Day 3 - Knowledge in Pages, Wisdom in Books, Learning in Everything

Posted by Whit Barringer , Friday, May 30, 2008 8:31 PM

Today didn't seem quite so long, but it was no less tiring.

I set my alarm for 7:30 this morning, but none of us got up until 9:00. By the time we all got around, it was already 11:30. I was mad about it, but we compromised and decided to go to the Smithsonian museums another day, and to go to the Library of Congress, the Capitol Building, and the Supreme Court today.

We set out on the long Metro ride (around 30 minutes to get to where we needed to be) and ended up near the Library of Congress at 12:45 or so. We (minus Jeremy, who was sick) went into the LoC. Immediately, Rachel and Ash starting taking pictures. I had been there not too awfully long ago, but it was much more technologically advanced this time. TV screens were everywhere, as well as touch-screen computers dotting the entire premises (it would show a picture of something in the room, and highlights of the room would have plus signs by them; pressing a plus sign revealed more details about that particular highlight) and even a cell phone number that could be dialed for floor-by-floor tours. We saw the tours up on the sign, and the next possible one was at 1:30, and the next was at 2:30. We decided to go eat nearby in the Madison Building, one of the three buildings of the Library of Congress. The main building that is commonly associated with the LoC is the Jefferson Building, and the third building is the Adams.

Off we went to the Madison building and up to the sixth floor, where the cafeteria was. We waited in line behind a huge group of kids, but after we sent Rachel ahead to see if we could go on in, we figured out that that the groups had to go through some sort of "cafeteria seminar" to even go in. The rest of us could go in head first.

The LoC Cafeteria was pretty large and pretty cheap. Mine was more expensive because I didn't see the "prices include employee discounts" sign, but it was still good. I read a brochure on 25 FAQs, and found out that we could see a typed copy of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech in the copyright office on the fourth floor. We got all excited, and immediately put up our stuff (after a quick picture of the LoC trays) and went to the elevators. We went down to the fourth floor and looked around, but couldn't find anything. Then we went down to what we thought was the floor we came in on, but we were wrong again. We followed signs and - somehow- ended up underground in a walkway. We came out in the Jefferson Reading Room areas - which was a bit frightening, since the signs practically warned that they would shoot you if you went into the reading rooms without a registration card. We finally came out where the library was, and breathed a huge sigh of relief. We looked around a bit, but went ahead to go grab seats for a tour.

While we were waiting on the tour guide, a man in front of us got up, tripped over the bench, and fell, hitting his head on the corner of the bench Rachel, Ash, and I were sitting on. He immediately started bleeding, and the woman (who I presume was his wife) started screaming, "Help! HELP!"

A guard came over and looked stunned. "Didhefaint? Didhefaint? Didhefaint? Hetrip? He trip? Hefell? Didhefall? Didhefaint?" All the poor woman could say was, "He tripped! He's bleeding!" A woman from another group came to the rescue and held a tissue over the bleeding gash on his forehead. Later on, I heard the woman say that he would have to have stitches about half the length of his eyebrow.

We decided to go ahead and look around on our own after that. We took pictures of all of the architecture in the main room, and I played with the interactive touch screen computer. The first exhibit we went to was Exploring the Early Americas. The pieces were amazing. There were pre-Columbian pieces galore (which touchscreen computer allowed you to turn, "unroll" (if they were bowls or cylinders), and "read" (the markings would have plus signs that revealed more information about that part of the piece when touched). The maps were cool as well.

The other exhibition was a two-in-one deal: Creating the United States and Thomas Jefferson's Library. As awesome as it was to see the rough draft of the Declaration of Independence, I've got to say that seeing Jefferson's library was an amazing experience. To see what affected the beginnings of our country first hand is a powerful thing to behold.

When we came out of the exhibit, we snuck in behind another tour group about to see the Main Reading Room. We listened to the guide tell stories for a few minutes before he led us in. We went up into the mezzanine, which was separated from the actual reading room by plexiglass. The tour guide showed us the statues of philosophy and their corresponding figures (for example, Religion was parent to two statues of Moses and St. Paul). The ceiling, from the perspective of what I came to D.C. for, was one of the more interesting pieces in the room. But I'll write more on that later.

When we finally left, we went to the Capitol only to find out we had to have tickets, which usually go very fast. I was pretty upset since it was past 4:00 and we'd only done one thing. We walked to the bottom of Capitol Hill and happened upon the U.S. Botanical Gardens which, thank God, were free. There were literally hundreds of different species of flowers and trees. It was a beautiful example of the beauty that exists in the world just beyond our fingertips.

After the Gardens, we went back up the Hill to eat at Tortilla Coast, which the tour guide tells us that George W. Bush ate there before he was elected (it does so in a very "leave it at that" manner). It was all good, even though we ended up taking most of each of our plates back to the hotel room. Two metro rides and one metro-nap later, we went back to the hotel room and watched Children of Men and Adult Swim.

Reflections will be posted later, as there are many of them for this day. But tomorrow there will be even more: Off to Gettysburg and Hershey, PA!

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