Monday, February 12, 2024

Washington DC Day 4- May 17, 2023

Mesmerizing Modern Art

Aside- I spelled "mannequin" wrong every time in the story of day two. I thought it looked wrong, but, apparently, "manakin" is a type of bird the spell checker knew and I didn't. However, Anabelle thought it was hilarious and forbid me from changing it.

Our trend of breakfast and back to bed maintained the energy levels needed for the trip.
True to form, and Disney practices, we continued using a well-worn paper map (with Joaquín location) to find our way around. However, we did rely on the Navicomputer to give us general directional input after starting off toward the wrong compass point yesterday morning.
With a bit more understanding of the local geography, we walked the way we intended to on the first day but missed. This put us behind the White House for a better look at it, and then right near the side of the Treasury building that doesn’t have the Alexander Hamilton statue in front of it. Instead, there is a statue of Albert…something. The fence is blocking it in the picture, and I certainly do not have the energy or desire to look it up.
We were getting sick of the “American Brutal” (which anywhere else in the world would just be called “ugly”) FBI building as we passed it nearly every day using Pennsylvania Avenue. A combination of finally reading signs (and remembering what Mr. History said) explained why there was a Ben Franklin statue outside the Waldorf Astoria. It was the old Post Office building. It was nice that they left Franklin’s statue there since most of his work as a founding father was in Philadelphia, and he had minimal representation in the nation’s capital.
Due to a pathological need to Grid our vacation adventures, we were able to skip the line going into the National Archive and use our FastPass for the Constitution.
Contrary to the Capitol, everything we read about not allowing photos at all in this building was completely accurate.
We went through the multiple other exhibit sections before heading to the “main room.” I have no idea what the exhibits are actually called, but since no one will be able to take a picture and prove me wrong, these names will have to do.
The History of Rights exhibit had the original Magna Carta, written (under duress) by King John. (Yes, the Robin Hood one, hence the “under duress.” Richard the Lionheart got himself perished stomping on a revolt in France after returning from the Crusades, meaning John eventually became king anyway. Sorry Robin.) I thought it was odd that this document from 1215 looked in better shape than the U.S. Documents from the late 1700’s and early 1800’s. Points to British paper and ink, I guess.
The other interesting thing about all the documentation detailing the history of the rights delineated in the Constitution being applied to “everyone” is all the information shown about those protesting and complaining against certain people gaining those rights.
It was the EXACT SAME arguments used today to try to restrict people’s rights.
They were accused of leading to:
Attacks on Family Values,
And a loss of Women’s identity.
Yes, women having less rights was (and still is) pointed out as a key part of their identity, and important to family values.
One would think this horse hockey would fall out of style, or at least women would rise up as one and murder all of the men for constantly trying to pull crap like this and get rid of the excuse that way.
The history bug bit Rosa again in the Archives. While normally she’s fairly speedy about passing through museums, in here she read almost every section, and was talking about finding books about several topics.
Anabelle learned this stuff in school, showing an advance from when I was in class. I read a stupidly wide variety of topics, and Rosa had to study for her citizenship test, but a lot of this was new to both my wife and I. Honestly, there’s also a lot of inspiration being “In the Room Where it Happens” so to speak, that led us all wanting to get some history books.
(“Who’s us?” – Anabelle)
Given the nature of the main items in the building, most of the exhibits were based around the increasing of rights and inclusivity. Two other sections looked at it via different lenses. There was an entire section of documents and memorabilia related to sports and the integration and allowability of expression in them.
The section that really caught Rosa’s interest, (which again, thanks to improvements in education, at least in our and other parts of the country, Anabelle had already learned the details about) was the history of immigration. Since it was the Archives, not only was it the history of immigrants integrating and building sections of the country (along with resistance to that), but there was also the evolution of the documentation used to follow and monitor that immigration.
The documentation extended into a section on presidential history with varied letters and other documents from leaders past. To keep things interesting, there were interactive games showing how the Archives functioned as an important repository of official documentation of all types, what it was used for, how it was stored and how it was accessed.
I forget which section it was, but they even had a comic book there to highlight the Wertham fueled assault on that media as part of the McCarthyism attacks on rights from the Fifties. The comic was a reproduction, not an original, and it was from the wrong era.
Still... points for trying.
After spending quite a while going through the immersive and detailed exhibits, we circled back to the main rotunda room housing the “Big Three” of United States of America Documents.
The room was laid out in a clear way for those who wanted to see the documents and all the associated information. (That is, most of the visitors.)
Start on the left,
work your way around the room,
see all the information presented in the cases before the documents,
see the Documents,
then see all the information in the cases after the documents.
A majority of guests were doing that.
The guard, however, was yelling to everyone entering the room:
“There’s no line! You can go wherever you want. There’s no line!”
This meant the minority of rude people who thought they were more important than everyone else would come towards whatever display they wanted to see and push their way through the people who had been patiently experiencing the entire room.
For a change, I did leave a “how could we improve your experience” comment when I got the email.
It was a slightly more polite and well justified version of:

