Friday, July 11, 2008

Ms. Kitten and Mr. Jefferson

Call me crazy, but the one monument I absolutely, positively had to visit during my sojourn in DC was the Jefferson Memorial. Why was I so desperate to visit this tribute to one of the authors of the Declaration of Independence? Let's take a trip back in time, kids...

November, 1997. The first semester of my senior year of college. I was a member of the Fairfield University Glee Club, one of the premier singing organizations on the eastern seaboard. (OK, I may be a bit biased, but our concerts were always sold out). Anyhoo, a group of us decided to go out to dinner, then do the nighttime monument tour. We did the Capitol, then proceeded up the National Mall to the Washington Monument and then to the Lincoln Memorial.

Once we saw the Lincoln Memorial, two of my girlfriends and I wanted to see the Jefferson Memorial, but the rest of our group did not. So the three of us separated and went to find it, visit it, then take the Metro back to our hotel.

Normally, the Jefferson Memorial is lit up like this at night:

But on this night, we couldn't find it, and we didn't know why. We had no map, no sense of direction, and no idea how dangerous it was for three young women to be out by themselves at night in Washington DC. And we had a concert the following morning, and had to be out of the hotel by 10 AM.

Long story short, after crossing a couple of bridges and following the shores of what we thought was the Tidal Basin, we found the Jefferson Memorial--unlit, and under a lot of scaffolding. There was a small sign next to it: "Under Renovations." Disappointed, we started to head back--but since there were no lights anywhere, we had no way of retracing our steps.

One of us looked up and saw a highway, and suggested that we follow it, under the theory that it was the Beltway. So we kept walking, keeping an eye on this highway at a distance, using it as our North Star. We kept getting lost.

Then we came across a truck in the middle of the park. There wasn't a soul around. All of a sudden a spotlight came on, and we heard a deep voice: "Got a toke?"

The three of us ran faster than we ever did, until we found a street. By this time it was well after midnight. We soon learned that none of us had enough money for a cab, and we didn't know which Metro stop to take to our hotel. All we knew was that our hotel was on O Street.

Fortunately, Washington DC is a well-planned city. We figured we'd walk up the streets, and if the streets went up in alphabetical order, we'd eventually wind up at O Street. And that's exactly what we did.

We wound up back in our hotel at 3 AM. The next morning two of us went to Starbucks and reflected on the night before. The other slept in.

Eleven years later, I made it my mission to go to the Jefferson Memorial and pay my proper respects to good ole Tom. And I made it my mission to go during the daytime. (I was with five other people when I took the nighttime picture above, not to worry).

So I walked from the Lincoln Memorial to the Jefferson Memorial. It looks like a quick walk on a map, but it really isn't. I got some really pretty photos along the way:

It was a long walk, and I wasn't wearing the proper footwear, and the blisters are still healing. But it was worth it, I tell you, worth it for all of the awesome shots I got. (I have a few more, but I won't bore you with them, since they all look similar).

Along the way, I found out that the FDR Memorial was near the Jefferson Memorial, so I figured, while I was there, I'll pay my respects to him as well. And that, my friends, is for another post.

P.S. I didn't go anywhere near O Street during this past trip. There were some memories I didn't want to relive--like that long walk back to our hotel that ended at 3 AM. I don't even remember the hotel's name.

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