Tag: Washington

Back in the D.C. Area

Back in the D.C. Area

Washington, D. C. – December 8, 2014

My arrival back in the DC area was wet.

A rainy, wet return to Arlington.

During my stay, I worked at the headquarters of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO). I worked there while I continued my agonizing wait for a visa so I could fulfill my assignment to Islamabad, Pakistan.
On one of the clear weekends, I decided I would walk about the Washington, D.C. area. Since my profession deals with buildings, I thought it appropriate to travel to the National Building Museum. I clambered aboard the Metro, disembarking at the Gallery Place – Chinatown Station. Once I was back on the ground level, I opted to stop at a Starbucks for a coffee and blueberry muffin. After my coffee, I had to take a photo of the Friendship Archway that marks Chinatown.

A group of people at the Starbucks in Chinatown at H and 7th Streets NW in Washington, D.C.
The Friendship Archway in Chinatown in Washington, D.C.

With the preliminaries out of the way, it was time to walk to the National Building Museum. Within a couple of blocks, I was at my destination.
From the outside, the building appears as an immense redbrick structure. There is not much ornamentation on the exterior. Once inside, the sheer scale of the interior space overpowers one. There are massive marble and gold painted columns throughout the atrium area. Apparently, in addition to being built for the United States Pension Bureau, the space lent itself to political gatherings.

Looking along the center of the atrium in the National Building Museum.
A view of the seemingly endless columns in the atrium area of the National Building Museum.
The fountain in the center of the atrium.
Workers setting up for a holiday choir performance.
A man and his family traversing a hallway on the upper level of the National Building Museum.
A strange device in this day and age… This payphone was tucked away near the toilets in the National Building Museum.
A sign commemorating the completion of the building to house the United States Pension Bureau. It is now home to the National Building Museum.

While the museum was nicely done, it was not one of my favorites. After buying my perquisite refrigerator magnet from the gift shop, I exited the museum to the south. I found myself facing the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. That was a bit of luck.
As an ex-cop, I have a special place in my heart for the police; especially those who have fallen on duty. I can still vividly recall sergeants reading accounts of fallen officers to us during squad meetings. That seems so far away now. Regardless, the memorial is understated but tastefully done. The names of the fallen are engraved on a curved marble knee-wall. Throughout the grounds are bronze statues of lions and lionesses watching over the names. Probably due to the time of year, there were many colorful wreaths placed throughout the memorial. The walls at the monument hold more than 21,000 names of fallen officers. It was a poignant reminder having a couple of police cars parked near the memorial.

A lion sculpture at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.
The curved wall holds the names of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty.
The emblem in the center of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.
Another lioness sculpture watches over the names of the fallen, while, appropriately, a police car is parked nearby.
A lioness sculpture above the inscription, “In Valor There is Hope.”
A view of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. The National Building Museum is in the background.
The memorial and the museum side by side.
Looking back at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.
A lioness sculpture and wreathes at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.
Looking over the roof of patrol car 9510 to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.

Near the end of my visit, I noticed a sign for the National Law Enforcement Memorial Visitors Center and Store. The location of the store is 400 7th Street NW. That was about three blocks away. I walked there, collected some souvenirs, and continued on my way.
Perchance, I stumbled across the Navy Memorial. Since my son is now a sailor, that was a unique find. Across the street to the east is the memorial to the Great Army of the Republic.

As seen from across the street, the Navy Memorial is very unassuming.
The bronze sculpture of a seaman at the Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C.
The compass rose at the Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C.
The memorial to the Grand Army of the Republic is at the Indiana Plaza in Washington, D.C.

Across the street to the south is the National Archives Museum. As I crossed the road, I saw a couple trying to entice a squirrel just a bit closer so they could get a photograph. I am not sure if they were successful or not because I continued to the front of the building. It was the first time I had ever visited the museum. I was awestruck by the founding documents of the United States. The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights are all on display. It was genuinely fascinating to see them in person. I liked this museum much more than the National Building Museum.

