the march cocktail hour: a pittsburgh getaway, endless hiking, and the march for our lives

Saturday, March 31: Welcome to our March cocktail hour! It’s still a bit too chilly and damp to sit on our screened porch, so we’ll stay dry and warm inside. I can offer you a Jalapeno Margarita, one of my favorite drinks since I discovered it several years ago at Lolita in Philadelphia, or a Pinot Noir or Pilsner Urquell. I know it’s still officially Lent, so for those of you so inclined, I can also offer sodas or seltzer water of various flavors. Tomorrow, April 1, we can celebrate the strange intermingling of two oddly mismatched holidays: April Fool’s Day and Easter.

Spring is here, but not without its whims.  We had snow last week, which accumulated and then vanished within two days; this week we’re under drizzle, although temperatures are inching upwards.

I hope March has been good to you so far. Have you read any good books, seen any good movies, binge-watched any television series? Have you learned anything new, taken any classes or just kept up with the news? Have you marched or otherwise participated in political protests?   Have you been planning your adventures for the year? Have you had any early spring getaways? Have you sung along with any new songs? Have you dreamed any dreams? Gone to any exotic restaurants, cooked any new dishes? Have you undertaken any new exercise routines?

We went to Pittsburgh for a three-day weekend on March 2-4.  Here, we visited the University of Pittsburgh, numerous memorials to the titans of American industry, a magnificent botanical garden and conservatory, the merging of the Monongahela and the Allegheny Rivers – forming the Ohio River at Pittsburgh’s point – and some offbeat museums.  I’ll eventually write more about our trip on my new blog:             ~ wander.essence ~

We went with our friends Karen and Michael to the Ice House Café where I had only two, I emphasize, TWO dirty martinis, and felt pretty darn loopy!

Michael, Karen, Mike and me 🙂

Not feeling so great the following day, I accompanied the American Pilgrims on the Camino for a 10-mile walk starting from Arlington National Cemetery, walking past the Martin Luther King Memorial, shown below, up the National Mall and around the back of the U.S. Capitol, and then back down the Mall again to the Lincoln Memorial.  Someone from the Philadelphia chapter read parts of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech aloud to the group in front of the Lincoln Memorial, bringing tears to our eyes. Then we walked back to Virginia.

Martin Luther King Memorial

I honestly don’t know how I’m going to walk 12 miles/day carrying 15 lbs. in a backpack, day after day, on the Camino.  I was wiped out after this walk, and I only carried 5 lb.  Granted, it was all on pavement, which is hard on the joints and feet!

On that same day, March 10, my oldest son turned 27, but we only got to talk to him by phone since he now lives in Colorado.  He just got a new job as an apprentice butcher, something he’s been wanting to do for some time.  This desire took me by surprise, as he was vegan for a long time!

On March 17, I went on a 7.5 mile hike with the Mid-Atlantic Hiking Group at the Jug Bay Wetlands Natural Area at Patuxent River Park in Maryland. It was enjoyable, despite being a cold and dreary day. Near the American Indian Village, we came to a parking area filled with horse trailers and folks trotting around on their horses.  They told our group they are a group of friends who ride their horses together regularly.

Overall, I walked 103 miles this month, more than the 68 miles I walked in February.  I’ve now put 95 miles on my Keen Targhee boots and 44 miles on my Merrill Trail Runners. I’ve pretty much decided I’ll walk in the Keens on the Camino.  I’ve also started increasing weight I carry in my backpack, alternating between 5-8 pounds twice a week.  The backpack will be the worst part about the Camino, as the walking itself doesn’t bother me, except for some right knee pain.

We saw the movie The Leisure Seeker about an older couple, played by Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland, one of whom suffers from dementia.  They take their old RV – dubbed “The Leisure Seeker” – for a road trip to Key West to visit Hemingway’s house.  It was funny and sad at the same time, but I wouldn’t say it was one of my favorite movies.

We had a snowstorm on Wednesday, March 21, with a couple of inches of accumulation, but it melted over the next couple of days.

Just after the snow melted, we went on Saturday, March 24 to the March for Our Lives, organized by the students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where 17 students were gunned down by an unhinged ex-student.

