Postcard From Graphic - Small Town America

Graphic Road
The other day, I found myself driving through Graphic, Arkansas again. It was a place I had driven through a couple of months ago, in late fall. To say Graphic is located "in the country" isn't accurate. Graphic is so far out in the boonies that "the country" is where these people go to kick up their hills on a Saturday night.

I was listening to the news on the satellite radio. Muslims were still killing people just because; Iran was thumbing its nose at the world and threatening to kill everybody in Israel and America, just because; a teenager in a high school killed some of his classmates because of some perceived slight; a little 4 year-old girl's body had finally been found after she had been kidnapped, sexually molested and killed; gas prices were getting higher because somebody wearing a towel on their head sneezed; everybody in American government was still acting like a spoiled 12-year-old who wasn't getting his way; and the love and pursuit of the all-mighty dollar was of higher priority than being nice to each other.

The Graphic store
In Graphic, the person driving the one car I saw raised 2 fingers and a nod of his head in greeting as we passed each other; the cows were still contented out in the fields; when I stopped in and bought a coke at the Graphic Store, the girl behind the counter smiled, asked how I was doing, and said, "Have a nice day" as I walked out the door.

I stood in the empty parking lot and realized, there's no noise. I heard a couple of birds singing and, well, that was it. No cars, no airplanes overhead, nobody shouting, no hustle and bustle. I realized that except for the leaves having fallen from the trees, it was exactly the same as when I stopped here a couple of months ago.

Fall colors just outside Graphic
I opened the door to my truck, turned off CNN, popped in my newest CD and listened to the soothing sounds of Ale Garofalo - soothing music of Ale Garofalo. I sat in the seat with the door open, listening to "The Giant Trees" and slowly drank my Dr. Pepper. The first time I came through Graphic was basically an accident, a wrong turn. This time I was here simply because it was on my way to some other remote little town with an interesting name. I'll come back again in the spring, this time on purpose. I'm pretty sure, except for the new leaves on the trees, it will be exactly the same. I'm counting on it.

Bridge on the way out of Graphic

Even the cows seem to be very contented with
 life in Graphic.


Jenny Lind & Father's Day

Down this road the Mother of Father's Day
was born.

The first official Father’s Day was celebrated on June 19, 1910, in Spokane, Washington, but a tiny, almost forgotten little town in Arkansas had a hand in this holiday. Sonora Louise Smart Dodd, known as the “Mother of Father’s Day” was born in Jenny Lind on February 18, 1882, to a Civil War veteran and his wife, the daughter of a farmer. When she was 5 years old, the family moved to Spokane where Sonora resided until her death in 1978.

Not many houses remain in Jenny Lind today and 
of those remaining, many look like this one.
After her mother’s early death in 1898, 16-year-old Sonora helped her father raise her 6 younger brothers. She began petitioning to make Father’s Day a nationally recognized holiday in 1909. After listening to a church sermon about Mother’s Day, she suggested to the YMCA and Spokane Ministerial Association the establishment of an equal holiday to honor fathers. Thirteen days later, on June 19, 1910, the first Father’s Day was celebrated in Spokane.

The old Jenny Lind school.
For over 20 years the holiday evoked mixed emotions. Congress refused President Woodrow Wilson’s desire to make the holiday official for fear it would become too commercialized. The holiday was not recognized as an annually observed holiday until 1971 when President Richard Nixon officially designated Father’s Day as the 3rdSunday of every June.

D.C. Trip - The End

President Lincoln's box at Ford's Theatre
The last two days of our grand Washington, D.C. trip were interesting, but rather uneventful. We paid a visit to Ford's Theatre where on the evening of April 14, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln and his wife, Mary Todd were watching the play, "Our American Cousin" when John Wilkes Booth shot him in the head. The president was carried across the street to a boarding house, but in spite of the best efforts of the doctors, he died 9 hours later. The theatre box where Lincoln was shot has been kept just as it was that fateful night (except for being blocked off from entry by a sheet of Plexiglas), including the flags draped across the front. When Booth jumped from the box to the stage, he caught his left spur on one of these flags causing him to land wrong and breaking his leg.

