Walking down the mall in D.C. yesterday at lunch time (and asking myself why I don't do this at least once a week, it is so uplifting) I pass a woman who spots the steep, imposing steps of the National Gallery and starts to sing the "Rocky" theme song. Her husband quickly picks up the melody while their children stare in confusion. They don't know how lucky they are.
I follow a mother and her toddler. She lets the little guy run a few steps ahead of her then "races" to catch up to him. He cackles with laughter. Later, I fall into step with a group of kids and their staff, hurrying through an intersection. They count down with the "Walk" sign as they cross the street.
The sun is out, even though it (inexplicably) sprinkles for a few minutes. But not enough to open an umbrella (good because I didn't bring one) and never enough to impede the big show, the spectacle that awaits me at the end of the mall, something I had forgotten about but remembered as I closed in on the Washington Monument. It was the rappelling engineers, inspecting the monument for structural damage from the earthquake and looking at first, from afar, like large ants crawling on the side of the structure. They had tethered their ropes to the top and were bouncing off the sides.
It was the biggest show in town. All around me people whipped out cameras and binoculars. I had none of these, but I won't forget the sight of human beings dangling from that obelisk. They looked impossibly daring, impossibly free.