Tuesday, May 29, 2007

A Very DC Weekend

I've never been to Arlington Cemetery before, and Memorial Day seemed like an appropriate time to do so. It was decked out in it's full regalia for the various ceremonies scheduled for the day, and was looking quite lovely. Unfortunately, on the honorary first day of summer, the weather fast forwarded to mid-August and was excruciatingly hot, humid, and oppressive. Nevertheless, I soldiered on and was rewarded for my pains.

I thought it would be rather boring, what with acres and acres of uniform tombstones such as these:

But much to my surprise there's quite a bit of diversity among tombstones. My favorites are below:

Here lies Pierre L'Enfant, the wiley French designer of this fair city. He's perched at the top of the Lee estate overlooking the city he designed. I hope he's not too ashamed of the traffic nightmares he inflicted on us.

This is the tomb of the unknowns from the Civil War. There are 2,111 soldiers beneath this slab. The front wreath is from the President. I know this because there is a note pinned to the ribbon that says "The President". The wreath laid at the main Tomb of the Unknowns was nowhere to be seen when I was there - so I'm not sure if there's only one and they have to share custody or what. I didn't get down there early enough to see the wreath laying ceremony, so this will probably remain a mystery.

I quite liked this monument.

This is the most unique monument I saw all day. For some reason it reminds me of the Masons. Or the Egyptians.

Decked out in flags, The Old Amphitheater is tucked into a quieter section of the cemetery.

The hot spot of the cemetery is the Tomb of the Unknowns during the changing of the guard. I chose not to include an action shot of the soldiers clacking their heels together. But believe me, they make a very pleasing clack. (Largely due to a cleverly extended heel). I learned that this squadron (or whatever) of soldiers are commonly referred to as The Old Guard - which I thought was interesting because I like it when I find out how commonly used terms originate. I also learned that it is very difficult to understand barked military commands - they are excessively staccato.

My favorite sign, given my own feelings about chewing gum. Its good to be in a place where no one is allowed to chew gum.

After my tour of Arlington, I walked across the Memorial Bridge (my favorite bridge) and down the Mall in search of a hot dog, which I ate in my favorite little park next to the Smithsonian Castle.

After resting for a bit, I continued my walk up to Chinatown, where I caught the Metro home (if you are keeping score, walking from Arlington to Chinatown is a long freaking way).

I enjoyed my trip to Arlington. It was impressive and moving, and I was pleased to be there on Memorial Day. Judged purely on it's cemetery-ness it isn't quite as good as the best DC cemetery: Rock Creek Cemetery. But it is an excellent reminder of the sacrifices we make as a country, which is in and of itself valuable.

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