Reconnecting with the District

I had a horrible moment Monday night:  Checking into the hotel, it hit me that I wasn’t particularly happy to be there.

I am always happy to be back in Washington.

So I quickly determined that it had been rather too long since I made a pilgrimage to President Lincoln’s shrine and set out to do so after work on Tuesday.  The first awesome thing that happened was that walking along..what is that, Independence Avenue?..when I reached the back garden of the Smithsonian Castle.  Or is that the front garden?  The front door faces the Mall, right?  Anyway, something caught my eye:

I’d forgotten how pretty those gates were.  Forgotten is not the right word.  I’m not sure I ever noticed before.  I have walked by that garden dozens of times, on my way to someplace “more important” and barely looked at them.  I’m sorry that I only had my lame camera phone, because it doesn’t remotely do it justice.  The half-dead Christmas decorations seemed both oddly and appropriately pretty in the 50-degree mid-January late afternoon. 
So I had my content little moment of “always something else to see” and then I moved on.  When I crossed over to the Mall, I caught a glimpse of my Favorite Museum on the Face of the Earth and remembered that I hadn’t gone through the entire thing – post-renovation.  So I went in and toured the Military History exhibit.  Loved it.  There were several pieces that belonged to George Washington, including his uniform and camp gear.  They also had General Grant’s camp chair. Oh!  And a uniform that General Powell used in Desert Storm.
Seriously, I would love to know how that came about.  Did someone from the Smithsonian actually call him up to ask if they could have his old clothes?   It’s not exactly an inaugural gown.
Then I hurried back to the Lincoln exhibit because I loved that the last time.  I stayed so long I was actually kicked out at closing time.  Walking down the steps, I saw this:
Has this always been there?  Have I walked into this building a hundred times and not noticed it?  What the heck does this have to do with American History?  I actually looked it up.  I believe the sculpture is called “Infinity”.  A curator named David Shayt wrote in a piece last year:
“Large works of public sculpture outside our museum doors reveal aspects of a museum’s
self-image. They beckon, reassure, or confront visitors with new ideas about what might lurk inside.”
Now, this museum has always celebrated industry and technology, but even with that understanding, I’m just not feeling this piece as representing the essence of the place.  I don’t think the concept of “Infinity” really tell helps tell the story of American History.
Whatever.  I don’t know anything about art.
I never made the official pilgrimage, but at least I will look forward to it on the next trip.  For real.

One Comment on “Reconnecting with the District

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