Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Travelogue – Taking inclusion seriously

Sunday, May 1

This morning was the first time I was really glad I had an umbrella.

I didn't account for the less-frequent Metro schedule on Sundays, so I was late for the morning service. Walking through steady rain also slowed me down. I attended a service at Foundry United Methodist Church. It joined the Reconciling Ministries Network of LGBT friendly United Methodist churches 20 years ago. One feature of the service was prayers for those going to General Conference, which starts in 9 days. The pastor is a delegate, so has a vote in the various issues. She also named a couple other delegates, though I don't know how they are acquainted with this particular church. She called to the front all those who will be going to GC to advocate for our cause (what I did 4 years ago). When they assembled I counted 17 across the front, not including the pastor. This is quite a commitment from one church. They take inclusion seriously.

This was Youth Sunday at this church so youth took part in most aspects of the service, including two pairs of youth describing what this church and their faith means to them. Twin boys did the Children's Moment. They told about a time when they were listening to the children's speaker. This person wanted to make the point that we're all different and we all have our own talents. But this speaker had a rocky start when she asked, "Does anyone look exactly like you?" The twins made a big show of nodding to each other.

The walk back to the Metro was drier. But the long service and Metro's Sunday schedule meant I didn't get to Cousin's community and her car until 1:45. She took me to a restaurant for a delicious lunch. We talked about the service as we ate. She said "I don't understand why anyone would think full inclusion is a bad idea." After lunch we went back to her house so I could finish packing. She took me to the airport.

The flight boarded on time. But the truck attached to our nose to push us back from the gate had stopped working. We had to wait until another one was available. Once we got to near the start of the runway the control tower guided us into a waiting area. There we sat for 50 minutes. Part of it was to wait out some serious weather along the route and part of it was the normal flight lanes were full of other planes from as far away as New York getting around the storm. We got into Detroit an hour late.

The calendar said spring and the azaleas were in full bloom. But most of the week was at least overcast and cool and there was rain a couple days. I definitely didn't need sunscreen. Even so, it was a relaxing week, good for a break from my regular responsibilities. A big thank you to Cousin who provided a place to stay and some companionship during the week.

Travelogue – On the bike

Saturday, April 30

No rain forecast for today and warmer temps (though no sun – no need for sunscreen since Tuesday), so I went with my original plan to spend the day on a bicycle. Cousin offered her son's bike. Alas, its tires were quite flat and I couldn't get the air pump to attach right (later Cousin said the lever worked opposite of what one expects, but I don't think that would have worked either).

I did an online search for bike rental places in DC. One with good prices was at L'Enfant Plaza. I took the Metro there. I had lunch at the food court (selections limited due to the weekend), and was on the bike before 2:00. It was cold enough I kept my jacket on (warmer than yesterday? I don't think so!).

I crossed the Washington Channel and did the loop around East Potomac Park (though I didn't realize what I was doing until I got to the end of it). I crossed another bridge near the south end of the Tidal Basin to the trail along the George Washington Parkway and the west side of the Potomac. I headed northwest.

I saw a good view of the Washington Memorial and pulled off the paved path. Between very little space beside the path before a downward slope and a likely depression in the ground my bike tipped over. With no place for my foot so did I. The grass was soft, so no injury though I felt the jolt. Four bikers who saw my tumble stopped to make sure I was OK. I could give them my name and I knew where I was. They offered to ride with me. But I still wanted to take that photo and I'm sure they wanted to go much faster than I could. Only then did one of them mention he wished he had a camera because the whole tumble seemed to happen in slow motion. I thanked them and they went on. I don't feel any effects, though a few joints might be sore in the morning. Here's the shot. Was it worth it?

I continued northwest to near Roosevelt Island, then turned around. I went beyond the bridge where I had crossed until I was beside Reagan National Airport. Then back to the bridge and across.

I walked the bike through the FDR Memorial (which I had seen before in the dark). This is a sprawling memorial with a "room" for each of his terms as president. This particular scene is (I think) from his second term. It shows a man listening intently to one of Roosevelt's Fireside Chats.

By this time I had been on the bike for nearly 3 hours and decided that was enough. I had a snack at L'Enfant Plaza before catching the Metro back to Cousin's place.

