February 23, 2008

A Perfect DC Morning

This is as good a way to break the silence of the last couple of months as any. I was in Washington, DC last weekend for the Winter Meetings of the National Association of Utility Regulatory Commissions (how's that for an awkward title?). I had a couple of hours to kill before the first meeting, so I walked down to the Mall from my hotel (which, while nice, wasn't as bright as the photos in the link suggest, nor do the photos do justice to the forty foot deep construction hole arrayed around two sides of the hotel, including the side that held my room's windows).

My first stop was the Canadian Embassy, which has Bill Reid's masterpiece, The Spirit of Haida Gwaii, on display in the courtyard (although it is somewhat jammed into the corner). I recommend a visit, if you're in DC; even better, if you are in the Vancouver, BC, airport, visit its version, which is displayed more fully, I think. While I was there, I noticed a group of young people at the other end of the courtyard playing in a raised circle railed into the end of the courtyard, so, when they left, I walked over to see what the fun was about. Above the circle of courtyard is a shallow dome, which, when you make a sound in the center of the circle, like stamping your feet, reverberates several times. Echo, echo, echo, echo... Pretty cool.

I crossed Pennsylvania Ave., and swung by the Apex Building, headquarters of the Federal Trade Commission. I love the deco building and sculptures around it, especially Man Controlling Trade, by Michael Lantz. It caused some reflections on a time when labor -- the construction of actual things -- was respected in this country. I walked west along Pennsylvania, past the John A Wilson Building, which houses part of the DC's government, and the White House, and then slid back down to Constitution Ave., at 17th, feeling better the farther from the center of the executive branch that I walked. I continued west along Constitution to 23rd, where I turned south and looped around the Lincoln Memorial, stopping to read the Gettysburg and the Second Inaugural addresses inscribed on the walls and to consider the view over the Reflecting Pool, imagining filled with hopeful Americans, listening for their dreams or for the wisdom to end a war. It was empty that day.

From there, I walked the length of the Mall to the National Gallery of Art, where I attended an interesting overview tour of the East Building, which houses the modern art collection. It was an expertly done tour, but only covered the building and a handful of works, though it included the wonderful Pollack they have in the collection. I did go back a few days later, when I had the chance. I finished up with a salad at the cafe, soothed by the sound of the cascade waterfall, and hoofed it back up to my meeting, a perfect morning, completed.