A little statue in the corner has a story to tell

I love the Organization of American States building. It is absolutely fascinating and filled with overwhelming art projects both inside and out.

One is tucked away from the front view, but you shouldn’t miss this one. Just to the right corner of the 17th St. property, behind the trees, is a statue of the Prophet Daniel.

Yes, that Daniel. The one who lived among the lions.

The eight-foot concrete statue was a gift from the Brazilian government in 1962. It’s a replica of a 1805 soapstone statue by sculptor Antonio Francisco Lisboa.

Daniel is a fascinating Biblical figure. As a youth born of Jewish nobles, Daniel served in the Babylon court of Nebuchadnezzar. Yes, that Nebuchadnezzar.

Daniel could interpret visions. The ruler asked about his dream and Daniel told him for sinning against God the king would lose his mind and wander among the animals. Sure enough, it happened.

Years later, Nebuchadnezzar’s son and successor Belshazzar summoned Daniel to decipher some words that appeared after the ruler drank from goblets

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Wordless Wednesday: RFK at Arlington National Cemetery


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Full Count reminds fans there are sports statues in town

With more than 3,100 statues, memorials and monuments, you’d think Washington would be filled with sports figures cast in bronze.

Think again.

Nationals Park has Josh Gibson, Frank Howard and Walter Johnson as gigantic, odd-looking statues beyond the left field bleachers that don’t look like the real people. There are monuments to the late Redskins owner George Preston Marshall and Senators owner Clarke Griffith in front of RFK Stadium.

Otherwise, none of my fellow sports writers can remember a sports statue around town. Surely one should be erected of Abe Pollin, whose Verizon Center spurred the revitalization of Chinatown amid his Wizards and Capitals. Sammy Baugh should have one whenever the Redskins return to Washington. Sugar Ray Leonard might merit one, also.

For now, you’ll have to settle for Full Count in the courtyard of the Federal Reserve Bank at 19th and Virginia Ave. N.W. Sculptor John Dreyfuss spent eight years working on the bronze creation of a hitter, catcher and umpire at the plate awaiting a pitcher who is the correct 60 feet, 6 inches away.

On his website, Dreyfuss says, “In defining this moment in the game, I have been inspired by the paintings of Thomas Eakins’s Civil War baseball players, Andy Warhol’s icons of Tom Seaver, and countless 19th-century folk works. But it is in the study of the great masters, such as Pre-Columbian sculptures of ball players, Pablo Picasso’s bullfighters, and Degas’ jockeys that one understands the games we play define who we are as a people.

“Within the arena of sport and contest, some of the most difficult social issues of our day can be played out. African Americans and women increasingly gained the right to express themselves in non- traditional ways, forming leagues of their own when traditional leagues were exclusionary or depleted of men sent overseas during the Second World War. Today, baseball is still the lens through which Americans see themselves and debate controversial issues. The game continues to challenge athletes to consider their responsibilities as figures in the public realm. In many respects, baseball is a perfect crucible for our national self-definition.”

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Here’s a bar bet you can win

Washington, D.C. is named after two people.

Name them.

I ask this of every group I take out and maybe 10 percent has someone who can answer it.

OK, we all should know that George Washington is the Washington part. If not, read everything in my blog immediately because you need help.

But the second part comes from the D.C. District of . . .

Nothing yet? OK, Columbia is the feminine version of . . .

Dude, you’re killing me. Columbus. Christopher Columbus.

So next time you need a free beer, bet someone at the bar if they know this and you’ll probably drink on the house.

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Wordless Wednesday: On the National Mall


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Winston Churchill – man of two worlds

Winston Churchill does an international game of hokey pokey outside the British embassy on Massachusetts Ave.

Embassies are technically foreign soil so the 186 in town form quite an international landmass. But the late British prime minister, who led England through World War II, was the son of an American mother and British father. Hence, the statue has one foot on American soil at the embassy’s edge and the other on British soil.

Standing just below the Naval Observatory, the nine-foot bronze statue has Churchill flashing the “V” for victory sign with his right hand used by the British during the war and a cane and cigar in his left. Soil from his native Blenheim Palace, his rose garden in Chartwell, England and his mother’s home in Brooklyn lie beneath the granite base. A time capsule underneath will be opened in 2063, the 100th anniversary of Churchill’s honorary citizenship.

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American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial brings peace

photo_5-3It’s peaceful when entering the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial. It’s just a block off the National Mall near congressional offices at 150 Washington Ave. SW, sandwiched into a one-time medium area that was a short cut exiting town.