For supper we went to a nice Greek restaurant. Cousin invited a friend to join us. The place got a bit loud at times because the Washington hockey team is in the finals, which was, of course, on the screens in the restaurant and the bar next door.

After I posted the previous story about the Discover space shuttle and the flag I thought was backward, I got a note from a friend. He said I should think of a flag on a pole on a sea ship. The star field is closest to the pole, so is always upwind.

Travelogue – By a thread

Friday, April 29

A leisurely start this morning. I walked across the golf course from Cousin's house to the Metro station. It wasn't raining, but the grass was wet. The temp was again cool, so I had both sweater and jacket (things should warm up on … Monday). I got into DC and to the Renwick Gallery just in time for their noon tour. For a show that will last only another week nine artists were asked to create something for a particular room in the gallery and that something would be the only art in the room. None of the installations were paintings. Beyond that, I'll have to rely on photos – which the gallery encouraged taking.

My favorite is by Gabriel Dawe and is made up of miles of thread. I didn't get an overall shot – my images focused in on particular areas of color interplay (which my camera sometimes had a hard time focusing on). This image is from the front cover of the exhibit brochure.

Janet Eschelman hung fish net from the ceiling and shone lights on it, varying the color of the lights. This on will remain after the show. We were encouraged to lie down on the floor and look up (though I didn't). A chunk of the room was taken up by a portable bar to be used this evening. The guide said this is one of the most rented rooms in Washington.

Maya Lin, the person who designed the Vietnam War Memorial, created this map of Chesapeake Bay made of marbles. Yes, what doesn't fit on the floor climbs the walls and wraps around the windows. When there is sun on it the effect is like sun on water.

Leo Villareal created this light sculpture. It is 320 rods and 23,000 LED lights. The lights are controlled by computer. The lights can appear to flash randomly, shoot up or down, or create a series of expanding balls, part of what is seen here. The guide says the program is such that it will be a really long time before the sequence repeats.

By the time I was done at the Renwick and had lunch I didn't have time to get to the tour at the Folger Shakespeare Museum. So I decided to see some of the memorials I had only seen in twilight when I was here 2 2/3 years ago.

I found a tea shop near Lafayette Square, then walked along it and over to get a look at the White House. On my way west along the pedestrian zone a policeman said I had to head north along the park again. Hmm, something must be up, so I turned around to watch. I noticed that cop was allowing people to take the route he refused to let me take, so I went back. Nothing was said as I turned west again. At 17th Street I could see traffic was stopped. Soon four black SUVs zipped around the corner, over the lowered barriers, and into the White House drive. Cousin said it probably wasn't Obama because his motorcades have more vehicles. Biden's motorcades probably have more too.

I continued south on 17th Street, then cut across the Ellipse to the Washington Monument. I wanted to go to the top (which I had last done in 1974), but a sign said no more tickets for today. I heard a man ask a park ranger about the best way to get tickets. The reply: Be here around 7:00 am. Oh well.

I walked along the Reflecting Pool and was surprised to see how shallow it is, just a couple inches. I didn't go into the Lincoln Memorial (I had during the last trip), but went to the nearby Korean War Memorial. I had been here before, but at twilight. Because of the low light I hadn't seen the etchings on the nearby walls. Here are photos of the statues and part of the etched wall.

On to the Martin Luther King Memorial, which I has also seen before at twilight. Around the statue are some of King's important messages: "Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies." "If we are to have peace on earth, our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, or class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective."

Alas, I didn't have time for the nearby FDR Memorial.

From there I walked east to the closest Metro station (DC really needs a Metro station near the Lincoln Memorial). I took it to the Convention Center and the nearby Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church (named for the nearby Mt. Vernon Park). This is where I met Cousin.

We had a little trouble finding a place to eat because Justin Bieber was playing this evening at an arena a couple blocks away. We found a place that served chicken with Portuguese spices.

Back to the church to see a play in their basement auditorium. This was an actual auditorium, not folding chairs facing a makeshift stage. This is the home of the Washington Stage Guild. The presented the play, “The Gospel According to Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens, and Count Leo Tolstoy: Discord.” The three characters are in a locked room, apparently moments after each has died. It takes them a while to puzzle out what they have in common – each of them had created their own personal version of the Gospels. I had known about Jefferson's efforts, now published as the Jefferson Bible. I hadn't heard about the versions created by the other two.

