Monday, July 27, 2009

Washington DC Portrait

We spent the last week touring Washington D.C. and attending a family wedding in nearby Virginia. It was a trip of many faces. The bride and groom, so young and hopeful. Larry's parents, still going strong after 8 decades of living. All of the nieces and nephews that we don't see often enough, practically changed into different people each time we meet.

I was looking forward to this trip because a lot of my summer so far has been spent at our house with the boys, which I enjoy well enough but isn't enough reason to fix my hair or put on makeup. I was excited to be going places, to see and be seen.

Our first day in D.C. began with a guided bike tour. We took "The Metro" into the city from our hotel in Virginia. It was fun to sit on the train and observe the other passengers. I could kind of guess what their jobs might be from what they were wearing: business suits, uniforms, outdoor clothes. Our status as tourists was also glaringly obvious as people offered to help us with the ticket machine and finding our destination stop.

After the tour we stayed in the mall area (sweaty and with helmet hair) and toured some of the Smithsonians. I liked the American History Museum. There is so much that I don't know. The boys both studied U.S. History in school this past year and were more familiar with the historic events, but when we went through the pop culture section they wanted to know what made Archie Bunker so important that they put in his chair. I had a hard time explaining it, for although I used to watch that TV show it aired long before they were born.

We all appreciated the monuments and memorials, and enjoyed a tour of the capital, but were unfamiliar with the subjects of the statues that represented our home state of Michigan.

On our second day the weather was less cooperative as we trooped though 90 degree heat from the Library of Congress to the National Archieves, and then faced a pouring rainstorm. We took refuge in the fine art museum. The boys were less interested in this one but I liked looking at the paintings and statues and we needed to dry off. It was also way less crowded here. I walked into one room and caught a security guard standing before a piece, hands on his hips and head tilted way to the side, in a state of total contemplation. I'm not sure what the rules are about taking pictures of people you don't know in public, but I so wanted to capture that moment. I was sure that it would result in one of those meaningful artistic photographs that win awards and get displayed or published. Unfortunately the guard noticed me as I was fumbling for my camera and quickly slipped away. Moment gone but for my memory of it.

After our clothes had mostly dried we ventured back outdoors where the humidity was now as close to 100% as it gets as the rain evaporated off of the hot sidewalks. We tromped all around through this as we tried to find the theater where Lincoln was shot. I swear my feet felt like bloody stumps by now. The boys wanted to go into the Spy Museum but since I wasn't interested and was feeling so worn out I took refuge in the National Portrait Gallery across the street.

The Portrait Gallery was more fascinating than I thought it would be. There were the presidential portraits of course, but there were also portraits and photographs of many other famous and historical figures. Sometimes the signs would state what had already happened in their lives at the time the portrait was done, and then describe what was yet to come for them. Many portraits were of people who were very famous or influential in their time, and yet I had never heard of them. Just like Archie Bunker, their importance was most relevant in the time that they lived, and difficult to comprehend so many years later.

There was also a special exhibit going on of the work of a contemporary photographer, who captured ordinary people in a way that made you feel like you understood something about who they are. I'd like to think my security guard photo would have fit nicely here if I had actually gotten to take it.

I slumped onto a bench to contemplate all of this, and take the weight off of my throbbing feet. Then I heard a familiar sound, the chizz-click of a camera. I looked to my right just as the man sitting there pulled his camera back from underneath his arm where he had it pointed at ME! I tried to catch his eye to give him a "what the heck?" look but he turned away and pretended to be engrossed in the portrait across from his bench.

What a sight I must have been, with my smeared makeup, frizzed-out hair, rain-soaked clothes, and posture of total exhaustion. And now there's a picture of it out there somewhere.

So if you ever come across a display of award-winning photographs and there is something familiar about the one titled "Bedraggled Woman," that's because it's of me.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Lets go

I just got back from a trip to the Kalahari waterpark resort with an unusual group consisting of me and my two boys (Tim and Jeff) my niece and nephew (Ramona and Cale) my mother, my aunt Judy, my cousin Marisa and her nieces Isabel and Jillian.

I held the unique distinction of being the only adult who was the parent of some of the children, who had been to this place before, and was willing to go in the water. This meant I was responsible for accompanying the kids on the slides and doing a lot of the "figuring out" of what we should be doing when, and trying to keep track of everyone.

