Well I have to say I'm pretty proud of myself since I got almost everything done that I wanted to do. Saturday I took the Library of Congress tour, and spent some time in their special exhibitions gallery. They had this neat collection called "Leaves of Grass," which was all about Walt Whitman's life. It had some of his correspondences with his family when he was working in war relief, a letter written to him by Oscar Wilde, numerous copies of "Leaves of Grass" including some original drafts of poems, and the coolest - one of his pens! So maybe I'm dorky for getting excited about that, but all I could think about, staring at the worn wooden handle, was that long ago a great poet held that pen and changed the face of modern poetry. *sigh*
After the Library of Congress I took the subway/bus to Old Town Alexandria, VA. It was a sweltering day, so I fled indoors quickly to the Torpedo Factory. Cool name, but it isn't a torpedo factory anymore. Instead it's a three-story building full of artists' working galleries. They have many types of artists - from weaving and jewelry to painting and photography. You can go into the galleries, look at their work, watch them creating it and ask them questions about it. It's a really unique experience, and a fascinating place - the workshops are all very airy and open. I spent about two hours there, got a few small notecard/photos (it's all I could afford; sadly, everything in there is ridiculously expensive, but I guess we've all got to make a living somehow :P) and then headed to get some really good clam chowder at a place recommended to me by my mom. Then I sat out by the boat docks on the Potomac and read Michener. I also people-watched and made friends with a couple of people's doggies. I sawa small crowd gathering around a table set up near the factory building (the factory is right on the river, which makes sense since they'd have to test the torpedos somewhere) and went over to check it out. What I saw amazed me - a man playing the "glass harp," or, to the common man, brandy glasses with water in them. It was fascinating and the sound quality was quite unique and beautiful. I have video of him playing "The Rose" so let me know if you're interested in seeing that. Anyway I stood there for probably 20 minutes at least watching him play. He had enough glasses to cover a 4 octave range, the largest and lowest note being a middle C. Pretty fascinating stuff.
I finally headed out of Alexandria and headed to Chevy Chase, MD for some ballroom dancing. Things started out slow , and there was one guy there who was kiiinda creepy. But then later I met a few college-age kids, and two of them who went to Brandeis refused to let me take the subway home and gave me a ride instead. People are nice.
Yesterday I dilly-dallyed about, and didn't get out of the apartment till 11:00. I walked to the Renwick and ended up having to sit down for 10 minutes once I got there, recovering from the exertion of having tromped a mile and a half in 95 degree, humid, weather. I liked the gallery though, and they have an "American Craft" gallery that has some neat creations. One of them was a giant swordfish made out of objects like bottles and such, except since it was a "game fish" the guy had used things like dice and scrabble pieces and other common board game items to make it. Another one was what at first glance seemed like a grandfather clock, covered with a white sheet. Upon closer inspection, you find that the sheet is in fact carved out of the same block of wood as the "clock" underneath. Pretty incredible.
Next stop was the Sackler and Freer galleries. They had a neat one about discoveries from Yemen, which included some really impressive bronze sculptures - in pieces of course,but the movement and detailing in the hands and faces were beautiful. There was also a collection of arabic metalwork. My favorite though is the sculpture that hangs down the center of the museum. It represents the Chinese story of the monkeys who tried to capture the moon. In the story, a monkey sees the moon in a pool of water and gathers all the other monkeys to get it. They form a long chain - monkey after monkey clinging onto each other - all the way down to the water. Finally, the last monkey reaches down...only to find that the moon disappears when he touches the water. You can take what moral you will from the story, but the coolest part was that each "monkey" on the chain of the sculpture was actually the word "Monkey" in various languages, all linked together to travel four floors to the pool below.
I wrote in the garden by the Smithsonian Information Center for a while, then headed home. I went out with one of the NG interns for dinner to a place called Lauriol Plaza - best fajitas I've ever had. Which isn't saying much since mostly I go to Chili's, but still.. Afterward we went over to the memorials and pretty much hit every single one of them. I hadn't ever seen the Roosevelt onebefor, and I liked it a lot. It's almost maze-like in that there are various walls with sculptures of people and also waterfalls that you weave through. It felt very human-sized and intimate, and the geometric shapes of the walls and even the waterfalls really appealed to me. The other one that moved me was the memorial for the Korean War. At night, lights shine up from below to illuminate the faces of the soldiers, whose expressions are wary and brave as they creep through what you imagine is terrifyingly foreign landscape. Behind them is a wall etched with thousands of faces of those who served in the war. It's eerie, and catches at your throat - you feel like one of them and it's extraordinarily moving.
Anyway, that was my weekend. I came home and read a little more, chatted a lot on AIM until 2 am, and then somehow dragged my sorry butt out of bed around 7 this morning. Tiffany is gone for the week (*sniffle, sniffle!*) andd she doesn't get back until I've left, so I'm hoping the week goes by fast. The only thing I didn't get to see was the Phillips museum, but I think I'll have time on Saturday since my flight isn't until 5 pm. I suppose I'll get back to "work" now. My brother and Julia get back from the Virgin Islands today!