Friday, July 13, 2007

A Weekend with my Brothers

Let me introduce you to two of my three brothers:

My brother Nathan (in the panda shirt) turned 30 on Tuesday. Nathan lives in Boise. My brother James (in the Harold B. Lee library shirt) lives in Washington D.C. James suggested that my parents fly Nathan to D.C. as a 30th birthday present. When I heard that Nathan and James were going to be spending the weekend together, I wanted to go, too. My dad kindly offered to buy me a plane ticket, as well, in honor of my 30th birthday (which was two and a half years ago). So on Saturday morning I said goodbye to my sleeping family, stepped into my friend LL's car, and was whisked away to the Detroit airport.

I arrived at the Regan National Airport at 9 a.m. James instructed me on how to take the Metro to his place, and when I arrived at his stop, he and Nathan were waiting for me. We walked back to his apartment on Capitol Hill, which looks like this:

James fed me breakfast (a toasted bagel with cream cheese and juice), and then we headed out for our first stop of the morning: Arlington National Cemetery. At the cemetery, we visited three sites: John F. Kennedy's grave, the Arlington House, and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Here is the picture I took of the eternal flame at Kennedy's memorial:

I was surprised to see that beside the markers for JFK and Jackie were the markers for two little babies. One just said "Daughter. Stillborn. 1956." The other said "Patrick Bouvier Kennedy", and the dates indicated that he was born in August 1963 and died two days later. JFK was shot and killed in November of the same year, and I wanted to know if this was in deed their son, which would mean that Jackie lost both a baby and a husband within a few months of each other. I found out later in the day that the Kennedys did have 4 children. Arabella was their first, and she was stillborn in 1956. Caroline was born next, in 1957, and then JFK Junior in 1960. Finally they had little Patrick, who was delivered by emergency c-section 5 1/2 weeks early and didn't have the lung capacity to sustain his life.

Up the hill from the Kennedy grave site is the Arlington House:

James told us that the land that is now the cemetery was part of Robert E. Lee's plantation before the Civil War. During the war, the Union army buried their dead on Lee's land, so that after the war, there wasn't much he could do with it. The house is being refurbished until 2010, so there was no furniture in it, and it looked a bit run down, but I really liked the paint color and the doorways in this room on the ground floor:

Our friend in Ann Arbor, Laura Lee, has told us several times that she was born in Robert E. Lee's house, so I asked about that, but the docent didn't know if that would have been possible or not. I need to ask Laura Lee again.

I didn't know anything about the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. I was expecting a head stone that said "Unknown Soldier" or something. Instead, there was this huge white building with an outdoor amphitheater, and an indoor museum filled with tributes from all around the world to the Unknown Soldier. Here is a picture that I did not take:

Outside there was an armed soldier, a "Sentinel" dressed in his full fancy uniform, including white gloves. This is what he looked like, again in a picture I did not take:

James told us that we had to stay and see the "Changing of the Guard." It was so hot that day, and the sun was blaring down on us. Standing on the steps watching the three soldiers go through their elaborate ritual I almost felt like I would pass out from the heat. It bothered me to think of how hot the men must be in their uniforms. The soldier in charge, the Relief Commander, spoke to us in a strange, stylized, barking voice. James said they always speak that way during the ceremony. I found out today that the tomb has been guarded every minute of every day without fail since 1937.

We met Dan's sister, Melinda, and her friend Megan at the cemetery. They drove us back to James' place for lunch. We had a nice rest, and then left again in the late afternoon to go see Bodies...The Exhibition at Rosslyn on the Metro.

James had heard about this from mom, who saw it in Chicago. It is an exhibit of real human bodies that have been plasticized with silicon so that they are preserved indefinitely. For $26.50 a person, you can see a freak show of anatomical science. The image that I will never forget is the large case containing an entire human skin. It looked like a cow hide, but it had a belly button, and was shaped like a deflated man. Sorry, but I haven't been able to find a picture of it. Ha ha.

After the exhibit, we walked over to the Iwo Jima monument, which was much bigger than I had imagined it:

James told us all about the movie Flags of our Fathers and how hard it had been for the men in the photograph (which later became this monument) when the military ordered them to come home from the war and tour the country to raise money. Next we took the Metro to Cleveland Park for dinner at an Italian restaurant. Back at home, we ate a delicious chocolate and strawberry cake made James' friend Victoria. I collapsed into James' bed and slept long and deep.

Sunday morning we took the Metro to Friendship Heights to attend church. I visited the Relief Society of the Chevy Chase ward while Nathan and James were in the sacrament meeting for the D.C. 2nd ward. After church we rode the metro to the Smithsonian, and spent a very enjoyable hour or two in the Hirshhorn Museum. I like this portrait of James and Nathan with wavy faces that I took there:

My favorite part of the museum, and possibly of the whole trip, was watching a thirty minute movie by Peter Fischli and David Weiss called The Way Things Go. When I first glanced at the television in the gallery, I saw a tire on fire and it looked pretty boring, so I moved on. But James and Nathan were riveted to the screen a few minutes later, so I returned to wait with them. Moments later I was hooked, and we couldn't leave until we'd seen the whole thing and then watched our favorite parts for the second time. The movie looks like it is set in a big warehouse. There are no people in the movie, no talking. You watch as a suspended bag of garbage slowly unwinds until it bumps into a tire, which rolls a few feet and causes something else to happen. This goes on and on and on, and there are fires, explosions, water, vapors, smoke, bubbles, irons, ladders, and lots of tires. We were laughing so hard at some of it, and at other times the suspense was killing us. It is a lot like the sequences with the squirrel and the acorn in Ice Age: The Meltdown, but it was not animated.

We returned to James' apartment for lunch with several of James' friends from church. Here are a few of them posing for me (from left, Nathan, James, Aaron, Amy, and Brian):

James made some yummy chicken with peppers and onions, I was in charge of the salad and rice, Vick made fried platanos, and there was watermelon and lemon banana cake with maple frosting. After our meal and some pleasant chatting, Nathan and James rode the Metro back to the airport with me and said goodbye.

I just want to thank my mom and dad for buying my plane ticket, James and Brian for sharing their bachelor pad with us, Dan for watching the kids and refinishing the floor of our bedroom while I was gone, Vick for making the chocolate cake (and reading my blog!) and Nathan for turning 30. It was a great weekend.


Dan Richards said...

It bothered me to think of how hot the men must be in their uniforms.

If I had known how you get hot and bothered by men in uniform. . .

aussiegirl said...

I feel like I interrupted something there . . . Anywho, what a fun trip! I love DC. And I've been dying to see that human body show. Did you like it? It was great to see pix of all your family members. Now I have faces to go with names! Keep up the great posting!

tim said...

I love the picture of James the elf and Nathan the dwarf!

LL said...

That sounds like a super fun trip. I can't imagine one with no diapers, whining, cheerios, etc...

Potato Girl said...

Tim: I didn't notice it but you're right, James' ears look very elfin in that warped picture from the art museum :)