The first day went well with the boys running around going on as many of the slides and rides as they could, but the girls stayed with the tamer activities as they became interested in trying out some of the big slides. For our second day I decided it would be best if the kids and I got to the waterpark right as it opened at 9:00 when the lines were shorter so we could go on the group rides all together.

After a quick in-room breakfast I threw on my bathing suit and went in the hallway at 9:00.

Cale and Jeff went rushing past me but I waved them back, and told them to put on some shoes and wait for the other kids.

Tim came out munching on a bagel. I told him to hurry up and finish that and get back out here because we were leaving for the waterpark right away.

Isabel and Jillian come out of their room then and I ask Isabel to go back in and get Ramona.

Ramona comes out and announces that she is going to go to the gift shop with Grandma so that she can buy a souvenir for her best friend Julia. I told her that we are on our way to the waterpark, shopping would be later. Could she go back in and get Isabel?

Ramona goes in and comes out to tell me that Isabel is on the phone with her mother.

My mother comes out and says she is ready to go shopping with Ramona. I tell her that we are going to the waterpark now, shopping later, and could she please go and get Isabel to come out here.

Tim and Jeff emerge from their room and I ask them where Cale is. In the bathroom, they think.

Isabel comes out and hands the phone to Jillian, mom wants to talk to her too. I ask Isabel to go and get Ramona, who went back in the room.

Tim and Jeff are walking down the hall without waiting for the rest of us.

Jillian finishes her phone call and I tell her to go and chase Tim and Jeff and tell them to wait.

Ramona and Isabel come out of the room, finally ready, and I tell them to wait right there while I go and find out where Cale is.

I find Cale lounging in the room and we come out and all of the kids are walking far down the long hallway, and we hustle to catch up with them.

Finally we are all together in the hall, halfway to the waterpark, and Jeffrey remembers that he left his admission bracelet back in the room...

Silly kids. We repeated a version of this scenario every time we transitioned from doing one thing to another. That's just the way it is. Still a very fun time for all.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Day in Detroit 09

For the past few years my sister Becky has taken my boys for a "Day in Detroit." In the past it was to help out with child care during the summer but this year she still did it and I came along too.

We started out in Hamtramck where she lives, and went inside of the Community Services Building so that we could view a mural on the wall of the recreation room that depicts the History of Hamtramck. It is interesting to look at but the real reason we did this was to see the image of Colonel Hamtramck. Since there are no known pictures of the real Colonel the artist (who Becky knows) modeled it after the person who dressed as Colonel Hamtramck in the Hamtramck Days Parade. That person happens to be Becky's husband, Hal. It's a reasonable likeness:

Next we went to the New Center area to visit our cousin Derek who has a deli/store inside of the DPS building. We got to see the back rooms in the basement, and the underground parking, and Uncle Buddy handed the boys these enourmous peaches:

Then Derek captured a picture of Jeffrey slipping one into his pocket on the security camera. Ha Ha.

Next we had lunch at Tim's favorite restaurant, Hockeytown Cafe, and then walked across the street to look in at Tiger Stadium and Ford Field. It is fascinating to look at these places when they are not filled with people.

The boys think it is great fun to ride the people mover so we took that over to the Cobo area, and went to see the office building where Becky works.

There are so many things that fascinate them such as elevators and built-in mail drops. Even the water cooler.

The views from the 9th floor offices were really something but then Becky had the idea that we should go see it from the roof. We had to walk through the super-creepy boiler room to get there but the view was good.

After that I requested to go somewhere that I have never been which is the Motown Records Museum. Becky knew the way and we drove down Grand Boulevard. This happened to be during the time of the Michael Jackson memorial service, and all of the news crews were parked outside of it to get footage of the "local reaction." I thought it would be great fun to be on TV paying our tribute to the King of Pop. But since the news trucks were taking up all of the parking spaces Becky wisely just drove on by.

It was as it always is, a great experience for the boys to explore the big city we live near, and I liked it too. Fun and interesting aren't perhaps the first words to come to mind at the mention of the City of Detroit, but when approached with a spirit of curiosity and adventure, it can be a truly amazing place to explore for a day.