Not Your Fatherís District of Columbia
Last Tuesday I waxed nostalgic and took the D.C. Metro into Washington to take in some sights and museums with a friend. My Dad had law offices on K Street, in the Watergate Building, and several other locations since the early 1960s, so the trip was not a new one for me.
Shady Grove Metro is a great jumping off point – off peak only – for this kind of adventure. It takes a straight shot to Metro Center, in the heart of the city near Pennsylvania Avenue. Right there do take the time to walk Madam Tussaud’s Wax Museum.
For about $20, you’ll find scary-real figures from American history, in period clothing and with nearby biographical information. The most important presidents are represented from Lincoln to Truman to Nixon. A hall of celebrity and sports follows this. Photo ops aplenty make it quite fun, and you will never lose the feeling that one of them could come to life at any time, as in some practical joke.
Walking from there toward The Mall, you will walk right past Ford’s Theater, where Lincoln was shot, and a house across the street that bragged in a sign: The house where Lincoln died….Odd.
There were oversized cement planters and barriers in strange places all over the city; these bollards I now recall were security devices placed since 9/11 and the World Trade Center bombings….they seemed burdensome and out of place. A bit further down the road came the J. Edgar Hoover building, home of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It has its own private security surrounding an ominous building housing a fortress-like overhanging floor at the top.
I understand the government will even be moving this FBI Building to Springfield, VA, because the powers-that-be don’t consider it to be safe enough in DC…….Hmmm…
All the while a wide variety of helicopters hovered the horizon and darted back and forth…..photo recon versions, and black, fully militarized versions. A “Marine One” style, white-top version was among them.
A glimpse between buildings heading down Pennsylvania Avenue revealed a Washington Monument shrouded in decorative, form fitting scaffolding. As if it was being packed away for some future generation, it was wrapped fully. I knew this was part of a restoration, allowing it to recover from damage from an earthquake.
Passing the U.S. Treasury Building, right off of your $20 bills obverse side, the flags of the Old Executive Office Building were visible above a rich old tree line. Much of the real work of the White House staff is conducted here. Under our feet I know that old canals ran, and secret tunnels connected much of this area. A secret part of the Metro System is also under foot.
There were cops of various flavors and black-suited presumably Secret Service at ALL of these intersections on Tuesday. They wear sunglasses, seem dark in nature, and speak into their sleeves like a bad episode of the TV show Get Smart.
It was time to take in the obligatory glimpse of the South Lawn of the White House on the way over to the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum. A very nice White House uniformed police officer turned us away from the security gate we used to visit for our closest glimpse; it was closed for some reason, and we were directed to one 100 yards further back.
More helicopters came and went bobbing up and down, peeking all around.
At the further out vantage, the full White House became visible, with the circular security device on the roof, the lawns fully cleared, and a large water fountain visible at the center base of the structure.
Tourists were madly taking pictures, getting into the backgrounds themselves for posterity and having a fun time. Most were not speaking English.
Then the atmosphere changed abruptly. Two men-in-black appeared pacing the very top of the White House roof and appeared from a white tent-like structure, moving things around. They were a sniper observation team. Something big was happening.
A small group of us were allowed to come forward to the forward most gates for some reason. We followed a crowd of about 50 to get a much better privileged glimpse.
A single black man appeared walking the South Lawn, coming from our right and moving to our left. It was The President Barack Obama himself! He waved to the crowd and paced back and forth for a few minutes while we stood there in disbelief…he was waiting for something.
As he disappeared into a doorway, a flash of pure black vehicles formed as a solid line around the single driveway at the base of the White House. Black Suburbans and Tahoes, black vans and other oddly configured vehicles. It was the full Presidential Motorcade forming up. It was there for 5 minutes and then disappeared in an instant, with sirens emanating from other city intersections in the distance; you knew something important was happening.
I learned that later that day, President Obama was signing Executive Orders concerning the life and death of Environmental Protection Agency regulations over various energy resources, again terra-forming the land with his agenda, for better or for worse. We had witnessed a small snippet of history.
Afterward it was hard to marvel at museum airplane artifacts again. It just didn’t seem as important as what we had just witnessed. The security, the power, the events of the day demonstrated some eerie strength of our nation.
I just did not feel that it was all for the good in this instance. We seemed to be protecting against enemies a tad bit too hard.