BLISTERS, AND BROTHERS AND SISTERS

A few years ago the Junior Christmas Play included a ‘country’ song, sung by the Wise Men, with the glorious line

“When we started out we didn’t mind the odd blister

But now every blister’s got a brother and sister”

It’s been playing on my internal loop this weekend, since we’ve walked at least ten miles each day whilst in Washington DC, accompanied by lots of time spent standing at memorials and in museums.  Diligent use of a Boot’s blister stick has staved off serious pain, but we are both feeling a bit creaky this morning and glad of a chance to recuperate on the train journey to New York.  Here’s a quick run-down of events since my last post:

We visited the Stuart Davis exhibition in the west building of the National Gallery of Art and also took in a few Monet paintings.  I was bemused by the number of people openly taking photographs of paintings, which would not be tolerated in UK galleries.  A few paintings had signs asking visitors not to take photos, so presumably the others are fair game?

Next was the Vietnam memorial, which was incredibly powerful.  We spent quite a while reading the names on the main memorial, then moved to see the Vietnam Women’s Memorial, which contrasts in design and anonymity.  In a part of the city where so many individuals and groups are memorialized, it is a powerful opportunity to reflect on who is remembered, how, and by whom.

Saturday evening was our jolly to the Kennedy Center, which will probably feature in another blog.  It was Laura’s first experience of an orchestral performance in a major concert venue, and she asked some questions that really got me thinking about how I listen to music.  I also spent quite a lot of time admiring the building – and thinking how much more posh it is than the South Bank Centre!  The audience’s standing ovations were intriguing.  A large proportion of the audience stood immediately after the concerto performance: I did think it was very good, but I was bemused by the speed at which people got to their feet.  The same response was given to the orchestra after the final item in the programme, which surprised me again.  Are Americans more enthusiastic, more willing to express their praise?  Perhaps in Britain we are overly caught up in classical music etiquette?  Or just lazier?

Sunday morning was designated for our visit to Arlington Cemetery, which was awesome in the true sense of the word.  The warm weather continued, so we walked over the bridge into Virginia (another state ticked off!) and wandered round the cemetery in shirt sleeves and sunglasses.  The number of graves was powerful, as was the simplicity and beauty of the site.  I haven’t visited any of the equivalent British cemeteries, but there seems to be a difference in how we create and maintain spaces for grieving and remembering.

Laura spent the afternoon at a battle site and vineyard, whereas I walked back into the city and went to the National Portrait Gallery.  It was a calm, beautiful indoor space that I could probably spend a week in.  The Bravo! exhibition was fascinating for its juxtaposition of media and subjects, and I also enjoyed spending time sat on a comfy sofa, catching up with Facebook whilst surrounded by modern sculptures.

Monday morning saw yet more sun and a beautiful walk that took in the Capitol Building, Supreme Court and Library of Congress.  We didn’t go into any of them, but revelled in the warm weather and small crowds, before heading over to Newseum.  What a fascinating blast of reality it is!  Again the blisters/sisters line seemed relevant.  So many of the struggles recounted there highlighted the potential for people to unite and support one another.  The vivid examples of oppression and disaster were particularly poignant when considered alongside all the memorials we’d visited.  Humanity’s ability to repeat the same mistakes was depressingly evident, prompting us to discuss issues of power and community over dinner.

So, here we are on the train, watching Delaware go by, and it all feels a bit serious.  Maybe it’s time to listen to the Kinky Boots soundtrack in preparation for Thursday’s Broadway trip.  On the other hand, that makes me think of shoes, which makes me remember how much my feet hurt… and then I just feel lucky that my #firstworldproblems are unlikely to feature in a Newseum exhibition.

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