To Washington and Back

In my last entry, I mentioned in passing that I’d be headed to Washington, D.C. on Friday night for a peace march, along with about 60 others.  I made the trip and came back to Columbus about 4:30 this morning, exhausted and exhilarated all at the same time.

Much of the action was concentrated in Lafayette Park, across from the White House.  Our bus arrived early in Washington (the driver let us off at the corner of 19th and L Sts. NW at 8:38 a.m.), so we could watch Lafayette Park fill up and come to life.  It was a beautiful morning in the District of Columbia, and it looked like the day they take the picture of the White House for the post cards and the National Park Service flyers.

We left Columbus Saturday morning just after midnight, and took Interstate 70 most of the way.  (When I rode to Washington with my dad when I was 10, we traveled from Marietta via U.S. 50 most of the way, which meant a lot of winding and narrow roads in the mountains of West Virginia.  It was the only time in my life I’ve experienced motion sickness.)  On this trip, there were minimal pit stops.  One was at a truck stop in Valley Grove, a little dot on the map just east of Wheeling.  (Besides the truck stop, its most thriving business seems to be Gumby’s Cigarette World.)  The other stop was in Breezewood, the crowning jewel of the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

I combined activism with pleasure on this trip.  I was happy to meet and have lunch with my friend, historian and essayist Robert Nedelkoff (known in LiveJournalland as Hilligoss).  He was, for a long time, one of the best friends I had never met.  We are both interested in novelist Robert Lowry of Cincinnati–although Robert never knew Lowry personally, as I did–and emailed back and forth for several years, exchanging information and insights, until Robert came to Columbus on his way to see his father in Indiana.

Robert and I had lunch at Wok and Roll, a Chinese restaurant on H St. NW.  It doesn’t win any culinary prizes for Asian cuisine, but the restaurant is housed in the building that, during the Civil War, was the boardinghouse owned by Mary Surratt.  This was where John Wilkes Booth and his fellow conspirators plotted the abduction (and, eventually, the assassination) of Abraham Lincoln.  Because of this, 13 weeks after the assassination, Mary Surratt became the first woman executed by the Federal Government.

After two hours in the restaurant, Robert took me to the Newseum, a museum dedicated to journalism throughout the ages, from the town crier to the Internet.  Some of the exhibits were quite thought-provoking: the remains of the TV antenna atop One World Trade Center, the office of Tim Russert, the door at the Watergate office building through which the burglars entered, the cabin of Ted Kaczynski, the reporters’ notebooks of Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, and many others.

Robert pleasantly surprised me by picking up the tab for both lunch and the Newseum.  He walked back to Lafayette Park with me, and left late in the afternoon to catch the subway back to his home in Maryland.

The march was more faction-ridden than I’ve seen in a long time.  The more militant pro-Palestinian groups and 9/11 conspiracy theorists far dominated the people who came simply to protest the war and show their unhappiness based on religious or moral grounds.  On Capitol Hill, there was a rally of Tea Klux Klan folks protesting the health care bill (which is supposed to come to a vote tonight), and I was worried that if they came down Pennsylvania Avenue, that would be when the oil would hit the water, but they never made it toward the White House.

Our bus picked us up in Farragut Square around 8, and I was home just before 5 a.m.  During the homebound journey, I actually managed to get some sleep–I fell asleep just after the bus crossed the West Virginia line, and didn’t wake up again until the bus stopped in Zanesville to drop off some people who had ridden with us to the march.

Wok and Roll, formerly Mary Surratt's boardinghouse

Wok and Roll Chinese restaurant, formerly the boardinghouse owned by Mary Surratt.

 

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