November 23, 2004

If I Were Native American, I'd Sioux

Day 5: Washington DC

Our fifth day of our Weird November Roadtrip dawned gray and crappy again. At least the weather certainly cooperated with the general mood of the week - every single day. I can read my wife pretty well and I could tell she'd had about enough of my silly sidetripping. She was relieved that this day would be a straight up touristy experience and was looking forward to putting all this highpointing stuff behind her for the year. We dressed and packed and summoned the valet and started navigating the confusing streets of NW Washington DC. While Hoang was in the shower, I studied the map of the area and worked out the most efficient route to our first destination. A quick u-turn, a roundabout and we were headed north, away from the national monuments and museums.

How could I have screwed up so badly? Who says I screwed up? Hoang had no idea which direction we were going so she was blissfully unaware of my devious plan. We stopped for coffee and made our way up to the northwest suburbs at which point Hoang was curious as to where the heck we were and where we were really headed. Curses! Even Washington DC has a highpoint and here's the report to prove it.

Hoang wasn't too upset that I scammed her as it wasn't too big of a deal. And the "hike" was only about 90 seconds long. Phew. Once back in the car, I drove straight to the Mall, parked, and finally - after 5 days of traveling - we were poised to do some real tourist activities! We strolled the Mall a bit and fought off South Dakotans and New Mexicans to take the required shot of the Washington Monument. Then we took our time to absorb the new World War II Memorial. They did a great job with this as it's beautiful, powerful, informative, and really quite moving. Several veterans were there with their families and many tears were being shed. I proved to myself that I'm not a total jerk by getting emotional myself. I don't really know why, but perhaps it was knowing that my grandfather served in the war with pride, perhaps it was the fact that my grandmother (his wife) had just passed away recently... I don't know, but it really affected me. Just one of those things, I suppose. Afterwards, we enjoyed a nice stroll along a reflecting pool in front of the Lincoln Memorial before checking out Honest Abe himself.

We both read the whole Emancipation Proclamation and both commented just how poorly written it actually was. Hoang did her best Lincoln impression for this picture (that's her impression of Marfan's Syndrome) and we were off to the famous Vietnam War Memorial. (Like the rest of America, we forgot/didn't have time for the Korean War Memorial on the other side of the pool.) Hoang, being born in Da Nang in the midst of the Vietnam War to a father who was an officer in the Nationalist Army (the "good guys"), was perhaps a little hesitant to meander past the beautiful wall. Last time, back in high school, some US Veteran hassled her and kept asking her for her story. No such intrusions this time as we made our way along the length of the wall in quiet reverance. After that, it was back to the car for the short drive over to the brand spankin' new National Museum of the American Indian.

I got a primo parking spot right next to the building - which looks cool - and we entered. I had totally forgotten that the Smithsonians were free so that was a nice surprise. Finding change for the parking meter proved to be the biggest challenge of the day, but once we did that, we were free to enjoy the museum at our leisure. Too bad it stinks. Maybe it's because I've come to expect such great things from Smithsonian... Or maybe it really does stink. The problem is that they tried to do way too much with it. Every obscure tribe faction gets a section and they all run together combining to form a big mass of nothingness. Later that night Hoang and I realized that neither of us had learned anything at all from the museum - which is a shame. We really wanted it to be great and we were really looking forward to it but were ultimately disappointed. The other big problem is the overuse of multimedia. Modern technology is great and I love and embrace it. However, when you're trying to read about the Huron and their stuggles with the French, I don't need 18 Computer screens vying for my attention, interactive flash presentations popping up left and right, and audio streams from nearby exhibits competing for my attention. Way too MTV-ified. Someone really blew it. I can see old people's heads exploding at this place.

But it was free, so even the fire drill in the middle of our visit wasn't too bad. Afterwards, we made our way out to some friends on the Chesapeake Bay, enjoyed dinner with them, and then made the trek north to my family in Delaware for a few more days of Thanksgiving food and fun. And monkey puzzles:

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