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July 12, 2008

DC Day Trip #1

Since I've recently been spending a lot of time catching up on a friend's blog, I thought I'd go ahead and write up my adventures in and around the DC area. So, for those few of you who still check back here for interesting commentary about games, warning, there are no discussions of games here. Well, I will just mention that I visited some locations today that are in
Fallout 3, which I'm now working on, but other than that, there are no game connections to this post. Or at least, I don't intend any. They may creep in.

With that preamble, my specific targets for today's little adventure were KramerBooks and The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Gallery.

Normally when I travel into the city, I'm going with the boys -- in fact, every time I've gone into the city I've had a very specific target in mind, but I decided that I'd go in today as more of a wanderer, a solo adult just wondering what he'd see. I think it was successful, you be the judge.

It started inauspiciously. In the last 20 years or so of being an "adult" I've never unintentionally left the house without my wallet, and yet when I arrived at the Metro, I looked for my Smart Card and... no wallet. Ah, well. A 26 minute round trip and I was ready to get started. I'm glad I got any bad luck out of the way early, since I think I was relatively lucky during the day. Serendipity awaits!

I love taking the Metro into the city, since it means no parking issues and I get to read while I make my way in. Today it was Godel, Escher, Bach, which I've read before but have had the inclination to read again. It's just as fun as the first time I read it, a dozen or so years ago.

The first stop was one of the planned ones -- I hopped off the Metro at Dupont Circle and wandered to KramerBooks, which is very close by. I decided to treat myself to brunch, which included a few cups of coffee, some meat and eggs, and a strawberry mimosa. Yum! Then I browsed, and stopped myself after four books¹.

So, already it was after noon but I decided to walk down to the Hirshhorn rather than Metro it; the Metro offered more efficiency and likely less adventure.

And I'm glad I did. Because how else would I have learned that DC has an all-female Brazilian percussion group?

I hung around for a little while and learned about Admiral Farragut (for whom the square in which they were practicing was named), a Civil War appointee of President Lincoln's who famously cried, "Damn the torpedoes!" And also learned that at that time, mines were called torpedoes. Not even 1pm and I had already learned all kinds of cool stuff for the day.

Onward I went and found myself approaching the White House, passing Andrew Jackson upon his horse in Jackson Square, finally ending up finding myself face to face with an old friend.

It was good to see the old man, General Lafayette, Revolutionary War Hero and the subject of an essay I wrote to win a state contest back in high school. I have to say, he's looking good for his age.

Normally the Mall is pretty green, but with last week's big fireworks extravaganza, the grass has been pretty much trampled by thousands of feet and it was pretty dusty, so I walked along Independence Ave instead, which took me right to the Hirshhorn. It's part of the Smithsonian, which means it's completely free, despite being filled with all sorts of cool things.

There was a special exhibit going on with video installations. My favorite was Mother + Father by Candice Breitz, which was a two-room installation, each containing 6 TVs lined up horizontally. Each room explored Hollywood actors who played parents, and simultaneously explored media representations of fatherhood. Unsurprisingly, I found Father to be more compelling with, from left to right, Tony Danza (probably She's Out of Control)Dustin Hoffman (Kramer vs. Kramer), Harvey Keitel (in something I haven't seen), Steve Martin (Father of the Bride), Donald Sutherland (Ordinary People), and Jon Voigt (The Champ). What was really interesting was that each actor had been removed from the film, and they appeared to be having a sort of group conversation about fatherhood, using only lines and acting from the films. Crazy interesting piece². There were other good ones too, but that one really stuck with me.

I also took in the "recent acquisitions" floor, which had some bizarre stuff:

All in all, I'd have to call it an extremely successful trip to the museum. There were some interesting pieces in the permanent collection, too, for sure, including one outside called "Last Conversation Piece" by Juan Munoz:

On my way back Metro-wards, I also happened to stop by the National Gallery of Art's sculpture garden, which is mostly an excuse to have an enormous fountain in the center of DC. With the jets going, you can't even really hear the streets nearby; tons of people were sitting around the fountain dangling their feet in and reading. My favorite sculpture there was called Puellae ("Girls") and was by the artist Magdalena Abakanowicz. The girls kind of surprised me, peeking out from behind the granite benches as they were:

Well, that's about all I've got about today. I have two boys to read to and then I'm settling in for as much as I can make it through of Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet. My head may explode from all this culture in one day...

Here's hoping this is first in a series. I want to hit some other DC-area spots over the summer and have a mystery trip planned for when my sons are away. See you real soon! Hope you're enjoying your summer.

¹It should be noted that I have a serious bookstore and library problem. I can easily come out with more than I could hope to read; in college I discovered the limit on undergraduate checkouts from the library when I ran into it (50 books). These four were pretty manageable, Richard Feynman's The Pleasure of Finding Things Out, a book about Buddhism, Francine Prose's Reading Like a Writer (I'm curious as to how they do it differently), and an early Jonathan Lethem novel, As She Climbed Across the Table. None of them is super-long, so I'm sure I'll be able to get through them before too long, and then hopefully I'll be back for more! (back)

²In the interests of completeness, the mothers were Faye Dunaway (Mommie Dearest), Susan Sarandon (multiple roles, I think, but including Stepmom and I think Little Women), Meryl Streep (also Kramer vs. Kramer which I just realized), Diane Keaton (maybe Baby Boom?), Julia Roberts (Stepmom), and Shirley Maclaine (Terms of Endearment). (back)

Posted by Brett Douville at 07:13 PM | Comments (2)