welcome to the haikutimes

Issue #213, Epic Road Trip, July 5, 2018, Mt. Vernon and Washington, DC

July 5, 2018

We all woke up late today, due to the incredibly rigorous 4th of July spent in the heat and crowds of both Mt. Vernon - where we hung out until 3:45 or so - and the National Mall, which we went back to after having a difficult time as a family trying to decide if we really wanted to make the trip again, envisioning glorious fireworks but also heat, a search for dinner, waiting around until it got dark, and negotiating the packed subway crowds coming back - all of which came to pass.

Orion’s firm desire to go watch fireworks at the mall cemented our decision, which was wavering, especially after the heat and crowds at our founder’s home had already sapped our reserve strength. Phoenix just wanted to go back to Prince William campground to swim; Paige’s feet hurt and she was hot and sweaty; and although my energy and resistance to the humidity (94%) was good, I still anticipated the psychological rigor of descending once again into the city. Nevertheless, after sitting on a bench in discussion, we opted for the adventure of ‘Fireworks on the Mall’.

But back to Mt. Vernon for a minute. We were eager to get there early enough (well, I was) to catch some of the many events they had planned for the holiday, so I made breakfast earlier than usual while Paige did some laundry, so we could get there quickly. As it was, we didn’t arrive until around 9:30, crawling to a halt on the final approach as everyone else also intent on visiting had arrived at the same time.

Right from the start, the crowds and heat hit us ‘like a sledgehammer’ and it was evident by the panicked protestations from the kids, about what they were willing and not willing to do, that it was going to be a somewhat stressful visit.

Nevertheless, out to Mt. Vernon, on the 4th of July, no less, did we go. A fully costumed military regiment wearing historically accurate clothes wandered the grounds, giving demonstrations to the kids on how to fire a canon. Later, this same regiment performed a military salute using their guns on the sloping back hillside of the property, facing the Potomac River, just before a flotilla of boats in the river released red and blue daytime fireworks while we stood and sweated. They had warned us to clear a path and hold our ears while the guns were deployed, which we all did; but Orion could not see me simultaneously holding up my camera plus putting my thumbs in my ears, so he kept shouting out in alarm, “Dad! Dad!”

Prior to this visually engaging display, we were witness to an immigration and naturalization ceremony, held on the lawn right near the front of the house. It was really interesting and moving to see all these folks who were receiving their citizenship - representatives from about 20 countries, who sat in the broiling heat, listening to government representatives deliver ceremonial speeches, not unlike a graduation. The kids and Paige disappeared into the coolness of the museum for ice cream while I hung out and took photos; I also congratulated this guy named Edwin Garcia from El Salvador, dressed in a smart suit, who had been living in the U.S. with his parents since he was two, his dream of becoming a resident finally being realized. I also talked to a guy from India , who had been in the ceremony with his wife. While congratulating him and asking a few questions about his path to citizenship, a guy wearing a t-shirt with flags all over it, who also had an accent (South American, it turned out) came up and addressed both of us - he must have been overhearing my conversation and my conviction that immigrants contribute to our country - and he butted in, questioning me first “If I had doors on my house”, then after admitting he was originally from South America, saying that “we should be very careful who we let into the country”.

I don’t think our views were that divergent, since I also feel that as a nation of laws we need to respect that practice; and I said as much, during which moment I got a rather telling look from the Indian guy I had congratulated, who backed out of this somewhat contentious conversation.

We toured the house right at 2:15, shuffling through that famous interior like cattle, our tour guides in every room dispensing with their memorized historical facts - it was cool to see, though, as a visual and tactile reminder of the life of this historically profound figure. It’s fun to be reading about about Washington at the same time. His house seems almost fragile, in such contrast to the imperious marble facades of the buildings in D.C., but that fragility also made it poignant.

Paige rallied with me and we took a walk down past all the building to the pier, where Washington would take his tobacco and wheat to Market, then past the reconstructed ’16-sided barn’ where he had an innovative threshing program.

Back to the trip back out to the mall. We rode in silence, Orion piping up that “I hope this wasn’t a bad decision” and repeated what is becoming a now familiar routine of parking at Franconia-Springfield, taking the metro for 1/2h hour into town, and then wandering out into the chaos of the Mall. Military police were everywhere; a fire truck spraying water for the hot masses were stationed on the south side, near the Smithsonian stop, where we got out. There was an Armenian and Catalan “folklife” festival going on with food from those respective countries with giant puppets on stilts dancing to drums, clarinets and accordions. We eventually bought some dinner here, which was actually really good; found a place to sit on the lawn, and the Orion and I walked all the way down to the reflecting pond of the capitol, where crowds were amassing to hear the concert. On the way back we went through the beautiful Native American art museum grounds, then re-joined Paige and Phoenix. A couple of young girls near us were speaking Thai, and Paige could understand them, much to their surprise; she eventually said hello, and offered to take their picture.

The fireworks were grand, but the huge crowd immediately afterwards, trying to get back to the Smithsonian Metro, was crushing. We didn’t even know where to go at first, eventually realizing that people were entering a gated entrance that funneled folks into the metro, so we were forced to stand with hundreds of others, shuffling slowly towards this entrance. At one point they ‘closed the subway’ for 10 minutes to let the crowds drain out. Finally we got into the main line and the subway itself, cramming ourselves into the blue line train that was already full, and had to stand up packed like sardines for the rest of the ride to the last stop. Then, we had to drive 1/2 hour to the campground - didn’t get here until 11:45 pm..Whew!

From El Salvador
to Mt. Vernon ritual -
now a citizen

at Washington’s home
we welcome new citizens
sitting in the heat

impromptu debate
between brand new immigrant
and one who fears more

too hot to handle
muskets held by the actors
4th of July heat

emerging from cool
caverns of DC’s metro
to hot streets above

16-sided barn
a reminder that our George
was a farmer, too

don’t forget the slaves
who made it all possible
troubled legacy

two distinct classes:
federal workers, tourists
revealed by our clothes

fire truck at the mall
uncorks a willing hydrant
relief from the heat

blue and red fireworks
blast over the Potomac
in puffy white clouds

lifting your elbow:
cannonball gunner’s posture
when no-one can hear

Mighty Potomac
visible from Mt. Vernon
a river highway

shuffled like cattle
into the crowded subway
everybody calm

solo/group kukai
jonathan machen