Yup, since getting back in May from my trip in April, I’ve been putting this off for far too long. Due to popular demand, I’ve pared down 5,000 photos (not all of them winners, admittedly) and so here we go. Gather around the couch, fix your eyes on the projector screen, and enjoy.
I arrived in Washington, D.C. on the final day of the Cherry Blossom Festival, April 11th. This is near the Ronald Reagan Building, with the Capitol in the background.
Southern Belles in Constitution Gardens by the pond.
On the other side of the pond Sikhs were celebrating Vaisakhi. One could hear the kirtan music being performed on the stage (an example) filling the air from where the Southern Belles were. Add a gaggle of Irish Pipe Band members in kilts and this is definitely my kind of city!
I really don’t need to identify what this next picture is. There is a park service ranger responsible there, with ladder and book, for helping anyone find a name on the wall. I was amazed at how efficient he was. One thing I was struck by was how much smaller it was than I had imagined. I mean, it’s hard to quantify nearly 59,000 names. Then again, it’s a bit of an optical illusion, being nestled as it is into a knoll.
One end of the arched Vietnam Memorial points towards the Washington Monument, the other, towards the Lincoln Memorial. Of all the many photos I took I decided to choose this. How many times have you seen the ceiling of the “Temple” in pictures?
Sometimes, one misjudges when trying to shoot over people’s heads, and it works out anyway. I wish the resolution had been higher, ’cause I liked this cropped photo with words from Lincoln’s second inaugural address (I do not know the girl, unfortunately).
The first thing I saw upon landing at Ronald Reagan Airport, and the landmark which helps you get your bearing at nearly all times, is the Washington Monument, with the Capitol in the background. One is struck by all the layers of symmetry in the original city planning of L’Enfent and all the monuments large and small added since. Here, the WWII Memorial is nestled between the end of the Reflecting Pool and the hillock upon which the Washington Monument stands, but is not readily seen here. A Navy drill team can be seen in the bottom right.
The Korean War Memorial, near the Lincoln Memorial. In the reflection of the black granite can be seen both the ghostly faces sandblasted into the stone, as well as the stainless steel statues representing the soldiers who fought in the Forgotten War. I went back after dark later in the trip, and that is especially haunting.
Speaking of forgotten, don’t you think World War I deserves something more than this? Then again, I love it for its quaint, dignified simplicity. At the time I hadn’t known what it looked like and only later realized that this photo I’d snapped on a whim had been it. A shame, I would have liked to at least walk around it.
From the last remaining sakura in bloom on the Tidal Basin. It was tricky to get this as everyone flocked to it, tried to politely get a few shots, and moved on to the Jefferson Memorial.
I thought this was sort of ironic, on some level, though Jefferson was no atheist.
I also took a few pictures (which I won’t show) of one of the quotes on a large panel I really liked:
I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions. But laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.
Never mind that I was there both at midday and evening, and surely hope that morning gives a photographer better lighting. I had a hard time getting any really good shots. This next one was about the only one with good lighting.
North façade of the White House. The first time I caught view of it was the southern façade when I didn’t have my camera, or it had ran of out of battery power. I can’t describe what it’s like to see it around the bushes for the first time. It’s a little like the feeling of magic Disneyland gave me as a kid.
Arlington Cemetery. With the inexplicable conservative criticism over Thurgood Marshall, I’m not sure I should be showing the general location of this, but here is his grave, with Arlington House in the top left. Arlington House is where Robert E. Lee lived and wrote the letter which resigned his commission in the US Army.
John F Kennedy’s eternal flame. When crossing the Arlington Memorial Bridge from the Lincoln Memorial into Virginia at night, this little flame can be seen vividly. I wondered if they turned it up at night. But, in any case, it is another example of the symmetry of the whole area. I can only imagine that the surveyor, George Washington, would have been pleased.
RFK’s gravestone. Directly underneath the Lee House. There is no more prestigious, or dramatic place to be buried in the cemetery.
To the left of Robert’s final resting place, with the same simple gravestone and cross, is his brother Teddy’s grave.
This is the view from the Lee mansion, and why the Union Army seized it early on in the Civil War.
Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns. This is located behind a very photogenic Greek style amphitheater of which I clicked a few good shots, as well. Audie Murphy’s simple grave is across the entrance to the amphitheater.
Hail to the Chief! Turning onto Pennsylvania Avenue, during the Nuclear Security Summit, the President’s motorcade. Okay, so, I decided to pick the second limo here, but it could have been the first. The only thing bad about this is you can’t the Secret Service Officer in the white very well. He had stopped us there, next to the Treasury Building for around five to ten minutes before we could even hear the sirens. If I had thought that was scary though, my heart went still when I saw the SUV’s with windows rolled down and MP5‘s in very deliberate view. When trying to remember the name of the gun I happened upon a Freeper discussion which claimed that “Obama’s Secret Service” was aiming them at the crowd protesting HCR (yeah, what would be the heightened security concern, anyway?). But get over it, it’s just not you, it’s protocol. It was actually hilarious, the Freeper’s hysterical paranoia. Unfortunately, I don’t have pictures of the SUVs. Though I clicked a few of the motorcade, I didn’t feel like testing the graces of the scary lookin’ dudes with the submachine guns.
