That was the substance of a mid-August email from my college friend Di. She and her husband Bill are two of my favorite people, lots of fun to be around and always up for an adventure.
As you know, I love a good funeral and emailed back right away to say that I wouldn’t miss it. I made a reservation right away at my usual DC hotel.
|That's me as an Italian sailor, with a banana in my pants, at an extremely culturally sensitive "Come as your favorite Italian" party.|
The weather report was for dismal stuff—we were in the midst of a Polar Express, so I packed enough winter clothes for a polar expedition. And funeral clothes too. Can you imagine how the photos of JFK’s funeral would have looked if Jackie Kennedy had worn a red ski parka? I dug out my old Chesterfield coat.
The morning of the event I walked over to my friends the R’s in Georgetown, the folks who’d given services at Arlington rave reviews. We always have lots to catch up on--I've always thought Sally Quinn should call them to find out what's going on. Since they’re DC locals, they're the best tour guides. They can tell you who lived there, who designed what, what it used to be, and spot a Georgetown parking space from blocks away. Her parents were interred at Arlington too, so we were going to visit them after the ceremony.
We pulled up to our assigned gate and handed over our IDs. We told the guard that we were there for Captain Pardee’s funeral service. The guard directed us to the next gate, not even a city block ahead, but around a sharp turn, presumably intended to slow terrorist traffic. At that stop we had to hand over our IDs again, and after telling this guard that we were there for Captain Pardee’s service, we had to open all the car doors, as well as the hood and the trunk, and stand on the curb while the security guys checked out the vehicle. While they had the giant dental mirror on a stick for looking under the car we didn’t rate that kind of scrutiny.
St. Martin-in-the-Fields. The chapel was built at the suggestion of George Patton (yes, that George Patton) in the 1935. It reminded me of the Plasticville chapel that my brother and I would set up next to our Lionel train set.
Upon entering the chapel, we were greeted by two uniformed members of the 3rd US Infantry, the Old Guard. They were the epitome of military looks and bearing, which is another way of saying that there’s something about a man in uniform. Even at a funeral. They had spit and polish out the ying-yang and couldn’t have been more polite; it was if Emily Post had programmed the Six Million Dollar man.
When Di and Bill and the family arrived, there wasn’t too much time for hugs and chatting before our military hosts escorted them to another room in the chapel where they presumably had a private moment. Captain Pardee had been dead since March 13 so, for the most part, everyone was past the teary stage of grieving.
Pat, and old friend from State College, arrived. She’s new to the DC area and we planned an afternoon of museum hopping after the funeral. And yes, I told her that the R’s had given the service rave reviews.
After the family was escorted to their reserved pews, I looked around and noted the good crowd—perhaps 50 people, not a bad showing at all for someone who died at age 96 in California. As anyone who’s watched a lot of The Funeral Channel can tell you, when you outlive your friends there is no one left to attend your funeral.
It wasn’t long until a draft of cold air signaled that the chapel doors had been opened. I turned around and saw a squad of sailors standing at attention outside the chapel. As we could faintly hear the NCO shouting commands, the chaplain entered the chapel. We rose, and the organist blasted Holy, Holy, Holy as the earthly remains of William McKnight Pardee (Captain, USN, retired) and a folded American flag were carried in a procession to the front of the chapel.
The service was brief: Arlington’s instructions are to keep it under 20 minutes. The chaplain had piercing eyes and a clear voice that resolutely projected his Christian faith. I never would have cast him as friendly neighborhood pastor, instead he would have been the hot Marine dad who lives down the street and doesn’t wear a shirt when he washes his Corvette.
Eternal Father Strong to Save. It was quite a moving tableau.
Yes, I got a little teary.
Capt. Pardee’s obit. He was an Annapolis grad, class of 1942, commanded the USS Hornet, and believed in physical fitness—he installed a chin up bar in his office on the Hornet you can see today when you visit the carrier in its new life as a floating museum in Alameda, California. He visited the museum at age 93 and could still do a chin up.
On behalf of the President of the United States, the United States Navy, and a grateful nation, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved one's honorable and faithful service.
A squad of riflemen fired three shots in salute, a bugler in the distance played Taps. It was like something out of a movie, only better.
And yes, even though I didn’t know Captain Pardee, I cried.
The Rs, Pat, and I passed on the luncheon at the officer’s club and instead went to see the R’s parents in another part of the cemetery. A walk through the graves shows what a melting pot America is. There are familiar names and unpronounceable names, names with seemingly no vowels, and names with all vowels. Some of the tombs are marked with familiar religious symbols—who knew that there were that many varieties of crosses? Others were marked but with something signifying, well I don’t know what.
