It only costs $106 to see everything the National Mall has to offer. A multitude of Smithsonians, Thomas, George and Abraham’s monuments, the Capitol Building, the White House, a carousel, and a plethora of various otherwise in between.
To clarify, it costs about $6 in parking for four hours, and a $100 fine if you don’t realize that you’re actually parked in a lane of traffic which by 4:00 becomes a big no-no if you’re still there.
Otherwise, everything is free.
Regardless of your red, blue or green tendencies, it’s hard to look cynically on the National Mall. Everything that originally made our nation great is reiterated time and again here. National Park Service Rangers smile and provide advice and information. Foreign languages abound. The busy of a thriving city booms all around, from low flying airplanes landing, taking off every few minutes to the honking of commuter horns in hopes the sound will magically trigger a red light green.
And the traffic is…intense. Pedestrians in swarms of dozens fill crosswalks where right turning, left turning, eager taxicabs attack any openings. Buses claim their rightful place as kings of the concrete jungle, swapping lanes and coming to quick, full stops as they please. Police cars whir their sirens for no reason other than to skip an intersection or two near the end of their shift.
The boys take it in, we all take heed.
Restaurants teem with fresh from work business suits happy to trade a happy hour for one of a decidedly more rushed nature. Bicyclists weave in and out, some pedicabs lobbing tourists from one end of an attraction-filled downtown to the other. Bike shares and light rail, falafel stands and beggars, bureaucrats and diplomats go about their lives as a hive all playing their individual roles toward the greater cause of keeping this nation running.
The Washington Monument watches over it all. If there is any semblance of the spirit, the soul of our former General and First President encased in its stone obelisk tower, I wonder what he sees.
A vision come to fruition? A society strong and built around his own dream of a free world?
We’ll perhaps never know, save a heaven or afterlife of omniscience, but his monument strikes me as the grandest thing in the city.
Simple, towering, not embellished yet powerful, it embodies everything about freedom and what I’ve always believed my nation should be. I try to photograph it, but too close and you miss half the structure, too far and it fades all away.
Like the pursuit of freedom itself, attaining it is nearly impossible, but the attempt is the true meaning of living.