own bed again this morning after a blitz tour of half the country
last week, I awoke unsure of what time zone I was in, which state,
what country even, and which period of history. Travel is broadening,
so they say, but it can also be confusing. Walking along familiar
streets today, I found my thoughts jumping from the grandeur of
the Washington Monument to the marvels of the New Orleans French
cuisine to the unspeakable horrors of the Nazi German Holocaust.
But I must confess that the day's first thought was far less grandiose.
At 5:24 a.m., according to my bedside clock, I rolled out of bed
to heed the call of nature. Once that priority was accounted for,
I realized that whatever the official time was, my internal clock
was spinning. That's what three time zones in seven days will
do to you. Nevertheless, at precisely 6 o'clock (which is 7 o'clock
in Houston and 8 o'clock in Washington, DC), I lurched outdoors
to meet my neighbor.
As we headed toward the Plaza, my neighbor asked about my just-concluded
trip with the New Mexico Amigos. My faithful readers on sfaol.com
may recall that I was one of several participants in that group's
goodwill tour of several other American cities this year, for
the purpose of attracting new business to our state. Last week
in this space I described our stop in Houston; and this morning
my neighbor wondered about the rest of the journey.
After filing my report last Tuesday from my hotel room in Washington,
DC, where the Amigos had just arrived from Houston, I went out
walking among the awesome memorials that symbolize our nation's
capital and our country's history. More than the others, the Washington
Monument overwhelmed me, reflecting as it did from the adjacent
pool on the National Mall. But only a little less impressive were
the Lincoln Memorial, the U.S. Treasury Building, and several
other sites. Trying to describe my appreciation of them could
easily fill this entire column. But instead of doing that, I will
focus on the Holocaust Memorial.
With a group of other Amigos, I went there at 9:30 Wednesday morning.
I'll do my best to report my reaction, but this place took my
breath away with its gruesome evidence of the cruelty that one
people can inflict on another. Perhaps every adult and all the
children who are old enough to stand it should visit this museum,
so that the human race never lets this happen again.
The U.S. Holocaust Memorial commemorates the persecution of the
Jews by Hitler and his Nazi followers. If you plan to visit it,
be prepared for a very emotionally depressing tour, but also a
very educational one. For most vacationers, getting depressed
is not part of the plan, and I certainly understand that feeling.
But if the next time you are in Washington, DC, you can make this
stop without ruining the rest of your trip, I recommend that you
keep it in mind.
The building, just off the National Mall, was designed to make
visitors feel they are in a real prison. Much of the photography
and motion-picture film shown there was seized from the Nazis
at the end of World War II. Some of it is too gruesome to describe
here, but one of the films showed a Jewish prisoner being immersed
in ice water, to see how long a human could survive in such conditions.
The purpose was to help the Germans design flight suits for pilots
who might end up in the ocean during combat. It struck me as strange
that the people doing the testing even considered Jews to be human.
Many exhibits were far worse than this-but without going into
detail, I would like to sum up by saying that even under the most
horrible and violent oppression, most of the victims I saw pictured
in the memorial seemed to express more resignation than abject
fear. Only brave people can face death without squirming and screaming.
These were brave and tragic people. Whatever else the Amigos did
in Washington pales in memory by comparison with this stop at
the Holocaust Memorial.
From DC we zipped on Thursday to Wilmington, Delaware, for lunch
with the Rotary Club. The nice folks we met there were all invited
to New Mexico. Then that evening in Philadelphia, at the Old Original
Bookbinders Restaurant on Walnut Street, we held a reception for
invited guests. They too, of course, were urged to come visit
our great state.
On Friday we flew our chartered plane to New Orleans, for two
days of R&R. Fourteen of us had dinner that evening at the
renowned Emeril's Restaurant. The chef there, Emeril Lagasse,
often prepares recipes for the "Good Morning, America"
television show. He also has his own daily cable TV show. We had
a seven-course meal. Need I say more?
Many of the Amigos went golfing or fishing Saturday morning, while
others of us went to donate some more money to the highly successful
Harrah's casino operation. For one last culinary adventure, another
Amigo and I had dinner at the fine oyster bar and seafood restaurant
Then suddenly it was Sunday-time for this dream trip to end, as
all good things must. At 1 p.m. we landed back in Albuquerque;
and I re-entered the real world at my daughter's apartment down
there, where she and my wife were waiting for me. On Monday morning,
Linda and I returned to our home in Santa Fe.
And now it's Tuesday, and I'm making my usual early-morning Plaza
walk with my neighbor. Yet as I pass the comforting landmarks
of the town I call home, I consider myself very lucky to have
the freedom to walk these streets whenever I choose.
It's a great day.