Washington D.C.

I’ve been pondering what to do with my Washington D.C. pictures because I don’t really have anything fabulous to write alongside them. Suggesting that readers copy my D.C. itinerary of walking around the Mall, visiting the Smithsonian, and eating at Jaleo hardly seems groundbreaking. I (sadly) wasn’t in my nation’s capitol long enough to do anything out of the ordinary, and nothing weird happened to me while I was there.

So I put off my Washington D.C. post until recently when I re-listened-to Sarah Vowell’s “Assassination Vacation,” (I have nothing against books, but Sarah Vowell’s stuff is best on audio) and inspiration struck. I didn’t have to tell my own D.C. story; I’d just steal someone else’s. Thanks Sarah!

In Vowell’s 2005 book “Assassination Vacation,” she travels around the US (often with reluctant friends and family members) in search of anything that might have anything to do with an assassinated president. Obviously her morbid quest lands her in D.C a few times. Here’s what she had to say about some of the spots I photographed on a very blue-sky day last October.


Sarah Vowell on the WWII Memorial:

Never underestimate the corrective lens that is sentimentality. Take for instance the new National WWII Memorial next to the Washington Monument. Each state gets it’s own bland stone pillar. The first time I see it, I hated it at once, (I think it mucks up the Mall) but nevertheless search for the Oklahoma granite pylon because my late great uncle, John A. Parson, served in the Philippines. Damndest thing, but the minute I spot it, Oklahoma, I burst into tears.

Daniel Chester French was the sculptor of the Lincoln memorial who fretted for nine years over the piece. Upon viewing his completed work he was horrified. Vowell writes:

 “The problem with putting in a reflecting pool? The darn thing reflects! When the light off the reflecting pool bounced up on to Lincoln’s face it looked as if a flashlight had been held up under his chin…Lincoln looks frightened, startled, confused. Edvard Munch’s ‘The Scream’ by way of Macaulay Culkin’s ‘Home Alone.’ Apparently ‘hilarious’ wasn’t the aesthetic French had been going for.”

 Ceiling lights were installed to correct the problem. However these light would have been unnecessary on my particular visit as the reflecting pool had been drained for renovation.

“This tour of the assassinations of Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley ends up at the Lincoln Memorial because that’s where I’m always ending up. It’s the closest thing I have to a church.”

Assassination Vacation, Sarah Vowell, Washington D.C.

Jenna Vandenberg

Teacher, writer, runner, mom and wife.