By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 8/24/2019
Occurred: 11/15/2008 10:30:00 PM
Topics/Keywords: #GayMarriage #Washington #DistrictofColumbia #BestWestern #SmithsonianInstitute #DorothyElizabethCilwaKinder Page Views: 2848
Blog Entry posted November 15, 2008

So now, less than eight hours after our arrival in Virginia, we are ready to start our mini-vacation, "we" being Mary, my ex-wife and present friend, and myself.

It's been less than two weeks since the election gave us (finally!) a decent, intelligent man to be our next President, but also took away from gay Californians the right to get married, and enshrined in both Florida's and Arizona's state constitutions similar Neanderthal amendments taking a basic civil right away from one-tenth of those states' citizens.

Many of us gay citizens have been shocked and disappointed, not only by the votes of our straight brethren, but also by the singularly ineffectual campaigns run by our own organizations. Privately-created YouTube commercials were much more powerful than anything created and broadcast by the Human Rights Campaign, or Marriage Equality, or any other gay/lesbian organizations to which we send money to protect us from just these kinds of attacks.

And the response? One small entry from HRC (down near the bottom of the page on the right, mentioning Wanda Sykes). But a netroots campaign started just a few days ago resulted in massive protests across the nation, including Washington, DC. And although I had not come to the area to protest, I was aware I might see some part of it and could at least lend a friendly wave.

The "continental breakfast" provided by our Best Western hotel was very good, one of the best I've had in any hotel. The highlight was toasted bagel halves loaded with scrambled egg, bacon bits and cheese. (I had two!) This was in addition to the usual cereal and milk, toast, muffins and donuts, bananas and fruit, and yogurt. They also had several juices, including the mango/orange/passion fruit blend I so enjoyed on our last cruise.

On the other hand, the toilet in our room had to be coaxed to actually flush, and the toilet paper rack was so far back on the wall that only a contortionist would have been able to get to it without risking a pre-wipe stand-up. Oh, and our remote control wouldn't turn the TV off; we had to actually walk to the TV and press the button. Still, the beds were very comfortable so all in all, I would come back to this hotel again, especially if a hotel breakfast was in my plans.

Dottie, her husband Frankie, and their daughter Cailey came to pick us up shortly after 11. We stopped for a bite of lunch, then drove to the nearest convenient Metro station to catch a train into Washington. We emerged from the subway system into the Mall (the big grassy park between the Capitol building and the Lincoln Memorial, with the Washington Monument in the middle. The air was relatively warm, with heavy rain clouds scudding overhead but no rain at the moment. As I had suspected, large numbers of gay folks and supporters were hurrying to the Capitol steps, carrying signs and rainbow paraphernalia. I looked after them longing to join them, but no, we were here to take Cailey to the museums. However, she couldn't help but notice the gathering parade.

"What are those people doing?" she asked.

'They are here to make a parade so other people will see they want to have the same right to marry the person they love as everyone else," I explained.

"Why can't they?" she demanded.

"Because some people spend too much time worrying about what other people are doing, and they passed a law that prevents some people from marrying the person they love."

Cailey turned her head in dismissal. "Well," she said, "that's just stupid."

We had decided to visit the National Botanical Gardens as our first visit. This building is on the South side of the Mall, closest of the Smithsonian buildings to the Capitol. That gave us a wonderful view of the enormous crowd marching.

15,000 marchers protest anti-gay marriage laws.

Unfortunately, the macro button on my camera had become pressed when it was in my pocket, so all the photos I took that day were out-of-focus. But, even blurred, you can see that attendance was far above the "few hundred" the radio reported later. No wonder no one takes the traditional media seriously any more!

Here's a video assembled by a number of attendees, just to give you a feel for the mood and excitement of today (and in case you doubt my estimate of how many were present).

The National Botanical Gardens on the Washington Mall.

Anyway, we watched from the sidelines as we made our way to the Botanical Gardens. The last of us no sooner entered the door before the heavens opened up behind us with a torrential downpour. I was just as glad to not be marching at that point, but proud to see the actual marchers behind us did not run for cover.

Cailey is not much for methodically covering a museum. My mom would carefully study each exhibit, lovingly reading each and every label before going on to the next until I was ready to strangle her. Cailey is the opposite.

Some flowers in Cailey's colors. Cailey poses among the flowers.

She darts here and there, being with whatever has caught her attention, until something else catches her attention. She was wearing a pretty little, flowery dress that made her blend right in with the various flowers in bloom.

When the rain had mostly stopped, we stepped next door to the American Indian Museum, a beautifully-designed building, all different curves and levels, and set on a lot in which natural vegetation has been allowed to grow unfettered.

Stormy skies over the American Indian Museum.

Again, inside we quickly darted from one exhibit to another, catching glimpses of traditionally-made canoes, kayaks constructed in the traditional Inuit manner of modern materials, cooking demonstrations of traditional tribal recipes, and a collection of various tribal outfits. It all looked fascinating, and I'd love to go back when I have a day to spend there. But for now, it was time to return to the Natural History Museum, where, Cailey explained, she had to go to "face her fear."

It seemed she had been there once before, several years ago, and something—either the giant stuffed elephant or some giant dinosaur bones—frightened her. So now, she wanted to return and prove to herself she needn't be scared of long-dead animals.

View across the Mall.

That meant a hike much further west down the Mall and across it to the North side where the Natural History museum is located. By this time, Mary left us to meet an old friend of hers who was taking her to dinner. Cailey, Dottie and I went through the dinosaur room while Frankie, exhausted, sat with Cailey's paraphernalia (including a stuffed duck that had tragically gotten wet in a puddle). That was in the central rotunda, which features the giant, stuffed, elephant.

The stuffed elephant didn't scare Cailey.

Cailey not only wasn't afraid of the elephant; she didn't give it a second glance. Instead she held my hand and dragged me into the dinosaur room, where the bones, according to placards, have been re-mounted to reflect the current understanding that dinosaurs used their tails for balance, rather than dragging them behind like heavy leather bridal trains.

But Cailey didn't find the dinosaurs to be threatening, either. She was much more interested in the "Fossil Café" located behind the dinosaur room, where she, Dottie and I enjoyed a brief, if overpriced, snack.

Mercifully, closing time arrived soon and the four of us staggered out of the museum and back to the Metro station. We had dinner at Long John Silver's in Falls Church, then stopped briefly at Dottie and Frankie's house to loan me Karen's laptop computer so I could check my email and blog these adventures. Mary arrived from her dinner sometime after and we gratefully went to bed, wondering if tomorrow, the day we were supposed to go home on our free tickets, would go as smoothly as the day before.