Wordless Wednesday: Night at the ballpark


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Mountain and Clouds will blow your mind

My first thought when entering the lobby of the Senate Hart Office Building – was it this big piece of junk?

A few minutes later when viewing it from the seventh of nine floors, my second thought – Oh, I get it now.

My final thought – Mountains and Clouds is a pretty cool sculpture. Too bad it’s hidden in a government office building that the public rarely sees and few will appreciate from ground level.

It was the final piece created by Alexander Calder, one of the leading 20th-century American sculptors known for creating suspending moving parts called “mobiles.” This piece has four clouds hanging from the roof and five triangular mountains underneath. It’s painted black to contrast with the surrounding white marble.

Ironically, Calder’s final day was spent meeting with the Architect of the Capitol over the sculpture. He even used a pair of pliers to adjust the model. Calder then returned to his New York City home where he died that night. Mountain and Clouds was later dedicated in 1987.

Ironically, I didn’t realize my photo was from the rear until cleaning it up in Photoshop. I was photographing from up high and the lighting hid the rear. But, if I can appreciate it from the back, it sure must be a nice piece.

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Who’s the boss? Why ‘Boss’ Shepherd, of course

George Washington may be the father of our country and namesake for the our town, but Alexander Robey Shepherd, better known as “Boss Shepherd,” is considered “The Father of Modern Washington.”

Shepherd actually stopped an 1870s movement to relocate the capital to St. Louis after national politicians were upset over Washington’s poor infrastructure. Washington’s governor from 1873-74, Shepherd modernized the city’s infrastructure and even planted 60,000 trees to make it more attractive. However, these costly moves nearly put the city into bankruptcy and forced Shepherd from office amid corruption scandals. Shepherd’s plan to keep Washington as the capital city worked, though.

Boss Shepherd was such a controversial person that Mayor Marion Barry removed this statue when taking office in 1979 and exiled it to the city’s impound lot. I guess Mayor Barry figured there was only one boss in town and he was it. However, in 2005, Shepherd’s statue was returned to its original 1909 spot on the right side of the John Wilson Building entrance on Pennsylvania Ave. near 15th St.

The bronze statue is 18 feet tall, including the 18-square foot pedestal made of Vermont granite. It could use a good cleaning, turning green like many statues. It was created by Washington sculptor Ulric Stonewall Jackson Dunbar, who was better known for his statue of baseball pitcher Walter Johnson and death masks.

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Wordless Wednesday: Arlington National Cemetery

ANC graves2

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Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Verizon Center

What was the biggest thing to ever happen where Verizon Center now lies?

The site was once home to The National Era, a weekly abolitionist newspaper that published a 43-week series by Harriet Beecher Stowe. It was supposed to just be a few stories, but readers loved it so much it ran for nearly a year. Two years later, Stowe turned those tales into “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”

The Era was a mixture of anecdotes, poems, letters, stories and transcripts. Slavery was a major part of the newspaper, though. The Era ran from Jan. 7, 1847 – March 22, 1860 and later published by Frederick Douglass from 1870-74.

There has been recent talk of erecting a statue to Verizon founder Abe Pollin. An interesting idea, but in a city of monuments there’s certainly one for Stowe, too.

Maybe on the same street corner housing Verizon Center.

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Finding generations long ago on Vietnam Wall

Vietnam Wall namesWhenever I find a name for someone on the Vietnam Wall, I asked who this person is to them.

Often, it’s a relative. Someone they probably didn’t know like their mom’s uncle. Recently, the woman said it was her boyfriend in 1969. She couldn’t believe it took this long to come see his name on the wall . . . summon the courage to confront pain that still seemed raw. Another time it was a woman’s husband whose body was recently recovered and buried at Arlington National Cemetery that morning.

One day, a 18-year-old woman with dreams of becoming a vascular surgeon and asking about local universities and hospitals, mentioned she had a relative on the Wall. I have “The Wall” app on my phone and found it.

“Who is this to you?” I asked.

“It was my great grandfather,” she said.

The man died in 1966. Could it really be her great grandfather? The men on the Wall are mostly those who would be my older brothers or one generation back. I have a neighbor who’s on the Wall. The young woman is almost a decade younger than my daughters. Maybe it was her grandfather. But no, she insisted it was her great grandfather and one of the volunteers told me just did another great grandfather relation.

We had the young lady rub her ancestor’s name to take home. As the letters appeared, it seemed to become even more real to her. That’s the beauty of the Wall.

Every day, there’s a new story on the Wall.

