Monday, February 23, 2009

Another weekend off

OK, we've been off-task for three weekends in a row now because of various outside obligations. But all of these "have-tos" have been fun, and they've all been necessary. This weekend we had Steve's sister and her husband here as they passed through town. They are always game for just about anything we dream up to do with them and they love good food, so who's complaining? We got a rare game of Shanghai Rummy in (we usually only play it with the group at Nags Head, so this was a treat) and we took them sightseeing to places we've either never been or hadn't visited in years. Out-of-town visitors are great for a couple of things. They make me clean the house and then they get us out of it!

The place we've never been is literally less than a mile away from our house: the memorial at the Pentagon to those who died in the crash of American flight 77 on September 11, 2001. Built on the field facing the West Front of the building where the plane came to a stop, it is an extremely effective piece, its design bringing home the unparalleled sadness of the day. It's a bit austere now, while the trees meant to soften its lines are still young and indeed while there are no leaves on them in their bare winter mode, but it does its job beautifully.

At first the meaning of those objects, arranged in their neat rows, confused me, until I saw a visitor sit on one. It then struck deep that each victim was seated, either on the airplane or at a desk in the Pentagon. When I tried to explain that realization to my companions, the words caught in my throat. That's how moving the place is in its simplicity. Each individual who died is represented by a seat with his or her name engraved on an otherwise unadorned plaque. The seats are arranged chronologically according to the birth year of the person represented, and they face in opposing directions, depending on whether the person was on the plane or in the building.

With its own subway stop, the Pentagon is easy to get to for anyone visiting the DC area. If you're planning a trip here, this memorial should be added to your itinerary. Here are some pictures from our visit.

The other place we went is a very different destination, a gorgeous place that is off the usual tourist track: the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. It is a companion piece to the better-known National Cathedral (though nowhere near it), calling itself "America's Catholic Church," and it is an architectural marvel in the Romanesque-Byzantine style. The inside can only be described as opulent, with inlaid marble floors and beautiful mosaics. It's a bit dark inside to take pictures, but Picasa does wonders with highlights, so here are some pictures to whet your appetite for a visit there.

We expect this week will be an important one. We'll get word from the builders in North Carolina on the cost of building a house on the land we're interested in. If their numbers fit our budget, we'll begin the offer/counter-offer process on the land itself. We should also hear from the bank on when we will settle on a new, much smaller loan that will retire what's left of the second mortgage (that was paying for the land in Delaware) and buy the the plot we want in NC.

More to come!


Nan said...

I had not seen any photos of the Pentagon memorial. Beautiful. Simple. Very touching. Thanks for sharing.

Kat said...

I'm hoping for good news on your land! My fingers are crossed for you.

Ralph said...

Thanks, Kat. Here it is only Monday and I'm getting antsy!

Cuidado said...

I looked at all your photos. The church was awesome. the memorial starkly real. As you mentioned, the trees aren't grown. Very touching.

Ralph said...

I'm really glad we went to the memorial, Cuidado. Not that anybody needs a reminder of those events, but this is a moving work of art.

Ralph said...

I'm really glad we went to the memorial, Cuidado. Not that anybody needs a reminder of those events, but this is a moving work of art.

Zoey and Me said...

I love the visit to the Pentagon. I worked there six month in the office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It was a thrilling experience and then off to the White House sound to finish my military obligation. DC is a fascinating town. I love it. I will definitely see that memorial when I return.

Ralph said...

I've several reasons to go there occasionally myself, Z&M. A friend got a job as a secretary there right after high school and she remained there her entire career, and then when I was working in the Peace Corps Travel office in the 80s, I had to go to one of the airline ticket offices in the concourse there to get tickets. I've had no reason to go inside since 9/11 so I don't know what security is like any more. I think you can still get into the concourse via the subway stop, though.