circulator, a big red bus that comes every ten minutes. The cost? One dollar! We also learned she is a retired Naval officer, now volunteering as a visitor guide. Hallelujah! Crossing the road, with a new map in hand, we waited together for the sight of the big red bus, during which time I learned they are from Pennsylvania, and he is an asphalt contractor. Talk about six degrees of separation, he once bid on a Red Lobster job. Not one of Bruce's, but still....

Taking very comfortable seats, we chatted our way through the Mall area of Washington, DC, ogling all of the sights. Our driver got lost! Not for long, but with construction in the area, she became confused.
Along the way we saw what appeared to be some official cars, along with what surely must have been Secret Service agents near the Korean War Veterans Memorial. Hmmm....

Deciding to go it alone, I got off at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial stop. Walking the short distance, I found my initial sight to be very moving.
That said, I wanted to know more. The yellow shirted folks are the volunteers who are more than happy to answer questions. The woman I chose to approach was full of information, explaining the symbolism of everything. Stuff like the same stone is used for the walkways, as the memorial wall. The wall is polished to be reflective, the roped off grass, the diamonds, and dots, on the actual wall, and more. Her passion really added so much to the experience.
Furthermore, she explained all of the controversy surrounding the wall, including the installation of the Three Servicemen Memorial.
Even more, she insisted I would be very sorry did I not visit the Korean War Memorial. Will do, I replied! Using her excellent directions, I made my way first to the Lincoln Monument, which as most of you know is HUGE.
Just before I got to this space, I passed a stand that intrigued me...
I've since learned it is a charity bringing attention  to both prisoners of wars and missing in action soldiers from all previous wars. I can't imagine how horrible it would be to be a family member of a missing soldier although, in a few moments I will tell a little story about a woman I know who lived with just that.

How many millions of photos that look like this do you think exist in the world?
A bunch, however, these days I believe most of them will have a person or group standing in front because I saw it everywhere!
Honestly, I don't get it. The truth is you can hardly walk around because everywhere you turn people are having their pictures made in front of ______. You fill in the blank! I walked around the outside of the monument, affording a wonderful view of the Mall.
Our son Bill is "stone-crazy," and I couldn't help but think how much he would love seeing these columns.

Very nearby is the excellent Korean War memorial. Walking up, you first see this:
Although the Korean War is not discussed much, I'm so glad it seems as if no expense was spared here. The fine etchings on the wall are incredible.

Here's a closer look:
It was not long before I discovered that indeed the President of South Korea had visited just before I did. Many Koreans were still mingling about and, of course, having their photograph made.
That daisy dress pretty much rocks, doesn't it? Sitting adjacent to a large reflecting pool is this:
Honestly, I could not get over how beautifully done the entire Memorial is.
From there I walked along the path adjacent to the reflecting pool towards the WWII memorial. Want to see something other than a memorial? How about a few ducks?
Okay, now that you've had a nature break, onward. I got no closer than this to the WWI Memorial.
And across the highway, in the distance I saw the Thomas Jefferson Memorial. Another time perhaps?
As pictured, a few trees were beginning their annual show! The National World War II Memorial is the newest memorial, opening in 2004. I suspect most Americans have at least one family member who was involved in the conflict that changed the world forever. My father was not a soldier, however, Bruce's Dad was. As well, his Uncle was killed and buried at sea in the Pacific during what I've learned through Matt's ancestry research, was an incredibly horrible battle. As such, I was drawn to this area.
Bruce's Grandma spent, I don't know how much time not knowing what happened to her son Rolla. And then, of course, his body was never recovered. A sea burial.

Not only is it the newest, but I dare say it is perhaps the largest of the memorials? This part is so beautiful.
If you've never seen it in person, here is what you are looking at.
There is both an Atlantic side, and a Pacific side...
I could not help but think how carefree these two boys were as were so many of the thousands of boys who served in WWII at their age.
It is so beautifully done, it is hard not to show more photographs! I'll leave this area with only one more.
This is one of, I think four? The hugging couple over the mailbox!! My, how times have changed.

My helper from the Vietnam Memorial had given me excellent directions on how best to view the White House, as apparently these folk's guide did on their Segway tour of DC.
Just down the street is the new African American Museum, slated to open later in the year, although seems to me as if that is fairly ambitious given the state of the construction. A very handsome building indeed. (shortened name by me)
In this part of the city all the food options seem to limited to, basically glorified hot dog stands, parked along the sides of the road. Do you suppose they still sell much film?
After all my roaming around, I went into the American History museum, beginning my visit in the cafeteria downstairs. As with all the museums, there is so MUCH to discover that I'm typically overwhelmed given my penchant for wanting to read each placard! I decided, with the limited time I had left for exploring, to visit the First Ladies exhibit, and I was not disappointed. In person, Michelle Obama's Inaugural gown is even more beautiful than I thought, and not nearly as yellow as this photo would lead you to believe.
And you should have seen her jewelry! Unbelievable!

Then it was back to the Metro stop and on the train to meet up with Mr. Bruce. Sadly, there was not even one chatty stranger on my journey!

Always indebted to the kindness of strangers,

Gail

P.S. Although this was only about a year ago, I'm reposting this piece after reading yesterday that the paint company, Benjamin Moore, proclaimed Simply White their color of the year for 2016! Cheryle was on this before they were! No wonder I felt no need to find a different white for the fireplace.
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