The Great American Road Trip, Day 2

There are only 2 types of people really whom one sees in DC: sixth grade classes touring the monuments and resident maniacs. And you can’t ignore the maniacs considering most of them are Senators.

Today, we went to DC—the heart of America itself. Or at the very least, its liver. If memory from a sixth grade field trip serves me right, DC is a mainly historical rather than functional city. Does anyone other than Barack really live there?

                Last night, we arrived in Fredericksburg which at the time was under the siege of a tumulus thunderstorm. Nice city, though, with a lot of historical building and mom-and-pop stores. The first thing we did, though, after a nine hour drive was sit in the car for another hour until the rain passed.

                Washington is a peculiar place, especially to visit on Memorial Day weekend. All the crazies come out during the holidays—I guess they’re agitated by festivities.

                The parking garage we found led us five levels underneath the ground—I could nearly hear the clickety-clack of Pentagon computers not far away. The National Mall was expansive—did you know it’s actually just a grassy field? No American Eagle. No Hollister. No Bath and Body Works with those little pastry-scented candles.

                We walked up to the Capitol which was largely obscured by a grandiose stage. A chorus practiced for a Memorial Day celebration—marching and dancing across the stage. Afterwards, we explored the Botanical Garden. If I had the slightest interest in endangered flora species, this may have the place features a three-story jungle room where the trees towered high and the foliage puffed out thick.

                Modern art museum next—queue mind-bending sculptures and plain blue canvases. Every piece inspired a contemplative, perplexed sigh—what is the meaning of life? asks the green blotch on a field of jet black. After leaving, I was aesthetically flummoxed.

                We spent two hours in the Air and Space museum touring the Wrights brothers’ exhibits and space ships. It’s amazing that when man first flew it was on a cloth-wood contraption. Space ships are undoubtedly cool, but we spent a lot of time looking at the Pershing II missile which was the missile my dad helped build during the Cold War.

                After that, a Holocaust museum. Videos on repeat of Hitler shouting his speeches. And WWII propaganda posters. It reminds me of a propaganda center I went to with my German exchange group in Nurnberg. The only really odd thing is that sneaking suspicion that these propaganda techniques that Hitler implemented—I’ve seen these before used by modern politicians. Stereotyping? Playing on fear and emotion? Yes, it happens.

                Step outside onto the grass plains and there is the rising obelisk that is the Washington Monument. Maybe it’s an optical illusion, but that monument is much bigger than it looks. As we approached it, it grew larger, up, up, up toward the sky.

Surrounded by people snapping pictures. That may very well be not just the secret to the American spirit, but the spirit of humanity. The need to capture the moment. To somehow capture a feeling, a time, a person onto film. As if a person or an emotion could be made tangible. As if the niceties of life could be explained text book verbatim.

We trekked across the grass to where small children splashed in the pool at the WII memorial. Right behind the sign that read: RESPECT THE MEMORIAL, DON’T WADE IN THE WATER. And then to the Lincoln Memorial where thousands of people milled. Where the cacophony was deafening, shaking loose the signs that read: RESPECT THE MEMORIAL, PLEASE BE QUIET.

DC, overall, was a quite exciting place. Though these monuments were clustered into these single block, I’m sure there is a lot more to DC. Tomorrow, more museums and more DC.

Still no signs of Barack, but we’re going to the White House tomorrow. I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

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About Derek Berry

Derek Berry is a novelist and spoken word poet. Derek is the author of Heathens and Liars of Lickskillet County (PRA Publishing, 2016). He co-founded and organizes The Unspoken Word, a literary non-profit based out of Charleston, SC, which provides an intendent home for the poetic arts through regular readings, workshops, and community fundraisers. He is on the Executive Board of the Charleston Poetry Festival, the inaugural production of which will be Fall 2017. His work has appeared in The Southern Tablet, Cattywampus, Charleston Currents, Illuminations, RiverSedge, and other journals.He has performed in venues across the United States and Germany. He has worked as a photographer’s assistant, busboy, and bookseller. He currently works at a curation facility for Cold War History.

Posted on May 29, 2011, in The Great American Road Trip. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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