Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Washington DC - City of Hope

I spent the past several days in Washington, DC - more than twenty year since my last visit. I was there to visit with family, and had hoped to see the beginning of the cherry blossoms bloom, but the weather was not very cooperative. For two days I walked around the city center, the 'downtown' area, and I was struck by the dissimilarity to New York. Our nation's capitol city has a diverse population, but each group, culturally and economically, stays pretty much in their own neighborhood. In New York the diverse population is squeezed together so tightly that neighborhoods change every few blocks, so that on the main thoroughfares there is a total mix of people in almost every geographical part of the city.

I spent some time at a few museums, some familiar and some new. The Phillips Collection in the beautiful DuPont Circle neighborhood is one of my all-time favorites because of the display of a number of large paintings by Pierre Bonnard, currently my favorite artist. And I visited a new institution called the Newseum, an institution dedicated to journalism, which is in the Capitol area. Most impressive was the gallery of all the photographs that have won the Pulitzer prize since the end of World War II. Most of them were individually moving, but seen as a group the experience is profoundly overwhelming. As I walked around the exhibit I couldn't help noticing the expressions on most of the faces. There wasn't a dry eye in the whole exhibit. Also on display at the Newseum, and as moving as the Pulitzer exhibit,  is a memorial wall of photographs of journalists who have died in the line of duty. Some, as it turned out, I had met and knew personally.

In the Capitol area, where most of the government administration buildings are,  there were very few people out and about, almost all were tourists. I walked past a complex that housed all, except for the US Supreme Court, all the judicial halls and offices. That particular cluster of buildings was a magnet for clusters of homeless and/or unemployed people, which surprised me because there are no social services offices in the area. But because of the underground offices, the sidewalks around the buildings are much warmer than most other neighborhoods. The contrast is striking to see these people in clusters, on otherwise empty streets, huddled in the corners and doorways of the halls of power and justice.