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Read my friend Rachel's insightful story about the Vietnam Wall in the new issue of Washingtonian.

Chris Klimek

Rachel Manteuffel is a writer of upsetting talent. She's also a good actor. We met when I interviewed her a few years ago for a video I made about a play she was in. But I was already a fan of her writing then. That's the gift she has that I actually resent and feel threatened by.

My only consolation is the knowledge -- because we're friends, you see; we talk -- that her brilliance is not extempore. She works very, very hard to be this good. She earns it.

...and then she sends you a dashed off, steam-of-consciousness e-mail that's funnier than anything you've ever flushed away a weekend sweating over.

Including YOUR MOM. By which I mean your mom, obviously.

I have never met Rachel's mom nor has she met mine. But we have each made spectacularly vulgar claims and assertions to one another, mommawise.

Rachel and I enjoy the same kinds of jokes.  So why can't I write like this?

Everyone who cries at the memorial has something in common. It’s a mending wall. It invites a particular contemplation by those who survived and now face the confounding privilege of becoming old.

And finally, in a way, the wall is a monumental, daring deception.

By removing all context from the wall, [designer Maya] Lin only seemed to be declining to make a statement. But the absence of context, of course, wasn’t without meaning—because the memorial says nothing about glory or sorrow or heroism or democracy or freedom, nothing about making the world a better place or making a sacrifice for a worthy cause. All that’s left is loss of life, the only thing everyone could agree on, a single existential truth. These people are gone, and that’s all there is to say about the war.
— From "The Things They Leave Behind: Artifacts From the Vietnam Veterans Memorial"