Day Three: Washington, DC

I spent the morning at the Natural History Museum then walked up to DuPont Circle for a late lunch at Vincenzo’s Restaurante. The daily special was the Brick Oven baked pizza with fresh mozzarella, prosciutto, topped arugula and a balsamic glaze. Delizioso! I was preparing myself for my visit to Italy.

More than satisfied with the pizza, I headed down Constitution Ave. to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, dedicated in 1982. I had seen pictures of the monument, but when I turned and walked down the slope to the center of the granite walls I was struck by the silence. The traffic noise was gone, only whispers or soft crying from visitors could be heard.

vietnam-war-memorial

It is one of the most somber places on the National Mall. This memorial is not a fancy nor ornate piece of architecture but simply two polished black granite walls sunken into the Earth. Etched upon the walls in quiet reverence are the 58,274 names of the missing or deceased. The imagery was breathtaking. My emotions were overwhelmed with sadness; I could not forget the cruelty of war. This amazing tribute to the men and women who were forever lost while serving our country was designed by Maya Lin during an undergraduate at Yale University.

From there I walked to the World War II Memorial seen by over 4 million visitors each year, making it one of the most popular spots in America. The Memorial is split into two sides, representing the Atlantic and Pacific theaters and is adorned with gold stars, representing Americans who lost their lives during WWII. 

My last sightseeing adventure was the Arlington National Cemetery. Rather than take the long walk across the Potomac over the Memorial Bridge, I decided to take the Metro. The visitor center was my first stop. There I learned about the interpretative tour bus service through Arlington with stops at the Ord & Weitzel walking gate to see the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial, President John F. Kennedy gravesite, U.S. Coast Guard Memorial, U.S. Army Gen. John J. Pershing’s gravesite, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and the Arlington House.

The day’s sightseeing was very emotional and heart-wrenching. Spanning multiple decades, each memorial, our national cemetery and graves of the great men and women who have died, not just for our country’s freedom but for others freedom, gave me a renewed sense of pride in being an American and a veteran.

Since the Civil War, there has not been a battle fought on domestic soil, except for the battle against crime and injustice. The law enforcement personnel have also given their lives in defense of maintaining our laws and protecting our citizens from cruelty and crime. I loved my job for the purpose it served, but I don’t miss the mayhem and in-humane actions that I faced.

Having had a wonderful day, albeit an emotional one, in our great capital, I decided to head back to the hotel where I picked up my luggage and took a shuttle to Dulles Airport for the overnight trip to Rome. I took a few minutes to write today’s journal. Then I thought about parts of my life – what was missing. The lesson I’ve learned is that there’s no going back in time to correct errors in judgment and make things all right. What I need is to figure out is how to care more for another person than myself and give freely without expectations. Easier to say than done. I hope I can achieve this. Maybe someday I will find the woman who can tolerate me and allow me to grow. Time to head to Italy.

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Days One and Two: Washington, DC

I left LA on a non-stop flight to Dulles in Washington, DC. The cherry blossoms are a signature item every spring, and they were in full bloom. Beautiful. I decided that I would spend some time in the city and visit the Smithsonian and other attractions. Happily I was able to find accommodations at a fairly nice hostel-like hotel in the northeast part of the city near the Capital. A few nice cafes and a Metro station are within a block of the hotel.

Several tourist sites: the Air and Space Museum, Natural History Museum, American History, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, and the American Art Museum, occupied my time. I discovered it required more than a few days to see and absorb them all. I loved the Hirshhorn with its great collection of famous and contemporary art, paintings, and sculpture. My appreciation of fine art was the result of my Art History minor in college. This is the first time that I could devote my time exclusively to savoring fine art since college.

cherry-blossom

The following information is from one of the available brochures describing this great American institution: “The Smithsonian Institution, the world-renowned museum and research complex consists of 15 separate museums and the National Zoo in Washington, DC. From the origins of man at the Natural History Museum to the future of space travel at the Air and Space Museum, the museums of the Smithsonian cover an array of fascinating areas of study.