They guess that to be able to get out of this room they need to come up with Scriptures all three can agree on. That is an impossible task. The Bible that Dicken's created apparently follows our familiar narration, but punches up the drama a bit. This is dismissed by the other two as being too fanciful, relying too much on miracles. Jefferson had cut out all the miraculous stuff and kept all the parables and general teachings. Dickens dismisses this has being flat, having no drama. Tolstoy replaces the ten commandments of the Old Testament with five from the Sermon on the Mount. I don't remember them all, though the last one is “Resist not evil.” Jefferson and Dickens insist there isn't enough left. All three then have a good look at themselves, seeing how far short they have fallen from their ideals, mostly in refusing to give up their privileged status. Jefferson, in particular, is overcome as he wrestles with calling for the abolition of slavery, yet refusing to free his own. How could he run his estate without them?

Cousin and I discussed the play on the drive back to her house. We both decided we liked Tolstoy's gospel best. That surprised both of us because we didn't expect that from Tolstoy. Both of us know him only by reputation and neither of us knows his actual works. Dickens' gospel was over the top and Jefferson's lacked warmth.

Travelogue – Discovery

Thursday, April 28

The weather today was rainy, a good time for something inside. My goal for the day was to visit the Udvar-Hazy part of the Air and Space Museum next to Dulles Airport. I checked transportation through Google Maps. It said I would have to go east, almost to the Potomac River before getting a certain kind of shuttle to take me west to Dulles Airport. As I was checking this at 10:00 it said I would get there by 4:00. Um, no.

Cousin left for her work. Then I remembered she had talked about a county bus system, one that Google apparently didn't know about. I found it online and indeed I could get a bus from the nearby Metro station to the airport and museum. Buses left every 20 minutes and the ride took 40. Cousin's assistant had agreed to take me to the museum and was relieved she had to take me only a mile to the station.

Between the airport and the museum I could see on the highway ahead a row of motorcycles, one in each lane with blue lights flashing. They slowed and came to a stop. I knew we were in for a bit of a wait when the riders dismounted. After maybe five minutes whatever was ahead had cleared. They remounted and slowly got up to speed.

At the museum I had a quick look over the military planes, then on to my real goal, the space hall. This is the resting place of the shuttle Discovery. It looks quite big up close (and the Mercury capsules look quite small). I enjoyed just sitting there looking at it.

I'm puzzled why the flag on this side of Discovery is backwards. The one on the wing and on the opposite side are correct.

I caught up with a museum tour and kept with it while it was in the space hall. I did see other things in the hall – space food, space tools, space clothing, space science instruments, Mars rovers, and various satellites.

After a late lunch (ugh – the only option was McDonald's) and more time in the space hall I did work quickly through the commercial airplanes, such as the Enola Gay, a Boeing 707, and a Concorde.

Around 4:00 I had enough of the planes, so took the elevator up to the observation deck. It is a good place to see planes landing at Dulles – when the weather is good. But it wasn't. I could see the planes in their final approach, but nothing beyond them.

I took the bus back to the Metro station and then a neighborhood bus down Cousin's road. I didn't do it in the morning because it only runs during rush hour.

This evening Cousin didn't have to work. We made a stir fry and talked about family, including her sons. One is gay and lives locally. Alas he is too busy meet me this week. Her other son is attending a university in Berlin, Germany. He is majoring in linguistics.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Travelogue – Art and more art

Wednesday, April 27

Cousin took me to the Metro station as she went to her job. It was a cool day with some rain. I wore my sweater and wished I had my jacket as well. I took the Metro to Foggy Bottom and walked to the Kennedy Center. I went on the tour. For most of it there were three of us, one being the guide. We did get into all three venues – the concert hall, the opera house, and the theater. The guide pointed out various pieces of art and lounge decor donated by this country or that. Various countries donated art in honor of John Kennedy. This is the mural made of wood in the Israel Lounge. You can see a bit of the painted mural on the ceiling. Most people don't see these lounges except on the tour. During events they are for donors.

