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.


Heather Leigh said...

how fun!

Anonymous said...

HI, Mindy- I've toured Washington DC three times, and there is so much to tour that I know we covered less than half. I know that you could have gone on with your account as you gave more details to your mom who told me, but that was a well-written blog.
Your boys are having a great summer. Stay safe- Aunt Chris

Rebecca Binno Savage said...

I once ended up in the National Portrait Gallery by default too! And I ended up liking it.

The walking around to see everything gets really painful and I had regular shoes and feet!

Glad that everybody liked it!