For years I kept journals -- in composition, spiral bound, and French graph paper books. This blog is an attempt to get back to writing and documenting the world around me using photos, newspaper headlines, and other articles.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Another day of walking

I decided to start my day at the Newseum.  Several people told me that it was a must see, but didn't tell me why.  I think I was expecting something slick and techy.  I wasn't expecting an emotional couple of hours including two exhibits where I stood and cried.  It is way powerful.  The Newseum starts the visitor at the lowest level with a quick, four minute intro video.  You exit and walk past part of the Berlin wall and accompanying information.  I was in San Diego, the fall after my college graduation.  I remember watching the news with Dad and Valerie on Theta Place and watching it fall. 

From there, you get in an elevator and go all the way up to the top level.  I stepped out on to the terrace and took the obligatory photo of the Capitol and other buildings.  It is a great view.  Then you walk back in and go past the collection of front pages leading up to and through the first days of Hurricane Katrina.  There is a room filled with enlarged photographs, reporters' notebooks, and more newspaper front pages.  There are a couple of places where they also replay portions of news casts from those days.  I stood there watching the broadcast where Robin Roberts says that her family survived but the family home did not, and cried.  I looked around and noticed that I wasn't the only one wiping my eyes.  The cumulative aspect of many of the exhibits is what got to me.

Reflection of FTC in Newseum
  The other crying episode happened in the 9/11 Gallery.  They have on display a piece of the mangled antenna that was on the North Tower.  The backdrop is a two-story collection of front pages from around the world.  Then there is a small theater area where there is a short film about the journalists who covered the tragedy.  The charred cameras and a partial press badge from a journalist killed in one of the towers is also in a display case.  The whole gallery isn't very big, but it packs a wallop in terms of a visceral response.  It is quite amazing. 

There are other really fun exhibits -- a big screen movie and a collection of photos from the Presidents' personal photographers.  A gallery of newspapers in chronological order in plastic cases for important days in history is also interesting.  There is interactive stuff for kids that is great -- booths where a kid can pretend to give a news cast and history games on computers.  I had to leave the Pulitzer Prize-winning photographs gallery.  By that point, it was too much visually for me to handle.  Too much sorrow, tragedy, terror, disaster both man and nature made -- for me to cope with.  The photographs are award winning for a reason, but I had reached my capacity to take in those images.

Refreshed by a bag of chips and soda, I went out into the 96 degree afternoon and walked up to the National Portrait Gallery.  I needed a bit of beauty to soothe my heart and stomach.  Even though it was a bit of a walk, I'm glad I went.  My favorite individual piece was Looking for the Mountain by Pat Steir.  The two rooms of portraits of America's Presidents were great. 

As I'm typing this, a mystery about my day has been solved.  All day I passed by people wearing soccer jerseys.  Every other group of people had a Manchester United jersey or a Barcelona one on.  There is a game on tonight with the two clubs near by.  No wonder!  And the event is sponsored by Turkish Airlines which explains the call from my husband earlier telling me that there was something major happening in the area, he just wasn't sure what or where.

The other thing that was different today than other days I have walked around were the number of times that police provided escorts of big, black Chevy Suburbans or other limo type cars with country flags on the hood.  The first time I heard all the sirens I assumed an ambulance or fire engine needed to come through.  But no, just foreign diplomats or our own.  Several cars came up Pennsylvania Ave and entered the private White House driveway.  Let us hope our lawmakers are hammering out a deal this weekend.  Enough said.

After the art, I took the metro over to the Farragut West station and walked over to a camera shop that I had read about.  It wasn't worth the trip.  But now that I was over on 20th street, I decided to go by the north side of the White House to St. John's Episcopal Church.  The facade is smaller than I expected, as was the Blair House.  But that didn't stop me from taking even more pictures.  I continued down 15th Street and walked to the Ellipse and took another photo of the South side of the White House.  Apparently I missed Matt Damon who had been with the protest marchers for Education earlier in the day.  Oh well.

Flags at the White House gate

Building next to the W Hotel

I did, however, see Mary Murphy from So You Think You Can Dance.  She was dancing at the open air stage behind the Washington Monument for National Dance Day.  She led the group in a beginner level salsa.  That was fun.  Before she got on the stage, there were performances by a flamenco group, three women contemporary dancers and a step troop.  I had left the area to get the metro at the Smithsonian when I heard Mary's voice over the sound system.   I went back so that I could participate in that salsa.

Smiling from her infectious joy in dancing, I left the Mall and went to the metro.  I was hot, but happy.

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