> Hello and welcome back to the third edition of the story where I narrate the experiences of my visit to New York city during the Thanks giving weekend of 2009. I hope you enjoyed the last chapter in which I shared my first and only thanks giving day experience in New York City. In one historic day, I was able to witness the finest of NYC’s attractions including the Macy’s parade. In this narration, I will tell you all about the day when I roamed about the capitol of the US of A – Washington D.C.
Disclaimer: All names, places, accounts and events mentioned in the narration can be partially or entirely false. Reading this narrative can cause increased blood glucose level, rheumatoid erections and dementia. Possible Other Side effects include loss of time, increased knowledge, read rage and erectile dysfunction.
November 28, 2008: The Empire Strikes Back
I slept through the night, tired from all the walking and running and seeing, and when I woke up people were already upset about my tardiness. Today, the plan was to get to Washington DC and since daylight ends much quicker these November days, we wanted to get there early. Pretending to ignore their tantrums, I got ready and we set out into colder than expected morning. We hopped between trains from Journal Square and Penn station to reach the Rental Car center at Newark Airport and picked up our rental sedan. We got our almost-a dollar breakfast and coffee from McD (pronounced exactly as such), marked our destination in GPS device and hit the road. Since Nat and Muan were the registered drivers I knew there isn’t much I could- or wanted- to do so I sunk into my seat, finished up the burger and coffee and dozed off. (Yes, I can drink coffee and take nap in minutes almost at will.) I woke up when the car hit a bump on the road and the road sign indicated we were cruising somewhere in Maryland. I had a co-worker when I was in Stillwater who had moved to Baltimore University in Maryland to pursue her goal of becoming a PhD graduate in Biology and then getting into teaching. I started to wonder how she was and whatever happened to her. Outside the car window, the weather looked lovely. Serene shade filled the place, as it wasn’t sunny, or gloomy but a perfect middle. The area mostly void of elevations and the few houses that I saw resembled more like mom-pop farms. This was before I dozed off again. A Loud siren woke me up as our car pulled over for a passing Fire truck. Then the landscape was much different. The plane of the area was uneven and was mostly covered by grass carpet. The road slithered along what seemed like an uphill and after going through a couple of tunnels, at which point our GPS lost its signal with the satellite and leaving us in the metaphorical darkness for a while, we arrived at the city.
Washington D.C is a result of combining Washington City and District of Columbia (the D.C part) several years ago. The city, like any capitol city, is filled with official and unofficial buildings and monuments and their closely related tourists. I was expecting some sort of a carnival atmosphere, since the 2008 presidential election had completed just a couple of weeks ago and Barrack Obama, who won the long and drawn out contest, was set to step in on January. Although the commencement ceremony was more than a month away, it’s never too early to celebrate the legend-erily foretold coming of the hopemeister. It was bitter cold outside and my newly bought leather jacket was only doing so much to protect me. We found a parking spot pretty close to the capitol building and technically started our tour at around noon. Whenever I see a parliament building, any official building of significance for that matter, I instantly think of all the work they do inside- day to day. House members introducing bills, opposition parties shouting and rambling, speaker of the house pounding the gavel, rhetoric-after-rhetoric-after rhetoric; all in a day’s life. Soon I realize it’s not as important as it seems, so I begin marveling at the architecture of the building. My first capitol-building encounter was at Oklahoma City, the capitol of Oklahoma – my home state for the better part of life in US. I awe-d and ooh-ed at it four years ago, when I was new as a bambi and easily excitable about the US like, well, a even younger bambi. The thing about US capitol buildings is that they all have pretty much the same design. Wide Stairs raising above the ground leading up to highly symbolized platform with massive even numbered pillars that hold the exquisitely symmetrical dome with its tapering apex generally housing some artifact with a moderate historical significance. And of course, the whole thing is made out of marble, white in new ones, slightly baished in older ones, a tinge of brownish pink in Texas. It was much cloudy that day, and staring at the US Capitol building gave absolutely no sense of newness except may be the size. Well of course the real estate is much larger and less number of rednecks walking around (most people actually looked like fashionable elite liberals) but mostly it was kind of the same. Still we posed and took pictures and saw swearing ceremony stage being built before walking away from it. Now, things get better.
