More than a pile of rocks

The grounds of the Organizational States of America are filled with artwork. One looks like a pile of rocks. That’s because it is.

According to a nearby marker, the stones are an Inuksuk — “A northern stone land marker used by the Inuit for navigation, communication and to mark hunting and fishing grounds; it symbolizes the traditional Inuit way of life.

“Canada presented this Inuksuk to the Organization of American States to celebrate its 20th anniversary of membership and to underscore its commitment to the hemisphere. This Inuksuk was built in April 2010 by artist Peter Irniq.”

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Wordless Wednesday: Arlington National Cemetery

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John Glenn: From the stars to Arlington National Cemetery

Growing up in the 1960s, our heroes were astronauts. Men were going to the moon. The moon! Today, space exploration seems doable, but back then they were flying in outer space with less technology than in our cell phones.

My first trip to Arlington National Cemetery after the winter break meant finding astronaut John Glenn. He lies about 50 yards southwest of the Memorial Amphitheater in Section 35, grave 1543. It’s a five-minute walk from the Changing of the Guard.

Glenn’s grave included five pennies atop the marker, which is an old throwback to paying the ferryman to take you to the afterlife. Today, it means anyone came by and wanted to say hi. It’s like leaving flowers.

Glenn lived quite the life. A Marine Corps colonel, Glenn was the first American to orbit the Earth, spinning past three times in 1962. He was a U.S. Senator from Ohio from 1974-99. In good health all of his life and even flying into his 80s, Glenn died on Dec. 8, 2016 at age 95.

As fellow Mercury astronaut Scott Carpenter hailed Glenn’s first space launch, “Godspeed, John Glenn.”

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The boxer and actor

One of my favorite stops while walking through Arlington National Cemetery is just below the Tomb of the Unknowns where heavyweight champion Joe Louis lies next to famed actor Lee Marvin. Maybe it’s just a good spot to catch your breath before scaling the final walk to see the Changing of the Guard, but it’s also a good two-fer.

Louis was a Technical Sergeant in the U.S. Army while Marvin was a Private First Class in the Marines. Both served in World War II. Louis joined in 1942 and served in the Special Services Division and was best known for saying, “Lots of things wrong with America, but Hitler ain’t going to fix them” and “We’ll win, because we’re on God’s side.” He was withheld from combat for fear of being targeted by Germans. He earned the Legion of Merit before discharged on Oct. 1, 1945. Of course, he was also heavyweight champion boxer of the world.

Marvin enlisted in 1942 and served with the 4th Marine Division in the Pacific. He was shot twice during the Battle of Saipan, severing his sciatic nerve and hitting his foot. He was medically discharged in 1945. Marvin earned multiple medals, including a Purple Heart. He’s best known for becoming an actor in 30-plus movies, including the crusty colonel in “The Dirty Dozen.”

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Wordless Wednesday: Arlington National Cemetery Memorial Amphitheater

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Museum of the Bible is a real beauty

The first thing you notice upon entering the Museum of the Bible is the ceiling. Sometimes it’s flowers, sometimes it looks like the Sistine Chapel. But, it’s the most amazing video board I’ve ever seen.

Turns out that’s just the start for Washington’s newest museum.

The elevators have three large monitors with museum that make you feel like you’re in the Holy Lands. A table suddenly has foods for meals that look so real you’re ready to eat. And throughout the facility are videos of past Biblical re-enactors talking about their lives.

It’s pretty cool.

My favorite part was on level three that is a re-creation of the Holy Lands in the Old Testament. It’s something straight out of Disney that provides a real feel of village life.

The museum also has large rooms of bibles of different faiths. Tapestries that double as video screens. A jail cell that tells stories of forgiveness.

The museum is a mixture of past relics and current technologies. We spent four hours, including lunch that is a quite unusual but delicious menu complete with boxes (not bottles) of water. That’s a long time in a museum for me and we missed a couple areas. Oh well, I’m sure there will be return trips with family and friends.

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X marks Deep Throat’s spot

As a journalist in town for 40 years, this is my holy ground. A parking garage where secrets that brought down a president were told.

Military folks love the World War II, Korean and Vietnam Memorials. Nurses want to see the trio near the Vietnam wall. Political buffs head for Capitol Hill.

Well, I’m an old newspaper man in this town. A sports columnist for the Washington Post Express and 106.7 The Fan nowadays, but I’ve been there and done that for several papers since 1978.

Watergate was the biggest story of my teen years. I’ve wanted to be a newspaper reporter since 1972 when seeing the school paper. It coincided with Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein breaking stories about the Democratic headquarters break-in at the Watergate hotel that ultimately led to President Nixon resigning.

Everybody wanted to be an investigative reporter. It didn’t matter that I cover sports. There are shadows wherever you work. My first big scoop was in 1986 over a high school recruiting scandal. Over the years, I spent my share of time in late-night meetings in public places getting information long before days of cell phones made clandestine meetings less necessary.