The Smithsonian Institution is sometimes referred to as America’s treasure chest because of the diverse artifacts it houses. Whether you’re interested in American history or Asian art, giant pandas or stamp collecting, there’s a Smithsonian museum for you. By attendance, the most popular Smithsonian museums are the Air and Space Museum, Natural History Museum, American History Museum and the National Zoo. First-time visitors tend to seek these out, but we recommend reading a bit about each museum and visiting those which interest you. With 15, it’s virtually impossible see them all in one visit, but planning to see three or four during a weeklong vacation would be a realistic goal.”

I took advantage of the proximity of the Zoo to see the Pandas and enjoy a meal at Lillies Bistro on Connecticut Ave. I enjoyed the cheese crepes and a French Chablis wine, with a fresh garden salad. The meals was very satisfying. Afterwords I treated myself to a cab ride back to the hotel.

After two days among the different venues, I took advantage of the Metro and went to Georgetown on the second night. In spite of two days walking the museums, I strolled M Street and enjoyed a wine tasting dinner at the Enoteca Wine Bar. I chose the Lettuce Wedge Salad with a Gorgonzola dressing, crusty Italian bread with Extra Virgin Olive oil, and a couple of glasses of Barbaresco wine. The penne pasta prepared with Italian sausage in a creamy tomato sauce hit my taste buds perfectly. A sampling of taleggio cheese and a dark chocolate truffle completed the meal. The Italian selections started my thirst to learn more about Italian foods and wines.

That would have been a great date if I had a female companion. I doubt that will happen in the near future, if ever. My past wasn’t the best with relationships. I’d resisted commitment, never eager to make my feelings known. Friends were few, although I had many acquaintances. Although I treated strangers and comrades with respect, often my friendliness had a reserved quality. I shunned real closeness, even my friend, Charles; I kept at arm’s length. Was I ever to have a long-term relationship, accepting another as a part of my being? Could I change my ways?

Read more of my Journal with the next installment. Be sure to come again, Monday – Friday.

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Hank Carson European Travel Journal, 2nd Installment

My psych-eval therapist suggested I write a journal, to jot down my feelings, both sad and happy. That gave me the opportunity to describe and focus on my emotions, regrets, guilt and more. Thus far writing has been a positive influence on my life. I look forward to writing about my travel experiences to get away from the depression and regrets.

As a former LAPD homicide detective, I wanted to escape from the US crime scene. Taking advantage of my free time I went to Europe t osee some of the wonderful art that I had studied in college. I’d love to travel with a companion, but I don’t have anyone who fits the description in my life now. I need time alone to gather my thoughts and just concentrate on sightseeing and studying the art and culture No need to complicate my life at this time.

Fortunately, I had a few Navy, college, and high school friends who spent time in the Med and were familiar with Italian and French cities. I was able to pick their brains before I left for Europe, and I could communicate with them via email. Also, there was my ex-wife’s sister-in-law who went to school in Paris when she was in college. These friends were very helpful in giving me advice for places to see and some of the best ways to travel economically around the country.

I started this journal after the shooting incident to help get my feelings out and try to feel centered again. Prior to that I had only written reports for the murder books, and a couple of small articles for the Police Gazette. That was an interesting experience. The struggle is ongoing. This entry shows I still am working on letting go and fighting depression, PTSD, isolation, and bottled up emotions.

Although officially disabled from doing the job I loved, writing a journal provides a semblance of a balanced and happy life. But it just isn’t enough. How did I move forward? By moving.

While in Italy, I started writing about what I saw and did. I loved the places I visited, and the food – Wow! It snapped me out of my melancholia, and I regained a feeling of appreciation for art and life.