The information about the documents was kinda more impressive than the documents themselves, as after sitting there for as long as they have, they were mostly blank. Still, it was inspiring being in their presence, knowing this country was founded on freedoms and inclusion. It gives one hope that may continue.
While we were waiting to see the documents, a “that gives me less hope for the future” Guys are Stupid moment was occurring. Yet another group of Eighth Grade class trip boys were there. The bigger ones were goading the smallest one of the group to move toward Anabelle and started to push him. Rosa shot them a look that made even the largest members of the gang look like they peed their pants, and that bit of interaction ended.
Due to accidentally referencing a sign that was covering a different hallway to other guests, we assured ourselves of some Private Potty Moments before hitting the National Archives gift shop. Rosa, spurred on by historical proximity, got a book with the documents we’d seen and information about them. We bought Anabelle a pair of Abigail Adams socks. They thrilled her. This had nothing to do with historical proximity.
Lunch was needed, which always puts all three of us in a festive mood. Comparing the “gluten free” ratings online with the “people in the restaurants who have any idea what gluten is, and how it relates to their food” was problematic in general. With all of us hungry and losing our phone signals it got worse.
After looking up a few things judged too far or too weird, we tried the Café in the sculpture garden we passed through the other day. Anabelle was excited by the quiche on the menu.
(Or as excited as anyone can be about quiche…which for her is a considerable amount.)
Rosa started, as usual, with asking the staff about gluten free options. They said they didn’t have any. Further inspection on all three of our parts indicated they clearly did not know what gluten was. Rosa found an online review listing options, I remembered seeing a good online review when I was hunting places, and Anabelle saw the clearly labeled “flour free cake.”
There were multiple prepackaged salads with no croutons or any other possible contamination items. This is why we stay on property for Disney, it’s not just the place, it’s the amazing amount of training all the cast members get about a huge variety of topics to make the guest’s lives easier.
Anabelle got her quiche, Rosa had her salad, and I had a Hawaiian chicken sandwich in time to defuse the day’s tension before it reached damaging levels.
We had cancelled the Library of Congress visit to get more museum time. With a crossing of the Mall, we entered the Hirschhorn Museum.
DC Flashback:
I have been to the Hirschhorn exactly once. When we brought Jesse with us on a High School trip to Washington, he found a brochure on appreciating modern art, and led us there. Brochure or no, my father was in no way going to appreciate the most Avant Garde of the non-representational art. Dad’s running commentary was hilarious, and I really wish Anabelle could have had her experience enhanced by that kind of visit. I did my best.
On the way in, the first non-representational art greeted us as we tried to decide if it looked more like a blueberry or Pac Man.
The Hirschhorn focuses on VERY contemporary art. Downstairs had the walls and floor covered in various statements and slogans in huge letters colored red, white, and black about belief and doubt. (This one I took the time to look up the correct title. It is called Belief + Doubt. Nice prioritization there, Jeff.)
Moving up into the cylindrical building, the first room we passed into had a myriad of five-gallon containers glued to the ceiling. It looked like gravity reversed after Joe LaStarza filled his water at the shed Up the Lake. At the end of the gallon topped hallway was a movie…
Which we did not care about.
The next room was extremely cool. It had white writing and drawings - stream of consciousness style - all over the black walls and floor. There were also a couple of random sculptures, such as a yellow canoe and a giant black raven. The random quotes were interesting and thought provoking in many cases, and the overall effect of the room itself was kind of overwhelming, but in a good way.
We also saw an exhibit of photos cataloguing a great deal about Chinese culture through one guy and his family.
The next section we passed was the “Guerrilla Girls,” a group of anonymous women artists (rightly) fighting for greater representation in the art world. Hey, I’m going to be a fan of any group that wears gorilla masks. One damning sign pointed out less than 5% of the modern artists showcased in the MET are women…but 85% of the nudes in the museum are women. Turns out even classy and awesome organizations have “old boys’ clubs.”
As will happen with all contemporary non-representational art, it varied. Some of the art was literally dirt, or bunch of nylon stockings stretched into an odd shape. Then there was stuff like the captivating abstract painting called…
“Boob Wheel.”
Well, I won’t forget that one.
On the wall curving around the entire outer hallway was “Picket's Charge” a…painting,
I think?
It was made out of cloth that varied between abstract, visible images, and what looked like a relief map.
Along with much of the stuff in this museum I liked, it fell into the “weird but nifty” category.
Speaking of weird:
We encountered a woman there who asked Rosa to take her picture. Though we live in the age of selfies, this in and of itself was not the weird part.
The lady put on a brightly colored, flowered shower cap. She then regaled us with the tale of the “Sisterhood of the Traveling Bathing Cap,” involving herself, her sister, and a male friend. They would take pictures of it in various locations they travelled to. She mentioned putting it on the shiny statue outside, thought she doubted she should have. (Maybe we should have taken her picture on the bottom floor?)
She then began standing in a series of unusual and outlandish poses, while giving Rosa incredibly detailed instructions of what to keep in shot and how to take the pictures.
By the time she finished, I was seriously considering the idea that she may have been an exhibit herself.
Back in the inner circle, we took in the rest of the art, including what looked like a broken windowpane. After passing the bowling ball hanging in a fishing net, we made our way downstairs. 