Like I said the area is filled with historic monuments and the best part is that they are all within the line of sight from each other. Turning away from the US Capitol building, one is almost stepping over the imperious Pool and in direct view is the Washington Memorial- a tall obelisk with laser eyes, a bit further is the Lincoln Memorial, between them –not in view- is the reflection pool and to the right of Lincoln Memorial is the World War II memorial. It is a tourist’s/photographer’s delight. What these giant attractions mask is the distance between each one of them. We were like – ‘wow they are so close, let’s walk over’. And we kept walking and walking forever. The cold was terrible and the warm cocoa we bought was not helping very much. We made it to Washington monument which was a staggeringly high obelisk – an Egyptian looking artifact- placed right in the middle between the capitol building and Lincoln memorial, surrounded by a big circle of – I am guessing here- a thousand US flags (Actually 56 flags one for each state and six for the 6 territories, but I’ve been know to exaggerate). To spice things up, they have two bright red lights at the top edge of the face of the obelisk almost making it alive at night. It was getting dark and by the time we finished up here and walked over to the World War II memorial the elaborate fountains at the memorial were glistening with pretty lights. A wide stone platform with multiple inscriptions of the horror and suffering and the bravery and the ultimate victory of US troops during last world war was encircled by 50 rectangular pillars one per state, with the state name and their insignia boldly carved in them. The victorious eagle and American flag were present everywhere and, all realities aside, you get the unavoidable goose bumps for its sheer magnificence. It was pretty dark by now and our legs were hurting so badly, we could barely walk. My camera had run out of battery and I borrowed Sen’s, as the blowing wind across night was getting colder.
There is something about men who against extreme opposition and facing a clearly treacherous path hold their principles and March forward only to be struck down by ill fate and cowardice and yet change the path of mankind forever. There is nothing ordinary about these men, because they had no proof that they were right, but showed extraordinary belief in that little voice in their heart guided only by the true meaning of virtue. There were too many fickle minded mobs pressing them down, yet they strong willed the temptation to bargain because, if nothing, principle is all that one can have. There were too many threats for a single person, but that didn’t stop them from doing anything. Basically, these were unreasonable men with vision that cannot be justified with the mind but with strongest of hearts alone. There are only a handful of such souls in recorded history and fitting the profile perfectly, Abraham Lincoln was such a man and much more.
He was mending shoes and then he became the 16th president of US and successfully fought the civil war –the bloodiest in US soil- which almost split the country in half to abolish legal slavery and brought the most basic asset of any human being – freedom- to all the enslaved Black people in America and then a complete coward shot the unarmed Lincoln dead in a theater. Some years later, in 2009, an African American named Barrack Obama became The President of the United States.
Even from a distance, at night, the huge white structure, famously shown in a number of Hollywood movies that predict future take over of the earth by primates, the Lincoln Memorial is a sight to see. Carved in white stone the statue of the man sits imperiously in a flood of white light, he easily dwarfs any thing near simply by stature. Funny thing is he doesn’t look like your usual hero, by today’s standards he would be cast aside as a village hilly-billy. Excerpts from some of his historic speeches were inscribed in the walls surrounding the statue and after reading them I stood there reveling at the truth in those words and their relevance today. I was so much filled with awe that I forgot all about the cold and my hurting feet. It didn’t last long though. As soon as we stepped out of the memorial, they came back with a vengeance. There was no way we could walk anymore, but then we remembered we haven’t yet seen the White House.
Of course, the official residence of the President of the US of A was still occupied by G.W. Bush, till Jan 20th 2009, but still the house itself carried prominence to shadow his presence. With every step hurting our feet and every cold breadth stinging our lungs we kept walking, circumventing the area front of the white house cordoned off for the inauguration ceremony celebrations and by the time we reached the fence in front of the white house fountain facing the famous four pillars and the balcony, hunger had already kicked in.
But once again, seeing the structure that has such an irreplaceable spot in modern history, I started wondering about all the world-changing events that have happened inside the walls and within the Oval office housed inside. An armed policeman stood just a few feet from us facing us towards the white house, face stern with absolutely no smile. I doubt if he imagined us- 4 brown guys with dark hair speaking unfamiliar tongue- with turbans and beards.
I would never forget the walk back to the car that night. Every step was such an effort; I began to wonder if the moon landing was easier than this. Eventually we started to rest on each other as we switched between practically dragging each other. And finally, we reached the car. I must have lost consciousness for sometime, with my feet resting and the car heater breathing in. When I woke up, we were on our way to meet up with our friend’s friend and after having dinner together in a Thai place we took the exit towards New Jersey. As is the custom, I began regurgitating the day’s events and highlights only to feel a bit dizzy and the next time I regained my sense we were halfway to Nat’s place in NJ- It was past midnight when I woke up remembering it was Sen’s Birthday. I wished him and, with the knowledge that soon we would reach home where the amenities are much pleasing, I happily joined in the conversation with the rest in the car, which, if I remember it correctly, was about something about bikini-clad-girls.
Coming Up: Our third day in NYC, when I, for the first time, go to a Drama Theater in Broadway. Any taker on how many weeks I’ll take to write it up?