Where in the World was Brandon Coots? Washington, D.C.!

On Saturday morning, I woke up at 6:30, jumped in my rental car, and headed North, then East, towards Washington, D.C. I left at about 8:00, and arrived in the city at about 10:15. I stayed in Arlington for most of the morning, and didn’t cross over the Potomac and into D.C. until a little later on. Well, what’s in Arlington, Virginia, you ask?

Arlington National Cemetery.

And wow. Talk about some hallowed ground.

I have a tendency to sort of joke around and make a mockery of a lot of things, namely religious institutions, but man…that was not the case at the cemetery. I was very quiet and very somber, and quite emotion, especially when I visited the site of John F. Kennedy’s Eternal Flame. When you walk up the steps to the monument, you enter a large basin that has slabs of granite with JFK quotes etched into the stone. As I was reading them, standing just 30 feet from the Flame, I almost teared up. I really did…I had to fight it.

Next, I visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Wow.

I’ve always said that the movie theater is my church, and in a lot of ways, I really do mean that. I love the theater because, like Church, it’s a place where everyone is focused on one singular thing, and they all WANT to be there. And then you see your film, and you’re respectful of it, and it makes an impact on your life, and when you see something worthwhile, you actually get to take it with you, forever. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is like Church too. I stood outside for a good ten minutes, with a crowd of a hundred or so onlookers, as we all silently paid our respects. The soldier paced back and forth with perfect discipline, and everyone watched in silence. At one point, a redneck woman walked by and talked loudly to someone else in her party, and a stranger loudly “shhhh-shed” her. It was SO appropriate. And we all just watched. I happened to be there at exactly the right time to watch the Changing of the Guard ceremony too, which was amazing in itself, and it really makes you understand the devotion to the ideal of the Unknown Soldier, and the metaphor behind it. They go through so much effort to guard the Nameless, the Faceless, because it could be me, you, him, her, anybody…it is the physical manifestation of “The People.” Very, very epic.

After a quick Check-In at my hotel in Crystal City, I headed off for the Downton Washington, D.C. to see the monument. After a serious parking fiasco (OMG, downtown D.C. is fucking ridiculous and confusing as hell), I parked off of 7th Street, and walked towards the National Mall. Taking a right in front of one of the Smithsonians (not sure which one), I made it to The Capitol. The Capitol of the United States of America.

My somber tone was whipped out of me by the parking situation, and so one of my first comments upon arriving at the Capitol was, “I thought they blew this up in Independence Day?”

Turning around, you see THIS view:

After checking out the Capitol, I walked up Pennsylvania Avenue, towards the White House. While walking, I realized that D.C. isn’t anything like it’s portrayed in movies and books. It’s PACKED with tourists (like myself), and the city itself is much more urban than you’d think. There are tall buildings everywhere, and it’s busy and crowded, and it’s very much a CITY. In the movies, D.C. is portrayed as…a bit more rural? I dunno…it’s just not how I thought it would be. Anyway, after quite a lil hike, I made it to The White House. And it was a goddamn circus.

Here’s the view of The White House from the North Lawn:

And here’s the view when you turn around toward LaFayette Square:

There were various groups out there selling their wares…some religious folks claiming a link between Obama and Hitler, and some Syrians(?) who were opposed to…something…and another group were…fighting them? I’m not really sure…there were a lot of things going on…but most of the people were out there just hanging out and taking pictures and eating hot dogs in the shade. Free speech at its finest, right? Even the cops, who were out in full force with cars and horses and all of it, were just kinda like, “Eh. This is just every day.”

Marching back down towards The Mall, I saw the WWII Memorial, which was pretty damn cool (my Dad’s Father served in the Navy during WWII, and was in The Pacific), and The Washington Monument, which is pretty damn tall.

After that, I walked down the length of the (drained) Reflection Pool, and finally met up with an old buddy of mine, Abraham G.D. Lincoln. The Lincoln Memorial is HUUUUUGGGGEEEEE. Huge. It was unbelievably packed, which was unfortunate, so I didn’t quite have that somber mood from earlier, but it was still amazing. Lincoln was larger than life when he was alive, and at about 14 feet tall, his statue does him great justice.

After a quick swing through the Korean War Memorial (my Mom’s Father served in the Army during the Korean War, and actually earned a Purple Heart in Korea), I made my way back down Independence Drive, towards the car. Jefferson’s Monument was off to the left, but was a little too much off the beaten path to get a good view of. I finally made it back to the car, and exited the area. Here’s a map of the D.C. area, with my path in blue. Sources tell me that my route, all-told, was approximately 7.5 miles. And it was hot as hell.

Brutal. I actually skipped the Smithsonians the next day because of lingering foot injuries that flared up from all the walking. Ugh.

I believe my emotional reaction to the monuments of Washington, D.C. was completely justified. I have a degree in History, so the origins of the monuments are well-known to me, but up until this trip, they had been just images in books, or in movies. But they became very real to me this weekend. You can read about all the great deeds and heroic actions that have been done in our country’s history, but until you actually SEE these things, they won’t have their full effect. It’s amazing, and it makes me appreciate our country’s history SO much more.

After a quick shower and rest, I was spinnin’ back up, heading down to the waterfront (only 2 miles or so from downtown) for the Nationals game. The stadium is really, really cool, and in a great location. Nationals Park is super-modern, and looks more like a football stadium than a baseball park.

It took me a little bit to get my ticket from Will-Call, but once I got it, my seat was RIGHT inside the homeplate entrance. When I finally got to my seat, I was extremely pleased with what my $70 ticket got me:

During the top of the 2nd inning, leadoff batter David Wright roped a foul ball that actually HIT the guy right next to me. Wow. It was definitely as close to a ball I’ve ever been. Amazing. Using space-age image editing technology, I took three photos of Nats Ballpark from my seat and made a HUMUNGOUS composite image to create a 180-degree view of the ballpark. Of course, it’s not perfect, because I can’t use magic to curve pictures, but hey…you get the idea. Click on the pic below and zoom in:

In all, my trip to D.C. was expensive, but very, very worth it, and there’s no way that I can put a price tag on that. The memories and pictures are going to last me a lifetime, and it’d something I’ll definitely be telling my friends, and one day, children, about. I highly recommend that if you get the chance to go see Washington, D.C., you do it as soon as possible. But, maybe wait until like October. And, go on a Tuesday.

And…special thanks to my special guest on the trip, Dizzle Dizzle Dizzle!!!

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4 responses

  1. Donna Brown

    I really, really enjoyed this, Brandon! D.C. is still on my to-do list and it just moved up in priority. Also, your walking tour route is clearly in the (somewhat distorted) shape of Texas. So, I guess it’s true – you CAN take the boy out of Texas, but not a weird version of Texas out of the boy.

    August 1, 2011 at 8:22 am

  2. Nevin

    Very good Coots, looks like it was fun. And yes, the map in the shape of Texas also struck me.

    August 1, 2011 at 10:49 am

  3. Hahaha…i didn’t even notice that! Weird.

    August 1, 2011 at 2:34 pm

  4. Meredith

    I feel like the home stretch back to the car isn’t quite accurate on the map haha

    August 1, 2011 at 3:33 pm

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