The theatre is smaller than I thought it would be. The Park Ranger who led the tour and gave the historical account was very knowledgeable and friendly. I sat in my seat as he gave his speech and I looked up at the President's Box only about 30 feet away, trying to imagine what it was like that night; to feel the confusion as the shot rang out and then to see a man jump from the box onto the stage. After the ranger had answered all questions from the 25 or so people on the tour, he led us upstairs to the box where it happened.

There is a very small little hallway you have to walk through just before entry. The hallway prevented more than 2 people from being in it at the same time because it was so narrow. Everyone in the crowd was being patient and respectful of each other and waiting their turn to enter the little hall & see the site. Almost everyone. During the ranger's talk, there had been 2 kids, brother & sister of about 10 & 12 years of age, who kept talking and then got up and started running around, making noise and punching each other's arms. The parents, who spoke a foreign language which I couldn't place but think was European, did nothing. And now, just before it came our turn to enter the hallway, these 2 brats came running past everyone in line and tried to jump in front of us, almost knocking over Youngest-daughter in their rush. I don't think so, dunderheads; that's not going to happen. I quickly reached out and grabbed both of them by their shirt collars and gently, but firmly pulled them back, told them to knock it off, get back in line and wait their turn. I don't know if they understood my words, but they certainly understood my tone and did as I told them. Momma-woman thought I was about to start a fight with their parents, but I turned and looked at them standing in line a couple of people behind us - they both looked away and didn't say a word. They were cowed by their own children who weren't even teenagers yet so they wouldn't have the wherewithal to confront a grown man, especially when they know he only did what they should have done themselves. Just because you have figured out how to have sex doesn't mean you should be a parent.

After we finished the tour in Ford's Theatre, we went across the street to the boarding house where President Lincoln died. It was kind of weird looking at the actual bed where he passed away. I wondered if there was a presidential ghost hanging around. Again, I was surprised at how small the hallways and rooms are. We didn't stay long as there was really only a sitting room where Mary spent her time and the bedroom where Lincoln died. This wasn't a great, wonderful, amazing thing to do. The whole thing was rather somber and respectful and pretty much one of those things I'm glad Youngest-daughter got to see, but I could have gone the rest of my life without seeing and been none the worse for it.

Mt. Vernon
We also visited Mount Vernon, George Washington's estate. ( Overlooking the Potomac River, the 50-acres grounds are beautiful. The house was big and nicely appointed, but if I lived there, I'd be sitting in my rocker on the back porch every chance I got! For me, even though it included over a dozen buildings and 500+ original artifacts, this tour wasn't as interesting as Thomas Jefferson's Monticello estate ( Still, it was pretty cool to walk where the father of our country did, to actually walk in his footsteps and to see the same things he did.

Great Falls National Park
One of the last places we went was Great Falls National Park, the park Youngest-daughter wrote her essay on for one of her classes. An 800-acre park just 15 miles from downtown D.C., the site to see is where the Potomac River rushes through the narrow Mather Gorge and crashes over falls and large rocks. The noise is incredible and you can literally feel the power of the water. There is no swimming here! If you have a bit of extra time, you certainly could do worse than visiting this interesting park.

Our last night in D.C., Momma-woman took Youngest-daughter ice-skating at an outside rink while I rested my tired legs and when they returned, we packed most of our bags, took down the paper snow flakes and other Christmas decorations we had adorned our hotel room with, and hit the beds rather early. After quick showers and breakfast the following morning, we threw the last of our luggage in the back of the faithful Honda Odyssey and pointed her toward home. We had planned to drive about 10 or so hours and stop somewhere for the night, but early that evening, we ran into some pretty heavy rain; heavy enough that we didn't really want to stop and unpack stuff from the car in it. We weren't all that tired yet as we had done a good job during the day switching drivers and taking naps. Youngest-daughter was good as the my-fi enabled Internet connection to download her TV shows which she had missed seeing while we were gone. It kept raining and we kept driving until finally we were only 3 hours from home. I said, "Either we pull over for the night now, or we go for it." Momma-woman replied, "Let's stop for coffee and then go for it." So that's what we did.