There are thousands of people near you, but nobody with you. The recently opened memorial hasn’t been discovered by tourists so it’s a chance to sit and reflect. In fact, sit on benches with handbags for the disabled to use. I haven’t seen those anywhere around town.


photo_4-5The memorial opened in September after 12 years in the making as a tribute to those permanently disabled. Water and fire — the elements are staples of our lives so why shouldn’t they be for a memorial for those injured in wars. And glass panels with photos inside photos so show the pain and compassion of what happened on battlefields.

So take a few minutes and stop by one day. You’ll remember why our veterans are special.


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Museum of African American History and Culture


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Albert Gallatin – the man in front of the Treasury

After taking their zillion photos of the north side of the White House, many tourists walk to 15th St. to catch their bus. They pass the Treasury Building along the way and always ask who’s the statue.

When I say Albert Gallatin, the response is usually a blank stare. And, I really can’t blame them.

Created by James Earle Fraser, the bronze statue was erected in 1947. The inscription on the base tells his story:




Gallatin was the fourth and longest-running Treasury Secretary who later founded what’s now NYU college. A young orphan of rich parents, the Swiss-born Gallatin arrived in the U.S. at age 19. Gallatin endured mixed success as a businessman before entering politics. He was a pretty good Treasury Secretary, overseeing the Louisiana Purchase for $15 million and financing the War of 1812 with Britain. However, the national debt grew under his stewardship.

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The history of flags by the FBI

FBI flagsSometimes the government website says it better than we can. Here is the FBI’s website explanation of the history of flags along its building on Pennsylvania Ave. in Washington. The Grand Union, or Continental Colors, serving from 1775-1777, was first raised on January 1, 1776, on Mount Pigsah, Massachusetts, about the time the Continental army came into formal existence. It combined the British Union Jack and 13 stripes, signifying Colonial unity. The following below is from the FBI website.
The Flag of 1777, which had no official arrangement for the 13 stars. It was flown by John Paul Jones on the USS Ranger and was the first American flag to be recognized by a foreign power.
The Betsy Ross Flag, 13 stars, designed by George Washington, Betsy Ross, and Francis Hopkinson. Although rarely used, it was adopted by Congress on June 14, 1777–the official date of today’s Flag Day.
The Bennington Flag, 13 six-pointed stars, allegedly flown August 16, 1777, over military stores at the Battle of Bennington, Vermont, when the Vermont militia beat back a superior British force.
The Star Spangled Banner, 15 stars and 15 stripes, immortalized by Francis Scott Key in our National Anthem during the bombardment of Ft. McHenry, Maryland, in September 13, 1814.
The Flag of 1818, 20 stars, commissioned by a Congressional Flag Act that returned the design to 13 stripes and stipulated that stars be added for each new state.
The Great Star Flag, 20 stars, designed by Captain Samuel Chester Reid, U.S. Navy, at the request of New York Congressman Peter Wendover and flown over the U.S. Capitol on April 13, 1818.
The Lincoln Flag, 34 stars, raised by President Lincoln on February 22, 1861, over Philadelphia’s Independence Hall to send a message to Southern states, which were preparing to secede from the Union.
The Iwo Jima Flag, 48 stars, which was commissioned in 1912 but came to symbolize our Nation on February 19, 1945, when U.S. Marines raised it on Mount Suribachi after fearful fighting in World War II’s Pacific campaign.
The 49-Star Flag, commissioned in 1959 when Alaska achieved full Statehood. It flew for only one year, until July 4, 1960, after Hawaii achieved its Statehood and when today’s 50-star flag became official.

What about the large banner streaming from the corner of 9th and Penn? It and its twin on 10th and Penn have been flying since May 29, 2004, after we were invited to be part of the dedication of Washington’s World War II Memorial this past Memorial Day, honoring the 16 million who served and the over 400,000 who died in World War II. This banner, of course, uses the 48-star format of The Iwo Jima Flag.

And that flag around the corner, on 9th street? It’s the 50-star flag, which our FBI police reverently raise each day at 5 am and take down at dusk.

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Where the gossip grew along Embassy Row

Welcome to the home of the other “Washington Monument” as Alice Roosevelt Longfellow was called. The oldest daughter of president Teddy Roosevelt, she lived 96 years and they were very colorful years.

Alice once said, “If you can’t say something nice, come sit next to me.” She was a striking woman who married Congressman Nicholas Longworth who went on to be the House Speaker and whom one of the House buildings is named after. Yet, it was a rocky marriage as she often criticized his politics. Both had public affairs. Indeed, Alice’s only child was a result of an affair with Senator William Borah of Idaho.