A couple trying to entice a squirrel into a photo op.
A sculpture at the National Archives above the inscription, “Study the Past.”
The pediment on the south side of the Archives of the United States of America.
A sculpture at the south side of the Archives building. The inscription reads, “The Heritage of the Past is the Seed that Brings Forth the Harvest of the Future.”

The following weekend I was back in Washington, D.C. Following a stunning sunrise, I returned to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Leslie, Hillary, Tyler, and I visited the Basilica in 2009 while we were stationed in the area for training with the Department of State. I found it every bit as impressive on this visit. That may be due in part to the Christmas decorations.

The stunning sunrise from my apartment. One can see an airplane on final approach to Reagan National Airport.
Stunning sunrise II.
Stunning sunrise III.

For those who have not visited the Basilica, it is difficult to get a sincere feeling for the scale and grandeur by merely looking at photographs. It is by far the largest church in which I have ever been. I shall cease the narrative now and try to let the pictures of this magnificent structure tell the story. The narration shall resume after the Basilica photographs.

The front of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
The rosette over the main door to the Basilica.
The southern face of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
A similar view of the Basilica.
The main dome of the Basilica is visible just beyond the front rosette.
The tomb of Bishop Thomas Joseph Shahan (1857 – 1932) in the Founder’s Chapel. His is the only burial in the Basilica.
Dozens and dozens of donors to the Basilica are listed in Memorial Hall.
The mosaic behind the altar in the Mary, Queen of Missions Chapel.
Detail of the mosaic behind the altar in the Mary, Queen of Missions Chapel.
Our Lady of La Vang.
The Crypt Church on the lower level of the Basilica.
Women placing poinsettias in the Crypt Church.
Detail of the mosaic at Our Lady of Ta’ Pinu.
The stained glass door to the lower level sacristy.
A mosaic depiction of Joseph in the North Apse of the lower level.
The mosaic of Jesus in the North Apse is just behind the tabernacle.
Our Lady of Vailankanni.
The Schudi Organ in the Crypt Church on the lower level.
A man cleaning the floor in front of the Nativity scene in the Crypt Church.
Our Lady of Hope Chapel.
Detail of the Our Lady of Hope Chapel.
Pope John Paul II?
The Our Lady of Lourdes Chapel.
A painted crucifix.
The Byzantine-Ruthenian Chapel.
A mosaic in the Immaculate Heart of Mary Chapel.
Detail from behind the altar in the Immaculate Heart of Mary Chapel.
Our Lady of Pompeii.
A sculpture of Mary and Jesus surrounded by Christmas trees.
The Mother of Divine Providence sculpture on the lower level.
Detail of the Mother of Divine Providence sculpture.
The Holy Family at Rest bronze. Note the stained glass reflection.
A sculpture of Saint Maria Goretti on the side of the pews in the upper church.
Part of the tour group listening to the guide while in the Our Lady of Guadalupe Chapel.
Detail of the mosaic behind the altar in the Our Lady of Guadalupe Chapel.
The painting behind the altar in the Our Lady of Czestochowa Chapel.
The mosaic of Christ on the ceiling of the North Apse.
Detail of Christ on the ceiling in the North Apse.
Wider view of Christ on the ceiling of the North Apse.
The tour group marveling at the West Apse.
A small mosaic of fishes and loaves of bread.
A mosaic of Joseph with Jesus on the ceiling of the East Apse.
In the Founder’s Chapel with our tour guide.
In the Memorial Hall.
A sculpture of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in the Hall of American Saints.
Our Mother of Africa.
A bas relief in the Hall of Our Mother of Africa.
The guide providing information in the Byzantine-Ruthenian Chapel.
Stained glass detail of Jesus in the Byzantine-Ruthenian Chapel.
Stained glass detail of Mary and Jesus in the Byzantine-Ruthenian Chapel.
A sculpture of Pope Saint Pius X.
The crucifix in the Founder’s Chapel.
Our Lady of the Rosary Chapel.
A mosaic of the Hail Mary prayer.
The Miraculous Medal Chapel.
Detail of a mosaic in the Our Lady of Guadalupe Chapel.
A man praying at the Our Lady of Czestochowa Chapel.
The Mother of Sorrows Chapel.
The Pieta in the Mother of Sorrows Chapel.
The Our Lady of Siluva Chapel.
Mary, Queen of All Hearts Chapel.
A woman at the Nativity scene on the upper level.
The Assumption mosaic near the sacristy.
The Immaculate Conception mosaic near the sacristy.
A Christmas tree under a stained glass window.
View into the sacristy.
Jesus carrying the cross mosaic.
Looking through the Baldachin Altar to the West Apse.
The stained glass to the right of the Jesus mosaic in the North Apse.
Looking through the Baldachin Altar to the organ at the rear of the upper church.
The Holy Family is in the mosaic on the left.
The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.
The Triumph of the Lamb mosaic.
Detail of the Triumph of the Lamb mosaic.
The Blessed Sacrament Chapel.
Our Lady of Mount Carmel Chapel.
Looking to the East Transept.
View to the rear of the upper church.
The bas relief of the Universal Call to Holiness.
The east side of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

