We got up relatively early today to head into the District for the Cherry Blossom Parade. It started at 9:30 AM, so we wanted to be down there at least a half hour early, requiring us to leave the house by 8:00 AM. (Okay, so that’s not that early, but it’s a Saturday, so give me a break.) It was a miserable morning — cold (40s) and spittling — which might sound bad, but I think it kept some of the crowds away. We were able to get a plot of sidewalk right next to the street for a pretty good view.
There were marching bands from all over: Maine, Georgia, Indiana. The Navy band was near the front of the parade, and sounded pretty cool. They got a huge round of applause, too, as did all of the armed forces and police. That’s quite a switch from just a few years ago.
They also had some of the big balloons. Not as big as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day balloons, I imagine, but still it was the first time I’d seen them in a parade. I mused with my mother about why we didn’t have them in Minneapolis, and she reminded me that they would have to navigate the downtown’s skyway system. That’s okay, the Minneapolis Aquatennial parade usually has a lawnmower brigade, and the Hollidazzle parade usually has a snowblower brigade — not many big cities can say that. (Can they?)
I don’t want to sound un-American, but does 9-11 have to be brought up at every big event from now until the end of eternity? I’m not saying that we should forget it — we absolutely can not. But there has to come a time when we can celebrate without throwing the pall of 9-11 over it. I bring this up because there was an old fire engine (very cool) in the parade that was blasting the Proud to be an American song sprinkled with speeches about “We’re going to get these terrorists”, etc. It would have been fine without the speeches sprinkled in — it might have evoked a feeling of patriotism, but as it was it seemed to be a cheap, sentimental trick.
After the parade, we went to the National Air & Space Museum for lunch and a bit of shopping. I also took my parents through the relatively new Explore the Universe exhibit. I was impressed with this exhibit because they include a bit on high energy astrophysics — they have a spare module from the EGRET instrument on the Compton Gamma-Ray Observatory; they also feature the Chandra and ROSAT X-ray missions. This is the first time I’ve seen much of anything on high energy astronomy in any museum.
(One rant about the exhibit, though. They had an astrophysicist design a stained glass window depicting the electromagnetic spectrum. However, he included cosmic rays!! Ugh. Cosmic rays are not light! They are particles and are completely separate from the electromagnetic spectrum. They are likely made in high energy parts of the Universe, like supernovae or supernovae remnants, but that does not make them light.)
Finally, we walked down to the tidal basin to see the cherry blossoms. Wow! They were at their peak bloom, and they were quite lovely. Hopefully some of my pictures turned out. It was very crowded, but worth it.