Friday, November 16, 2012

Today I Was Reminded Why I Love Washington


Today I Was Reminded Why I Love Washington

I work in the District of Columbia and have for more than seven years. I’ve lived in the Washington metro area since 1994. As a teen and young adult I dreamed of living in our nation’s capital. It is a beautiful city, easy to navigate, has fairly good public transportation, a thriving arts community, a monument on every block and an abundance of top quality, free museums.

But, like many others who live on the perimeter of and commute to this city, I tend to avoid staying after work to enjoy the nightlife and rarely make the trip on a weekend to take advantage of the cultural opportunities.  The traffic is always terrible; parking is expensive; groups of protestors tend to descend on the city to march or demonstrate for various and sundry causes which blocks streets and disrupts traffic; and the shopping is abysmal. It just isn’t worth the stress of commuting into the city when I don’t have to do so.

Today, however, I was reminded why I enjoy working in Washington. Were it not for the politicians, the city would be a lovely southern city on a broad expanse of river. Then again, were it not for those ne’er do well politicians there would be no District of Columbia – a city built by politicians for politicians.

I had the good fortune to be invited to attend a seminar hosted by the Washington Board of Trade, TD Bank and Morningstar with Pulitzer Prize winning author Jon Meacham promoting his new book, Thomas Jefferson, The Art of Power. Meacham is an entertaining, self deprecating, self described history nerd who loves conducting research into primary source material and writing about our demigods as men with human frailties that make them more interesting studies. As a bonus for attending, I received a signed copy of the book and enjoyed breakfast with a representative of a funeral home who loves his work because it is fun putting on a show when famous people die and doing it well.

Since I ventured into DC on a Friday, which is a rarity, I decided to take the afternoon to reacquaint myself with my fair city and enjoy a gorgeous autumn day. It was my intent to see an exhibition of Brady images at the American Portrait Gallery. As I exited the Gallery Place Metro Station, I realized he International Spy Museum was directly across from the Portrait Gallery – and today was the grand opening for the “50 Years of Bond Villains” special exhibit. So, of course I had to go.

First I detoured to McCormick & Schmicks for some delectable fish tacos and a glass of Pinot Noir – for what would an afternoon of self-indulgence be without some nectar of the gods!

The Spy Museum was fun. Was it $20 of fun? I’m not so sure about that. But as one who has always been fascinated by tales of espionage it was an entertaining way to spend 90 minutes. The museum has some interactive exhibits that are fun including having to recall one’s “cover” and detecting the suspect who is in disguise. The main exhibits were well done. The celebrations of Bond at 50~ not so enthralling! (perhaps because I’ve seen them all)

For anybody who has not been to the National Portrait Gallery since it was renovated, I highly recommend a visit. This is the only museum in the Smithsonian group that remains open until 7:00pm everyday. The galleries are laid out well and includes a gallery of ambrotypes in cases, modern albumen silver prints made from wet plate negatives of the Civil War Federal generals taken by Mathew Brady or his studio, and a lovely collection of original albumen prints from wet plate negatives by Alexander Gardner and George Barnard. I particularly love the stark images of Barnard’s landscapes of devastation.

This day reminded me that I have the good fortune to have Washington as my playground should I choose to enjoy all that it offers. 
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