Let’s say you have a handful of hours in New York City or Los Angeles and knew you could squeeze in just one activity, one site, one memorable activity, or one photo op, what would you choose? It may depend on whether you’ve ever wanted to see the Pacific Ocean or ride the elevator to the top of the Empire State Building. Perhaps you may want to peer across the Hollywood Hills to the famous, large, white letters on the hillside, or maybe you want to take in a few innings at the ballpark in the Bronx. Maybe you want to stand at the base of Lady Liberty or see the Happiest Place on Earth. Now what if you’d already been to both cities – what one spot would you stop to see again?
I faced an identical dilemma on a visit to the nation’s capital. I’ve been around the city many times, from my first visit during the Cold War to my sightseeing tour on two wheels and gyroscopes (see Segue from February 2019). I’m notorious on quick trips to stop between adventures (see The Cracks That Matter from January 2021). I could have slept in on Memorial Day ahead of the Nationals/Braves match up, but instead I boarded the subway to Constitution Avenue. The Charters of Freedom are always worth a look-see, and since Nicholas Cage took it on a fictional field trip in film, I wanted to stop in and find out if a certain Declaration has let its movie portrayal go to its head. Celebrities aren’t just in New York and LA.
Before The First Pitch
I ascend from the subway and take the short hike towards the National Archives. The external line already lengthens despite the early hour. It helps that on this particular Memorial Day, in addition to the early hour, the majority of tourists are heading towards Arlington. Scans and security not present in my previous visits remind me that the city remains protective of more than just someone wanting to steal John Hancock’s John Hancock. In small clusters, we herd through ropes and stanchions with placards of rules and reminders for when we finally reach our destination. We near the final corner when we can view the parchments that shaped our democracy as we receive a verbal reminder regarding our behavior in the rotunda.
At the age of four Son Number One joined me touring throughout the cathedrals of Rome, but as a child, he just recalled building after building, more entertained chasing the pigeons outside than gazing upon the artwork and architecture within. Today, the young girl holding her father’s hand ahead of me, (see The Other National Archives from November 2021) likely would not absorb, much less recall, every experience of her family’s vacation, much like my son. Yet she remembered the plot of the most famous movie “heist” out of the building through which we flowed. Here’s hoping she slips back in here in the future – maybe just on a swing through DC, perhaps killing time on the way to a Nationals game – and be reminded of the importance of the words, and the purpose, of the other side of the Declaration of Independence.