Sunday, October 22, 2006

Home on Sunday

We left the hotel at 6:30 AM and thought we would grab a taxi. We got a limo instead (actually just a large black car) but the price was the same. We drove by Vermont Avenue and Martin Luther again.

Now that I was awake and was to spend so much time waiting in Union Station, I had an opportunity to appreciate how large and beautiful it is. This small photograph of the barrels and arches inside is linked to a page with more photos. (You have to look up the history of the station yourself.) I kept imagining Louisa May Alcott arriving here to nurse the Civil War soldiers so the whole experience for me had enormous romance. When you leave the station the Capitol dome is visible straight ahead.

Finally we boarded the train (Amy never left the waiting area!) and as soon as the train began moving, I fell asleep. I woke up at various times to see Wilmington, Delaware; the Delaware Memorial Bridge, New York City, and New Haven. We changed engines in New Haven and I wish I had called ahead to Anna to ask her to meet us, if only for a few minutes. It was much colder by then and I wished I had worn something warmer.

In Springfield, we went into the station and got a couple of Pepsis and stretched our legs.

We got into White River Junction at 6:30pm, just as advertised. It was very cold and wet. We tried to find a place to eat but everything seemed closed and we got lost, so we went home. The weather deteriorated as we went north: from rain to fog to snow. Lots of snow at Sheffield Heights, and during moose season, too. So I took it easy while Amy fretted and called Andy to pick her up at my house (so she wouldn’t have to spend anymore time with me as necessary!). He came soon after we arrived: with my cats!

And the next day I went back to work exhausted, disoriented and sad.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Saturday in Washington

I was pretty hungry by the time Amy and Andrew wandered in Saturday morning so that we could go to Whole Foods for breakfast again (the photo with the purple sky above). It was colder and beautiful out. Hundreds of people rushed about and the food was great. We decided to go to the National Portrait Gallery and then see what else we could do. We planned on going out to eat that night.

We began walking, just as we did yesterday: I still don’t know which streets or direction. But we went past the old convention center site where the Cirque de Soleil had set up their beautiful tents for their shows. Then we walked under the Chinatown arch and found the National Portrait Gallery (free admission).

I was very very hot so I viewed the Civil War area (where I was fascinated by John Brown and the submarine inventors and models) and then waited outside to rest and cool down. I soon left to get ice cream and cokes. Also some popcorn for the birds which were very used to people. It was fun watching them communicate to the others on the street that there was food. At one point I had attracted over eleven birds! Sparrows, pigeons, and another bird that I had seen all over the city and originally thought was a young starling. But having hundreds of birds the same age and markings meant they were not young starlings, but another type of bird.

As we walked back to the hotel we went by Ford’s Theater. It was closed for tours because of an actual performance, so we went inside the house where he died (top left photo above). It was a very powerful experience to be in the same spot that Lincoln died.

We continued to walk in the direction of the White House again and passed many architecturally wonderful buildings, including the Sun Building (Baltimore Sun) (the tall photo on the right). It was the first “skyscraper” in Washington.

I napped and rested for the upcoming long walk to Georgetown for Ethiopian food at Zed’s. Then I walked over to Whole Foods to get a strawberry cream cake that I had drooled over in the bakery. Eventually we started off down Vermont Avenue and past the Martin Luther statute again (a strange statute for a city to erect!). I wanted a photo of a Vermont Avenue sign and Andrew grudgingly took one on his phone and without even trying it came out unusable.

Photos of Hillary are in the entrance of Zed’s. The prices on the menus outside were very reasonable. We had a reasonable wait (no reservations) and had a great time learning how to eat with the sourdough steamed bread and no utensils. We shared a mishmash of different dishes between us, had some good conversation, paid the bill and walked all the way back to Dupont. The whole way! I certainly enjoy dining now: conversation, experimentation with food. No rushing in order to eat before my next class while I do many other things. Just talk and food.

I finally got into Andrew’s apartment (which, he had been saying, was disorganized and not ready for visitors). But it was great to see the work he had done and the electronic piano he has. He played for us (oh the memories there....): some Debussy, Chopin and Beethoven. Then we all walked to the hotel, had dessert very fast, the kids left, and I fell into bed dead tired.

For two whole days now, the kids have refused to walk with me but have been two blocks ahead of me. Very very irritating. I prefer Indian food, and while I am glad I experienced Ethiopian, I don’t like the bread and won’t seek it out again.


Friday, October 20, 2006

Friday and the White House

On Friday morning I got up early as I usually do. I spent an hour or more downstairs and outside with my Coke, cigarettes and new NCTM publication (it turns out that while Rosenstein at Rutgers told us all that it is not a back-to-basics manifesto it is a back-to-basics manifesto: I am to focus on division and fractions in my classes). I returned upstairs and took a shower.

We went to Whole Foods for breakfast. But breakfast was over, so we had lunch for breakfast and then set out for the White House. Our tour was at noon. We walked the whole way. Amy, of course, was speed walking ahead of me. But for some reason I was never far behind. I have no idea what her rush was.

On one street the police suddenly roared to life in front of us, stopping and diverting traffic. Suddenly we realized that the president was going to drive by and they were "securing" the area. We waited and there he was! Of course we could not see him inside his limo. There were several SUVs behind him, bristling with antennas for the Secret Service. It was very impressive. But Amy? She wanted to hold a protest right there I guess! Anyhow, we continued on and got to the White House in time for our tour.