I had to stop by the parking garage on Nash St. in Rosslyn where a historical marker was erected last August detailing where Woodward met “Deep Throat,” identified as FBI official Mark Felt in 2005 before his death, a half dozen times from October 1972-November 1973 for information. Parking space 32D. It’s still there.

It was brilliant – hiding in plain sight, as I like to say.

The marker on Nash St. in Arlington, Va. just down the quiet street from the Hyatt bordering Wilson Blvd. says:

“Mark Felt, second in command at the FBI, met Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward here in this parking garage to discuss the Watergate scandal. Felt provided Woodward information that exposed the Nixon administration’s obstruction of the FBI’s Watergate investigation. He chose the garage as an anonymous secure location. They met at this garage six times between October 1972 and November 1973. The Watergate scandal resulted in President Nixon’s resignation in 1974. Woodward’s managing editor, Howard Simons, gave Felt the code name “Deep Throat.” Woodward’s promise not to reveal his source was kept until Felt announced his role as Deep Throat in 2005.”

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Peak cherry blossom bloom expected March 17-20

The National Park Service expects the peak cherry blossom bloom is March 17 to 20. The Washington Post Weather Gang expects it a few days later.

When will they really bloom? Who knows?

It’s always a guess. A guess by smart people based on data, but things change. Last year, a nor’easter came out of nowhere and killed more than half the blossoms. So, stand by. And when they peak bloom, go out and enjoy them.

Meanwhile, the National Kite Festival on the National Mall is March 31 while the cherry blossom parade is April 14.

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Wordless Wednesday: Lincoln Memorial

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Vaquero unleashes a wild ride

It is a moment of madness. The Mexican-American cowboy with his gun raised skyward and his horse appearing earthbound trying to buck the rider. Vaquero captures one wild moment.

Outside the American Art Museum-National Portrait Gallery on F St. between 7th and 9th Sts. N.W., the 16-foot fiberglass statue is as imposing for its bright colors as its action. Sculpted by Luis Jiminez of El Paso, the Vaquero was first created for Houston in 1982. Critics said it looked like a drunken bandit while advocates said it represented an 1800s cowboys.

Jiminez made a second casting for the Smithsonian site in 1990. It was in storage from 2000-06, according to James Goode’s “Washington Sculptures,” during renovations to the former Patent Office. Ironically, wrote Goode, Jiminez died in a sculpting accident at age 66 the same week Vaquero returned in 2006.

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World War I remembered at Arlington National Cemetery

The Arlington National Cemetery Visitors Center remembers “The Great War” with a display commemorating the 100th anniversary of its end. The lobby is filled with World War I paintings, photos and information on the war that changed the world and launched the U.S. as a global superpower.

World War I was from July 28,1914 to Nov. 11 1918. The U.S. didn’t join the war until 1917.

More than 5,000 Americans serving in World War I are buried at Arlington. Another 30,000 are buried overseas. Some four million Americans served during the war with 116,000 deaths.
The joint exhibit with the American Battle Monuments Commission will have its official opening ceremony on March 31 at 8 a.m. The exhibit will remain until November.

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Wordless Wednesday: DC World War I Memorial

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Clara Barton’s office for missing soldiers no longer lost, too

There seems a certain irony that Clara Barton’s office for missing soldiers was itself lost for 130 years.

Seriously, how can office space in the middle of downtown Washington go unseen for more than a century? I could see one owner maybe not using the space, but four generations never took a peak? That’s just amazing. A second-story fire kept anyone from venturing to the third floor, but I find it amazing no one over a century did.

The upstairs office at 437 7th St. N.W. was discovered by a workman in 1997 as the building was nearing demolition. It was the Boyce and Lewis Shoe Store for decades before later sold to the Pennsylvania Ave. Development Corporation and then sold to the federal agency General Services Administration. The building dates to 1853 and is believed to be the last intact boarding house during the Civil War remaining in Washington.

The discovery of Room 9 for Missing Solders Office was a historical find akin to cracking open an Egyptian tomb. Barton lived there for eight years, including the Civil War. The No. 9 is still painted on the door that includes her mail slot. There are window displays at the street level.

The 2,016 artifacts documents dated until 1868 when Barton left for Europe. The first president of the American Red Cross later lived at a Glen Echo Home for the final 15 years before her 1912 death. The Glen Echo home has tours regularly. Visit Clara Barton’s Glen Echo home.

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Space Shuttle Challenger remembered at Arlington

It’s one of those moments we all remember. The Space Shuttle Challenger exploding just 73.5 seconds after leaving Cape Kennedy on Jan. 28, 1986. An o-ring in the right booster rocket leaking hot gasses that led to the fuel tank rupturing and the shuttle falling into the Atlantic Ocean.

There was no escape for the seven astronauts, who are remembered with this marker just above the Memorial Amphitheater by the Tomb of the Unknowns.

