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Times Square to Virginia Beach
Lincoln Highway to US 60 Transition
David McLane (davemclane)     Print Article 
Published 2009-11-09 22:19 (KST)   
This article is 19th in a series of reports that documents life in small towns along four major highways in the United States during these hard times. It is NOT a survey but an attempt to come a fuller understanding of the land and the people that are typically under-represented by mainstream media. You can find the author's previous article here.  <Editor's Note>
Getting off Manhattan was a lot easier than getting on: no police began running at us and waving stop when we tried to go through the Queens Midtown Tunnel (no propane allowed). We simply went up the west side and crossed over to New Jersey on the George Washington Bridge. No problem.

The problems began when we tried to figure out how to get to James Earle Fraser's Lincoln Statue in Lincoln Park. The directions in our guidebook, the Lincoln Highway Companion, were sketchy so we tried Google Maps. We'd had problems with Google before as it sometimes gives explicit directions to a that doesn't exist. So we use a three step process. Plan A: get the address; use Google to get directions; use Google Earth to look at the address to make sure it looks like the place, using both the satellite overhead view, and, where possible, the street view.

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Whoops, Google was sending us to some building in the corner of a playing field with no statue in sight!

Plan B: use Google Earth to look around to see if we could find the actual destination. Problem solved: the statue appeared with both the overhead and street view. We arrived at first light on a grey shrouded morning just starting to rain, an appropriate setting for "Lincoln The Mystic"

James Earle Fraser's Lincoln Statue, Lincoln Park, Jersey City, N.J.
©2009 D. McLane

WE'D MISSED THE LINCOLN HIGHWAY through New Jersey on the way to Times Square, but we found bits and pieces on our way to the start of the next section of our journey, US?60, at Virginia Beach, Va. Perhaps because it was a cloudy-rainy Sunday morning, but we weren't able to start up a conversation until the next morning at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

For example, we stopped at the Thomas Edison Center Museum where Thomas Alva Edison -- "the Wizard of Menlo Park" -- had set up his research laboratory in 1876. It was here that Edison came up with his most famous inventions, including the phonograph and a commercially viable incandescent light bulb. The museum was closed, nobody was around, and the Art Deco tower was surrounded by a chain link fence looking like it was being renovated.

Edison Tower, Edison Township, N.J.
©2009 D. McLane

NEXT CAME THE ORIGINAL SOUPMAN, Al Yeganeh's World Renowned Soups. According to an Associated Press article, Al Yeganeh, the soupmaker who inspired the Soup Nazi character on 쏶einfeld, closed his original Manhattan shop in 2004 to focus on franchising Original SoupMan stores across the country. They launched around 40 stores in the first two years and started selling frozen soups to grocery stores. But disgruntled franchisees say many of the new shops didn셳 make it through the first year: At least eight have closed for good. Two more have shut their doors for now, although the company said it has deals in the works to reopen them.

The soup was good, but no eye contact with the guy who ladled it out and took our money. A couple came in, ordered, and took their soup to the stools by the windows: no eye contact either. I'm guessing the reason for Yeganeh's first success was not just his soup, but his character which has been reduced to a cardboard cut-out. No eye contact.

The Original Soupman, Edison, N.J.
©2009 D. McLane

NEXT WE CAME ON A SIGN SAYING "DURGA TEMPLE." Having spent some time in India -- Sueko and I went to the Durga Temple in Benares on January 1, 2000 after a dip in the Ganges -- I had some idea of who Durga was, a warrior goddess created to destroy the greatest demon of all, Mahishasur (literally, "Buffalo Demon"). Not destroy as in "do away with" but destroy as in "release from the bondage of his evil ways." Thus Durga is usually shown with multiple arms holding a variety of weapons wearing a beatific smile as she destroys/releases Mahishasur.

The exterior of the temple was plain and simple while the inside held not only the main image of Durga (the Invincible), but those of Ganesha (Remover of Obstacles), Lakshmi (Wealth), Saraswathi (Fertility and Prosperity) and so on.

There must have been more than a hundred people, mostly families, the woman in saris and the men in more-or-less western clothes. People were offering prayers in front of each deity and receiving prasad (anything, usually edible, that is first offered to a deity) in front of Durga. We joined with our own prayers and received prasad even though we were hardly dressed for the occasion.

No photos were allowed but somehow the iron fence with it's golden weapon-like spears seemed to capture the mood.

Fence, Durga Temple, South Brunswick, N.J.
©2009 D. McLane

NEXT CAME A HISTORY LESSON. First in the form of the Delaware & Raritan Canal State Park and, second, in the form of a wooden bridge that had been destroyed by George Washington's troops on January 3, 1777 following the battle of Princeton to prevent pursuit by Lord Cornwallis.