Back at work, since Tyler’s graduation from boot camp was finished, I began asking the OBO folks if they needed me to fulfill another TDY assignment for them. Initially, I did not get much traction. That said, I did hear talk in the bullpen area that an FM was needed in Sanaa, Yemen. I had zero desire to go there. I would have gone if I had been tasked; however, I had zero appetite for such a destination.
After a couple of days, I broached the question again. The answer I was given was, “What about Tallinn?”
“Where the hell is Tallinn,” I replied, “I have never heard of it.”
My OBO colleague shared with me that Tallinn is in Estonia. I was still not sure of the location, but I knew it was Eastern Europe. I said, “Sure, send me there!”
I discovered the embassy in Tallinn needed some assistance from an FM for several issues they faced. That embassy receives service from the FM in Helsinki, but they needed someone onsite. My colleague told them he would send me, but there was a caveat. I would only be in Tallinn until the issues were resolved or until I received my visa for Pakistan, whichever came first. The team in Tallinn agreed to that stipulation. So, I found that I would travel to Tallinn just after the New Year.

Hirshhorn Museum

Hirshhorn Museum

Washington, DistrictofColumbia – August 5, 2012

After breakfast, reading the Sunday newspaper, and cleaning up, I decided to head to the Hirshhorn Museum. It is one of the Smithsonian museums, so it has free entry. What a wonderful museum! It is nowhere near as crowded as the Air and Space Museum (which is directly east) or the Natural History Museum. It houses works by such well-known artists as Andy Warhol, Frank Lloyd Wright, Joan Miro, Henri Matisse, Auguste Rodin, and of course my favorite, Pablo Picasso.

I came up from the Smithsonian Metro stop and walked the 300 or 400 meters to the museum. After getting my bag checked, I decided to go up to the top floor and work my way back down. Each level is circular with exhibits along the outer and inner portions. That makes it very easy for one to see each item exhibited on each floor.

The first item that caught my eye was Wall Drawing #356 by Sol Lewitt. It is one of those optical illusions that seem to keep switching perspective the more prolonged one stares. On the other side of the same room was Wall Drawing #1113, also by Lewitt. The colors were striking.

Wall Drawing #356 by Sol Lewitt (2003).
Wall Drawing #1113 by Sol Lewitt (2003).
Detail of Wall Drawing #1113 by Sol Lewitt (2003).

In the adjoining room was Flowers by Andy Warhol. He is not one of my favorites; but, how often does one see a Warhol original?

Flowers by Andy Warhol (1964).
Neon Structure by Lucio Fontana (1951).

I was surprised to see two windows done by Frank Lloyd Wright. I appreciate his architectural style, so seeing those was quite a treat. The title of the windows was Composition in Light: Window from the Coonley Playhouse. His design vision was striking.

Composition in Light by Frank Lloyd Wright (1912).

Of course, I had to include a photograph of Woman (Personage) by Joan Miro since he was a Spanish artist. It was not my favorite work, but he was from Spain.

