Wednesday, November 5, 2008

RAOK

or, random act of kindness. I got talking to a guy from Puerto Rico the other day, who's led a pretty rough life. Grew up in NYC and was in the gang the Bloods for quite a long time and saw a lot of terrible things. To get out of the gang he joined the army and spent 3 years in Afghanistan, 2000-03. He's now a self taught spray paint artist.

Anyway, when he told me he was going to do a painting for me, I didn't think much of it. He caught up with me this morning as I was about to head out, and presented me with a gorgeous painting. It's not small, and is a forest scene at sunset. I was absolutely stunned and blown away. He said he'd appreciated me actually sitting and talking with him, as he tends to scare most people away. I was so touched. It had only taken him about 6 minutes to do, and he tip-toed me through each step of the process. I had him sign the back for me.

So my first stop of the day was the post office, where I spent over half an hour trying to wrap the painting in a cut up box to post home. I went through an entire roll of sticky tape, to make sure it was safe and sound, that it won't break open or leak. Hopefully it makes it home in one piece.

I then continued on my journey to the Arlington Cemetery...it's incredible. Row after row of plain white marble headstones. I can't remember how many people are buried there - anyone in the armed services, their spouses and dependents under 21 can be buried there. First stop was JFK's grave, where there is an eternal flame. He's buried next to Jackie, and two of their children. A boy who lived for 2 days, and a still born girl - her gravestone simply reads "Daughter" and the year.

Then it was on to the tomb of the unknown soldier, just in time for the changing of the guard, which lasted about 7 minutes and was interesting to see. They have 3 memorials set up nearby - two for the astronauts that died in the Challenger and Colombia disasters. The third was for those who were killed trying to rescue hostages in Iran in 1980.

The last stop was Arlington House, which has a long history with slavery. It had a spectacular view over Washington DC, but the rain had really settled in (which added to the atmosphere of the cemetery) and I couldn't see a lot.

Now I'm back, a bit wet, a bit tired. I had really wanted to find somewhere happening for the election results, but I'm not sure if I can be bothered to brave the weather on my own!

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