Another DC Sojourn

Published: April 3rd 2022
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I have always loved visiting our nation's capital, Washington, DC. Last spring was my first visit with the new President. It was not pretty (post trump), with security and fencing surrounding both the White House, and Congress. The Smithsonians were still closed. But now, I hope DC is back to normal, though we are now in the middle of an awful war. I guess we hit the trifecta of trump, covid, and war. We need to move beyond this as soon as possible. One of the main reasons for my visit is the viewing of the cherry blossoms. Peak bloom will be March 23-25, so I will miss it by over a week. The same thing happened to me last year. Obviously, the early bloom is the result of global warming. The other reason is to visit my buddy, Dirty Pat out in Annapolis, Maryland. You may remember that I visited him in Bucharest, Romania back in 2019. In between, I expect to do some of the usual DC activities. These include visiting a few of the Smithsonians, cycling around the Capitol Mall, having a few nice meals, visiting some of the food markets, perhaps a concert at the Kennedy Center, and maybe some shopping in Georgetown. DC always provides a level of excitement like no other city. Between the great museums and the many Federal buildings, it really does feel like the power center of the world. On my previous trips to DC, many for work rather than pleasure, I was able to enjoy the Smithsonian Museums in between work and assignments. And now, with dear friends here, I have been able to gain an even greater insight into our nation's capital. Fourth of July here is always a big event, with the big concert on the Mall, called The Capitol Fourth, and the great fireworks. And now, cherry blossom time is perhaps equally attractive. but in a much different, perhaps more subtle manner. I enjoy both! I just don't see how anyone can walk through this area and not feel the greatness of our country. The Federal buildings are simply magnificent. And the Museums are equally impressive. The layout of the city is simply brilliant. And most importantly, if you have a child or grandchild studying American History or Civics, Washington, DC is a living laboratory for both subjects. In fact, I learn more about our great country on every visit to DC. Frommer's had this to say, rather a nice perspective: Each day dawns anew in this “city of magnificent intentions,” as Charles Dickens called it. Maybe this will be the day that Republican and Democratic lawmakers put aside their differences and renew their efforts to work together for the good of the country. Maybe this will be the day that the White House, too, engages in productive collaboration. This should certainly be the day that you fulfill your own intentions, sublime or otherwise, of setting eyes on the original Declaration of Independence, perhaps, or tasting something called a “half-smoke,” or marching to bring attention to your own just cause, or listening to a jazz concert in the same place where Duke Ellington once performed. Things happen here that can happen nowhere else on earth. You’re in America’s capital, and this city and this day belong to you. Make the most of it!
Behind its public face of luminous marble memorials and Capitol Hill politicking, Washington, D.C., leads a wondrously varied life. Musicians trumpet the blues, rock, and jazz at clubs throughout Duke Ellington's hometown. Museums welcome culture-seekers by day, hipsters for after-hours bashes. Ever after "the latest thing," Washingtonians jam hot spots but swear by old reliables, whether that means savoring the blueberry pancakes Saturday mornings at Eastern Market or strolling past the White House at 2am to stop for ale and oysters at Old Ebbitt Grill.

And here is a little secret about DC: Every evening at 6pm, the Kennedy Center presents a free 1-hour concert performed by local, up-and-coming, national, or international musicians. And though the Kennedy Center doesn’t advertise it, you might be interested to know that the Grand Foyer’s bars near Millennium Stage host food and drink happy hours between 5 and 6pm nightly. Purchase a cocktail and head through the glass doors to the terrace, where you can enjoy your drink and a view of the Potomac River. Try it once, and you will get hooked!

Something you can do, for once in your life: What causes do you believe in? Find out if there’s a gathering on the National Mall, a protest at an embassy, or some other public event that reflects your point of view, and join in! This is the capital of the United States, the world’s most successful democracy, imperfect though it may be. Countless protests take place here annually (on a near-daily basis since the 2016 presidential election). It can be thrilling and inspiring, just plain fun, and, in fact, profoundly effective to meet up with other citizens of this country and the world and make your principles known. I have participated in the Free Speech Movement in Berkeley, and several Anti-War protests in the late Sixties. It feels great to let your voice or support be known, and to end up on the "right" side of the issue!

And ponder this, between DC and the Feds: Another wrinkle in this uncommon relationship is the fact that Washington’s economy relies heavily upon the presence of the federal government, which accounts for about 24% of all D.C. jobs (according to a trend report issued by D.C.’s Office of the Chief Financial Officer), making it the city’s single largest employer, and upon the tourism business that Washington, as the capital, attracts. The city struggles toward political independence, although it recognizes the economic benefits of its position as the seat of the nation’s capital. I really think they need representation in Congress!

And some good local knowledge: As you tour the city, you will see that Washington, D.C., is a remarkably vibrant place. For the time being, income remains higher than the national average, residents are better educated than elsewhere, 52.5% of the population is female, more than one-third are between the ages of 18 and 34, and the people are remarkably diverse: 47.7% African American, 44.6% white, 10.9% Hispanic, 4.1% Asian, 14% foreign-born, and 17.4% speaking a language other than English at home. The presence of embassies and the diplomatic community intensifies the international flavor. The city’s resident population has continued to grow and now stands at approximately 700,000, a size not seen since 1975. (At its peak, during and immediately following World War II, more than 900,000 people called D.C. home.) The growth spurt is especially significant given that the District’s population reached a relative low point in 1998, when the U.S. Census counted 565,000 D.C. residents.

About the beloved cherry blossoms: The National Cherry Blossom Festival is not only a celebration of spring, but also a tribute to Japanese culture. Special events and performances feature Japanese art and history, as well as the longstanding friendship between the United States and Japan. On March 20, 2022, the opening ceremony features performances from acclaimed artists showcasing Japanese culture, like the 10-person fusion band Minyo Crusaders and taiko drummer Toshihiro Yuta.

Needless to say, I love visiting Washington, DC.


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