Commentary: A traveling road show for D.C. sites
Much of the nation’s hostility toward Washington, or so we who live in the nation’s capital like to think, is because so many Americans are unfamiliar with the city, especially some of its crowning glories.
Within a year or two, there may be a solution to that, a way to share the wealth, so to speak, by taking the some of the great features of the city on tour. And, no, we’re not talking about Congress, which does have the precedent of meeting in other cities than Washington.
We in the capital may find some of the clowns you people elect irritating but we’re not vindictive and certainly not sadistic. We will not send Texas Sen. Ted Cruz to your county fair to talk for 12 hours about green eggs and ham. (Of course, if you wanted to use a dunking chair — $1 a throw, 6 throws for $5 — we’d have no objections.)
No, we were thinking of sending the Washington Monument and the U.S. Capitol dome, perhaps two of the most iconic features of the capital skyline, on tour.
Thanks to an Aug. 23, 2011, earthquake, which greatly offended Washington’s sense of geological fairness because we’re not supposed to get earthquakes, the Washington Monument is closed for $15 million in repairs.
The tremor caused cracks, chipped masonry and loosened mortar, necessitating its closure until at least next spring. The monument has been completely enclosed by scaffolding, which in turn is covered by light blue mesh fabric illuminated by 488 lamps.
The effect is so pleasing that some locals have recommended that we just keep the scaffolding and lamps in place.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Capitol Dome has suffered from a more common Washington affliction, neglect. The dome, which is cast iron, is suffering from rust and cracks. Pieces of the dome have fallen off and, while Congress itself isn’t worried — they have their own ways of navigating the Capitol that keeps them clear of falling debris and constituents — the danger is that a falling piece of the dome may take out a visiting Girl Scout troop, and that kind of thing always looks bad back in the district.
The dome, too, is to be enclosed in scaffolding and a diaphanous white shroud, also illuminated and also quite striking. The cost of the repairs is to be $59 million and some part of that is the cover.
It would be a nice patriotic gesture to take the scaffolding, whose 6,000 pieces are almost freestanding, and erect the facsimile monument and dome around the country to reinforce to the people that these are your monuments.
I don’t know much about small-town America, but it seems to me that there aren’t too many places that wouldn’t be improved by a 555-foot glowing blue obelisk and a shimmering white bell-shaped, 183-foot high dome in the town square.
The proximity of these iconic buildings — well, the shapes of the buildings — should reinforce patriotism, love of country and a new sense that maybe we shouldn’t be electing single-minded loudmouths to Congress.
And it should answer a question that bedevils every tourist to Washington: What the hell is that statue at the very top of the dome? It is a 19-foot bronze conception of the figure of Freedom although most visitors think it’s a Plains Indian of some kind.
That knowledge, coupled with the fact that the very top and most damaged part of the Monument is called the Pyramidion, should quickly make you the most annoying person in your tour group when you next visit the capital.