Woman (Personage) by Joan Miro (1947-48).
Untitled by David Hammons (1989).

At this point, I entered one of the most interesting areas of the museum. The exhibit dealt with light. To a certain extent, it reminded me of the shows we saw recently in Colorado Springs at the Fine Arts Center. The first exhibit at Hirshorn by Joseph Kosuth, Four Colors Four Words set the tone. There was a lot of neon. Next was a display of black lights done by David Flavin. I found it interesting to stand there and watch the other patrons marvel at the blue hue.

Four Colors Four Words by Joseph Kosuth (1966).
People walking by Untitled by David Flavin (1974).
Untitled by David Flavin (1974).

The exhibit by Jesus Rafael Soto, Blue Penetrable BBL was the most interactive display in the entire museum. It consisted of multiple strands of some blue plastic string. It was perfectly OK to walk through the exhibit and experience the work from the inside out.

Soto was also responsible for Three and One. It was a mobile of different colored wires floating in front of a background that had multiple parallel black lines. The effect on the eye was fascinating.

A small boy emerges from Blue Pentrable BBL by Jesus Rafael Soto (1999).

Museum patrons walking through Blue Penetrable BBL by Jesus Rafael Soto (1999).
Three and One by Jesus Rafael Soto (1966).
Detail of Three and One by Jesus Rafael Soto (1966).
Light in Movement by Julio Le Parc (1962).

Several rooms later, I stumbled across two works by Pablo Picasso, Woman with Baby Carriage and Head of a Woman. While in Spain I became more and more enthralled with Picasso. I was surprised to see two of his bronze works on display.

Woman with Baby Carriage by Pablo Picasso (1950).
Head of a Woman by Pablo Picasso (1909).
Light in Movement by Julio Le Parc (1962).
Back I by Henri Matisse (1909).
Reclining Nude I (Aurora) by Henri Matisse (1906-07).
Iris, Messenger of the Gods by Auguste Rodin (1890-91).
Head of Sorrow by Auguste Rodin (1882).
Helmet Head No. 3 by Henry Moore (1960).

When I made it to the lower level, there were a couple of things that caught my eye. The first was the installation Belief + Doubt by Barbara Kruger. She had several words and phrases posted all over the walls, floors, and escalators at the lower level. One of my favorite shots by far was the lady in a black burka standing in front of the word Belief.

Belief + Doubt by Barbara Kruger (2012).
Belieft + Doubt = Sanity by Barbara Kruger (2012).
When was the Last Time You Laughed? by Barbara Kruger (2012).
People observing Belief + Doubt by Barbara Kruger (2012).
Don’t Look Down by Barbara Kruger (2012).
Money Makes Money by Barbara Kruger (2012).
People near Forget by Barbara Kruger (2012).
Question mark detail of a work by Barbara Kruger (2012).
People in front of Belief by Barbara Kruger (2012).
People in front of Belief by Barbara Kruger (2012) II.

The other item in the lower level that caught my eye was Ron Mueck’s Untitled (Big Man). That was because of the realism of the piece. Other than the size of the work, it looks like a real man. I did enjoy seeing the sculpture; however, I could never have such a piece in my home. That would be too eerie for me.

Untitled (Big Man) by Ron Mueck (2000).
Detail of Untitled (Big Man) by Ron Mueck (2000).
Detail of Untitled (Big Man) by Ron Mueck (2000) II.

After a quick stop at the gift shop, I went outside to enjoy the fountain. There were 12 works by Ai Weiwei placed around the fountain, Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads.

The building is a four-story, hollow cylinder, supported by four massive columns. Between the columns, it is an open, walk-through space. One of those areas has been glassed in. That is where the main entry and gift shop is located. In two of the areas, there are tables and chairs. They provide a relaxing, shady rest stop.

The center of the cylinder features a large water fountain to which I alluded above. That adds to the relaxing ambiance. Periodically, maybe every 30 minutes or so, the spray stops.

People walking by Circle of Animals by Ai Weiwei (2010) as seen from inside the museum.

