Wednesday, August 10, 2016

July 21


For unknown reasons, neither of our Des Moines hotels had windowsills.  What's up with that?  Where do they suppose people will keep their Cheerios???

Our Washington DC hotel had a gracious plenty of windowsill.  This was the view southwest from our window.  You could see a lot of sky above the hotel, but nothing else but hotel.

Looking more nearly straight south was our view of Rock Creek Park, and other stuff (including, I promise, the top of the Washington Monument).  I really like it when I can see a lot of sky from my window.

Having enjoyed breakfast, I am ready to brave the heat and go downtown.

Far too many bridge players smoke, and far too many of those smokers park themselves right outside the hotel doors, forcing anyone who comes or goes to proceed through a miasma of smoke.  And they throw their butts on the ground, too.  What a bunch of dirtbags.  Shame on 'em.

Luckily for me, 20 feet from the door was this intense bed of marigolds.  I could smell the marigolds as I walked by, and so could clear my nose (and lungs) of the stink of cigarettes.

One of my favorite things to do in Washington is to ride the Metro down to the Smithsonian station, and come from underground right on the National Mall.

This year, the pleasure was distinctly muted.

I learned just before I arrived that the East Wing of the National Gallery was basically closed, and that I would not be seeing Alexander Calder's wire drawings.  Those wire sculptures are amongst my very favorite things on the Mall.  I go see them every time I visit Washington.  But not this time.  Sigh.

Little did I know that "Sorry, it's closed." was going to be one of the themes of this visit.

On July 21, I came up from underground to discover that large sections of the Mall itself are being reconstructed.

It's possible to get to a place where you can stick the lens of your camera through the chain link.  (At least this is possible if your camera has a small lens, as mine does.)  But you still get chain link and piles of dirt in your picture.

Not to mention construction machines,

enormous dump trucks, portapotties, snow fence.........  Not to mention scaffolding on the Capitol itself.

I sighed, turned my back on the Mall, and headed toward the Freer (my customary first stop when I get to the Mall).  Signs outside the front door said "Closed" and redirected hopeful visitors around the side.  After I walked along the front of the museum and turned the corner and walked another good way, went inside one of the entrance thingies to the Freer and Sackler, wandered around a lot, and finally found someone to ask, I found out the entire Freer is closed.  Not just the front door.


I mean.  I get a lot of email from the Smithsonian, and I read that email.  I contend that they do a horrible job of keeping people informed as to what is open and what is not.

Attention, museum (and zoo) people everywhere!  Visitors would rather know up-front what is closed than find out AFTER they get there!

And it is NOT helpful for workers in the museums to cheerfully tell me something will be open in September, when I live in Michigan.  This was my first lengthy visit to Washington since 2005, and who knows when I'll be back???????????????????  What will, or won't, be open in September is not interesting to me in the least.

Sigh.  I try to keep things positive here, but I was seriously disappointed that so many things were closed.

I'm glad they are working to keep things in good condition, but really, so many of MY favorite things closed?  Very disappointing.


A very few objects were on display from the Freer's collection.  (The gift store, however, was totally open.................)

I failed to capture the info about this nice big bowl.  Isn't it nicely lit?  If I had to guess, I would say it was Islamic.

So -- we can't do the Freer.  It's way too hot to linger outside in Enid Haupt's very nice garden.  Let's walk through the garden and see what's up in the Castle.

I have no idea what this plant is.  Each cluster of orange flowers had one of these white leaf? petal? things helping point the way toward the flowers.

I thought this was amaranth when I took its picture, but the label at the bottom says "chenille plant."  I looked it up online, and found that chenille plant is toxic to animals, in contrast to amaranth which is good for humans, at least.  So it's good to know that this is NOT amaranth.

Chenille plant is pretty (though toxic).  Nice to admire in someone else's garden, but I wouldn't grow it.

The back (not-Mall side) of the Castle, with part of Enid's garden.

I bought a really expensive lunch in plastic boxes in the Castle, and struggled to find a place to eat it indoors (they have tables, which were crowded).  At least my really expensive salad included lots of rotten lettuce.

At this point, I am thinking "REALLY, Smithsonian?  REALLY???????????????????????  Everything is closed AND my really expensive salad is icky????????????????"  Sheesh!

I pick out the nasty bits, and eat the rest of my lunch, and head outside.

I wander past the very cool Arts and Industries building ("Building Closed") to the Hirchhorn, which has interesting architecture and contains modern art.  I don't take a picture of the front of the Hirchhorn building, because there is scaffolding.

I'd like to take a pic of the outdoor space surrounded by the building, but guess what?

It is possible to take pleasant pics from near the location where I took the previous, but you have to work at it.  (At least the trees hide the scaffolding on the Capitol, right?)

I went in the Hirchhorn.  I thought this piece was mildly interesting.  I couldn't tell from this view what was going on.  What was part of the wall; what wasn't...............

Mostly, I believe, the above is a trick of lighting.  Once you know the trick, is it still interesting?  Hmmmm........

Many more works by the person who made this.  Many of which had so little going on that people were setting off the alarms by leaning in close trying to figure out what, if anything, was going on.  (Guessing that if you can't tell if it's a plain white canvas, or if something is going on, not much is actually going on......................)

I'm in a cranky mood, ok, after trundling my way through the heat and humidity to find out that many of my favorite things are closed.  But.  Most of the contemporary stuff that is in Serious Art Museums makes me very tired.  I have come to believe that most of it is intrinsically without interest.  Only with the backstory does it take on any "meaning" at all, and a lot of the work is actively hideous.

Is Art really about salesmanship?  Because I'm pretty much convinced that without the story line, no one would ever purchase most of this stuff.............

I thought about that, as I wandered around in museum after museum. 

You know what?  I am pretty sure there isn't much that is hideous (or pointless, like three identical black canvases...) in museums that is older than a few decades.  If it isn't appealing to look at, and you can't figure out what it "means," I'm thinking you won't find it in a museum, unless it's relatively new and someone with too much money to spend has been taken in by a story................................

That's my theory.  I'm going to keep thinking about this, as I wander in art museums, and see if I think this idea is supported, or disproved.....................

Anyway.  It was nice and cool in the Hirchhorn.  Nice and quiet, too, and not crowded.  I spent some time there.

Then I went next door to Air and Space.  This is the self-proclaimed busiest museum on the planet.  It was not that cool, and it was crowded and noisy.  We used to say the terminals at the Detroit airport were like Calcutta -- people sitting on the floor because there weren't enough seats, and other people having to step over the people on the floor because it was so crowded.

Well...................................  This has been palatte-knifed to obscure identities.  You can't tell, but there are multiple groups of people sitting on the floor.........

I touched the piece of moon rock that was carried back to Earth by an astronaut (one of my favorite things to do at the Smithsonian that was amazingly not closed), and I blew that taco stand.  Crowded noisy places are not where I want to be.........................

In addition to everything else I learned about on July 21, I found that visitors are subjected to a bag search in all venues on the Mall, and that in some places (Air and Space, for example) it's full-on airline take-everything-out-of-your-pockets and walk through a scanning device.  You have to wait in line, and take everything out of your pockets, and open your bags to be searched, so you can enter a really crowded and noisy museum.

!!!  SIgh, and argh.  !!!

I hate terrorists, and I hate the trouble they cause everyone.  Dirtbags.  Them causing trouble for me does NOT make me more sympathetic to their cause (whatever it may be).  It makes me want to exile them all to the bottom of the Marianas Trench.


(The next post will be less angry, I promise...................  I was not successful at not being angry when I was there, and reliving it, I'm angry all over again.)

Heading back out into the heat, to see what else I can do...................................


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