Our tours were arranged by the office of Bernie Sanders. As we walked down to the White House Amy told me the rules for the tour: no cameras, no bags, no nothing. I protested and decided that I was not going to go on such a thing. It turns out that I have my obstinate side when it comes to these things. I would wait outside while she toured. It was becoming so burdensome to tour our nation's first house!
The Treasury Building

But finally we decided that I would go while Amy held my stuff and then she would go. I stood for a short while in a short line. The agent at the line had my name on a list, crossed me off, and I was allowed on the grounds. I went into another building for those metal detector machines and was allowed through there. And finally, suddenly, I was in the White House! My first visit!

Portraits hung everywhere. That is my impression of the White House. Tall ceilings, rich carpeting, way-too-serious Secret Service men standing like statues everywhere. We did have to stand in a queue for awhile. There were photos of previous presidents along the wall. But inside every group of photos was a photo of Bush. Andrew had warned me of this section.

A congressman came through the hallway we were lined up in. He was too animated and friendly. His sidekick assistant began, in this awful jocular manner, to announce to us who he was and where he was going! My mouth dropped in astonishment at this embarrassing show they put on.

We finally got to the touring part. We were self-directed. There were guides within each room to tell us things that I could not hear. The Pink Room, Blue Room, this room, that room. They all run together in my memory now. The most memorable thing for me was Kennedy's portrait of him standing alone during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Tears came up in my eyes. The memories of my past, of Kennedy's life, of the whole era, and of being here now made this time so special for me that it caused tears.

The Press Area on the White House Lawn (but when we saw it, it was on the opposite side of the White House).

We left through the front door and walked down to Pennsylvania Avenue. Then I had to walk around the corner past the Treasury Building to where Amy was waiting. Now it was her turn to take the tour. But wait! The president was returning! So everybody out! We were all scooted out by more agents (how many are there anyhow?) and had to wait near this huge statue on the road. Finally we could return after all of those cars we had previously seen returned. Amy took her tour and I waited for her after I walked back to the front of the White House.

There was a big protest in front of the White House. We assumed it was against the war in Iraq but it was about another, older war: Vietnam. Vietnamese were protesting that they were losing their rights. They would come across the road, turn, and return to the park. They continued doing this all day despite the heat. When Amy joined me, we walked to the Bread Line for lunch. What a great place. My favorite part was the water: chilled with mint leaves, lemon and lime. It was wonderful. The sandwiches were great too, but I was so dry because of the heat and walking that the water was the best thing. The wind had picked up and kept blowing over things as we ate outside. But I was with Amy and couldn't be happier.

I returned to the hotel to rest. Amy took off by herself (I think she went to Union Station for my camera). My walk back to the hotel was wonderful.

Later, I returned to Whole Foods for sandwiches and snacks. The kids did something else; I forget what. I played computer and watched TV and had a wonderful time. Oh I wish those times had lasted forever.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Ride to Washington DC (Thursday)

Now I know why business on Amtrak is disappearing. There is little separating them as a passenger train from a cattle car. We arrived in White River one hour before the train was to arrive. Amy argued with me about every single thing I was taking, especially the 2nd computer that I brought for her in case she wanted to play a game alone or play a networked game with me.

We all got our stuff to the train station and parked the car in the long term parking area. If you leave your car overnight, a man comes and tours the lot and leaves a bill on your car for the parking. When you return you have to figure out how much you owe them and mail it in. If you don't, and if you ever want to park overnight there again, they have kept track of your license plate and will tow you away.

The train was over an hour late. It was cool outside, but it was exciting. A whole four days together with the kids! I didn't even blink an eye at a twelve hour train ride. All of my previous (short) train rides had been fun. So this would be even more fun.

We sat backwards until Springfield. The scenery was great in most areas of Vermont. But the trip dragged on and on and on and on. There was a smoking stop in Springfield. Then in New Haven. It was not dark yet. I wish I had told Anna we were going to be there so that she could meet us. I still missed her nearly every single day.

The bathrooms on the train were just awful. Small and filthy. They were never cleaned the whole trip. The food was worse! The train was cramped. After 8 hours you begin to feel it. Amy had brought food but not enough for this length of time. I had made many assumptions: that the food on the train would be better, that there would be longer stops so that we could buy something somewhere. I assumed that Amtrak had actual train stations that served a purpose. But none of that happened.

The conductors changed occasionally. The last one we had wanted to set the world's land record to Washington so that we would not be late. How do you make up 90 minutes on a train? Somehow he managed to cut the time lost down to 30 minutes. He was reasonably good tempered but I still didn't like him. He was too familiar, and played favorites with too many people.

We finally got into Union Station about 11:30 PM. We got a cab to Andrew's building and he came down. Then we all walked to Rhode Island Avenue, with all our bags, to the Helix Hotel. Nothing about this reunion came about the way I visualized it. I had no time with Andrew, and Andrew seemed tense. He did not want us upstairs. All I wanted was to go to bed. Andrew and Amy walked way ahead of me as if I had cooties (that continued the whole weekend).

The Helix is a fun hotel. Clean, pretty, very fifties retro. The furniture in the rooms is flimsy but the bed was great. The TV was great. But you could barely turn around in the room because it was so small. My room was on the tenth floor overlooking the front of the building, with the patio area for the restaurant/bar directly underneath.

Once in the room, I could relax and be myself. The tension left me. This was going to be a great trip! I didn't get to bed until after 1 AM.

But I had left my camera on the train at Union Station. So all the photographs for these four days are from my 2003 airplane trip to Washington or are from flickr photos.

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