Taking a knee in our nation's capital
For those of you who have coached kids' sports, you might recall this phrase a little differently. If someone got beaned or had a rough collision, everyone on both sides of the field had to take a knee, while we attended to the injured player. It was a sign of respect, for someone who was hurt.
I joined my wife in DC last weekend. She spent the lion's share of her Saturday and Sunday running workshops for volunteers from Africa gathered for a conference dedicated to the continuing fight against HIV/AIDS. My wife walks the walk. Very inspiring.
It being Father's Day and none of my kids in sight, I decided to have a peek at my old stomping grounds. Take the temperature, as it were (which was about 95 degrees by the way). I wandered out of my extremely groovy hotel and hopped on a Capital Bikeshare ride (CBS as the locals refer to it; eight bucks and you own the town) and set off on a three-pronged agenda.
Stop one was fine dining at Ben's Chili Bowl, the original, naturellement, on U Street in NW. Not only was the food sheer culinary bliss, destination dining at its very best, but I was lucky to see one of the founding owners, Virginia Ali, still working behind the counter, purse hanging off her shoulder. This is a 60-year old family run business and a DC institution that has served everyone from Miles Davis to Barack Obama.
Fortified, I peddled off to my next stop. With a full belly, I felt the need for a full heart, so I wheeled down to the Vietnam War Veteran's Memorial. The place can captivate you even in a driving sleet storm on a winter's afternoon. I was not prepared for the emotion of visiting on a crowded father's Day in the June heat. The pictures speak for themselves. We can't thank these guys for their service. But their kids still do, 50 years after the last men and women left Vietnam.
I followed the path from the Memorial to conclude my tour at the reflecting pool – a place that brings back my earliest childhood memories with my mom and dad – not to mention a fleeting black & white TV image of hundreds of thousands of 60s protesters, long before we had social media to make ourselves heard. Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream here. You can stand on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and imagine it all happening. We still have so much to say.
A closing surprise. I have a friend – a mountain climber, humanitarian, and global ambassador of human decency named Timmy O'Neill – and in a city of 650,000 we actually ran into each other in front of a bike rack by the Memorial. Among other things, Timmy founded an organization called Paradox Sports that leads people with physical disabilities on insane climbs, thrilling river passages, and the such. No one has ever taught Timmy the meaning of defeat. I don't think he even knows how to spell n-o. In trying times in a divided nation, what can be more inspiring than stealing a hug or two from a guy who leads blind climbers up El Capitan. I was wiped out from the DC heat and humidity and my hotel was three miles back uphill. Like I was going to wuss out and take a taxi after that chance meeting?