While traveling, I sent emails to a few friends and my daughter about the places I visited and the food I sampled. This evolved into a blog. A high school classmate of mine, who was living in Arizona, shared a couple of my stories with a friend who is an agent for freelance writers. She contacted me and asked if I were interested in selling my stories. I said thanks, but no thanks. We stayed in contact, and I included her in my emails. When I returned to the States, I wanted to see more of the U.S. so I bought the motor home, adopted Molly and traveled around the country. The agent, Alex, who is now my agent, persuaded me to let her place a couple of my stories in the Good Sam and other RV publications. Eventually, she got me to take an assignment to write about a specific locale for RVer Magazine. It was about my travels along the old Route 66. That started my new career and some interesting events and conflicts.

The next installment of my Travel Journal will begin my actual journey.

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The Hank Carson Travel Journal

Hank Carson is the creation of Bruce Alan Jensen, the author of  Killer On The Train. Bruce developed this character with parts of his real-life history. As a part of creating this character, Jensen created a background that would influence him in the first novel and throughout the subsequent stories.

Prior to his appearing in the Killer On The Train, this character had to have experiences that influenced the character’s life. A major part of this occurred during Hank’s experiences after he left the employ of the LAPD as a homicide detective.

The following series of blogs are all fiction and not a significant part of the novel. These create some of the protagonist’s background prior to getting into writing as a free-lance writer and returning to solving criminal situations, most which are totally unexpected. I hope you enjoy Hank’s recent travel experiences.

Please provide your feedback about this series of fictional stories and how they reflect on the protagonist in the novel series; Hank Carson.

Bruce Alan Jensen: I welcome your comments, email me at bruce@brucethenomad.com

The Hank Carson Journal Begins here:

Here I sit in front of my computer thinking about my life. I loved my job at the LAPD but that all changed with a bullet. I moped around my apartment in LA for over a year, visiting art galleries, beaches but mostly stayed home and drank. Reading daily newspapers, made me mad and more depressed. Then I switched to novels, psychology books, and even tried to self-evaluate my depression. How did I get from there to traveling and writing as a loner? One day a friend, Brian, whom I first met at a UCLA art function suggested I visit my love of Italian art. I took the opportunity to travel to Europe. I loved Italian art and architecture, so Italy was my first place to visit.

But first I should start with how it all began:

I grew up in Fremont, CA. I’m not sure what I wanted to be when I grew up but after high school, I chose a college. I ended up graduating from Fresno State University with major in Criminology and a minor in Art History.

smlLAPD BadgeStill not sure what to do with my life, I took my degree and ended up in the Navy for a few years. After leaving the Navy, along with a wife and daughter, I got hired on at the LAPD. Sadly after a few years of seldom being home, edgy a lot and spending more time involved in the underside of life, and not enough with my family, the marriage failed. Nine years as a detective and what did I have? No family, no life and then to make it complete I got shot. No, job.

I was a very effective detective with the LAPD and never have thought the case I was working on would be my last. I never dreamt that it became solved because the prime suspect in a robbery shot me in the shoulder. All those years and never being shot except on that fateful night, a bullet took me out of the game.

It had been hard for me to come to grips with the idea that I put two 9 mm slugs into the young man’s heart. I had no choice. If he had gotten off one more round, it would have been me laying there dead not him. That was the only time I ever shot someone. No matter how tough you think you are, you never forget something like that!

I had to have a mandatory psych evaluation, a requirement in an every officer involved shooting. The department thought it would help. I also spent time in therapy. I’m sure it helped somewhat but the incident, that’s what they called it, still lingers in my head.

Being a detective wasn’t possible any longer; all I was cleared to do was a desk job or retire with a 50 percent disability income. A desk job! No way would I survive sitting at a desk. I took the disability and retirement.

My psych-eval therapist suggested I write a journal, to jot down my feelings, both sad and happy. That would give me the opportunity to describe and focus on my emotions, regrets, guilt and more. I wanted to get away from the US crime scene, so I took advantage of my free time and went to Europe and saw some of the wonderful art that I had studied in college.

Read more of my Journal with the next installment. Be sure to come again, Monday – Friday.

Register here and you will receive the next installment via email. Click Follow button to the right.