Luckily Peter was my knight in shining tour guide. One beautiful evening he said he was going to show me “his” D.C. He was sporting a brand new mustache and goatee; one that would stay and make him ‘Meet the Press’ host Chuck Todd’s doppelganger the rest of the semester.
Peter drove down past the monuments and pulled into a parking spot on West Basin Drive. “The FDR Memorial.” Was this one I had forgotten? It had opened just a year before in 1997. News of its existence/completion never made it to me while cloistered away at college in northwestern New York.
Sadly, my touchstone FDR references were him humming along to Little Orphan Annie and visiting his Hyde Park home on school field trips.
That night I can only describe the 7.5-acre walking memorial as ethereal. Since I didn’t have any expectations, I was mesmerized.
Grand waterfalls and granite change with every “room”; each one representing a presidential term, and each changing waterfall representing a tumultuous event within.
The waterfalls and their surrounding pools are up lit to showcase their beauty. Clearly, they hired exterior illumination experts who had previously worked at Sandals. The entire property reminded me of a Mexican beach resort.
Eleanor at the United Nations; the only first lady ever to be memorialized at a presidential monument. FDR, sitting in his wheelchair, cloaked to hide it as always. His beloved Scottish Terrier, Fala, sitting next to him.
Men standing in a bread line during the Great Depression. And Jackass visitors who stand at the end of the bread line screaming, “Hey honey! Take my picture! I’m a hungry, homeless person!”
I’ve been many times since and always pick up something new. If you visit, look across the tidal basin and wave hi to Jefferson for me. It’s been a while since I’ve visited him.
Later that night, we drove to DuPont Circle. Peter was entertaining me with an anecdote from one of his favorite authors, P.J. O’Rourke. In a nutshell, P.J. gains consciousness after a long bender but doesn’t remember anything. He walks out of a bathroom into a dive bar filled with longshoremen who know him. Deducts he’s been a longshoreman. Vows never to drink again.
Coincidentally, we were approaching Kramerbooks. Peter bought me a copy of O’Rourke’s best-selling humor guide to D.C., “Parliament of Whores.” Peter took a pen from the cashier and inscribed,
“To Tracey, For a good Washington Read for a true Washingtonian. Your Friend, Peter”.
I’ve never read it. Am I afraid to? Maybe. It sits like a shrine on my shelf to my whole D.C. experience. You don’t dog-ear a historical document.