We arrived home at 1:30 in the morning; dark-30. We pulled into the garage, left the luggage in the car and made our way in. I'm always relieved to see the house still standing and our stuff still in it upon our return from a trip. We were tired and felt a little funny walking because we had been driving/riding in the car for so long, but we were home. A good trip is having a place good to go to and a place good to return to. We soon crawled into our own comforting beds and fell asleep to the sounds of the rain.

D.C. Trip - Odds & Ends

Of course, since the main reason for this whole trip was to let Youngest-daughter see history with her own eyes (because 80% of what we learn and know is through our eyes), we had to take a day & see several of the Smithsonian museums, Ford’s theatre where President Lincoln was assassinated and Mt. Vernon, President Washington’s home. But there was enough time left to see a couple of places Youngest-daughter wanted to see – The Spy Museum was high on her list, and Great Falls National Park. Earlier in the school year, one of her assignments was to research, prepare a PowerPoint presentation, and give a presentation on a national park of her choice. Knowing we would be going to D.C., she found that park to be the closest to where we would be and so chose that one. Since she went to all of that thinking about it and since she received an “A” on the project, how could we NOT go there?

Connie's tent across from the White House
But first, an interesting side note. For those out there who read the Camel Club novels by David Baldacci, you will know that one of the main characters has for years kept a tent in Lafayette Park across the street from the White House and he has picket signs for and against various subjects, mostly against secrecy in government. What you may not know is this is based on fact. In real life, a number of people picket in front of the White House, but most stay for a short while and leave, going on to wherever they go next, and are soon replaced by someone else. But two folks, William Thomas and Concepcion Picciotto, didn’t leave. On June 3, 1981, Thomas plunked himself down right in front of the White House, put up his sign stating, “Wanted: Wisdom & Honesty,” and there he stayed, night and day, in the heat of summer and cold of winter, through rain, sleet and snow, until he died on August 5, 2008. His friend and fellow protester, Concepcion, known as Connie to those in that world, joined him on August 1, 1981 and she is still there, living in a tent and subsisting on handouts and donations. William’s “Wanted: Wisdom & Honesty” sign still stands. I don’t know about you, but I think after almost 31 years and still no change, I just might start considering a different avocation.

An actual shoe phone in the Spy Museum
We visited the Spy Museum; it was ok. Youngest-daughter and the momma-woman enjoyed it more than I did. There were real, actual shoe phones just like Max Smart used; there were poison pens, belt buckles with knives in them, and a lot of pictures of spies who got caught. Of course, the best spies are those you never hear about. The thing I found most disappointing was the kids who were the employees. Most of them seemed to be more interested in flirting with each other and playing grab-ass. One of them considered himself a real talent I guess and did nothing but sing very loudly and dance around. I’ll pass on this next time thank you very much.

Had a bite to eat in the Spy CafĂ© and watched
people walk by in the rain.
The Smithsonian's though were obviously on a whole different plane than the uninteresting Spy Museum. We took as much time as we could in the Air & Space, Natural History, American Indian and Museum of American History museums, but you could spend a full week going through all of them and probably still not see everything. The Spy Museum cost $19 each just to get in, the Smithsonian’s are free. It’s like Mike Tyson in his prime against a high school bully – no contest from the ding.