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Alice Roosevelt found in Peacock Alley

alice roosevelt

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Last Conversation Piece says a lot

I must admit this series of rotund statues makes me laugh. Like it’s a Weight Watchers meeting and a dispute breaks out as one says, “Who you calling fat?”

That’s the great part of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden whose many modern art pieces can be whatever you want them to be. While I have no idea what most of these things are, I enjoy the outdoor bronze statues.

The Last Conversation Piece was created by Spanish artist Juan Munoz in 1994-95 and quickly purchased by the Hirshhorn. It’s five bronze statues on the Independence Ave. side of the building. Three of them are together as if in a huddle for a little 2-2 touch football.

Munoz was an interesting cat who disdained his family’s wealth to become a New York waiter until breaking through as an artist in the 1980s. He was known for his theme of isolation. Like I said, I don’t understand most of the Hirshhorn but I know what I like. Munoz died in 2001 of a heart attack at age 48 so we can’t get his version.

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We cannot tell a lie – GW’s birthplace is cool

GW Monument birthplaceMonumental Thoughts has a guest contributor – Megan Johnson. (Hey, we’re all for free labor.)

A sprawling stretch of land along Popes Creek, Va., isn’t all that different today from when George Washington entered the world 284 years ago – and that’s just the way the National Park Service likes it.

At the George Washington Birthplace National Monument, visitors are treated to talks with knowledgeable park rangers about this place the first president called home until the age of 3. On a plantation originally settled by John Washington, George’s great-grandfather, one of America’s forefathers was born along the waterfront in 1732.

GW birthplaceThough the original family home burned to the ground in a Christmas Day fire in 1779, an oyster shell outline marks where it once stood. Nearby is a memorial house representing similar styles of the era, added to the property in 1931. Park rangers offer tours throughout the day.

Today, the grounds consist of an obelisk one-tenth the size of the Washington Monument that honors him in Washington; an herb and flower garden with a gargantuan birdhouse; a burial ground with 32 members of the Washington family; and a colonial living farm with horses, cattle, poultry and more. The expansive property boasts many hiking trails with scenic views, and the visitor center has displays of 18th-century objects and paraphernalia. Watch a 14-minute video of Washington’s early life here before exploring on your own.

Bird watchers can be treated to plenty of action from wildlife soaring along the shores of Popes Creek where it meets the Potomac River. Relaxing on a wide, modern deck at the visitor center can be a pleasant way to spend an afternoon. Photographers will rejoice in opportunities to capture the trees and animals on the property, especially as the seasons change. The beach near the visitor center is also accessible for wading and picnicking.

AnimalsThough the birthplace monument may not have enough to entertain young or active children, it’s very worth walking beneath the trees to imagine what Washington’s boyhood was like nearly 300 years ago. Tranquil, calm and quiet, the Birthplace Monument has many benches along the waterfront and tucked into the forest just beckoning visitors to pause and reflect.

One visit and you’ll understand why.

The George Washington National Birthplace Monument is located at 1732 Popes Creek Road, Colonial Beach, Virginia. The visitor center and grounds are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Restrooms and a gift shop are located in the visitor center, which has plenty of free parking. There is no fee to enter, but donations are accepted. For more information, visit their website or call 804-224-1732, ext. 227.

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Wordless Wednesday: Peacock Alley at the Willard


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Another spring season ends . . .

Jefferson Memorial angle
What did we learn as the 100-day invasion by school children that swarms our city each spring finally ends and a short interlude awaits before family and international tourists follow?

It was a grind.

First it rained forever, including 16 straight days. I tell people tour guiding is a great job – meet lots of people from everywhere, pays well and there’s plenty of exercise – unless it rains. Then it just sucks, and it sucked often this spring.

It was a cold wet spring until it suddenly wasn’t. And just like we knew would happen, the humidity came and suddenly those 60-degree damp days were suddenly muggy 85-degree days. It won’t be long before it’s 95 degrees.

So basically, Mother Nature cheated us out of spring.

The city was overrun and security zealots chose it as the perfect time to increase security measures at the Smithsonian museums. What a mess. And is it really worth it?

Meanwhile, the White House seems an increasing target for fence jumpers. One was even shot when brandishing a gun.

And metro has finally come to its day of reckoning. God help us all there.

So many tourist areas have become bottlenecks. At least Arlington National Cemetery didn’t impose metal detectors as once promised or it would have been 10 times worse.

Here’s the bottom line – have we reached the saturation point? Is American loving us too much?