After some discussion of parking in Georgetown—a problem only slightly less difficult than Peace in the Middle East, we left Arlington for a delicious French lunch at Chez Billy Sud in Georgetown. If food is like that in France, I am surprised that the French would take time away from eating to give Jerry Lewis the time of day.
Tudor Place, a house museum in Georgetown. I’d been there once—sometime in the late 1970s, when it was still a private home.
No, I don’t know what she was smoking.
|Watch your mailbox for a Tudor Place Christmas card|
|The house was decorated for Christmas as it might have been in the 1940s.|
We were exploring the garden post tour when a TP staffer sought us out to tell us (politely) that if we didn’t skedaddle we’d be locked in. We skedaddled even though it meant giving up our A-list Georgetown parking spot.
Hirshhorn Museum since there was an interesting looking show of the work of Icelandic performance artist Ragnar Kjartansson. There are three words that make me run instead of walk to a museum. Icelandic. Performance. Artist.
Waze app, which I hated. I did not need to know that Generael Tso’s chicken (along with two items from Column B) was the special at the Yangtze Garden. Or that the headliner was about to speak at the Mexican-American Friendship Society’s Symposium on the Gadsden Purchase. Or that by cutting across six lanes of traffic to get to the far right lane to turn in approximately 23 feet, I would save 30 seconds.
Even though we did not stop for General Tso’s, or to celebrate the Gadsden Purchase, we did cut across traffic here and there as I tried (unsuccessfully) to separate the wheat from the chaff on Waze. Nevertheless we managed to get to the museum and even found Pope-worthy parking just steps away from its front door…without using a smartphone app. Presumably my partially Native American incredible homing penis is no longer on the blink after its recent California misadventure.
From the museum’s very own website:
Hailed by The New York Times as “one of the most celebrated performance artists anywhere,” Ragnar Kjartansson…comes to the Hirshhorn Museum…with an unprecedented solo exhibition—the first U.S. survey of this internationally acclaimed artist.
Spellbinding, poignant, and frequently humorous, Kjartansson’s work is at the cutting edge of performance art. Bringing together live endurance theater, large-scale projection, popular music, photography, painting, and drawing, this exhibition will introduce American audiences to the collected output of one of today’s most exciting and evolving artists.
Spellbinding…well, I wouldn’t go that far. I didn’t have any problem tearing myself away from it.
Poignant…The last time I used the word poignant to describe anything was never. I’ve always wondered, do people who hate the word “moist” hate the word “poignant”? The latter has way more of that um, I can't believe he did that in my mouth quality about it.
Frequently humorous…Very true. I did laugh. Not in the "Alec Baldwin is hilarious as The Donald" way but in the "Holy Crap this guy is batshit crazy and here he is in the Hirshhorn Museum" way.
Live endurance theatre... Of course, we all know what dead endurance theatre is: spending lots of time at a viewing of a relative you don’t like.
I enjoyed the guitarist in the gold lame gown along with an older couple (as in older than I am) from one of the better suburbs. They thought it was one of the wackiest things they had seen in a long while.
Took the words right out of my mouth.
Diana Vreeland would have thought the black Speedo impossibly chic. However, it made me wonder if there is Amish-themed gay porn.
We were just finished walking through the end of the show when the guards signaled that the museum was closing. So the idea of going back to preview that 20 hour plus video so that my children could watch it went right out the window.
Wreaths Across America is a non-profit that aims, at Christmas time, to place wreaths on veterans’ graves in national cemeteries across the country. In 2014, WAA volunteers placed over 700,000 wreaths at 1,000 different locations including both cemeteries and battlefield monuments.
I thought it would be interesting to see how a huge undertaking like this worked.
When I walked out of the hotel to grab a bite of breakfast I learned why there wasn’t much traffic. An ice storm was keeping everyone at home, and the follow up weather of freezing rain was pretty ugly as well. The bad weather didn’t keep Wreaths Across America volunteers home; I waited with a zillion other volunteers on the on the Metro platform for thirty minutes. Since the Metro was so late, I got to Arlington about 10 minutes after the event started.
Is That All There Is? Perhaps we were all being filmed by the famous Icelandic performance artist for some new multi-media tour-de-force that I wouldn’t understand. Dammit, I should have worn a black Speedo.
Vicenza, Italy in the summer of 1978 on an architecture school program. We tried to contact all of our living classmates and did pretty well, finding over half, from as close as Alexandria, Virginia and as far away as Freemantle, Australia.
Our hosts Rob and Sharon were unfailingly gracious and so we ate heartily, drank immoderately, and laughed uproariously; it was practically Icelandic performance art.
It was a great weekend. A bit of patriotism, some history, some art, community service, great food and drink, and best of all, extraordinary old friends. Thank you Captain Pardee for your honorable and faithful service and for doing your part to introduce me to Ragnar Kjartansson. I'm going shopping for my own black Speedo today.