Space capsule at the Air & Space Museum.
Surprisingly, to me anyway, was how much I enjoyed the National Botanic Garden. Ah, just a bunch of plants and stuff, right? Oh no, so much more! Interesting plants, weird plants, waterfalls, pools, statues made out of pecan shell husks, extremely intricate “fairy houses,” and much, much more. It was a definite pleasure and ranks right up there with the most interesting and enjoyable things we did on the whole trip!

Spirit of St. Louis
We really enjoyed the Botanical Garden.

The Capitol made out of pecan shells -
somebody had a LOT of free time!

D.C. Trip - After POTUS & Vice-POTUS

After seeing the Prez flying over our heads, we turned our attention to the monuments, memorials and buildings we originally set out to see. We did a lot of walking before the day was through.

Supreme Court building - 4 guards at this
entrance. Security was like this everywhere.

WWII memorial still under construction, but
 already impressive.

Vietnam Nurses Memorial

Vietnam Memorial sculpture

The Wall - so many names.

The Wall Christmas Tree decorated with cards
mostly from children to grandfathers and
uncles they have only been told about
because they didn't make it home alive.

Honest Abe
Unexpectedly happened upon Albert by the
National Academy of Science building.

D.C. Trip - President & Vice-President

When we returned from our D.C. trip, several people asked me jokingly, “So did you see the President?” And my answer? “Why yes, yes we did.” I assume you’ve heard the phrase, “Do good things for other people, and good things happen to you.” I believe that’s true.

The day in our journey had come to walk around D.C. to see all of the memorials, statues, and a few buildings we’ve always heard about. I especially wanted Youngest-daughter to see the war memorials. She knows an ancestor fought in the Revolutionary War. She has already seen historical places and cemeteries for the American Civil War. She has direct ancestors who fought in that war. I wanted her to see the WWII memorial because that was her grandfathers’ war. One is still alive and she knows and loves him and she’s seen pictures and heard stories of the other. She knows about Korea – she has an uncle who was killed there. And I wanted her to see ”The Wall,” the Vietnam memorial because that was my war. I want my daughter to be proud of her heritage and the sacrifices her family has made throughout the history of our country, but I want her to know war is not a good thing; not a thing to want or glorify.

Big commotion!
So we got up early and headed out after a light breakfast into a chilly, very overcast day. We had only gone a couple of blocks when we heard a siren; then two, then a bunch. Naturally, with all of the security in the city, you can’t help but think about terrorists, so that was the first thing that came to our minds. Who’s done something stupid now and exactly what did they do? As we walked on, we saw a lot of police, firemen, ambulances, and TV crews on the street we were walking down. Nobody had the street blocked off though, so we continued on. We heard from 1 person there was a bomb threat on the train tracks, but then we heard (and later confirmed by watching the news that night) that it was just a piece of a train broke and fell off on the track so they had to shut the train system down for a while. No big deal after all.

Youngest-daughter jumping in
front of Washington Monument
We walked on down to the Washington Monument and hung around looking at it for a while. We couldn’t go in because it is still closed due to damage from the earthquake last year. We were heading toward The Mall and other monuments when we heard sirens again. As I looked toward the sound, I saw it wasn’t emergency vehicles, it was a motorcade with police escorts. We didn’t know who it was, but with all of the police surrounding it and with the SWAT sniper dudes I caught a glimpse of on the roofs of the surrounding buildings, we figured it could be the president so we ran about 20 yards to the sidewalk and got there just in time to see the Vice-President in his Cadillac limo! As soon as I recognized him, I raised my camera, but somebody in the car with him was looking at me and he raised his hand to the window. I got a great picture of a hand obscuring the Vice-President’s face. I’m still not sure why he did that. It’s not like his picture has never been taken.

VP motorcade
After the motorcade passed, we walked back to the walkway around the Washington Monument and once again headed toward The Mall. We came upon a guy and girl taking pictures of each other in front of the Monument so the Momma-woman, being the kind and friendly soul she is, offered to take a picture of the both of them together in front of it. After she took a couple of pics of them, she asked if they had seen the Vice-President go by. The girl said yes they had and she happened to be standing next to a policeman who told her if they wanted to see something even more cool than they should make their way to the White House in the next few minutes. She asked if the President was coming out or something and he told her he couldn’t say, but they wouldn’t be disappointed if they went there. Interesting.

