Richard's North American Odyssey 2003

31 March 2003 - Washington, DC

I went to get my tire fixed and it turned out that it needed to be replaced.  I was close to the end of these tires anyway, so I had all four replaced.  At least I don't have to pay GST getting it done here.

I will miss the Cherry Blossom Festival by one day since it starts every year on 1 April.  Here you see the cherry blossoms and the Washington Memorial.

Even in this picture you can see the colour change in the marble.  This is because, although construction was started in 1848 it wasn't completed until 1884.  Why the delay?  Well at first it was because they ran out of money, then there was the civil war.  By the time they got around to completing it the quarry where the first batch of marble came from was exhausted so they had to get marble from a different source.  It has just undergone a $9.8 million facelift to fix lose stones and repoint the whole thing only 125 years after it was finished.  When I was in Rome a few years ago I saw and obelisk that had stood in a piazza there for about 2,500 years, I guess engineers just aren't what they use to be.
More cherry blossoms with the Arlington, VA skyline in the back ground.  There were an number of signs around the pond that informed people fishing was allowed on a catch and release basis only.  I guess at least that way you don't have to spend money stopping fishermen from fishing in a closed pond with no fish in it.
Looking west along the Mall at the capital.  At the time I didn't know why they had snow fencing up.

Okay they had it up to keep people off the grass which was undergoing maintenance, but work with me on this one.
A few minutes later and a little closer to the Capital.  Very grey skies, and you can't really see it in this picture, but the building is partially obscured by snow.  There was about a three minute snow flurry, and all of a sudden a loan Canadian was wondering around Capital Hill.
By the time I got up to the steps of the Capital the sky was clearing.  This is a look Eastwards down the Mall.
This is the front of the Capital, or is it the back?  I'm actually not sure which side is considered the front or the back.  You can see that by the time I had walked around the building the sun was shining again.
Across the street from the Capital sits the Supreme Court Building.  This got me to thinking.  If the US Constitution calls for an independent judiciary, but people appointed have had to publicly announce their party affiliation [right off how democratic is that] how can they be seen to be independent from the politics of the legislative and executive branch?  Maybe there should be a constitutional amendment that only people who have been declared as Independents for at least the last half of their life can be appointed to the bench.  Just a thought.  It sure would have quieted things down during the 2000 Presidential Election.
Representing the Executive branch, here is the White House.  I was delayed as I was going to walk past because President Bush was arriving back from his appearance in Philadelphia.  Here is also a picture of Marine One as it was coming in for its landing.
White House
Marine 1
For those who are tired of the circular arguments of the legislative branch, the run around from the judiciary, and the spiny ideas of the executive branch, half way down the mall is a charming carousel that you can sit on and go round in circles as you try and figure out what the government is actually trying to do.
Just a few yards from the North East corner of the Capital I passed this wonderful, secluded fountain.  With an almost grotto like feel there were four portals that looked out into the greenery planted around it.  I couldn't really capture it in this picture, but outside this portal was a small water fall and a lily pond.  There are built in benches in the enclosure so you can sit and just contemplate the fountain isolated from the hustle and bustle going on around you.  I walked around the entire thing and couldn't find a plaque or any indication of when or why this place had been build, and if you didn't happen to look up as you passed the small entrance you would miss it entirely.
Well here I have to apologize to all you Americans.  I think it was after Canadian Diplomats smuggled a group of Americans out of Iran after the US Embassy had been occupied by revolutionaries, the US gave Canada a prime piece of land on Pennsylvania Avenue for our embassy a couple of blocks from the White House.  Canada responded by putting up this blight on the landscape.  It really must be one of the ugliest buildings I have seen, and just doesn't fit into the landscape around it.  The big blank wall on the East side of the building faces the White House.  I wonder if our current government was trying to send a message?
This picture didn't turn out the best, but I see that even American squirrels like McDonalds.
Ahh, what would a capital city be with out a few pieces of art hanging around.

This piece, by Ellsworth Kelly, is in stainless steel, and is untitled.  I guess ol'Ellsworth spent so much creative energy on the sculpture itself that coming up with a title for it was just too much.  Even something like "bent ellipse" would have been just too much to ask.
"Sky Hooks" by Alexander Calder was a gift of Mrs. Jerome L. Greene, so at least your tax dollars didn't pay for it.
"Are Years What? (for Marianne Moore)" by Mark di Suvero was donated by the Joseph H. Hirshhorn Purchase Fund and the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries.
The piece in the foreground is by Alexander Calder and is called "Six Dots over a Mountain."

In the back ground you can see four bronze freezes by Henri Matisse titled "Back I" (1909), "Back II" (1913), "Back III" (1916 - 17), "Back IV" (1930)
George Rickey became intrigued by the history of constructivist art and by the example of Calder's mobiles.  He developed systems of motion that "made his works respond to the slightest variations in the flow of air currents."  I think this means they move in the breeze.  "Rickey's kinetic sculpture provides a dialogue between ordered geometric shapes and random motion."  I'm just glad "Cluster of Four Cubes" wasn't bought with my tax dollars.
This typewriter eraser is made from steel and cement and is by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen.  In the mid-1960s Claes Oldenburg began to make drawings of monuments based on common objects, such as a clothespin or a pair of scissors, challenging the notion that public monuments must commemorate historical figures or events.  His selection of discredited or obsolete objects extends to those remembered from childhood.  Evidently as a child he enjoyed playing in his father's office with a typewriter eraser.  In the late 1960's and 70's he used the eraser as a source for drawings, prints, sculpture, and even a never realized monument for New York City.  I guess this wasn't sophisticated enough for New York.
Hey all this sculpture is "OK" with me, I didn't have to pay for it.
The house, erected circa 1835, is the former Lock Keeper's House.  This was the Eastern Terminal of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal.  The canal passed along the present line of B Street (in front of this house) emptying into the Tiber Creek and the Potomac River.

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