Washington The District of Columbia

Day four

Our balmy weather left us abruptly this morning. Temperatures plunged from yesterday’s 65 to a freezing and bone chilling 33 today. As I left my warm hotel I got an inkling of the change, but when I emerged from the Smithsonian Metro onto the vast expanse of the National Mall I was made fully aware of just how cold it can be here in winter. The ice-cold wind was howling down the open field causing the wind-chill to drop below freezing. It was cold enough to make my unshielded ears smart with pain.

It wasn’t quite like this, but close

Still, it was worth braving this artic-blast as my destination was, one of my favorite museums here, the National Air and Space Museum. I have visited this gallery every time I have toured this city, and it never ceases to influence me. I guess there are two reasons for my fascination with this museum. The first is my age. I was born in 1957, which was the beginning of the space-race that ultimately led to the USA landing men on the Moon. For totally illogical reasons I’ve always felt connected to human space efforts because of my random birthdate.

The second reason for my fascination with the National Air and Space Museum was my 25 years of being a private pilot. During my time as a fly-boy I clocked over a 1,000 hours of flight time and attained IFR (instrument flight rules) certification. This experience was driven by my fascination with all things aeronautical. Spaceflight and aeronautics are well represented at this stupendous museum.

51 Juliet

During this visit, I strangely feel less impressed with Homo Sapiens’ clever space and flight inventions and achievements. It seems to me that we made our most progress in both these fields via systems developed for killing other humans. The space-race and subsequent Moon landing was really driven by the USA’s need for orbital dominance. We got a man on the Moon and created orbital spy networks to boot. Even my very flightworthy 51 Juliet was the result of aeronautical technologies honed via incremental development of flying-machines created for the sole purpose of death and destruction.

Oh, I so long for a simpler time when I could just look at an airplane and marvel. Maybe I’ll be able to return to this meeker perspective, but somehow, I doubt it. Once the genie is out of the bottle there’s no putting it back.

Day five

Julia and I decided to see a show at the infamous Ford Theater. From 1860 the theatre was innocently used for various stage performances. But the theater became notorious when it was transformed to the site of the assassination of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln on April 14, 1865. After being shot, the mortally wounded president was carried across the street to the Petersen House, where he died the next morning. These events inextricably linked the Ford Theater and Petersen House for all time.

Petersen House

After this dastardly deed the theatre was closed for some time, used as a warehouse, and then an office building. In 1893 part of it collapsed, causing 22 deaths adding to the horror associated with this ill-fated structure. In 1968 it was renovated and re-opened as a theatre once again. Then it was renovated again and reopened to the public on February 12, 2009, as part of the commemoration of the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth.

The despicable history America has with the murder of its government officials is not exceptional. Sapiens have a long and sordid history of such crimes. We all must own our propensity for violence if we are to ever change.

We watched a performance of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf at this somehow western theater. Martha and George’s relationship reminded me of the left and the right political views in America. As the two constantly fought through the play it was slowly revealed that they could not live without each other. So, it is too, with liberals and conservatives.



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