Thursday, March 14, 2013

Snow in Marshall and Grave Ships in DC

On Wednesday morning I awoke to a blizzard blasting across the hill. I could hear the wind outside the window and almost feel the cold as snow was hurled against the windows. i looked outside to see that already about 5" had settled and Stuart was fast disappearing in a drift that was slumped against one of his sides.
I don't remember seeing snow piled so high on branches before, it stuck to everything. It was perfect snow for snowman building but the wind compelled me to stay indoors.
I felt so guilty at having a hot breakfast while the birds looked mournfully through the glass doors that I threw on boots and a big jacket and went outside to clear the patio so I could scatter some seed down and a dish of water. I also threw some underneath Stuart after clearing an access area, and not until I'd left enough seed and crumbled suet to feed all the birds of Fauquier County did I come back in and sit with a bowl of hot oatmeal, watching my feathered friends gobble down their breakfast as they in turn watched me eat mine.
We had no power through most of the day but I'd filled the bath with water the night before so was fine to sit it out for a while. I got power for the house late that afternoon but not to the well so a hot bath was not on the cards. A tractor came the following evening and cleared a way down the hill about the same time the power for the well returned. I was able to return to work on Friday and was amazed that 15 miles down the road from Marshall there was no snow to be seen.
On Saturday I took a day off from the house build as I wanted to join a group who were visiting the Congressional Cemetery and the Navy Yard. I'd visited the cemetery last summer and was curious to see if conditions had improved. My last visit is here:
Ken, who led the group had done a lot of research and peppered the tour with wonderful snippets of information, much of which came from the website history section:
The article by Cathleen Breutkreutz, page 53, mentioned that Senator Vance Hartke had announced at J Edgar Hoover's funeral in 1972 that the cemetery was a 'national disgrace". I had felt the same on my last visit and was hoping conditions had improved.
Spring had arrived at the cemetery as well as a large group of visitors who had paid for a tour of the grounds. Some of our crowd joined them and the rest of us walked around with Ken, listening to his tidbits of trivia.The cemetery, as all bu,rial grounds at the time of its opening in 1807, was considered offensive and so was put on the edge of the city. People were fearful of disease from the interred bodies or unwanted visits from ghosts. Over 55,000 bodies are buried here, and 168 nearly identical cenotaphs for congressmen, some marking graves of whom are buried beneath and some just as markers because the bodies are buried elsewhere in the cemetery.
There were still a lot of fallen and broken grave stones but overall it did seem cleaner although a couple of times I got a whiff of dog deposits and even saw a obviously used plastic bag dumped behind a gravestone. I appreciate the fact that it's now becoming a growing trend to allow dogs to roam among the gravestones but I still find it distasteful. The cemetery charges people to do this as a way to raise funds.
More work had been completed on the paths and a lot of the weeds had gone. I asked one of the volunteers about the old gate sign still propped up against the side of the building, and the old bell. He said plans had been made to restore these but couldn't give any idea of when that would take place.
I noticed a few more interesting graves that I missed on my last visit and as we left another group was walking through the gates, another contribution being made to the coffer. Our group made many positive reviews and had enjoyed the visit, surprised at how interesting the cemetery was and fueling a desire to visit more. Hopefully with contributions continuing to allow more restoration work to be made, Mr John Edgar Hoover won't have to turn in his grave.
We left East St and walked down to the Navy Yard on the Anacostia River. After getting our passes we were allowed through the gates into what felt like a little ghost town. There were restaurants and a couple of stores but nobody apart from our group. It seemed like nobody else in DC was aware that this place existed.
We headed for the museum and as soon as I walked in I knew we wouldn't have enough time here. We had less than an hour before we met in front of the destroyer so I could only walk around hurriedly, flustered at not being able to stop and read everything or touch the many items that screamed out to be handled. This is actually the flagship of the United States Navy and is filled with naval artifacts, art and interactive exhibits.
I couldn't walk past an aircraft gun though. There were a few in the museum but as soon as I spotted the sights I had to slide into the polished brass seat, where thousands of people had done the exact same thing, and look through, pretending to shoot the plane down from the sky.
I remember seeing diving suits like this on old TV movies. They made my toes curl thinking about dropping hundreds of feet in this and possibly not being able to come back up, or maybe coming up and suffering 'the bends'. This one was developed by Germans before WWII and oxygen tanks had to be carried on the back. Not surprising that they deemed it too clumsy for use
A beautiful 1532 cannon from the English ship, the Mary Rose, with the wonderful name of 'Bastard Culverine'. There were many fabulous paintings in the museum and I took 3 photos of my favorites.
The Gray Whale - USS Samuel Gompers painted in 1971 by Robert G Smith.
USS Saratoga painted in 1928 by Walter Greene.
And my favorite, Providence in Asia, painted in 1968 by John Charles Roache. I was saddened that I couldn't spend time just standing and staring.
There are also some stunning models of ships. The one above is the USS Olympia, famous for her victorious role in the Spanish American War of 1898.
The cabinets and displays were full of interesting nautical instruments, authentic scenes of the times, uniforms and so much more that I couldn't pay proper attention to. I definitely need to return to this treasure of a museum.
I met the others on the jetty by the USS Barry, a destroyer, decommissioned in 1982 after 26 years of service and now a permanent display ship. In 1966 she was the first ship on which a gun was fired using a digital computer.
We were able to follow a self guided tour over the whole ship, visiting every room except the engine room. The berths were impressive and were the first to boast of having AC.
This was part of the shower room. There was a notice on the wall allowing the sailors a 3 minute shower.
Sick Bay.
The dining area which was also used as a social area where the sailors would play cards, board games or watch a movie.
I loved this sign, especially Number 5!
The Gun Fire Control System room. Lots of buttons and switches!
Where the Captain stands. The sonar and radar room was just behind the bridge.
This was an exceptional visit and we enjoyed it even more because there were so few people on board so we were able to savor the atmosphere of each room. Everything was in an impeccable condition, we were allowed up steep narrow ladders and along a maze of corridors and rooms with many high door sills (fondly referred to as knee knockers) on route. I loved every part of this tour and applaud the Navy for producing such a well planned exhibit. A lot of our group had dispersed once we climbed down onto the quay, so it was time for a quick coffee before taking the metro back to our cars and then leaving DC as the sun was setting.

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