The March for Our Lives mission statement includes:

Specifically, we are working towards…

  1. Universal, comprehensive background checks
  2. Bringing the ATF into the 21st century with a digitized, searchable database
  3. Funds for the Center for Disease Control to research the gun violence epidemic in America
  4. High-capacity magazine ban
  5. Assault weapons ban

The March was exciting and the speeches by the students extraordinarily moving and inspiring.  I felt choked up the whole time I was there; I was impressed by the people, young and old and of every ethnicity, who came out in large numbers. Students gave rousing speeches, including Martin Luther King’s granddaughter, 9-year-old Yolanda Renee King, which we were there to hear.  Unfortunately, we missed the speech by Emma Gonzalez.  According to USA Today, “About 200,000 people attended the rally, according to Digital Design & Imaging Service Inc., a Virginia-based company that calculates crowd size.” Marches were held all over the country as well.

Here are some photos of the day:

After the march, Mike and I stopped in at Laredo DC Mexican Restaurant, where we enjoyed some small plates and margaritas, making our day, in effect, a March for the Margarita. 🙂

The last Monday in March, I drove down to Richmond to visit my daughter, and we enjoyed a fun dinner together at Little Nickel, a cute new restaurant with a touch of tiki in Southside Richmond.  You can get a feel for it in an article by Richmond Magazine: “Uncommon Cents at 4702 Forest Hill.”  I found the decor and the atmosphere delightful, along with my daughter’s company.

The next day, we went shopping, as we always do, and then enjoyed a delicious meal at Garnett’s on Park.

I’ve been reading away, and have finished this month:

From this collection of books, I most loved Eventide, about the fictional town of Holt, Colorado (I love Haruf’s writing and his characters), and Katherine Anne Porter’s stories, which took me back to the early 20th century: to Mexico, Texas, Kentucky and Berlin. It was also fun to read about a couple’s Camino in In Movement There is Peace, which gave me a good feel for what to expect when I walk the Camino. I have now finished 23 books out of my 45-book goal for the year.

The way we deal with our nauseating political news these days is by watching The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. In his opening monologue each night, Colbert relentlessly makes fun of our so-called President, and he is so on-target and hilarious that we can feel a bit of peace knowing that laughter might be the only thing to save us from the daily shock of it all. I love Colbert in general, and find him a fantastic comedian.  One night he sang a song, “Sleep Through the Static,” with Jack Johnson, where he revealed another charming side of himself.  I loved this!!

One more month until I leave for my Four Corners Road Trip.  You’ll be able to read about it on my new blog ~ wander.essence ~ as I prepare for and embark on the adventure.

I can’t wait to read about your March.  I hope it was a good one. 🙂

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travel theme: distance {the march on washington & “i have a dream”}

Monday, September 2:  This week was a big deal in Washington as the country celebrated the 50 year anniversary of the August 28, 1963 “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom,” accompanied by Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech.  (For more about what was happening at that tumultuous time in the USA, see the Atlantic’s article: 50 Years Ago: The World in 1963).

I decide to go into Washington today, during the Labor Day holiday, to photograph the view from the Lincoln Memorial across the Reflecting Pool to the Washington Monument.  In a famous photograph, Martin Luther King, Jr. stands on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and gives a famous speech that includes these words (For the rest of his speech see Martin Luther King, Jr.: I Have a Dream):

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

Today’s view is different than the one above.  For one, today is 50 years at a distance from the 1963 historic moment.  The only crowds today are tourists, wandering haphazardly around.  The Washington Monument, in the distance, is now covered in scaffolding for renovations after it sustained structural damage during the 2011 earthquake.  And my pictures, unlike those taken in 1963, are in color.   Except for the one below.  And of course, Martin Luther King, Jr. is absent as he was, sadly, assassinated on April 4, 1968.

The Reflecting Pool and the Washington Monument today
The Reflecting Pool and the Washington Monument today
The Lincoln Memorial
The Lincoln Memorial
Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States
Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States
Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial
Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial
The view from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial across the Reflecting Pool to the scaffolded Washington Monument
The view from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial across the Reflecting Pool to the scaffolded Washington Monument
Reflecting pool & Washington Monument
Reflecting pool & Washington Monument
the Reflecting Pool and Washington Monument
the Reflecting Pool and Washington Monument

I also decide to stop by the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, which was just completed on August 28, 2011, 48 years after the “March on Washington.”

entrance to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
entrance to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
Words of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Words of Martin Luther King, Jr.