People by Circle of Animals by Ai Weiwei (2010).
Circle of Animals by Ai Weiwei (2010) in the courtyard of the museum.
People taking photographs of Circle of Animals by Ai Weiwei (2010).
People walking by Circle of Animals by Ai Weiwei (2010).
Detail of the bull in the installation Circle of Animals by Ai Weiwei (2010).

Georgetown

Georgetown

Washington, District of Columbia – February 24, 2010

Tyler and I headed out today for a quick trip from Madrid, Spain to Georgetown, Washington, D.C.  While we were waiting at the Barajas Airport in Madrid, my boss sent me an e­mail that I received on my Blackberry.  He wanted to know if I wanted to attend a greening conference in Paris in April.  It took me about two nanoseconds to say yes.  However, I could not get my Blackberry to work to send a reply.  Finally, not wanting to miss out on this opportunity, I called my boss’s office manager and asked her to sign me up!

Waiting in Barajas Airport in Madrid for our plane to Washington, D.C.
Our airplane getting ready for us.

In preparation for our trip, I woke up at 05:00 in Spain.  Tyler and I actually sat down for dinner in Washington, D.C. at 03:00 (Madrid time) the following day!  We were bushed.  When we arrived in Philadelphia from Spain we went through the diplomatic line at immigration.  That only took about a minute.  Then we had to go to the luggage area to get our bag.  After that, we breezed right through customs.  Then the ordeal began.

Even though we had been through three different security screenings in Madrid, we had to go through security again in Philadelphia.  It was like standing in line for a ride at Disney World.  The line snaked back and forth multiple times.  We finally made it through the x-ray area with no problem.

We made our way to the gate for our flight.  Our flight to Washington, D.C. was supposed to leave Philadelphia at 17:45.  Tyler and I sat down and I looked up at the sign in the boarding area.  The sign indicated our departure time at 18:40.  I got up to go check the monitors in the hall.  Sure enough, the new time was listed as 18:40.  I got back to the seating area and shared the news with Tyler.  Just as I did, the gate agent made an announcement that our gate had changed.  We were fortunate that the new gate was right next to our old gate.  We entered that seating area, sat down, and watched it fill up with people.

The sign in our seating area still showed a departure time of 18:40.  After being there for nearly an hour, the gate agent announced they were still waiting for our plane.  They expected it at the gate at 18:05.  At about 18:05, the gate agent said they were changing our gate again.  The new gate was at the far end of the concourse.

Tyler and I made our way to the newly assigned gate and sat down.  We did not see anyone coming down the ramp from the plane at that gate until about 18:20.  I told Tyler there was no way we were going to take off at 18:40.  Sure enough, we did not board until about 19:00.  The plane was packed.  There were only about one or two empty seats.

We finally pushed back from the gate and taxied toward the runway.  When we got in line for takeoff, the captain announced that we were number 13 for takeoff.  There was a huge, collective sigh of disbelief from the cabin.  We finally took off at about 19:30.

When we got to Reagan National Airport, we had to wait for our bag.  Of course, they changed the baggage pickup point once while we were there.  We finally got our bag, got a taxi, and rode to the hotel.  As I noted above, it was about 03:00 Spain time when we finally sat down to have something to eat.

While we were in the gate seating area in Philadelphia, it was approaching midnight Spain time. I was tired so I would lean my head back against the wall and close my eyes.  I was shocked at the cacophony of sound.  The Muzak playing in the area was classical music.  Competing for that at about the same sound level was the CNN Headline News coming from the television.  Also competing for sound space was the ever-present clicking of keys as people typed away on their laptop computers.  I could hear several people having conversations on their cell phones.  Trying to drown that out was the dull roar of many conversations taking place both in the seating area and in the concourse.  Periodically it was all punctuated with an unintelligible announcement on the speakers in the concourse.  As if that were not enough, there were many different food smells also vying for my attention.  It was nearly a sensory overload.

