Monday, August 17, 2009

People as places.

I have come to the realization that I make a terrible tourist. Terrible because I would rather sleep and hang out with friends than see the things I should want to see in a famous city I am visiting for the first time. Also, when I do see sites, though I snap pictures with the rest of them, I have issues with that too. I love the idea of memorials, and how they physically facilitate inward experiences of remembering, but wonder if we, or I, am remembering the right things. It seems like it should be an internal, quiet, reflective thing, instead of the hectic, busy, showy thing that it sometimes becomes, where we almost take pictures of these great places merely to prove that we were there, instead of for the places themselves. Though to be fair to tourists, and also to myself, it may be because in cities like The District there is so much to see, that visitors tend to be in a hurry, to see it all, that they don't always have the luxury of walking slowly, or pausing when they want to pause, to think and reflect, so instead they stop for the obligatory photo before rushing off to the next museum, the next monument.

Reminding myself that I would be back again, I took it slow this time, and saw very little, and am glad of it. Instead I spent a fair amount of time lounging by my friend's pool reading, had a picnic with the Wallaces while listening to jazz in the sculpture garden and talking about philosophy, BYU, and the differences between the East and West coasts, as well as music, movies, and literature. I went to a cryptology museum with my friend Kristina and her roommate, which obscure, out of the way museum would be the only one I would go to, and proved to be fortuitous as I strangely and marvelously met a nice individual who I ended up hanging out with later. I danced to Brit Pop at Black Cat. I watched an old black and white Danish movie with Kierkegaardian themes, and then the sunset while sitting on marble stairs.

That same evening I stood in the Lincoln Memorial with Kristina and read the speeches on the walls, and felt at least some of the power of that great man. As we walked down the stairs my friend relayed a conversation she overheard, where a man suggested that it didn't have to be Lincoln, but could have been any number of people. She disagreed, believing that very few other individuals, if any, could have done the things that Lincoln did. It required his unique mix of experiences and perspectives. Then at the World War II monument, Kristina's second favorite, she asked if either of my grandfathers served in the war. I answered, "Two. Both of them." One was in the navy. The other was a pilot. I realized how little I knew about their experiences, and how they are both gone now, so I can no longer ask.

Sunday I reunited with Lauren Richey, a friend I've had since I was 13. We camped together summer after summer until we were 18, and she saved me my freshman year at BYU from profound homesickness. Another old friend, Nate made me dinner at midnight, and also a smoothie. It was nice of him. Years ago we sat on a bench outside of our Russian Lit class. I told him a resolution I came to, inspired by a character in Anna Karenina. He said, "Let me get this straight--you're going to make an important real life choice based on a fictional character?" I could only nod my head and say, "Yes." Then he turned to me with less apprehension and greater approval, and said, "but it's Levin, and he's always right."

These things are DC to me--these people, these relationships, these memories spanning many years back. And so I plan to return. Again, and again, and again.


Lauren Kay said...

Thanks Rachel! I feel so loved. Also, I think the monuments inspire more when there aren't a million people around. So, you'll have to come back after tourist season.

Kristina said...

I think places are much better with people. And I'm very glad I could be your person in this beautiful city. I will miss you, Rachel dear, and I hope that next time you come we can see more of it. Perhaps with new friends. New museum friends.

Sara said...

beautiful. thanks for sharing. i felt like i was there.

Rachel. said...

lauren, you are welcome. you are so loved.

kristina, museum friends are the best kind of friends.

sara, thank you. you are kind.