America’s “Front Lawn”

As you know if you see my Instagram (and elsewhere), we spent the weekend in Washington, D.C. Somehow as an adult I had never managed a visit to our nation’s capital. I haven’t been to the National Mall area of the city since I was a kid.

I was age 10 when I flew down there from New York City’s LaGuardia Airport on the Eastern Airlines shuttle (which no longer exists) with my grandparents to visit my (soon to be novelist) uncle when – with my aunt and cousins – he lived just outside of the city for a few years in Virginia. It was the first time I had been on an airplane, too. However, the only thing I really recall of that trip to the city was that my uncle drove us around and we passed some monuments and the Watergate Hotel (a hotel that had become quite famous a few years before).

This time, I wanted to see Washington, D.C. properly:

The White House from Pennsylvania Ave yesterday afternoon.๐Ÿ“ธ . I'm (sadly) old enough to remember when traffic whizzed by on it and it was an active road. It is understandable why the public has been gradually pushed increasingly back for security purposes, but I thought it felt kinda sad, too: concrete barriers, fences and armed to the teeth police and secret service are everywhere. Naturally it also attracts a type: Melody (I think that was her name) had a microphone and loudspeaker and was running for president while reading from the Bible (she's seen to the right, under the tree, in an all white outfit); and another guy had set up a stall on how the world is coming to an end, or some such. I bet given the likelihood of ever greater "security creep," someday we won't be able to get even this close to the building to see it – that they will just fence off the whole area. . #travel #tourism #washingtondc #WhiteHouse #photo #photography #photos #instatraveling #authors #writers #authorsofinstagram #writersofinstagram #politics #history

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I took these photos yesterday. The best view of Washington, DC may be from outside of it: seen from outside of Arlington House – amidst Arlington National Cemetery. The city is spread out below.๐Ÿ“ธ . The house belonged to the grandson of Martha Washington (so he was George Washington's step-grandson). When he died in 1857, he passed it on to his daughter, Martha Washington's great-granddaughter. She was married to a US army officer named Robert E. Lee. After Lee joined the rebellion in 1861, the Federal government seized the property and massive estate and eventually turned it into a military cemetery, even burying dead Union soldiers – often killed by men under Lee's direct command – right next to the house. . The house itself is being restored by the National Park Service.๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ . #travel #tourism #instatraveling #photos #photography #civilwar #history #Virginia #nationalparkservice #arlingtonnationalcemetery #military #usa #washingtondc #authors #writers #authorsofinstagram #writersofinstagram #expats #expatlife

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I had a chuckle now and then, too. Seeing the history all around you, it is hard not to reflect upon how much we have changed as a country over the centuries. We are, in many ways, almost a “different” place compared to “1776.”

Having spent so much time recently writing about the 1780s and the 1790s, as I walked around the Mall often I wondered what plainspoken President John Adams (1797-1801) might have thought about it all:

[Photo by me, 2017.]
“Yes, Mr. Adams, that is President Washington’s monument.”

“Look at that! It befits the man. His majesty. What he meant to us…”

[Photo by me, 2017.]
“And that is President Lincoln’s. I told you of him. The president who presided over the terrible civil war that saw the end of slavery in 1865…”

“Clearly he is worthy. A great man. Such love of country. To die for America as he did.”

[Photo by me, 2017.]
“And that is President Roosevelt, who, despite being unable to walk served 12 years as president, and led us through economic depression and the World War 2 that blighted the 20th century…”

“Horrible times. I have no words, sir. I strived, as you know, to keep us out of European conflicts. But as technology changed, clearly such was no longer possible.”

[Photo by me, 2017.]
“That lady there is Mrs. Roosevelt. She helped found the global United Nations, to strive for world peace.”

“A wife of a president so depicted? You tell me also that ladies have voted for nearly 100 years! Why Abigail shall be pleased to hear of such…”

[Photo by me, 2017.]
“And that is Dr. King. As we discussed, he was a black man, and led the struggle for full equality with whites in the 1960s and was assassinated. The country reveres him. We have since his death seen our first black president.”

“Amazing! A black president, you say! America! I knew that my hopes for the country were not in vain. You have moved on much from us. This look ahead has been marvelous. Uh, tell me, that huge monument visible from Dr. King’s, with the classical circular roof? It is magnificent. Dr. Franklin’s?”


“That of some other leader of your time with whom I am unacquainted?”

[Photo by me, 2017.]
“No, Mr. Adams, that is Mr. Jefferson’s memorial…”

“What? Ugh! Thomas wrote fine words in the Declaration, yes. Invented the dumbwaiter. Loved Paris. Always seemed so reasonable. Everyone liked him. Nobody liked me. So he got a memorial. Damn it. I see he’s conned you too as well!”

* * *

Thus what a fiction writer can think about!

Have a good day, wherever you are in the world. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Author: โ€œConventions: The Garden At Paris,โ€ โ€œPassports,โ€ โ€œFrontiers,โ€ and โ€œDistances.โ€ British Airways frequent flier. Lover of the Catskill Mountains...and the 1700s. New novel of 1797-1805, "Tomorrow The Grace," due out in 2019.