Hey, experiments can’t all be successes… or thought provoking.
Back in the lobby Rosa and Anabelle hit the Cappuccino stand…and their machine was broken.

There was a special exhibit by Yayoi Kusama in the lower level. The whole museum still was free and didn’t require reservations, but the low throughput required pre booked tickets to see the special exhibit. Anabelle was familiar with her work and a fan. You could not book it the same day, therefore Anabelle set it up for the next morning. Only two tickets were allowed at a time, but with some multi phone fidgeting we set it up for all of us.
Rosa, who is much more a fan of representational art than this museum, greeted the news with a very flat.
“oh…thank you.”
Anabelle decided it was fantastic she was coming to this museum twice…
“Once for my sworn enemy.
On the way out we discussed what the multiple sculptures looked like again.
Along with the blueberry and Pac Man theories were:
A Hamburger,
A Xenomorph egg,
And the round puppets we saw Mummenschanz use on the Muppet Show.
Crossing the Mall once again to the East Building of the National Gallery allowed Anabelle to bask in the Washington Monument again…
Rosa to bask in the Capitol again…
And both of them to indicate the Freedom statue was mooning me.
As we entered the modern section of the National Gallery, the guard complimented my Gargoyle shirt since his wife was a fan of the cartoon. Oddly, the same thing happened with a guard in the MET a few weeks later when we visited the Van Gogh Cypress exhibit. 
Oddlier as the shirt predates the series by a decade or so.
The modern art building of the National Gallery started off with a bang- highlighting the works of Matisse and Picasso. A common question in modern exhibits happened when Rosa saw some rock piles bisected by the windows in the lobby:
“Is that art?”
We took the weirdly shaped elevator to another floor. (Is this art?) There were more works of the same artists, leading Anabelle to remember a beloved children’s book When Pigasso Met Mootise.
On this floor was a huge glass wall facing directly at the West Gallery Building.
I stated, “Oh look, you can wave to the good art through the window here.”
Anabelle was not amused.
Higher up, the art got less representational.
There was a square made entirely of woven red glass beads.
It was called Blue.
I’m not sure if the name was part of its artisticness.
Anabelle thought the thread for the weaving (that couldn’t be seen) may have been blue.
Rosa thought the glass steps were cool. I don’t know if they were art as well, or that section was closed.
Another guard in this highly contemporary section liked Anabelle’s Optimus Prime shirt. There’s something about modern art guards and late twentieth century action cartoons.
The museum was structured kind of strangely, and due to the wind on the roof required recrossing paths to get to the two upper most rooms, even though there was roof access.
Again, with modern stuff it’s a mixed bag. The highly impressive and surreal Magritte paintings were represented well.

There were also some Warhol, Lichtenstein, and Pollack paintings.

 Moving further into abstraction was…
what looked like someone just peeled the paint of the museum wall.
Again, you can’t win ‘em all.
Case in point-
There was what looked like a close-up view of a black and white cookie called “White Curve viii.”
Y’know, if it took you eight tries to paint a canvas half black and half white…
Maybe art ain’t your thing?
In the room with a Mondrian was “Bird in Space.” It was supposedly an abstract reduction to the essence of birdness. It looked like a flat feather in marble. We saw a shiny metallic version when we visited the MoMA later in the year. This is why we are members…
Of the MET.
[Later edit- We also saw a copy of "Bird" at the MET itself. Not only that, but Anabelle's favorite Matisse from the National Gallery, and some from the MOMA were on loan for a special exhibit. Not only only that but at the cypress special exhibit, "Starry Night" from the MET was there, on loan from the MOMA. No wonder we're members of the MET!]

