Daisy Bateman

Wednesday, Part One: A Visit to the Library

The last blog post of a trip is always a tough one to write. Not because the end of the travels is so incredibly sad, though I wouldn’t have minded having more time pretty much everywhere, but because, generally, by the time you are writing it you’re back home, unpacking your dirty laundry, catching up on your email and trying to remember what exactly it is you do for a living, and the things you did and the fun you had start to feel kind of distant. But, seeing as how it’s only been one day, I think I should be able to recall a few things.

For my last day in DC my theme was “everything else I still want to see,” and I think I executed it well. I started with Union Station, a grand Roman temple to rail travel (fun fact: fully thirty percent of Central DC’s buildings can be described as a “grand Roman temple of something”). Really it was a lot like the Powell Street BART station, if Powell had two enormous halls with vast vaulted ceilings, elaborate mosaic floors and a couple dozen statues of centurions, some of whom are holding shields for modesty. But otherwise they’re practically the same.

I stopped in front of Union Station to check my map on my way to my next stop, then realized that I didn’t have to, because I could see the Capitol directly in front of me. The Capitol wasn’t actually my destination, but since I was going by there I thought I would go up and take a look. Turns out I thought wrong, because the road up was closed off and guarded by an array of cops with some impressive weaponry, and tourists were not allowed to go up and take a look, due to an “arrival.” So I had to content myself with viewing it from a distance as I made my way to pay my respects to the only branch of the federal government I hadn’t visited yet. That would be the Judicial, as represented by the Supreme Court, which has some impressive pillars. I don’t know if I would have been able to go in there; there was a line and I wasn’t that interested anyway, so I took a minute to admire the pillars and consult my map, and then headed off to swing by the library before lunch.

Clever readers (and really, do I have any other kind?) will intuit that by this I mean the Library of Congress, a place that makes me regret I already used the temple analogy. This time, the deity is the printed word, though Minerva (nee Athena) serves as a stand-in in the mosaics. The thing I was most excited about seeing here was a Gutenberg Bible, what with it representing one of the most influential developments in the progress of human civilization. I’m weird like that. Though I somewhat doubt that, even in his wildest, most mead-addled dreams, Johannes Gutenberg could not have conceived of blogging. Other highlights were draft copies of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and an exhibit on the early contact between Europeans and Native Americans that put the entire American Indian Museum to shame, in terms of depth and breadth of scholarship and supporting materials. On the other hand, no fry bread with honey.

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