Horse patrol
So we all headed toward the White House, but soon the nice couple stopped to take some more pictures and we went on. As we got closer to the White House, we noticed there were a good number of people milling around. What I really noticed though was the number of Secret Service cars parked along the street. How did I know what they were? Well, all of the cars had “Secret Service” written on them in big letters. I also took note of 6 or 7 “road crew” workers in hard hats and tool belts that supposedly were working on a traffic light. The traffic light was working fine and 2 of the workers were on ladders perched at the top of the light post with a wrench in one hand and walkie-talkies in the other and all of the other "workers" were just standing beside panel vans and watching everyone. Clever disguise guys. No evil-doers would ever spot you!

Marine One lifting off
We hung around long enough to begin wondering if something, whatever it was, was actually going to happen when all of a sudden I heard a helicopter. Then 2 helicopters. As they got closer, I could see it was Marine One, the President’s helicopter. Actually, it was 2 Marine Ones. Then at the last-minute, one of them peeled off and the other one came in over us and landed on the White House lawn. Cool. How many times have you seen the Prez embark on his helicopter on the news? Lots of times. And here it was happening right in front of us! A few minutes after landing, the president came out, boarded, and off that sucker went. This time, with the president on board, the chopper went right directly over our heads. It was quickly joined by the 2nd Marine One and soon they were over the horizon. Evidently they use 2 identical helicopters so if a bad guy is out there, he won’t know which one the president is in.

So yes, we did indeed see the president and we saw the vice-president as well. I’m not saying President Obama is my hero or “my guy” or anything like that, but still, it’s pretty darn cool to see the President of the United States and to see with your own little eyes something you’ve seen a bunch of times on TV. And if Momma-woman had not kindly offered to take a picture of that girl and guy, complete strangers to us, we would never have known to get over to the White House. Karma I guess. In the right place at the right time. Youngest-daughter will really have something for show-n-tell at school!

D.C. Trip - The White House

The White House
“No cameras or video recorders.” Along with reservation tickets for our tour of the White House, we received a long, very detailed list of prohibited items. Basically, if you can’t wear it, don’t even think you will be able to bring it in. Naturally I was really bummed with the no camera rule since I wouldn’t be able to share anything with you guys on here, but OK, it is the White House so I won’t even try to sneak my little pocket-sized hand-held in, much less my 35mm Nikon. I’m sure the Men in Black have X-ray glasses or something and they’d see right away I was an enemy of the state with the intent of taking a souvenir picture inside the White House.

After putting on the better clothes we had brought (it just didn’t feel right to visit the White House in worn jeans and a t-shirt) and eating breakfast in the hotel, we grabbed a taxi and off we went with just the clothes on our backs, our reservations, and my ancient (its 2 years old!) Blackberry cell phone which, surprisingly, was not on the list of Do Not.

Watching the Cab’s fare meter and keeping an eye on the route the middle-Eastern driver was taking to ensure he didn’t drive around the block a few times, I was pleased when he pulled up right where we were supposed to be and the meter said $9.85. Hey, that’s not bad. Then he cranked a lever on it and magically it now read$14.85. “Why did the fare change?” “More than one people,” he replied. I’m from Texas where everybody from the age of 15 up has their own car and some have several. We don’t take cabs. I wasn’t sure how having 2 1/2 people in the back seat would cost the cab more than if it was just one person, but I wasn’t going to argue, not over just $5. I gave him a $20 bill and hopped out.