Alice once jumped into a pool with a congressman while fully clothed. Posed for tobacco ads. Wrote a juicy autobiography and had an “affectionate” relationship with Bobby Kennedy, JFK’s younger brother who was AG and assassinated when running for president. She called Thomas Dewey that “little man on the wedding cake” that was an image that help cost him two presidential elections. And, worst of all, the lifelong Republican voted Democrat late in her life.

The four-story yellow brick building at 2009 Massachussetts Ave. N.W. is now the home of the Washington Legal Foundation, a conservative legal group that promotes business and free market trade.

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Museum of African American History and Culture


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A walk through the African American museum


I took a “quick” two-hour tour of the new Museum of African American History and Culture. Here are a few observations.

exterior3The building is beautiful and I now understand what they wanted to do with the unusual exterior by allowing exterior views of the National Mall from inside the building. Judge the exterior once you’ve seen it from the interior.

The best way to see the museum is from the bottom to top that starts with the slavery era, continues through the Civil War and then the 1968 civil rights movement (see the Greenboro lunch counter above) before escalating to floors for sports and entertainment.

tuskegee-planeI’ve been a sports writer in Washington since 1978 so the sports floor is big for me. Understandably, it’s the dessert after the harsh lessons of the past, but it’s still a grand story. So many great athletes are honored. You could spend all day on that floor alone.

The entertainment floor devoted to actors and musicians is a who’s who of American music. Chuck Berry’s red Cadillac is cool. I noticed the generation gap on this floor with older visitors checking out artists more from the 1960s and youngsters looking for modern performers.

wallThe restaurant matches the American Indian museum’s as the finest on the mall. Most museum cafes are fried junk. Both the American Indian and African American provide healthy food that pertain to the culture. I’d put up the macaroni and cheese in the African American and the salmon in the American Indian as fine as anything served in any restaurant around town. (Wow, I wrote the largest paragraph on food.)

Tickets aren’t easy to get and the January-March tickets are available online on Oct. 3. The spring will be impossible to get tickets given the student groups that flood town. You can also get four tickets at 9:30 a.m. daily at the museum on first-come basis.  Go online at 9 a.m. on Oct. 3 for winter tickets at the African American museum.



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Museum of African American History and Culture


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Wordless Wednesday: Mount Vernon

Mount Vernon

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No bowing, she’s not the queen

You never know what kids will say. I asked some youngsters who I was standing next to and “The Queen of England?” was the first response.

Well, I must admit she does look a little like Queen Elizabeth, but it’s actually former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. Its location at husband’s FDR Memorial should be a dead giveaway, but kids don’t always make the connection.

Eleanor is standing next to the United Nations symbol given her staunch support for it. She’s the only First Lady honored with a statue at a presidential memorial. Given Eleanor served the longest of any First Lady and often spoke for her husband at events, she certainly deserves it.

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Ascent soars outside Udvar-Hazy Center

One of the more interesting items at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center near Dulles International Airport may be outside.

Ascent is a 75-foot polished, stainless steel artwork that means, well I’m not good at interpretative art. But, some say its upward soaring image represents man’s desire to soar to the heavens.

Ascent was created by John Safer, a real renaissance man who studied law at Harvard, worked in banking and created artwork that hangs in more than 1,000 museums and embassies worldwide.

“It is my hope,” Safer told Cosmos Journal magazine, “that people who look at my work will feel uplifted and inspired. Through my sculptures, I try to make people feel more at one with themselves and the universe in which they live.”

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Wordless Wednesday: Arlington National Cemetery

arlington national cemetery

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This old stone house . . .

Georgetown has plenty of old bricks, but this stone home along M and 30th Sts. stands out. That’s because it’s the Old Stone House.

Built in 1765, the home is the oldest private home in Washington. The house was built by Christopher Layman, a cabinetmaker who died shortly after its finish. Cassandra Chew then bought it and added a rear wing in 1767. Purchased by the federal government in 1953, it now operates under the National Park Service. With its blue granite exterior, the home is perfect example of pre-Revolutionary life.

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Finally, an honest man in Judiciary Square

How many statues are there of Abraham Lincoln around town? That’s a good question. And, I don’t know the answer.

What’s special about this one in front of the D.C. Court of Appeals (Lincoln was a lawyer, after all) is it was the first public monument of Lincoln following his 1865 assassination. It was paid by District residents.

Lincoln stands on a pedestal with a bundle of sticks, which was the symbol of the law in ancient Rome. Sculptor Lee Flannery knew Lincoln so it’s a good likeness. It was dedicated in 1868.

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