This is where there was an older couple, which exchanged knowing glances with me, a smirk, and I almost felt as if we’d break out in conspiratorial giggles together. I’ve put the street sign in this photo so you may identify the building yourself.
Within the innermost chamber of this Temple of Justice where a soon-to-be secret Muslim Jewish Justice will sit, some overly confidant and enthusiastic dumbfuck asked when the Health Care Bill would be on the docket. Luckily, the buxom blonde (forgive me, but it left an impression) whom had politely held back eyerolling told Mr Dumbfuck to check the docket online for upcoming cases. I think it was a wise move not to mention who was between Charlemagne and Justinian in the courtroom frieze (it’s Muhammad).
Inside the Library of Congress. Not far from the Great Hall (pictured) is a vellum copy of the Gutenberg Bible, and the Giant Bible of Mainz. On the second floor was a recreation with period books, of Jefferson’s library. They are trying to track down every book. For some reason I thought of scenes from The Ninth Gate, globe trekking to track them all down. This was one of my favorite places on the trip. I’ve always found libraries more spiritual and replenishing than church. And, even though the building had no books itself (apart from those exhibited), it was a Cathedral to Learning. The décor and art adorning it was all gorgeous. I am admittedly one of those people that digs really ornate styles, though. They had an interesting exhibition on Afghanistan I was only able to scan, unfortunately. I had to miss a lot of stuff like that I hadn’t slated, due to limited time and scheduling.
Another one of my favorite places, so much so, I visited it twice. The Freer Gallery of Art. Not only does it have an excellent exhibition of pieces from China, Japan, Egypt, India and the Middle East, it also features American art featuring the works of James Abbot McNeill Whistler. Unlike other Smithsonians, you can have it to yourself and no metal detectors, which did throw off the routine I had down pat.
In the museum, the holy grail for me was this, a silver phiale from the reign of Artaxerxes I (465-425 BCE) with inscriptions in Old Persian Cuneiform.
The Capitol Building from the Eastern side, the Senate is in the foreground. The House is in session (trivia: how can you tell?).
“Speaking” of the House.
The Capitol rotunda, with the Apotheosis of Washington. I actually liked the Statuary Hall too, perhaps better. Unfortunately I was on tour and it was crowded with other groups, and I was pretty much rushed and too discombobulated to patiently focus on getting great pictures in either chamber.
This is an underground tunnel to the Cannon House Office Building. On the way back, our group sans guide, who had ditched us, used a VIP elevator by mistake (it’s not clearly marked from underground) and on the main floor got the stinkeye from some suit. It was funny that rather than feel like I did something wrong, I got some satisfaction out of this fellow having to share it with us common folk. I get the security concerns, but on the way down an aide offered to take us back down on it with her, should we not catch the regular elevator.
This is my congresswoman’s office. In it, before the tour, I had met my old precinct captain during the 2008 election who remembered me. Apparently she’d moved up in the world since then, but still remembered little ol’ me. Quite embarrassingly, I more immediately recognized her, but blanked on her name (which was on the tip of my tongue, but nothing came) and had to consult my journal two years back later that night. Right after taking this picture, three attractive young women passed us in the hall. I was looking at the two cute ones in the front obscuring the third one, that only upon looking back did I realize that I’d just passed my congresswoman! What are the chances of that timing?
This is the Botanic Garden on the Capitol. Seriously, it’s right there across the street from the Western front of the Capitol Building. Walk in. Especially if you were to go in Winter, you have a piece of the tropics right there. If I were a low-level staffer, I also imagine it would be a convenient place to catch some relaxation time. I saw one person just zonked out chilling on one of the benches whom I imagined fit the profile. I was less impressed by the Desert Southwest section. Oh wow, barrel and prickly pear cacti. Whoopdy friggin’ doo! I couldn’t wait to get out of there. It took away from the feeling that I was on vacation.
National Gallery of Art. Gilbert Stuart’s portrait of Washington. It just may look familiar. Yup, this is the one. Next to it Stuart’s Jefferson. I went back to the National Gallery later, so more to come.
Museum of Natural History, Harappan seal, ca. 2500 BCE. This section and the adjoining Ancient Egyptian exhibit were the highlights of this Smithsonian for me.
Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden. I just loved this piece. I never made it in the museum, but this is quite eye catching when walking the mall.
Seriously, they just need to raze this and start over. The butt ugly Watergate gives new meaning to Foggy Bottom.
The President’s Box at the Kennedy Center (which is next to the Watergate). All the pictures in it are of the First Couple taken attending shows.
Hall of Nations in Kennedy Center saturated in evening shadows.
The C&O “Canal” in Georgetown. So much for that boat ride…
Oh well, I can always have a drink. Here is my Mint Julep from the Willard’s Round Robin Bar. This is the bar in which Henry Clay first mixed the drink in Washington.