I noticed right away there were a lot of police between us and the entrance to the White House. I didn’t stop to count, but trust me, there were a LOT! We showed our passes and drivers licenses (Youngest-daughter showed her passport) and were waved past the first line of defense. The next group of guys, a Secret Service Security team, were manning metal detectors and were wearing uniforms like Police SWAT teams. This guy didn’t just look at our invitations and ID’s, he studied them. Closely. He looked at our ID pictures and he looked at us. He matched our names against his list. After he passed us, we went through another check-point of metal detectors. Once beyond, we were not checked again, but the big guys in black suites wearing earplugs, sunglasses and sporting suspicious bulges under their jackets were all along the route we were allowed to take through the place. For the President, I know it has to be a pain in the neck, but on the other hand, it must be one hell of a rush to know that all of those guys would give their life to save yours and these particular ones are just the middle perimeter. Power to the nth degree!

The "Tree of Honor"
As we finally took our actual first steps into the White House, there amongst the first Christmas tree and hanging garland was a sign saying, “Welcome to the White House. As a special gift to you this holiday season, cameras will be allowed on the tour.” What?!! You think maybe you could somehow have gotten the word out before we got here? There were quiet a few people on the tour with us, nobody had a camera, and there was a whole lot of grumbling by everyone when we saw that sign. Well, being mad wasn’t going to get me my Nikon so I pulled out ye old cell phone with its old, crappy, mostly useless camera and did my best. And that, my friend, is why these pictures look so crappy.

We didn’t see the President, or the First Lady or the Vice President, nor did we see the Oval Office, but we did view some rooms we’ve heard about over the years. The interesting Christmas decoration for this year’s tours was the First Dog Bo. Every room had at least 1 Christmas tree, each decorated with a theme, and each room had Bo somewhere. Some Bo’s were easy to spot, some were rather difficult, but everyone looked for them and pointed like kids on a scavenger hunt when they found the room’s Bo . One of the Christmas trees was a Tree of Honor decorated with military medals and cards and letters from children of our military who have been killed in action. I was particularly touched by that one.

Some rooms had multiple Christmas trees.
The Entrance Hall leads into the White House and is decorated with the portraits of presidents and various artifacts. A station was set up here with stacks of post cards you could use to write a greeting to a person serving overseas in the military. The cards were collected and would be postmarked from the White House.

The East Room has served a number of purposes over the years. First Lady Abigail Adams used it as a laundry room. President Lincoln allowed it to be used as an office and bed chamber by Meriwether Lewis. President James Madison used it as his cabinet room. Jacqueline Kennedy used it as a theatre for the performing arts. This is also the room where the bodies of President Lincoln and President Kennedy laid in state.

The Green Room has been a favorite of every president since Lincoln, who used it as a dining room. It now serves primarily as a state parlor where distinguished guests and dignitaries meet and mingle. This is where President James Madison signed the country’s first declaration of war on the British in 1812. This room, along with the rest of the White House, had to be rebuilt after the British burned it in 1814. In 1862, President Lincoln held the funeral for his youngest son, William Wallace, in this room.

Finding Bo in each room was fun. Some were
difficult. This one was obvious.
The Red Room doesn’t have as much historical significance as a lot of the other rooms. Maybe its because of the small size or maybe because of its color. In 1809, Dolly Madison used the room for a weekly social gathering between the members of opposite political parties. In 1933, Eleanor Roosevelt used the room to hold press conferences for female reporters because women were barred from the President’s press conferences. For the first year or so, only cooking and housekeeping topics were discussed, but gradually, the discussions began to include domestic policies.

What is now the State Dining Room was used by Thomas Jefferson as his office. A few years later, President Andrew Jackson much improved things when he moved the horse stables out from under the room’s windows and turned it into the State Dining Room where up to 40 guests could be served. In 1902, renovations were undertaken and 140 guests can now be served.

The Diplomatic Reception Room was the furnace room until the 1902 renovations. It has since been used as a gathering place for guests and diplomats prior to White House events. President Roosevelt and First Lady Edith Roosevelt held the first official reception in this room on January 8, 1903.