There was a giant Calder mobile in the museum proper, and a bunch more in one of those isolated “tower rooms” off the roof. Those are basically a combination of art and engineering, meaning I’ve always been a fan. 
On the roof itself was a couple of letter sculptures and a GIANT BLUE CHICKEN representing pulling together against Covid. I don’t understand why it represents that, but I also do not care.
The reason I do not care is, “GIANT BLUE CHICKEN! WOO HOO!

What followed the chicken viewing was some confused up and downs to reach the other “tower room.” To get there we had to pass a plastic box that filled with condensate in the sun.
I really feel like I pursued the wrong career sometimes.
In the first room of the other tower were huge canvases with thin lines on them meant to be the Stations of the Cross. I’d explain further but the labels were no help, and the book we got cataloguing National Gallery art works conveniently left that whole exhibit out.
The next room was full of Rothko’s though, which I have an appreciation for. Not in a way I can explain to anyone else yet, but there’s a lot more going on there than colored rectangles…
Trust me.
Due to most of the rest of my family being much more toward Rosa’s mindset when it comes to non-representational art…
(And probably fairly close to Anabelle’s Sworn Enemy to be honest)
they did little of today’s two museums on their visit two years back.
Therefore, Anabelle took fifty-five pictures for Aurora.
We learned why we couldn’t find the café between the East and West galleries we originally intended to eat in earlier in the afternoon. At first Anabelle said it was in the museum with the good art. (We may be corrupting her.) However, it was in the underground tunnel between the two, which we were unaware existed. Sadly, after the broken cappuccino machine in the Hirschhorn, we reached this café after it closed.
We reached the end of operating hours with some disappointment in an art museum.
Again, again.
Before going home, we stopped in the American Art and Portrait Gallery once more. It was more or less on the way to the hotel. Anabelle ran up to the Art Vending machine and this time chose a googly eyed pet rock she named Abigail Adams the Second. She also wanted to see the Georgia O’Keeffe flower picture again. She asked the guard for directions, and he started, very hesitantly, referring to the “big, weird thing.” He was visibly relieved when she recognized the post-apocalyptic Brooklyn painting by his description and after an error in elevator direction found it.
The top floor balcony part with entertainment paintings was open. I climbed up and was impressed with the Chuck Jones bust. Then I saw the guard rails were glass through metal that made them look like they were far shorter than they were. This triggered my irrational fear of heights.
DC Flashback:
I first learned about this irrational fear of heights in the Air and Space Museum when a show in a theater let us out on the second floor with no warning. It’s been somewhat in control lately, so having it flare up full force was a party.
I had little idea what I saw up there until I got back down on stable ground and looked at the photos. I was glad the sports side was closed after all. Turns out there is an acceptable reason for high-speed photographic passes through an art museum after all.

Once more we needed dinner, The "Hip City Veg" vegetarian place was a good bet for gluten free as well and Anabelle had heard of it. I eat veggie burgers often enough now that those offerings wouldn’t be an issue…unless they were.
It took until the end of this trip to figure out when it was and wasn’t.
While on line I wondered aloud what vegetarian substitute they used for the French fries and onion rings.
Take it, Anabelle-
“You fool.”
After dinner, we checked out a place that looked interesting closer to home called “Joe and the Juice.” They had no gluten free options, even for milkshakes which sounded like a sanitary issue. As Rosa was checking the menu, Anabelle ordered herself a Starbucks. I went to get it while they went back to the room to clean up. On the way back, my sense of direction jammed, and I had no idea where I was.
Note- The Starbucks was across the street from the hotel. Perhaps we pushed ourselves a little too hard.
Worldwide staffing issues hit us in a non-cheese related way, and I had to grab some towels from the front desk on the way in.
They started the shower parade while I did a check in at work. Rosa watched a Zoo documentary while Anabelle checked Instagram and I read old Hulk Comics. (RAAAH!)
I kept reading while they joined up to watch more Say Yes to the Dress episodes and then we all watched the Math School House Rock episodes (to continue the trend) until we all passed out once again.
18,020 steps.
8.3 miles

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