The Day After

Do you associate holidays with cities?  Gazing up as the ball drops in New York City ranks as the quintessential New Year’s Eve experience.  Easter Sunday at the Vatican connects the holiest day of the Roman Catholic faith with the Holy See.  Where else would you spend Mardi Gras than in New Orleans?  And you’ve never felt the spirit of independence more than spending July Fourth on the National Mall.  I’ve done it.  But on an entirely different occasion, I spent Saturday, July 5th there, and I highly recommend it.

Riding the subway with only a few equally hearty souls, I arrived after the sun but before the clean-up crews.  I found the piles of empty cups and bottles stacked around the Environmental Protection Agency particularly humorous.  Throngs of revelers left their mark: grass matted down where it did try to grow, overflowing trash cans, orange snow fences used as crowd control mangled in piles, and late night celebrations preventing early risings.  Sometime after the last rocket red glared, its bomb bursting in air, the drunken merrymakers corralled, then stumbled, then trickled off the wide swath from the Lincoln Memorial to the Capitol into the cabs and buses and tubes and the transition from chaos to quiet left me with miles of memorials to myself.

The Art of Touring

The morning’s stroll around the Korean War, Vietnam War, and World War II Memorials, stark of people but perfect for photography, fills the hours until the Smithsonian American Art Museum and Portrait Gallery opens.  Sitting on the steps with the now wakening crowds, I am lost within minutes as I move at my own pace, sometimes deliberately and sometimes aimlessly losing the intended course of the public paths.  I visit the pieces I most want to see, I stop in front of the pieces I never knew I wanted to see, and I spend nearly eight hours enjoying a thousand artists whose works become my leisure.

My day continues to flow back outdoors to glide through the city sidewalks, streets, and spectacles by Segway.  I’m back among the buildings that line the two-mile landing strip for patriotic tourists, slightly elevated, slightly faster, and slightly amused by the gyroscoping scooter.  Past the White House, the Department of Energy, the Air and Space Museum, and the American Indian Museum, around the Capitol, the Library of Congress, and the Supreme Court, back along the Federal Bureau of Investigations, the Newseum, and the Sculpture Garden, I segue through my day in the city, through the city, and through a truly touristy view of Independence Day After.

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