Sunday, October 10, 2010

Vacation in Washington, D.C.

I went to Washington, D.C., with my friend Katherine in late September. I've finally gotten around to sorting through my pictures.

The U.S. Capitol building itself is very impressive. Here's the dome as seen from the steps of the Library of Congress. As you can see, there is some construction going on. I don't know whether they were cleaning or repairing the dome.

Inside the dome, looking up. Note George Washington draped in a plum-colored blanket.

For every state in the union, there are two statues representing significant deceased personages from that state, life-sized in bronze or marble. For Nebraska, big surprise, we have William Jennings Bryan and J. Sterling Morton.

And here is the Capitol at night. I felt a great, stirring awe pressing on my chest at the sight of the Capitol building, because I wasn't expecting it. We just happened to drive by on the way to the hotel after visiting friends. I just looked out the car window and there it was. Beautiful.

For me, the Library of Congress was a major highlight of the trip. The library is comprised of three buildings, with the Jefferson Building being the oldest and most beautiful. These pictures are of the Jefferson Building. Everywhere you look, from floor to ceiling, you are treated to something beautiful--paintings, mosaics, sculptures, and other architectural details. It is like a cathedral for knowledge and scholarship.

I didn't get to explore too much of the Smithsonian, but I did get to visit the outdoor portion of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. Even though it was insanely hot that day (early in the morning and already over 90 degrees), I really enjoyed all of the bronze works. I have a thing for bronze sculpture.

I love the stamp tree! We used to use these (real ones) at work until a few years ago.

The Air and Space Museum was wonderful. I had seen it before, back in 1986, when I was in junior high school. Some of the things I remembered were still there. One of my favorites, namely the remote-controlled flying model of the Quetzalcoatlus northropi, was gone.

However, it was awesome to see SpaceShipOne, the X-Prize-winning spacecraft that proved you don't need heat shields to return from orbit. If you go slow enough, friction doesn't burn up the ship. What amazed me most about SpaceShipOne was how tiny it was--about the same size as the Spirit of St. Louis, which it was hanging next to. (You can see the engine and wing of the Spirit of St. Louis in the upper right corner.)

And I was amused to see Patty Wagstaff's plane hanging upside-down. I thought that was a wonderful acknowledgement of her aerobatic talents.

At the Natural History Museum, I saw a Chocobo! Okay, it was a Diatryma steini, but it sure looks like a Chocobo to me. Wark!

One day I went out alone, and I walked the long circuit around the monuments, starting and ending at the Washington Monument.

After walking around the tidal basin, my first stop was the Jefferson Memorial. It was undergoing renovations, so part of it was blocked off. I did eventually find my way around to the entrance, and I got to go inside. However, I like the way you can see the statue's profile between the pillars in this shot.

After that, I continued on to the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial. It's a sprawling, ground-level, outdoor structure of red granite with many waterfalls and bronze sculptures. Carved into the granite are numerous quotations from FDR. It's meant to show the four terms of his presidency in chronological order, but I started at the wrong end, and I went back in time from World War II into the Great Depression. Still a very nice monument, though. Looks like it would be a really nice place to sit and read.

As I continued on toward the Lincoln Memorial, because I was on foot, I noticed a few things I might not have seen if I were on a tour bus. One was this little monument to John Ericsson, inventor of the screw propeller. It was planted on the center island that divided lanes of traffic. Such a nice monument to someone I'd never heard of before.

And as I came in sight of the Lincoln Memorial, I got distracted by these colossal bronze horses on the bridge. There were four of them, two wingless and two winged. I was able to get close to one of the wingless ones, but I couldn't find a way to cross the tangled web of extremely busy streets to get close to the others. But my camera has a decent telephoto, so I was still able to enjoy the winged horses.

Finally, I made it around to the Lincoln Memorial. I have seen so many movies (and even a video game) featuring the statue come to life in various ridiculous situations that I was relieved to find I could still be impressed and awed by the reality of it.

From there I made the obligatory detours to the Vietnam War Memorial, where three bronze soldiers look toward the wall of names.

Across the way, the Korean War Memorial is equally impressive. A highly-polished black granite wall, etched with faces and scenes of the war, reflects the ghostly images of the ash-gray sculptures of soldiers trudging through knee-deep foliage.

I took many pictures of the Washington Monument and the Reflecting Pool, but this ended up being my favorite, because it's the least obvious. The Reflecting Pool is barely visible through the stand of trees that runs parallel to it.

The World War II Memorial is both somber and triumphant, and it was one of the most moving for me. There were many old veterans in wheelchairs at the site. There seemed to be a ceremony at the South Dakota pillar, where a folded flag had been placed.

Last but not least, this Masonic Temple was very near the hotel where we stayed. I never went any closer to it than this, but I did develop a certain affection for it as one of my landmarks for knowing when we were near "home." One morning, the clouds were so beautiful and pink, and the moon was still high in the sky. It was so beautiful.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Last Month for "Stay"

This is the last month to read my short story "Stay" in Crossed Genres Issue 12. At the end of October, my contract expires, and the issue will no longer be available in print or on the website. So please read "Stay" before it's gone!