North lawn of the White House
The Blue Room, during our visit, had a musician in residence playing Christmas songs on a concert piano. The room is oval shaped and has a great view of the south lawn. For this reason, it is the customary place for presidents to formally greet dignitaries. It was in this room in 1886 that President Grover Cleveland became the first and only president to be married in the White House. The new First Lady, Francis Folsom, was not only 27 years younger than President Cleveland, but also became the youngest first lady in history at the tender age of 21.

It was a very interesting tour. We were never hurried along and the guides in each room were friendly and answered all questions (the men in black never said anything except with their moving eyes which said, “We’re watching you!” loud and clear). Maybe it was just me, but I swear you could literally feel the “power” in that building. I can see how it could be a very addictive drug and the upper-level politicians can soon forget their good intentions of serving the people and focus on keeping that power. I’m not saying its right by any means and I certainly rail against it, but I can understand it. If somehow I was one of those high-powered folks, I’d like to say I would be different, I would remain humble and remember why I was there. I’d like to say that, but I really can’t be sure.

D.C. Trip - Day 4 Cont. The Capitol

WE The Pizza - even our traveling troll loved it!
After completing our most excellent tour of the Library of Congress this morning, we had just enough time to grab a bite of lunch before we had to be at Senator Pryor’s office to meet his staff and pick up our passes to tour the Capitol & the White House. We found 2 pizza places just down the street and chose the one named We The Pizza simply because they had something called a Greek Pizza that sounded interesting. A great choice because it turned out to be the best pizza we’ve ever eaten! I admit we were pretty hungry from walking around the Library of Congress all morning, but still, that was one exceptionally good pizza!

The Capitol Building
After getting lost for a while trying to find Senator Pryor’s office, we finally found the right corridor and met Adrianna, the Senator’s office manager and the person who had arranged our tours. What a wonderful person she is! Very nice and friendly, yet very professional. We visited for a few minutes and then she took us down a long tunnel the general population doesn’t know about and we boarded the underground tram the Senators use to get from their offices to the Capitol to make it to votes. It was like a little souped-up open train that took us from the Senate offices underground into the Capitol in no time at all.

Adrianna guided us to the visitor center in the Capitol and we walked around for a few minutes while she went to get our tour passes. No waiting in line for us – that kind of stuff is for the little people! For those who don’t know me, trust me, I’m joking. But it did make us feel kind of special. Unfortunately, dear Adrianna at this point had to leave us in a line waiting for a tour guide. Thanks for everything, Adrianna. You were great!

Lady Liberty Statue in the Capitol Visitor Center
There were 4 groups, each with their own guide. This is where things went sour in a hurry. It was our misfortune that we just happened to be in Group 1. Our guide, whom I’m sure was a Nazi SS Guard in her previous life, was extremely rude and acted like we all showed up simply to piss her off. She gave us headphones, but a couple of the folks in our group received defective ones. She acted like they broke them on purpose and it was a royal pain in her behind to get replacements. The other 3 groups went on and left us. Before we had gone around the first corner, our guide made us stop and listen to her demands speech for a good 5 minutes telling us we were to keep up with the group, never be more than 10 feet from her or our whole group would get kicked out, and for heaven’s sake, don’t dawdle as we didn’t have time for that. Before we start, does everybody understand? All of us ”prisoners” looked around at each other with a “what the…?” look on our faces.

Rotunda of the Capitol
For most of the next 15 minutes, what we generally heard was not interesting facts about the Capitol, but “Stay by me!” “Don’t dawdle!” “Come on, we need to hurry!” “This way, this way! We’re walking this way!” She was the exact opposite of the wonderful and excellent Janice at the Library of Congress that morning. This hag acted like she get’s paid by the tour and her mortgage is overdue. We returned to the starting point after a most disappointing and very short tour to find that although we had been the last group to leave by 10 minutes, we were the first back.

