East Coast 08, part 6: Last day in DC

High of 94, humidity 82%

A couple of the things we did right on this trip were 1) make sure we didn’t pack our days too full, and 2) make sure we included fun stuff we knew the kids would enjoy. We remembered the old adage, “All sightseeing and no down time makes Tallulah a dull girl.”

This was our last day in DC, and Susan and I let the kids sleep in while we returned to the Holocaust Museum. Our earlier one-hour visit with Lauren and Zack was not enough for such an important exhibit.

The building itself is a powerful part of the message it contains. Many of its elements recall the ghettos and death camps, and create an air of deception, uncertainty, and dislocation. The museum’s website comments on the building’s architecture and artwork.

A special exhibition devoted to the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin showed how the event bestowed ‘legitimacy’ on Hitler and provided an enormous boost for his propaganda machine. While there are differences, there are also parallels with this summer’s Olympics in Beijing doing something similar for the Chinese government despite: arms sales to Sudan, Robert Mugabe, and Burma’s ruling junta; arresting leaders of unregistered house churches, increasing harassment of congregations, denying visas to foreign missionaries, and shutting down places of worship; and recent harsh treatment of protesters and members of the press. The Washington Post reported that a 79 year-old Chinese woman could face a year of “reeducation through labor” because she applied for a permit to demonstrate during the Olympics. In response to international pressure, China said it would allow protests in specially designated zones. The official New China News Agency reported that police had received 77 applications, but none has been approved.

There is much to contemplate in knowing that one grim event after another accompanied Hitler’s rise to power between about 1930 and the start of WWII. The impressive research and detail evident throughout the museum illustrate how catastrophic ends are reached one step at a time. I no longer believe in “little” steps, because they all lead either toward or away from something bigger and more final. And that’s true for individuals as well as for nations. Oops – am I up on my soapbox?

The Holocaust Museum is a must-see in DC. Hard-hitting without being judgmental, it stands as a stark memorial to one of humanity’s colossal failures. It’s also a potent reminder to learn from history so that – hopefully – we don’t have to find ourselves wringing our hands and saying “never again” again. OK – I’m off the soapbox now. Amen.

It’s pretty evident that I enjoy architecture and built space, and Susan suggested we visit the National Building Museum on our return to the apartment. Turned out to be an unnecessary stop. There’s a beautiful great hall inside, but otherwise most of what we saw was fund-raising literature for the building trades.

Back at the apartment we spent the afternoon eating leftovers, getting packed, cleaning up, and playing cards. Hauled our bags to Union Station, had dinner in one of its restaurants, and rode the subway downtown to catch our bus to Richmond, VA.

Friends in Seattle had recommended a bus company for good, inexpensive transportation to other cities. We’d purchased our tickets online and knew that the bus depot was just a short walk from the nearest subway station. The rain made it a little harder to find addresses, but it should be right about here. No, that looks more like a barbershop. Are we on the right street? Uh oh, that was it. The four of us managed to squeeze into the ‘waiting room’ with our bags and find three seats. Bus was scheduled to depart at 8:30 PM and arrive in Richmond around 11:00 PM.

Businesses really should have an office for their business calls. The woman behind the counter at the back of the waiting room was getting hammered with questions from callers; apparently one bus had been canceled earlier. Her phone manner was very brusque, and her English was pretty limited – not a good combination. After our 8:30 departure time came and went, she started getting hammered with questions from irate customers in the waiting room as well. Everyone received one of two answers: “About ten minute” or “You call manager at (number).”

When the woman made some calls [we could all hear] to inquire about the availability of a driver, I really started to wonder what was going on. About 9:15 a man said to us, “Come, you go deetcheemon.” What? After he repeated it a few times, Zack finally recognized the mystery word as “Richmond.” We grabbed our suitcases, went back out in the rain and followed the man, hopefully to meet our bus.

Several blocks later I was still looking for a bus depot when we stopped on a sidewalk next to a fence around a vacant lot. While we waited for something to happen, a man in a lime green suit with matching hat and shoes started yelling at our guide about a bus to New York. Needless to say, that conversation went nowhere. After ten more minutes in the rain, a bus appeared up the street, then pulled to a stop in front of us. Hallelujah! We stowed our luggage and climbed aboard. At this point, the arrival of even a hay wagon would have seemed like a miracle.

The bus was new, comfortable, and clean, and by 9:30 we were on our way. We made good time, too. Though we left Washington an hour late for a 2.5 hour trip, we arrived in Richmond at 11:00 as scheduled. Either we had managed to get into some kind of a time warp, or our bus driver was a maniac. (Hint: it wasn’t a time warp.)

Good friends met us in the parking lot of a 7-11, drove us to their place in a small town outside of Deetcheemon, and shortly thereafter tucked us into bed.

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