The Canal was built in the 1830s to connect the Delaware River on the border of Pennsylvania and New Jersey to the Raritan River which is further east in New Jersey and empties into the Raritan Bay on the western side of New York harbor. The total length of the entire canal system was approximately 66 miles (106 km) and linked Pennsylvania to the New York City markets carrying tons of cargo, mostly coal.

The Battle of Princeton was a complicated affair which ended with the British forces collapsing and considered a great victory due to the subsequent loss of control of most of New Jersey by the Crown forces. The destruction of the bridge that lies just past the Park Office was part of Washington's deception as to where his troops were which contributed to the victory.

Delware and Raritan Canal State Park Office, Princeton, N.J.
©2009 D. McLane

LAST CAME THE LINCOLN MOTEL mentioned in the Lincoln Highway Companion. What isn't said is the motel office sells various kinds of alcohol for guests only, and is run by an Indian family from Bombay.

The person in charge had no idea why the place was called the Lincoln Motel, why it had a silhouette of Lincoln on the sign by the highway, or why there was a bust of Lincoln hanging on the wall of the office alongside those of Lakshmi and Saraswathi. I think she thought we were making up some story for dubious purposes until we showed her the photo in the guidebook when she settled down but refused to give her name.

Lincoln Motel, Feasterville-Trevrose, Pa.
©2009 D. McLane

WITH THAT, WE ENDED OUR SEARCH FOR REMNANTS OF THE LINCOLN HIGHWAY and headed for the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. which seemed like a fitting place to end the Lincoln Highway section of our journey.

The closest place we could find to camp was at the Wal-Mart in Bowie, Vg. Not so bad, only 20 miles from the Memorial. Very quiet with no trucks running their engines all night.

Wal-Mart, Bowie, Pa.
©2009 D. McLane

We were up and on the road early early the next morning and managed to get to the Memorial and find a place to parallel park our van a trailer a few hundred feet off to the south before there was any light in the sky.

Nobody was there at that hour except the guards who were all black. I walked around reading the inscriptions while Sueko struck up a conversation with one of the guards who said the only person who could see the tip of the Washington monument in the reflecting pool was Lincoln. Then he took her down a few steps to the mark showing where Martin Luther King Junior had given his "I have a dream" speech and where Barack Obama had also given a speech. He ended by saying, "Because of him, I am here."

Sueko thinks he meant Lincoln, but I think he might have meant Martin Luther King and maybe Obama as well.

Meanwhile, I took a few test shots and tried to set up a tripod but was told that was forbidden as it could scratch the marble floor. I moved it down to the mark the guard had shown Sueko but, again, I was told it was forbidden. But after showing how the ends of the tripod legs were rubber, they said, "As long as there wasn't anybody around to trip over it, no problem. "

While waiting for the light, we contemplated the reflection of the Washington Monument and the words inscribed on the wall behind the statue of Lincoln.
The inscription on the west wall was the full text of the Lincoln's Gettysburg Address which ends with these well-known words:

It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

The inscription on the east wall was the full text of Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address which ends with these well-known words:

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

Now I've read those words many times but never really paid much attention to the full text, especially those of Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address. That morning I had plenty of time as there wasn't much else to do while waiting for the light so I read and re-read a part that I had never come across before which was this (slightly edited):

Both [sides in this civil war] read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other.

The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. "Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh."

Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.

The next paragraph, which starts with the above well-known "With malice toward none, with charity for all . . ." ends the address. Yet to my way of thinking the part I quoted, especially "The prayers of both could not be answered," is perhaps more important as it suggests that, for Lincoln, "God" was the Lord of all, not just those on one side of a dispute.

At last the light had come and I kept shooting the Washington Monument until I got a shot that showed the orange-red eastern horizon behind the Monument and its reflection in the pool.

Washington Monument, Washington, D.C.
©2009 D. McLane

It took quite a while for the sun to rise high enough to clear the buildings on the eastern horizon and hit Lincoln. Runners began to appear out of the darkness down below, come up the steps, jog in place for a few minutes, and head back down and disappear.

As one man reached the top he said, "Bonjour monsieur!" and without thinking I replied "Bonjour," which is about the limit of my French. We chatted for a minutes and I found he'd come to Washington from Paris on business and took the opportunity to not only continue his morning run, but to ascend to such a grand view.

Finally the sun had risen high enough to fully light Lincoln in the midst of the shadows of the pillars that represent the states.

Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C.
©2009 D. McLane

Then it was off to the next section of our journey, US?60 which begins at Virginia Beach, Va.

I will also be posting this story to Open.Salon a few days after it I've sent it to OMNI and will then send a newsalert containing links to both websites to my mailing list.
©2009 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter David McLane

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