Most of our group stood around for a while talking about how bad our guide was, people went to the bathroom, and we finally left about 15 minutes after our guide dumped us off – and the other groups were still on their tours. As we walked away, I finally saw the next group slowly making their way toward us and they were all strolling along talking to their guide and smiling. Nobody in our group had smiled. Nobody. Not once. I hope that lady finds a new job soon!

The center of Washington, D.C. inside the
Capitol. All roads radiate out from this point.
We spent the rest of the day and into the evening walking around, looking at the monuments and buildings. We headed back to the hotel, stopping at Quiznos for a sandwich supper. A quick stop in the Starbucks located in the hotel lobby for a cup of decaf and we were finished for the day. We were tired, but looked forward to our tour of the White House. I wonder if we’ll see the Prez?

National Statuary Hall - Yes, you really can
hear a whisper from across the room!
World's Worst Tour Guide - if you get her as
your guide, quick jump to another group!

D.C. Trip - Day 4 Library of Congress

Cold early morning walk to Library of Congress.
The message I want to share today is short and simple - If you go to Washington, D.C., take a tour of the Library of Congress. Do not even think about leaving without doing this.

A couple of months before we left on our trip, the Mamma-woman contacted the office of our Senator and requested information on arranging tours for the White House, Library of Congress, and the Capitol. Not only did they have a ton of information (which they were happy to send us), but the office manager personally made reservations for us and took care of everything! All of this was done very professionally, friendly, and free! To be honest, I didn’t think about it, but as American citizens, these are OUR buildings and all of these people work for us. The politicians themselves may have forgotten that, but with only one exception (the tour guide for the Capitol which I will talk about in the next blog entry), every politician’s assistant, office worker, the tour guides, the police and the employees at every building were extremely nice, friendly, respectful, and helpful. I have to say, I honestly didn’t expect it so it was a very nice surprise.

Library of Congress - beautiful building!
The very first thing you will notice while walking around downtown is the amount of security. There are police EVERYWHERE! There are armed guards EVERYWHERE! There are large metal vehicle barriers EVERYWHERE! There are policemen on every block. There are idling police cruisers parked with a policeman inside or standing beside them every two blocks. Every government building has at least 1 armed guard outside every door and additional armed guards as well as metal detectors at every entrance. Some of the buildings, like the Capitol, have 4 or 5 guards armed with M-16′s standing outside every entrance with more inside. If you don’t feel safe in downtown Washington, D.C., you will never feel safe anywhere.

Christmas in the Library
of Congress
Our tour guide, Janice, was a retired college history professor and it was very evident she loves her job as a guide and she has a passion for the Library of Congress and the story behind it. She was unhurried, patient, knowledgeable and so enthusiastic and informative that she will now be my standard for rating tour guides. From her, we discovered that every little detail, every carving, every painting, every sculpture in the whole building has a meaning and it all comes together to tell a story. It would take a large book to tell the story our excellent guide told us in 2 hours so I won’t even try to do that. I simply cannot do it justice. Please go here to learn more about this fabulous entity.

After our tour, we spent some time in the gift shop and then we walked around inside the building some more. We marveled at a Gutenberg Bible and a Mainz Bible, both printed before 1500; we looked at Thomas Jefferson’s original library; we saw the very first map with “America” printed on it and we saw the Great Hall where scholars do their research using over 100 million items kept by the Library of Congress. And I admit, as impressive as all of that is and as thrilled as I was to see it, it was kind of a little additional thrill also to see where scenes of the movie “National Treasure” were filmed.

Looking up to the 2nd floor.
Soon we had to leave as we had an appointment at Senator Mark Pryor’s office. I’ll talk about that in my next blog entry. To say myself and my family were impressed with the Library of Congress would be an understatement. What an excellent way to start our stay in Washington, D.C.!

Gorgeous interior
Sculpture on the stair railing.
Janice, our fantastic tour guide!