Monday, November 18, 2013

Stripping the Washington Monument

For those who might have forgotten, we had an earthquake and hurricane during the same week a couple of years ago.  While we’ve weathered many hurricanes over the years, earthquakes were a new experience around here.

Washington icons including the Washington National Cathedral and the Washington Monument both suffered serious damage.  Countless smaller structures also were damaged.

Thanks in large part to a private donation, the WM is nearly completely repaired and may reopen in the Spring.  Interior repairs are still going on, but the outer, sandstone and mortar repairs are finished.

It wasn’t that long ago that routine maintenance necessitated scaffolding surrounding the WM.  An artist installed light blue fabric and lighting that looked especially beautiful at night.  The same effect was repeated this time around and is now being dismantled.

Last week I was concerned about the scaffolding workers because the weather was cold and very windy.  [Can’t be easy working under those conditions, 500 feet in the air and on a hill that is popular with kite-fliers.]  However, today is brilliantly sunny and 70 degrees.  I'd give anything to be up there with them -- the view would be extraordinary!

P.S.  Congress was very lucky that the enormous cast iron dome on the Capitol didn’t collapse during the quake.  Thankfully, the slaves who built the structure did an excellent job.  Yes, slave-labor built many Washington landmarks.

Thursday, November 14, 2013


On November 22nd in 1963 I was a newly minted high school freshman.  After only two months in high school, I hadn’t yet gained any sophistication or maturity as had many of my classmates.  I admit it; I was a dweeb, but that was OK.

Mr. Crampton taught freshman English and, although I thought he was kinda cute, he was a strict, demanding teacher.  [I thought several of my male teachers were kinda cute, but it was just raging hormones.]

In my high school, it was unusual to hear announcements over the P.A. system during classes.  When the familiar little noises of the system being activated got our attention, Mr. Crampton stopped his lesson so that we could all hear what was so important.  All eyes went to the speaker on the wall.

In mere seconds, our world stopped rotating on its axis and everyone held their breath in shocked horror -- President Kennedy had been shot in Dallas, Texas and had been rushed to a hospital.  As we gaped, open-mouthed at each other we had no idea what to do or think.  Even stolid Mr. Crampton was at a loss for words.

What seemed like mere seconds later, word came that the president had died.  The blood that had drained from our faces earlier stopped when our collective hearts skipped a beat.

After the moment it took to absorb this dreadful information, tears started burning and breathing became difficult.  The next announcement was to release us from class to gather in the gym to await buses to take us home.

Melancholia is common among teens, but it was outweighed by fear and dread that day.  I wouldn’t say mass hysteria broke out, but every one of us wondered how our country could survive the blow and, indeed, how the world would not collapse around us.

I don’t remember how I got home.  I don’t even remember what members of my family said -- I was in a daze that lasted until the funeral.  I can still hear the slow beat of muffled drums accompanying the cortege to Arlington National Cemetery.  The magnificent, high strung, black, rider-less horse with boots facing backwards in the stirrups was so evocative of our young, charismatic president.  The truth of our loss was overwhelming.

Memories from those days are still vivid:

The president’s hands flying up to his throat;

Mrs. Kennedy crawling over the trunk of the limo to help the Secret Service agent into the car;

The horrified and heartbroken crowds who had gathered to welcome the president;

Lee Harvey Oswald being shot by Jack Ruby in a crowded hallway;

The view from the book depository where Oswald took aim;

Mrs. Kennedy stoically witnessing Lyndon Johnson’s swearing-in on the plane that would bring her husband’s body back to Washington;

Events seemed makeshift until the funeral.  It was formal, orderly and dignified.  The solemnity of the event was not spoiled by too much talk from TV commentators.  The simplicity of the formal, military honors was utterly appropriate and moving.

When the bugler muffed a note while playing TAPS, it was as if he was as overcome with emotion as was the rest of the country.  He felt bad for missing the note and had never done it before but I can’t imagine anyone not understanding.

Fifty years after that horrible day, the memories are surprisingly vivid.  JFK’s daughter, Caroline has just been sworn in as the U.S. Ambassador to Japan and will be there on the 22nd.  I wish her peace.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Some color or a Monday night

Getting very frustrated!

For more than a week, I have been unable to post any pictures on my blog.  Can't figure out why and blogspot is not responding to my feedback.

Any ideas . . . ..???

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Body Parts

When I mention that I have a substantial postcard collection, friends often give me some of theirs.  This* one came from a friend who visited Gerusalemme (assuming that is present-day Jerusalem).

It looked kinda kinky on first viewing.  When I read what it was on the back of the card, I dropped it in shock.  The shriveled object in the center of the suggestively-shaped thing is believed to be a finger from the Apostle Paul.*

Personally, I think it is grotesque and, at the very least, unseemly, to enshrine and display severed body parts.  But I'm a Presbyterian, so what do I know about such 'sacred objects.'  Also, I have to wonder how this relic was obtained.  I mean, did someone just sneak up to Paul's dead carcass and whack off a finger?  Maybe his other fingers and toes are spread out around the world . . . ..!!

*Note:  Eerily I was unable to upload the promised photo.  I tried several times.  Do you suppose I have displeased the heavens?