Sunday, October 19, 2014

A week of training at Ford's Theater

This was a week of training at Ford's Theater; my head's still spinning.  Does 9:00 entry include the ranger program?  Does a 9:30 entry include the museum?  is the 3:45 a ranger program in the theater or a walk-through? Can visitors re-enter the museum after the program? What time do you "drop the rope" and at what time does the rope go back up?,  How can you tell who gets Acoustiguides? What are the stacks of extra Petersen house tickets for?  Where do your store the stanchions?

Its a million details that come together to make it all a smooth-running operation, fortunately there is a group of Ford's Theater rangers and Ford's Theater Society visitor services people who were all very patient in showing me the ropes, and answering, and answering again, my numerous questions.

To the left of the historic theater is the modern facility housing the Ford's Theater society; that's the group which, among other good things, continues the tradition of the theater being a live performance stage will a full season of programming.

The theater is pretty gorgeous with plenty of seating.

The presidential box is still festooned with bunting just as it was on that fateful evening.

Here's a glimpse of part of the backstage area with some of the wardrobe for Driving Miss Daisy - the current production at the theater.

The steps to the balcony...

reveal some of the beautiful detail in this place.

The museum on the lower level is very good.  Here is a depiction of the constant flow of favor and office-seekers who continually plagued Lincoln. 
 I'm here to lobby President Lincoln to make me a GS-9.

The box office is located in the adjoining modern building.

There is always a long line of people waiting to get in to the theater, but the line moves very quickly.  The partnership of people from the Society and park rangers creates a choreography which flows visitors through the theater efficiently.  And as I already mentioned its a pretty complicated affair.  They make it look easy and its all quite seamless for the visitors. 

Across the street is a 6' x 6' island of free-enterprise. This is typical for nearly every street corner off the mall.  There's something for nearly everyone at the souvenir stands that set up in the morning and vanish in the evening.

In the museum is the instrument that produced one of the greatest tragedies in American history.

Put Ford's Theater at the top of your list for your next trip to our nation's capital.

Now that my Ford's theater training is complete, I'm eager to see where next week will find me.

See you on the mall.

Ranger Mannie
(from just north of Boonsboro)

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A very crowded week

Holy moly what a week!  Let me preface this entry with a factoid: I leave the house at 5:15 am, I get home at 9:30 pm.  I spend a lot of time being sleepy or tired.

That being said, let's take a look at my first week of rangering on the Mall, Wednesday through Sunday.

Every day starts with roll call at the Survey Lodge; this is where all the rangers and guides get their assignments for the day.

Muy first morning on the Mall found me working the Washington Monument.  WAMO is pretty labor intensive with five rangers or guides working.  Two of us work inside alternately operating the elevator. Outdoors another person assists visitors at the entrance, one person works the line, and one person is a rover - chatting up visitors and providing breaks for the rest of us. 

This is me at WAMO getting photo-bombed by a cute dog. 

On Wednesday the weather was great and it was a lot of fun working there.  The audience is very different than that at Antietam.  I met more international visitors in the first thirty seconds than I had in eight years at the battlefield, its a reminder that when people from other countries want to experience America on a time budget they come to Washington DC

During my 70 second "elevator talk" I inform visitors that if they look out the western windows of the monument they'll see a temporary art installation entitled "Out of Many, One" (e Pluribis Unim).  Its a huge face, a composite of over thirty individual faces.

Using satillite technology, sand, topsoil, and four miles of string the giant face resides along the reflecting pool and will remain for much of the autumn.

On Thursday I was assigned to the Korean War Veterans Memorial (KOWA) with Ranger Ted, who, you may remember, was one of my trainers.

Here's Ted having a conversation with visitors about the meaning of the memorial.

As with all sunny days on the Mall, there was no shortage of visitors.

While Ted was doing the program I was in the kiosk giving out visitor information, the most commonly asked question being "Where is the bathroom?".  Fortunately, I know the answer.

"Honor Flights" provide WWII veterans the opportunity to visit the Mall and to see the monuments erected to commemorate their service and sacrifice in the defense of our nation. Large groups of veterans, many in wheelchairs are a frequent sight on the Mall.  Often they are willing to share their stories with visitors and rangers alike.

Friday found me back at KOWA with Erik and Tom. Tom's a great guy who is heading of for a year on an Americorps appointment.  He's also my connection for high-grade chocolate

On Sunday I was back at WAMO.  It was cold, rainy, and windy. I was wearing a raincoat over a parka over a jacket.  It was pretty miserable, and didn't lend itself to photos.  Working outdoors 365 days a year will take some getting used to.  Fortunately I have the wardrobe to see me through all four seasons.

By Sunday the weather had cleared considerably and I began a five-day stint at Ford's Theater which will continue into the coming week.

Ford's is still very much an active theater and is operated by the Ford's Theater Society (go here) in partnership with the National Park Service. They put on four shows per season and currently are staging "Driving Miss Daisy".  The theater society people are really nice and a pleasure to work with.

