One of the deciding factors of our extended trip to the US was the wedding of Jack’s niece in DC. We love Washington and rarely passed up an opportunity to visit when we were still land-based. It’s our only truly monumental city and there’s a lifetime of cultural and historical places to see and things to do.
The wedding weekend was the first time we saw our son and daughter-in-law since they came to take Izzy home with them back in Fort Lauderdale in March 2013 right before we sailed away from our native shores toward the great beyond. While we’re always in close contact whenever we have Internet, nothing beats a big bear hug. We also got to see Jack’s sister and her husband and since the six of us weren’t part of the pre-wedding festivities we had our own party at Keren, a funky little Eritrean restaurant near DuPont Circle.
The owners were so happy to have us and recommended a buffet-style feast of what seemed like all the dishes on the menu. There was so much food and it was all delicious and I swore by the time we stopped eating that I wouldn’t eat another thing until the wedding the next evening. Ethiopian is one of my favorite cuisines and while this was slightly different it was just as good, especially knowing we probably won’t be having anything like it for a long, long time.
Being in DC — and in the US in general — reminded both of us how multi-ethnic a place America is. For the past year and a half we’ve been in smaller, more homogeneous countries and it was refreshing to hear many different languages walking down any street wherever we went. I asked every taxi driver, every bellman, motel owner, shopkeeper, waiter, “Where are you from? How long have you been here? Do you like it? What made you decide to come?” I loved these conversations and everyone was happy to share their stories. The funny thing is, most of them asked if we were Canadian. This is becoming a thing.
The wedding wasn’t until evening so we six visited the Newseum, a museum of news and journalism.
This is damn near heaven for me as a news junkie with years of university study in journalism under my belt.
There are displays of historical newspapers that could have occupied me for months, including the 1779 front page reporting the death of Captain Cook in Hawaii.
There’s a very moving exhibit of as-it-happened reporting of the 9/11 attack.
And there’s an exhibit of the Berlin Wall from erection to demolition. Drew and I lived in West Berlin behind the wall for a short time in the 80s, so this exhibit was especially meaningful for us.
While we were there, news was happening right outside as thousands of people marched up Pennsylvania Avenue toward the Capitol demonstrating against the police killing of an unarmed man in Ferguson, MO.
We went out on the chilly balcony and listened to an inspiring speech calling for peaceful protests and an end to deadly police tactics. The event reminded us again what our country is about. It’s messy and often politically incomprehensible but we do have our magnificent Bill of Rights which includes freedom of assembly and freedom of speech. In fact, right behind us inside the Newseum is an dynamic exhibit that rates each country in the world on the freedom of its press, and memorializes journalists who have been killed while bringing news to the world.
The wedding was lovely and we especially liked the band, who played a kickass version of one of my all-time favorite songs, Prince’s Let Go Crazy.
Before we left the DC area we made a pilgrimage — as we always must, when planes are nearby — to the Air and Space Museum Annex, a huge hangar out by Dulles airport filled with 185 flying machines. It was Jack’s turn to be in heaven and he enthusiastically pointed out every design element or historical detail of dozens of his favorites.
In a separate but connected hangar is the space shuttle Discovery, which we last saw at the Kennedy Space Center before it was flown here to its permanent home.
I wanted to get inside and poked around for a way in but apparently you can’t do that, as I learned from an attentive guard who saw me casing the thing and came over to talk to me.
We also got to see the flipside of America, the Enola Gay, the plane that unleashed the atomic age on the world. These two polar moments in aviation history brought me to once again to ponder the contrasts of America, how much we are a leader both for good and for evil. Living outside the country is apparently making me think deep thoughts.
I think it’s time to move on.