Thanks everyone for keeping things lively and fun at the circus during my impromptu hiatus. Now I am back to return this forum to its proper tone of righteous indignation and sad regret. I have one bike story, which I am saving for later in the week, but a little foreshadowing can’t hurt so I will hint that it involves your discussion of weakness, and how it can bring you to the very brink of life. More on that later.
I ended my tour of the Lower Midwest- Appalachian Plateu- Mid-Atlantic region in Washington D.C. where the president of the United States lives. It is a town of great bluster and import, full of terribly busy people wearing wonderfully tailored things.
Within my first evening I witnessed nine Anderson Coopers, three Nelson Mandelas, a small herd of George Stephanopolises ( I thought they looked soooooo 1998) and a smattering of Cindy Sheehan look-a-likes malingering outside of Kramer’s Books on Dupont Circle. Conspicuously untidy, I hitched up my britches and licked my thumb to try and rub the scuffs off my blue low-top Chuck Taylors. If you live in a place where wearing two pairs of boxers can pass as shorts, or where neck hair is tolerated, be thankful or shamed whichever suits your mood.
I scheduled an open Saturday to explore the sights and enjoy a free day after a long string of days full of such things as grief, expectation, discomfort, and terror. What I wanted was a moment. Something to bring this strange chapter to a close.
I thought I would most likely find it at the Holocaust Museum. So Saturday found me doing two things I rarely do on a weekend, getting up early and standing in line. It took an hour and a half to get a ticket, and another 30 minutes before my scheduled entrance to the permanent exhibit, but I waited, convinced this would encompass all of the profound emotions which had so recently been visited upon me.
About twenty of us were packed into an elevator so tightly that I truly believe it was part of the experience, reminiscent of the cattle cars which carried so many to the end. The doors opened to mass confusion and milling crowds. I weaved through trying to find the exhibits and then I realized this was the exhibit. Behind the gum-smacking kids playing tag, and the fervent arguments about where and when to eat lunch were the detritus of the worst evil ever visited on humankind. Pushing, jostling crowds of tourists loudly catalogued what they saw. Not a fan of theme parks, I bolted for the exit.
Miles later I found the Vietnam Veteran’s memorial, and what I was looking for. Small crowds of vets clustered and paying homage to their lost buddies. Unkempt and out of shape old warriors pulling themselves tight and ramrod straight saluting the wall. Tears seemed to run down everyone’s cheeks, so I let a few run from mine.