Killed were Capt. Michael J. Smith, U.S. Navy; Lt. Col. Francis R. (Dick) Scobee, U.S. Air Force; Dr. Judith A. Resnik; Lt. Col. Ellison S. Onizuka, U.S. Air Force; Mr. Gregory B. Jarvis, Dr. Ronald E. McNair and Sharon Christa McAuliffe.

Parts of all seven are interred beneath the marker, but Scobee and Smith are buried elsewhere in Arlington. Scobee is just a few feet to the left of the memorial. Smith is in Section 7A, site 208-1.

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Best Romantic Photo Spots

It’s not unusual to see weddings around the National Mall and the U.S. Capitol. Maybe the gardens, fountains, majestic buildings or being in a park draws them, but on a spring day you’ll often see the happy bride and groom posing for a photographer.

The next generation to this idea is engagement photos. They’re becoming very popular with the twenty-somethings. Indeed, both of my daughters heard the question popped in a public area in town.

Where should you go for a romantic photo spot? Here are seven good ones.

Jefferson Memorial – The Tidal Basin area has many couples posing among the trees declaring their love. The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial has become popular, but the Jefferson Memorial seems more popular among the young government workers. It’s a cool building, patterned after the Panthenon in Rome and there’s water, too. I’d take someone to the edge of the water on the right side of the Jefferson to get both in the photo.

Meridian Hill Park –Maybe it’s the cascading Italianate waterfall, but I once spotted three wedding groups being photographed on a Saturday afternoon. Luckily, the place is big enough for everyone to have their own spot.

Dumbarton Oaks – There’s an admission fee for this private estate, but it’s the most beautiful grounds in town and plenty of vistas for photos. Kind of a secret garden theme.

U.S. Botanic Gardens – My oldest daughter became engaged here inside the building at a bench off the main walk. Wintertime makes this a big option since it’s climate controlled, but if you’re big into plants go for it. Feel free to use the bench idea.

Capitol Gardens – There are several excellent venues for the Capitol. The Senate Fountain on the north side near Union Station is an excellent view. Water and a building, always a great combination. There’s a red brick springhouse on the west side of the dome along the path that’s perfect in warm weather. And, you can’t go wrong by the rail on the west side that overlooks the National Mall.

Lincoln Memorial – The most visited attraction in town is an attractive backdrop. I’d stand either near the bottom one flight above street level so the rising building is in the background or at the top with the National Mall as the background. For the latter, go to either end of the building for more privacy and use the columns as borders of your photo.

Grace Episcopal Church – That wedding couple by the red door featured above is an active church just below Wisconsin Ave. and M Sts. NW in Georgetown. My great grandparents were married there. The red door and gardens make for a great photo within sight of the sidewalk.

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Mary Surratt boarding house now Chinese restaurant

Mary Surratt was one of four people hanged in the aftermath of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination on April 14, 1865. She was the first woman in U.S. history to be executed despite cries of mercy for such an old woman. Uh, she was 42, which if I called someone an old woman who’s 42 today there would be a lynching and it would be me.

Anyway, Surratt was said to have hatched the nest of conspiracy. I think that went a little too far. (Disclaimer: Surratt and I are third cousins a few generations removed.)

Surratt certainly knew John Wilkes Booth (Another disclaimer – Booth’s also a cousin of mine. Lesson here is don’t mess with me.) Surratt knew Booth was up to something with Lincoln. She helped in some ways. But I’m not sure Surratt truly knew what was up. That’s what the movie is supposed to help us decide.

The photo above is the ground floor of the old Surratt board house in Washington on 6th and F. St. N.W. just a block above Verizon Center. If you stand by the left side at the alley, you’ll see the original exterior wall. The top two floors are untouched. It’s maybe a 10-minute walk from Ford’s Theater.

Now, don’t get this confused with the better known Surratt House in Clinton, Md. where Booth fled after killing Lincoln to pick up supplies. That was Surratt’s former home before opening the board house six months before the killings. Her husband died and Surratt rented out the then rural house to John Lloyd while she operated the downtown board house. The Clinton house is still open for tours.

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Welcome to Baptist Alley and Booth’s plan

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Wordless Wednesday: Life at Mount Vernon

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My Lincoln assassination tour snippets

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Modern Head requires standing still to catch meaning

I walked past Modern Head several times and didn’t see him.

I took this photo and still didn’t see him.

But once I looked at the photo in the right angle — there he was. Wow, it sure took me long enough, but there’s the face, the mouth – it’s art that you have to hold still for a moment to get.

On the corner of the American Art Museum at 8th and F Sts. across from the Spy Museum, the blue painted stainless steel sculpture is by Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997) who created it in 1989, 15 years after first conceiving the piece.

Modern Head is part of Lichtenstein’s belief that man and machine are interwined. It has some of that 1930s art deco influence. The first one was installed in 1996 in Battery Park and survived the 2001 fall of the Twin Towers. It’s illustrated in a sign by the Modern Head here in Washington.

Our Modern Head was donated by Jeffrey Loria in honor of his late sister Harriet Loria Popowitz. I know Loria best as the former owner of the Florida Marlins.

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