I took the Kennedy Center shuttle back to Foggy Bottom for lunch. I then walked from I Street to Q Street to see the Phillips Collection. It's a museum of modern art that had been three adjacent houses. The special exhibit was “The Nature of Seeing” which was artwork of landscapes. There were several works of Impressionism, including a few by Monet. This one is titled Rio San Travanso of Venice, by Henri Edmond Cross.

From there I walked over a bridge across Rock Creek Park, a little ways into Georgetown. Then I walked past a lot of embassies along Massachusetts Ave. to Dupont Circle. I found a bookstore and a place serving organic burgers. It was only about 6:30, but I was tired, so got on the Metro back to Cousin's house. Because she had an evening appointment I walked from the station to her home.

Travelogue – Fly me to the moon

I'm back from my vacation. It was a good one, especially since I didn't think much about my obligations here at home. This is the first post of my travelogue. Photos included!

Tuesday, April 26

My flight from Detroit to Dulles was downsized to a plane that held only 50 people. I got a call from the airline while I was in the shower asking if I would be willing to take a different flight. Perhaps they downsized it too much. The downsizing meant I didn't get the window seat I had chosen several months ago.

My cousin was waiting for me in her car outside the door I used to exit. We were both puzzled why the airport police didn't chase her away for sitting there so long. She took me to her favorite restaurant, which serves food without additives. We then went to her home where I left suitcases and I extracted stuff I would need for the afternoon. At 2:30 she left me near the Metro station about a mile from her place. She then went back to work as head of a small leadership training company.

I took the Metro into DC, getting off at L'Enfant Plaza around 3:30. I walked to the Air and Space Museum. Along the way a motorcade passed with sirens wailing. I overheard someone tell a friend that it was Obama. Cousin said it is possible to tell because various officials had motorcades of particular lengths, though she didn't know the specifics.

Once inside the museum I spent 90 minutes in some of the exhibits having to do with space. This is one of the lunar landers that didn't go to the moon.

Back to the Metro. This time I got off at the Ballston stop. This is a district in Arlington.
I met Cousin and a friend at a restaurant for supper. We went there because she had a late afternoon appointment in the area. We had a leisurely meal. Then she and I went back to her place, stopping at the neighborhood Whole Foods on the way.

Before I went to Texas at the start of this month I thought it would be good to extend the cell phone I inherited from my dad to use on the trip. So I got on the company's website. The phone has 1600 minutes on it and I had already found that I couldn't buy more days for the phone without also buying more minutes, a reason why I didn't renew the phone at the end of January. This time I was told the phone uses 2G technology and was becoming obsolete. They would be glad to send a free phone. Since this was the day before I left for Texas, I declined.

Cousin is big on phones and I knew we would want to coordinate when and where to meet. So last week I ordered that free phone. I was told it would take 6-11 days to arrive – and I would be leaving in six days.

It hadn't come by yesterday, so I got onto the website and ordered a month of service for the old phone. The phone showed the new expiration date, but no longer showed the 1600 minutes. I started a chat session with their help people. I was told since the new phone was ordered I should wait and use it. No, I'm flying tomorrow and need a phone. Well, they said, he 1600 minutes will return with the new phone but you still have the 30 minutes on the old one. The phone finally said something other than “No Service” and I could call out, so I ended the chat.

I think they got the last laugh. Whenever I powered up the phone today it showed nothing but “No Service.” It looks like I paid for a phone I can't use. Since I left the museum about the time we had agreed to meet in Ballston, calling Cousin would have been a very good idea.

Cousin lives in Fairfax County, Virginia. It is one of the richest counties in the. One of the supper conversations was about how even in this very rich county the public amenities, such as parks, are underfunded and infrastructure in general is in poor shape. Conservatives in action with no sense of community.

A note from today – that new phone was finally shipped last Friday, April 29th. It hasn't arrived yet.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Leaving on a jet plane

In the morning I fly to Washington DC. I'll stay with my cousin who lives close to the last stop on the silver metro line. I plan to visit both Air and Space museums, borrow a bicycle to ride along the Potomac, attend a gay-friendly United Methodist Church service, and take in a few sights. I'm taking my little netbook computer along. If it cooperates I may share my travels. I'll return home Sunday evening.