We drove to DC on Sept 18th first thing in the morning. Our flight wasn’t until 10:30 pm, but we never risk missing the flight; we go hours ahead and spend some time in or around DC going to museums. There’s a nifty thing you can do these days: you can go online and purchase a parking ticket in a garage in DC. You have a spot guaranteed right where you need it. So we rolled right in.
We were intent on making our way to the Sackler Museum, home to a collection of Oriental art. We called in first to the Hirshhorn, which is contemporary art, but also has restrooms. Several dubious installation pieces were on display, one of which consisted of large, colorful words strewn across the walls and floor of a room, totally obscuring where the restrooms were. But we found them anyway, with help from 2 guards.
The Sackler is a beautiful building, but was filled with modern “Oriental” pieces. There was one small room with Sasanian Empire wonders; this kingdom in Iran flourished from 224-651 AD. and was famous for silver work. I had never heard of it! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sasanian_Empire]
Less impressive was a Rothko painting [think red and black blocks of color on a large canvas] with a single red Ming vase. Huh? And an even larger “HUH?” goes to the artist who created John S. Sargent’s Peacock Room in ruins, called “Filthy Lucre.” Mind you, what they were selling in the book store was from Sargent’s beautiful paintings, not this artist’s corruption of it.
A bit discouraged, we made our way to the Smithsonian Castle for a lunch of sandwiches and soft drinks at $40.
Which leads me to this paradigm of DC [insert fanfare here]: Large buildings devoid of intelligent content, where cost is never considered.
Deep in the Haupt garden behind the Castle, we found a comfy, shady bench to rest for an hour. I very nearly dozed on Ron’s lap, until his leg fell asleep. But a beautiful and perfect moment.
Thus refreshed, we headed for the Freer museum, to find it closed for renovations. Not daunted, we crossed the Mall to the Natural History Museum, my favorite as a child. Oh, how the mighty have fallen! Very uninformative and dumbed down from what I remember. And understandably crowded on a Sunday afternoon. The mounted dino skeletons must be casts nowadays, as they are perfect, complete and with even color. The idea used to be to show the bones as they were found and to make models of missing parts; that way, the viewer could tell what was conjecture on the part of the museum. Now we slide into hegemony—the citizen scientist is told what to believe.
There was a very good, though small Egyptian section which begs the question: how is that natural history?
With our brains full and tired of the bustle, we retrieved our car and drove to Dulles International on the nearly empty expressway that was built to get Congressmen to the airport quickly.
In due time, we boarded our British Airways 777—our favorite redeye to Europe. We managed some sleep and at dawn, Ron realized that we were over the Bristol Channel. [about a 7 hour flight]. There is a story in my family that when my father and his family went to the 1939 World’s Fair in NYC that they got from middle TN to Bristol TN-VA on the first day.
“Hey,” said Ron. “WE got to Bristol on the first day!”
Our next leg was on a 767, which is roomier and only 2 seats to a side. We couldn’t see Europe this time, but at last it cleared enough for us to see the island-studded coastline of the Balkans and Greece. [about a 3 ½ hour flight—you can see that compared to the Atlantic Ocean, Europe is a tiny place.]
We were met by our driver from Gate1, Apostolos, who did not seem to get our quip about him preaching to us. But he drove well, and we got into Athens in time to see the sun setting on the Acropolis. This must be Athens, we concluded.