The following morning, we heard on the news that they are expecting another heavy winter storm in the northeast.  Just a couple of weeks ago, Washington, D.C. was hit with about three feet of snow.  They are only expecting 1 – 3 inches from this system; however, Philadelphia is expecting about 12 inches.  That is a little unnerving because today is Thursday and we are supposed to fly out of Philadelphia this Saturday.  I do not think the snow will be a problem on Saturday.  But I am concerned about the airlines trying to get back on schedule after having multiple canceled flights because of the weather.  Oh well, it is out of our hands.

The view from our room in the Georgetown Inn, Washington, D.C.

In Georgetown, just a couple of doors from where we were staying was a Five Guys burger joint.  We decided to eat there.  The burger was huge, the french fries were huge, and the drinks were huge.  They don’t eat like that in Spain, but it sure was good!  We both had a bacon cheeseburger. On them, we both had pickles, grilled onions, catsup, and mustard.  When we ordered, I did not realize they were double hamburgers.  It was a huge lunch.  We did not even put a dent in the french fries.

For dinner, we ate at the Sea Catch restaurant.  It was a little pricier than I originally anticipated.  Tyler and I both had lobster and fillet Mignon.  We also had a Cesar salad.  All total, including the tip, our dinner was $150.  That being said, it was very good.

While we had some free time, we went to the National Aquarium.  I was very disappointed with that venue.  It was by far one of the worst aquariums I have ever visited.

A puffer fish.
An emperor anglefish.
A blue tang.

When we left the aquarium, we took a taxi to the mall.  We got out near the Washington monument.  It was bitterly cold and a stiff wind was blowing.  We walked to the Smithsonian castle and looked around there for a while.  A couple of the memorable items we saw were a Gibson Les Paul guitar and the crypt of John Smithson.

It was definitely a whirlwind trip.

James Smithson’s crypt in the Smithsonian Castle, Washington, D.C.
A Gibson guitar, Les Paul model, in the Smithsonian Castle.
Waiting at Reagan National Airport for our return trip to Madrid, Spain.
National Basilica

National Basilica

Washington, D. C. – August 2, 2009

We went to mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.  This is the first time I have ever seen a Basilica.  It was HUGE!  When we arrived, we walked around the lower level of the Basilica.  There were 33 separate chapels and areas to view.  I thought one of the most striking was the Mary, Queen of Missions chapel.  So much of the artwork in the Basilica is done with the mosaic method.   That makes the details all the more amazing.

The National Basilica, Washinton, D.C.
The ambo.
A mosaic depicting Pentecost.
The mosaic of Christ on the ceiling of the North Apse.
A mosaic depicting the presentation of Jesus.
The Triumph of the Lamb mosaic.
The mosaic of Christ on the ceiling of the North Apse.
The altar prior to mass.

After walking around the lower level, we made our way to the upper level of the Basilica.  On the upper level, there are 72 separate chapels and areas to view.  As I noted, this place is HUGE!  It is not only big from a floor space standpoint, but it is also big from a volume standpoint.  I estimate there is enough room from the floor to the ceiling to put a three or four-story building inside the space.

A mosaic depiction of Joseph in the North Apse of the lower level.
Detail of the mosaic depiction of Joseph.
The mosaic of Jesus in the North Apse is just behind the tabernacle.
The mosaic of Mary in the North Apse.
The Crypt Church on the lower level of the Basilica.
The mosaic behind the altar in the Mary, Queen of Missions Chapel.
The tomb of Bishop Thomas Joseph Shahan (1857 – 1932) in the Founder’s Chapel. His is the only burial in the Basilica.
The Mother of Divine Providence sculpture on the lower level.

As we arrived at the upper level, the mass was just letting out.  We knew the noon mass would start soon, so we went in and took a seat in a pew.  It just so happens we sat right in the front row.  However, once mass started, I found it very difficult to concentrate or to have a real sense of reverence.  The space was so huge, there was so much to look at, and the mass was such a production, I just could not get into the spirit.

At the end of mass.

After mass, we ate in the cafeteria on the lower level.  It was a very good meal.  I was shocked that the total cost of such a good meal was only about $7.50 per person.

After lunch, we walked through the gift store.  Leslie was able to get a cross for her collection.  Then it was back to the apartment.