From the National Park Service website about the memorial: August 28, 2011, the 48th anniversary of the groundbreaking March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom witnessed the dedication of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. It is fitting that on this date, reminiscent of the defining moment in Dr. King’s leadership in the Civil Rights movement; in the form of solid granite, his legacy is further cemented in the tapestry of the American experience. His leadership in the drive for realization of the freedoms and liberties laid down in the foundation of the United States of America for all of its citizens, without regard to race, color, or creed is what introduced this young southern clergyman to the nation. The delivery of his message of love and tolerance through the means of his powerful gift of speech and eloquent writings inspire to this day, those who yearn for a gentler, kinder world . His inspiration broke the boundaries of intolerance and even national borders, as he became a symbol, recognized worldwide of the quest for civil rights of the citizens of the world (National Park Service: Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial: History & Culture).

looking back at the entrance to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
looking back at the entrance to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial

And a quote to think about.  I think I need this one myself now.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial

For other takes on Ailsa’s challenge at Where’s my backpack? see Travel Theme: Distance.

the united states capitol

Sunday, August 25: Since I returned home to the USA at the end of July after three years living abroad, I’ve been posing as a tourist in my own country.  I’ve lived in the Washington, D.C. area for most of the last 25 years, and though I don’t live in the city itself, I live in one of the largest of the metropolitan area suburbs:  Fairfax County, Virginia.  The monuments in Washington seem commonplace to me since I’ve seen them so many times.  In fact they seem so commonplace that I’ve hardly ever bothered to photograph them.  Isn’t it funny how sometimes you don’t even notice the things in your own backyard?

Today I venture into Washington on a Sunday morning in search of photos for the Instagram Weekend Hashtag Project: The project is called Partwatching and the goal is to take creative photos of people interacting with art.  I’m heading for the National Gallery of Art, where I hope to surreptitiously capture people interacting with art.   However, before going there, I decide I’ll talk a little stroll around the United States Capitol, the iconic symbol of Washington.  I’ve taken the tour of the interior before, but today I just walk around the grounds out front.

The United States Capitol, according to The U.S. Capitol Visitor Center, is a symbol of the American people and their government, the meeting place of the nation’s legislature. It is built in neo-classical style with a white exterior.  Construction of the U.S. Capitol began in 1793. In November 1800, the U.S. Congress met in the first completed portion, the north wing. In the 1850s, major extensions to the North and South ends of the Capitol were authorized because of the westward expansion of our nation and the resultant growth of Congress. Since that time, the U.S. Capitol and its stately dome have become international symbols of our representative democracy.

the U.S. Capitol
the U.S. Capitol

Though it has never been the geographic center of the federal district, the Capitol is the origin by which the quadrants of the District are divided and the city was planned (Wikipedia: United States Capitol).

The U.S. Capitol
The U.S. Capitol

The Ulysses S. Grant Memorial is a presidential memorial at the base of Capitol Hill, honoring American Civil War general and U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant. The sculpture of Grant on horseback faces west toward the Lincoln Memorial, which honors Grant’s wartime president, Abraham Lincoln; together, the Grant and Lincoln memorials define the eastern and western boundaries of the National Mall.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The Ulysses S. Grant Memorial

A striking feature of the central statue is Grant’s calm attitude amidst the raging fighting going on around him. This is not surprising because Grant was known for his calmness and coolheadedness during battle. In sharp contrast to Grant are the sculpture groups on either side, Cavalry Charge and Artillery (Wikipedia: Ulysses S. Grant Memorial).

Statue in front of the U.S. Capitol
Cavalry Charge sculpture in front of the U.S. Capitol
Statue in front of the U.S. Capitol
Cavalry Charge in front of the U.S. Capitol
Statue in front of the U.S. Capitol
Artillery Sculpture in front of the U.S. Capitol

Standing on the grounds of the Capitol and looking West, I can see the National Mall stretching before me, with the Washington Monument, covered in scaffolding, standing between the Capitol and the Lincoln Memorial.

The Mall and the Washington Monument
The Mall and the Washington Monument
the Mall and the Washington Monument
the Mall and the Washington Monument

I hop into a small traffic circle with a garden and a statue, behind which looms the dome of the Capitol.

the U.S. Capitol
the U.S. Capitol
the U.S. Capitol
the U.S. Capitol

I love the view below of the National Mall and the Washington Monument.  The Monument is like an alien object now; it’s covered in black scaffolding while it undergoes repairs due to structural damage from the 2011 earthquake.  My first reaction when I saw it upon my return was the same irritation I felt when I went to Angkor Wat and found its front facade covered in scaffolding and green netting.  But… now that I’ve gotten used to it, I think I like it!  Maybe they should keep it like this forever. 🙂

the Mall and the Washington Monument
the Mall and the Washington Monument
The U.S. Capitol
The U.S. Capitol
the U.S. Capitol
the U.S. Capitol
steps up the U.S. Capitol
steps up the U.S. Capitol

I then head to the National Art Gallery, in search of people interacting with art.