Friday, November 26, 2010

Part III - The Viet Nam Veterans Memorial

We drove back to DC across the Potomac and stopped to see the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (the Viet Nam Wall). Unbelievably, we found a parking spot right in front of the path to the wall. I then realized God had forgiven my earlier antics too. I rolled down my van’s ramp, up the path and approached the wall. To my surprise it wasn’t a free-standing edifice, but more like a buttress or a reinforcement wall. There are 58,000 names etched into this memorial - 58,000 grieving families and untold numbers of friends and that’s just Americans. This war lasted from 1959 to 1975. How many deaths total? Who knows? We do know millions of warriors from many countries died, but how many civilians in Laos, Cambodia as well as Viet Nam? And for what? Unification of Viet Nam occurred in 1976 and by 2000, it had established diplomatic relations with most nations. Its economic growth has been among the highest in the world in the past decade. I think now they’re even a member of the UN. Who caused all this pain? Politicians!

We didn’t remain at the wall too long because I was physically and emotionally spent. I asked Gal Friday to get me back in the van and put the nose down toward Delaware. I remained quiet because of so many mixed emotions, confused thoughts and questions never to be answered. Before we arrived home late that night, I reflected on all I had seen the last two days, The White House, Arlington National Cemetery, JFK’s Eternal Flame, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the Viet Nam Veterans Memorial...not to mention all the components of the glorious Mall extending from the Lincoln Memorial to the Capitol building. My attempt to put it all in perspective initially failed me. But then I remembered all the other countries I have seen. I wish every American had an opportunity to travel around the world and observe different societies laboring under very different governments. I think then they would better appreciate our wonderful country. The conclusions I finally reached stemmed from my understanding of the men who began this terrific nation - Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Madison, Monroe, etc. If you ever desire to perceive the true meaning of anything in this country, there is one simple document that gives you the definitive answer. It’s called the Constitution of the United States of America!

Even enduring all my miscues during this visit to our nation's capitol, Gal Friday still enjoyed the experience. I dare say much more than our next excursion to DC when we toured the National Museum of the American Indian.

Driving up to the building, she spotted an available handicap parking spot directly to the side of this beautiful structure. Disbelievingly she wheeled us in and let me out. Now Gal Friday...well, I wouldn't dare call her uptight or compulsive, but prudent or cautious might more aptly describe her nature.
Because the meter was eating our coins without crediting any minutes, Gal Friday whipped out the cell phone to report the malfunction to the DC traffic division. An adjacent pole bore many signs about parking restrictions, but we only read the one at eye level indicating it was okay to park during the time we'd be in the museum.  Truthfully I thought the call quite unnecessary, but kept the ole kisser zipped. The Washington bureaucrat on the other end requested the specific location and said we could park there till the cows came home or longer - this was a kindness shown to the disabled.  Wow, my rather cynical opinion of our government policies eased a few notches.

We toured the museum which contains a comprehensive historical background of our native Americans including drawings, paintings, sculptures and various artifacts. I found it a terrifically interesting place, but one question lingered - how could they try to capture the history of the Indians without one single reference to John Wayne?

We enjoyed our tour and when the museum closing hour was announced, we left the building to encounter the boiling hot sunshine and stifling humidity for which DC is so famous.  As a natural reaction to the blinding light when exiting, I squeezed my eyes closed.  My squeeze softened to a squint and I finally opened my eyes and wheeled around to drive to the van. As I looked up for the van, I saw nothing but an empty parking space. I blinked and looked again, but nothing had changed. I did not panic, but I can't say the same for my wonderful partner.

Gal Friday spun and hit the bricks to the lonely meter so fast, I thought she was replicating some Indian war dance I apparently missed during our tour. Now this woman is quick. she's fast in thought, speech and action. She can play the minute waltz in 57 seconds. Before I could say Chief Running Bear, she was already talking to another Washington traffic bureaucrat who explained, because of rush hour regulations, our van had been towed away. This did not sit well with Gal, no, not well at all.

We were given the van's street location and she walked (as I rode) to this address. She was told it was parked on a street off Maryland Ave. Not only couldn't we find the specific address; we couldn't find the street. Things were not getting better. Here Gal Friday geared up into bulldog mode; told me to sit tight and started an earnest search. About 20 minutes later she drove up, lowered the ramp and I wheeled in. With crimson coloring and without saying a word, she waved a $100 parking ticket in my face. I never said a word all the way home. See, I'm getting a little smarter.

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