Tuesday, May 3, 2016

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.

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