There are also ranger programs every day; here an audience gathers in the balcony to hear a program about the murder of Abraham Lincoln by the scoundrel Booth.

The fateful derringer resides in the lower level museum, a museum which is a must-see when in our nations's capital.

Across from the theater is the Petersen House.  An NPS site, this is the place where the mortally-wounded president was taken to live his final hours, he died on April 15th 1865 scant days after Lee's surrender at Appomattox.

The Petersen house was a boarding house, and just happened to be across the street from the Theater.  A light was on and a lodger shouted for the medical party to bring the wounded president hence. This is one of the rooms upstairs where visitors aren't allowed to go.

This is the view of the theater enjoyed by the occupant of that room.

And this is the room where Lincoln breathed his last breath.

Ford's theater is an evocative place for its history and a very exciting place for its current role as an active theater venue in downtown Washington DC.  I know that I'm really going to enjoy the coming week as I learn the ropes at this historic gem of the National Mall.

 I'll save you an aisle seat.

Recovering on my couch, just north of Boonsboro,

Ranger Mannie

Friday, October 03, 2014

Ranger Mannie goes to Washington (part 2)

End of Training (whew!)

Its has been quite a couple of weeks.  The five of us new park guides spent a whirlwind of activity learning about and walking the National Mall and surrounding museums, federal buildings, and other attractions which we will have to be familiar with in order to serve visitors to the National Mall and Memorial Parks.

Monday morning found us in a van crossing the Arlington bridge to visit Arlington House and the National Cemetery.

Although it was Robert E. Lee's wife who owned the house it was Lee himself who was the master of the estate, including numerous enslaved African-Americans.  It was in this house, April 20, 1861, that Lee wrote his letter of resignation from the US Army to take his side with the Confederacy.

Union soldiers occupied the grounds shortly after Lee's departure.

The view from that substantial portico is incredible:

WAMO towers over all and will be my "office" two days a week.

While we were in the vicinity we visited the Marine Corps Memorial. The memorial is a testament to the service of the men and women of the Marine Corps since its founding in 1775 and, like Arlington House, it is administered by the National Park Service

One of those Marines it honors is our own Natalie. Of the five of us, four are veterans - 
Navy, Marine Corps, and Army.

The monument is based upon the photograph of Pulitzer-prize winning photographer...

Joe Rosenthal...

who receives a credit on the pedestal of the monument.

We visited the tomb of the unknowns...

and found ourselves in the company of many WWII veterans.

It is a reminder of how quickly these men and women are leaving us.

We encountered the tomb of Abraham Lincoln's oldest son, Robert.

Headstones of more than 400,000 individuals cover 612 acres in a tangible reminder of 
service and sacrifice.

This week we also visited the Library of Congress, you will be hard pressed to find a more magnificent building in our nation's capitol.

The reading room is spectacular.

We also visited some of the museums of the Smithsonian Institution.  Here we are with Ted our trainer. Note that I managed to get myself into the picture.

(me, Natalie, Bob, Ted, Lee, Mary)

Lunch at the National Museum of the American Indian was pretty fantastic.  Lee was our able guide as he is a former employee of the museum. Lee also seems to know a lot of insiders in
the District of Columbia.

This week we also visited  the National Archives for a visit to the US Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence.

Ted got us tickets for a tour of the Capitol Building, which was really cool.  Note the scaffolding surrounding the dome which is undergoing restoration work.

Our tour guide did a great job, and was very patient and good-humored - a role model
 for the five of us.

It is a building of gorgeous detail.

Looking up at the rotunda found the view obscured by a big canvass donut that is part of the restoration process.  Nonetheless, it was still very cool.

George Washington is at the apex of the dome.

They have four tours going simultaneously, and still manage to avoid traffic jams.

Our trainer Kristel points out some of the NPS green space in front of the Capitol

At the foot of the Capitol steps is one of my favorite monuments anywhere. 
 Its inscription consists of just one word...


Need anyone say more?

We also paid a visit to the Supreme Court building.

Again, its a place of beautiful detail.  We attended a really good interpretive talk which was held right in the chamber itself.  It was very cool to be sitting in the same room where so many historic cases have been heard.

Ranger Rob Lorenz gave us a fantastic Lincoln Monument program...

and then led us in a discussion about the fine points of interpretation on the back portico of the Monument.

It has been a very busy two weeks of nine-hour days, mostly on our feet the whole time.  At the end
we are all confident and ready to start rangering on the Mall as good friends and comrades in the 
green and gray.

I'm eager to get started and I relish this opportunity to help bring our history to life for the millions of visitors who come yearly to the National Mall and Memorial Parks.   And through it all I'll still be thinking of my eventual return to Antietam.

Come see us on the National Mall.

Soaking my feet, just north of Boonsboro,

Ranger Mannie