Monday, December 6, 2010

A Weekend in the Nation’s Capital

Mr. Man and I were invited to attend the ICF corporate holiday party Saturday night in D.C. Mr. Man flew up early on Friday morning to spend the day working in the Calverton office, and I flew up in the afternoon, arriving at my hotel around 3:30pm. We stayed at the Hotel Monaco (this is a very nice boutique hotel for those of you who don’t like staying at the major chains or just want something a little different) located in a great area walking distance to the National Mall and all the museums/monuments.

Located directly across the street is the American Museum of Art and National Portrait Gallery, and I decided to spend a couple hours there. Currently there is a special exhibit at the Museum of American Art showing the collection of Steven Spielberg’s and George Lucas’ Norman Rockwell drawings and paintings. Now, I’m not typically a Norman Rockwell fan, finding his content a little too idealistic—possibly due to my limited exposure to his works, which consists mostly of his Saturday Evening Post covers.  Regardless, I’m able to recognize and appreciate what tremendous talent he had. His drawings in particular were wonderful; well rendered with incredible tone and value. Being part of Spielberg’s and Lucas’ private collections, these are rarely seen pieces and I was glad to happen upon the exhibition.

My favorite piece was “The Connoisseur” (1962) which depicts the back of a gray-haired gentleman in gray suit, hands behind his back, clutching white gloves, white hat and black umbrella; he is standing in front of a very colorful and believable Jackson Pollock painting. The juxtaposition is excellent, black, white and gray tones against color, traditional against contemporary, realistic against abstract.

At the Portraiture Gallery, I happened upon a special exhibit of Elvis photos by Alfred Wertheimer taken when Elvis was 21 years old and still virtually unknown. Wertheimer was able to capture moments in time of the everyday Elvis: at a diner where he easily charms his waitress; at home, relaxed and shirtless; on stage with an adoring audience of crying, screaming females; reading fan mail in his hotel; and, my favorite, a clandestine moment in a darkened hallway where Elvis seduces a kiss from an unknown fan. At the time of the photo shoot, Wertheimer had never heard of Elvis. The photos are an astonishing glimpse into Elvis’ life before he becomes famous.

On Saturday, Mr. Man and I walked several blocks to the National Museum of the American Indian. The design of this building is great, all curves and flowing lines, not an angle anywhere. You begin on the fourth floor and work your way back down. On the second floor is a wonderful ethnic food court with fare from five different regions. It's a little overwhelming; trying to make a decision took a bit of time, but we finally chose to split a buffalo burger, lentils with chorizo, cabbage salad, and cucumber and grapefruit salad. Expensive but tasty.

Ginevra de' Benci c. 1474/1478 
After lunch we headed across the National Mall to the National Gallery of Art where spent a good amount of time perusing paintings from early centuries (favorites of Mr. Man)—including Ginevra de' Benci one of only three portraits painted by Leonardo da Vinci and the only one in the United States—as well as some more contemporary works by Matisse, Pollock, and Rothko (pictured below) among others. We really wanted to spend more time, but after a late night the night before, and a holiday party to attend in a few hours, we decided to head back to the hotel for a nap.

The ICF holiday party was held at the National Air and Space Museum. What a great backdrop to a party for 2400 people. The whole museum was open to us, but we didn’t get far off the main area as every ten feet Mr. Man would be stopped by someone from either the (Macro) Calverton office or ICF (ICF bought Macro about 18 months ago). We hardly ate any food, lines were long and food tables sparse, and we made it to the bar only twice, but it didn’t matter. It was obvious that Mr. Man is very well regarded and we spent the entire evening schmoozing. Then, at 11:00pm, they kicked us out into the cold night where we spent some time trying to hail a taxi. Tired and hungry, we ordered room service and then fell asleep.

A quick aside: On the way home Mr. Man was upgraded to first class and he offered the seat to me, he just rolls that way. While the plane was boarding, a soldier in uniform passed by and after people were settled in their seats, a gentleman in the row in front of me called the flight attendant over to request that she offer his seat to the soldier, who was returning to Afghanistan after two weeks leave—he gladly accepted. This act of respect and kindness has, however briefly, restored my faith in humanity.

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