No – we just need to be smarter over working the ins and outs of increased security, metro problems and more tourists. But we survived and we will overcome.

After all, we’re Washingtonians. It’s what we do.

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Oh angel, why so sad?

Richard RothwellI love statues in cemeteries. Angels intrigued me, especially when memorializing someone forever.

Richard Rothwell and his wife Emma lie beneath a sighing angel in Congressional Cemetery. Rothwell was once paid by Congress for creating 20 centographs that remember late Congressmen or Senators. Born in Manchester, England in 1822, Rothwell died in Washington in 1906, 20 years after Emma.

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Wordless Wednesday: Jefferson Memorial

Jefferson Memorial

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Happy Memorial Day . . . already?


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J. Edgar Hoover – The G-Man of Congressional Cemetery

J. Edgar Hoover

Perhaps the most feared man by criminals and Congressmen alike is buried behind bars.

J. Edgar Hoover once headed the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) from 1924-77. Indeed, his name in on the building along Pennsylvania Ave.

The nation’s top G-Man (Government man, as they were called in the early days) is buried with family in Congressional Cemetery on the edge of town. A simple plot surrounded by a black iron fence with an FBI crest and bench.

J. Edgar Hoover2Funny, I would have expected a statue. ‘

Hoover’s legacy would fill books instead of a blog. Simply, he was the first to create a national police power to catch the worst criminals like John Dillinger and “Machine Gun” Kelly. But critics that included Present Harry S. Truman charged Hoover overextended his powers by creating secret files to blackmail those who opposed him.

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Wordless Wednesday: When DuPont Circle fountain runs dry

DuPont Circle

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Dulles . . . as in Dulles International Airport

DullesMany Washingtonians fly in and out of Washington Dulles International Airport without knowing who Dulles was.

Turns out he was one of us.

A Washington native, John Foster Dulles rose to Secretary of State under President Dwight D. Eisnehower from 1953 until shortly before his 1959 death from cancer and a was a major player in the Cold War against the Soviet Union. He’s buried at Arlington National Cemetery not far from the Tomb of the Unknowns.

Dulles first served as the U.S. legal counsel to the Versailles Peace Conference that ended World War I. He was a member of a New York law firm that specialized in international finance and became a U.S. delegate to the United Nations in 1946-47 and ’50. He briefly served as a U.S. Senator to fill a vacancy before losing a special election.

Actress Carol Burnett’s big break was siging a 1950s song called “I Made a Fool of Myself Over John Foster.”

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Check out our new Sex, Ghosts and Guns tour

White House Jefferson viewEvery year, I try to come up with a new specialty tour to keep locals interested. While the Lincoln assassination tour consistently draws well and the Kennedy homes of Georgetown is a good attraction, other tours ebb and flow.

So time for something new — Sex, Guns and Ghosts – The White House neighborhood.

Starting at the Jackson statue in Lafayette Park, we’ll visit 21 stops in about 90 minutes. There’s the scene of a sex scandal and murder in the park. Ghosts on both sides of Lafayette Park. Lincoln assassination connections, famous hotels, national organizations. Basically, we can’t walk 100 feet without something to see as we circle the White House.

Like all of my Capital Photo History Tours, it’s just $20 when buying via Goldstar. It’s more expensive other places so save some dough with Goldstar. Come see what you’re been driving past for years.


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A Chesapeake Waterman in Southern Maryland

WatermanDeep in Southern Maryland where the only jobs until the recent housing boom of the past decade were farming and fishing is a reminder of the past. This statue of A Chesapeake Waterman seeking crabs and oysters is a reminder of the old days.

The statue is part of Annemarie Sculpture Garden and Arts Center in Solomons, Md. Basically, follow Rt. 4 (Pennsylvania Ave. East) until you nearly reach the water and on the left is this 30-acre oasis dedicated to the arts amid the tall pines. They teach and inspire about any type of art imaginable. One of these days I’m going to take a stained glass class.

Meanwhile, the waterman reminds us of the past.

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Horse and Rider trots along

It looks like me ready to fall off, but sculptor Mario Marini’s Horse and Rider is considered an example of a man in control.

Sure, if you say so.

The seven-foot tall sculpture outside the Hirshhorn Museum is another of Marini’s works that were influenced by ancient Etruscan sculptures. They’re nothing fancy, which is the point.

The Italian artist studied under Picasso and was considered a big deal in the 1950s and ‘60s before passing away in 1978. His most famous work is a horse and rider called The Angel of the City in Venice.

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