On our fourth day in D.C., we crossed two pretty important items from my bucket list: see the place where Lincoln was shot and go through spy training. Well, those shouldn’t be permanently erased from my list, maybe just lightly marked with a pencil. Let me explain:
We purchased tickets for Ford’s Theater online and arrived at the appointed time Wednesday morning. They gave us headsets that explained the events and details leading up to Lincoln’s assassination. We walked through the basement museum, looking at maps, photographs, clothing, furniture, and other various and sundry artifacts relating to what happened at 10:13 p.m. on April 14, 1865.
I love history so this was mind-blowing for me to be in the actual location of the assassination. I couldn’t wait for them to call us back upstairs to the auditorium part of the tour. A ranger (Ford’s Theater is under the protection and authority of the National Parks) retold the story as he stood on the stage and we sat in the audience. He was kind of an awkward fella but it was nonetheless riveting. That is, until he told us that after the assassination the theater was dismantled, studied as a crime scene, and eventually used by the military. What a let down! They tried to recreate the theater’s interiors and light fixtures but I was still a little disappointed.
It was pretty cool to look across the street and see the house where Lincoln actually died. The line was long to peek in the door so we didn’t look inside. I admit I was a little afraid that we’d see a leather sectional sofa and flat screen TV despite the ranger’s claims that it was more carefully preserved.
We went to the steps of an Episcopal church to eat our lunch instead.
After lunch we went to the Spy Museum. It was ridiculously expensive (We had become spoiled by the free Smithsonian Museums.) but it was a lot of fun. The first thing we did was to choose our new identity from a variety of “covers.” For some reason this made me nervous as if I were going to be grilled at the airport interrogation room of a hostile country. As it turned out, I just had to answer questions asked by a computer. No biggee. I was deemed “suspicious” by the computer but sometimes I like to live on the edge of danger. (In case you’re wondering, I was a 33-year old German woman named Helga or Olga—something like that. I was traveling to London on business. My profession was a librarian or an anthropologist. I can’t remember. Okay, now I see why I was considered a threat.)
We learned about microscopic bugging devices and breaking coded messages. There was a section about the Cold War that made me want to duck and cover. The museum was really interesting and interactive but it made me paranoid the rest of the day. Later when we were riding on the subway, I scanned the crowd looking for a possible spy in our midst. I focused in on the guy with the dark glasses and long stick. Maybe he only wants us to think that he’s blind. Hmmm…
Next we made a quick tour of the National Portrait Gallery. The paintings of the presidents were lifelike and fascinating, especially with the informative plaques mounted by each one. We avoided the modern art section. You never know what you might find there but there’s a better chance that it will be graphic illustrations that I intentionally left off of our “birds and the bees” talk and not a painting of a bowl of fruit. On the way to the subway stop, we took another look at the White House.
We ended our day with an early supper at a little restaurant near our apartment and then a few episodes of Little House on the Prairie on the Hallmark Channel. We had one full day left in D.C. so we got in bed early. Coming Soon…Day Five!