Our first stop was "The National Archive Experience" which I must point out is a really pretentious name. "The National Archives" is just fine. It's like Pepsi renaming it's product "The Pepsi Experience." It could be worse. They could be trying to call it "Archives XP" which is just wrong. Anyway, that's what the banner out front proclaimed.
Where was I? Oh yeah, I was going to talk about what's inside The National Archives
The "Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom" and our destination was a short flight of stairs away and I was immediately taken by the enormity of the room for what it housed: our Declaration of Independence from the British colonies, the Bill of Rights and the U.S. Constitution, as well as several other documents. -- I was surprised to see the French copy of the book binding the papers for the Louisiana Purchase.
I was awed, much as I was to see with mine own eyes the Star Spangled Banner. Here they were; the actual, authentic documents, on display and in ink!
The Declaration itself is so very faded as to be barely legible but with careful scrutiny it could still be read. I didn't research beforehand as I had planned (for then I thought I would only have a few seconds to admire the parchment before being ushered by guards to move along in line) but I still quickly found the signature of my ancestor Arthur Middleton. -- Second column from the left, very bottom. -- It's very bold and larger than most of the other signatures. I have a good close-up photo which is surprising because I thought photography of any kind was forbidden to protect the documents. The setup is significantly different from when my parents visited several years ago. Then it was a continuous line with a guard saying "Move along, move along" all day. Now it's a large open space where you can approach any of the cases to observe at leisure. There isn'te even a velvet rope! Just three security guards: one at either side of the Constitution and one near the door. (Dad chatted with Lt. Pringle and discovered (besides a good place for lunch) that they both served in Vietnam at the same time.)
I took my time reading most of the documents and their supplemental information. I learned a lot and today is one I will always remember.
For lunch Lt. Pringle suggested the cafe in the sculpture garden across the road as the food court in the Archives
I walked through the entire garden on my own and took a few photos before heading west. I didn't go straight up to the Hope Diamond again (tho' I wanted to) but explored the first floor which includes the dinosaurs, history of mammals and other animal life. It was much like other natural history museums I've seen being largely a collection of stuffed animals and I wasn't compelled to stay long enough in any area to read the informative placards.
I spent most of my time on the second floor in "Gems & Minerals" which was more crowded than closing time yesterday. This area was much larger than I had at first been imagining and kept following into the depths past countless shelves of minerals. I grew tired early today but still looked at many, many very pretty rocks. Chemical composition of minerals doesn't mean much to me to I skipped most of the info cards and just took in their unique beauty.
I had a crush on another unique beauty while there. She was slender with long, brown hair, smooth skin, gentle features and a low-cut sweater (rare in October) revealing a firm, round and moderately sized bosom. I could have flung myself at her right there but she was probably younger than she looked and the man whom I presumed to be her father was quite large so I merely admired from afar and (eventually) went along my way.
I had already begun to feel lonesome sometime after parting ways with my only and until now constant traveling companion, and seeing the girl reminded me that I as yet have none to call my own. Seeing other couples hand-in-hand didn't help and my mind called up experience and fantasies form the past as I stared blankly at exotic geologic specimens from far away places and longed for companionship. Of that of a true love, my friends, the people I care for. I looked forward to reuniting with them upon returning home this weekend; watching Azumanga Daioh with Lindsay & Tick, Thea's Party, etc. I have a full month yet to go but Today is spoiled by waiting for Tomorrow so I kicked the crap out of a rock and felt better.
The mineral area somehow (I really wansn't paying attention) segued into information and displays on tectonic plates & seismic activity. What caught my eye was a large block (about 1m³) with targets pasted on each side and a sign that proclaimed "Create your own earthquake!!" (The exclamation points are mine but they should have been there.) Here, you pound on the block as much as you desire and a seismograph atop measures the vibrations and shows the reading on an overhead monitor. This was fun, especially since people walking by couldn't tell what it was I was up to. I pounded, stomped and danced, and stopped when my hands hurt.
Next to the block was a seismograph drum recording real-time readings from three locations, two of which being Japan and California and the third eludes my memory for the time being.
A wide-screen TV showed current earthquake activity across the Continental U.S. in concentric rings (force) in various colours (days old.) I noted a few around Washington state but none indicating tremors today.
I went through the rest of the museum but not much else caught a great deal of my interest. I sat outside and watched pigeons drink from a puddle for a while before deciding to return to Air-Space while waiting for Dad.
I took my time browsing and found a couple more areas I want to explore while we're still here. At "The Amazing & Expanding Universe" there is a small TV that plays The Universe Song over and over accompanied by video of an ice skater skating to cheesy space special effects. This cheered me significantly.
Air-Space was about to close and I still had to meet Dad so I turned on the radio and headed to the Castle to wait for him. On the steps I finished Yesterday's entry while trying not to get too distracted by the joggers whose numbers increase dramatically upon the mall pathways come evening.
Dad was 1/2 hour late due to the tour bus schedule but I didn't mind. We subwayed to Union Station for an expensive dinner at Uno's and I payed for the cab ride back to the room. We have a good routine now that should work for the rest of the week.
We'll try to rise early for breakfast at the Old Post Office and return before dusk for the D.C. night tour leaving from the motel. I hope it works. My hand is numb.
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