Lunar Bird makes your imagination soar

Like many things in the Hirshhorn Museum’s Sculpture Garden, Lunar Bird is a bit of a mystery. The best guess is it’s an imaginary bird with a symbol of the moon for a head, small wings and thick legs.

A bronze sculpture by Joan Miro of Spain, it was originally made in 1945 but recast larger in 1967. It’s 89 3/8 inches by 88 1/2 inches by 58 1/4 inches.

Overall, it’s pretty cool and in a quieter section of the garden. Worth a moment’s rest while walking the mall.

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Grant lamp posts return

Grant lamp posts

Something old is new again at the Grant Memorial by the U.S. Capitol.

Eight bronze lamp posts were erected as replicas of the original design of Edward Pearce Casey dedicated in 1921. The posts have 16 separate castings plus the eagle.

Frankly, I could do without them. They crowd the plaza and clutter photos frequently taken there. But, it’s a throwback to history and come after the outstanding 2016 renovation of the bronze figures of Grant atop a history, surrounding lions and cavalry and artillery on the plaza’s ends.

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Batmobile comes to Washington

Batmobile

The Batmobile was near the White House so help’s on the way. The car from the Batman Forever movie (1995) featuring Val Kilmer was displayed for two days as part of the opening of an office for the Motion Pictures Association.

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Second to none: the Second Division Memorial

Between the White House and the Washington Monument, the Second Division Memorial on Constitution Ave. approaching 17th St. is another overlooked sculpture. It’s something people just pass by.

The memorial commemorates the U.S. Army’s Second Division’s dead during World War I. The flaming sword in the center blocks the Germans approaching Paris.

The west (left) wing was added to honor those who died during World War II. The east wing remembers those dying in the Korean Conflict.

Overall, the Second Division has lost 15,000 in combat, the most of any U.S. division.

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The curious cube of Congressional Cemetery

Congressional cubeThe black cube in Congressional Cemetery curiously placed at an angle will make you stop.

The graves of Charles Fowler and Kenneth Dresser are marked with a cube just 50 yards on the right once entering the gate. Fowler was a writer, educator and advocate for the arts who died in 1995. Dresser was a creative designer who died three months later.

Dresser was best known for designing the Electric Light Parade at Disneyland, Electric Water Pageant at Epcot and Fantasy of Lights at Callaway Gardens, Ga. Fowler was an arts educator and director of Natural Cultural Resources and guest professors at several universities.

The two were members of the University of Maryland’s “Black and Gold Society” honoring those who donated $100,000 or more.

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Remembering Children’s Hospital

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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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Sphere No. 6 is . . .

Sphere No. 6 is:

a) What was left of the Death Star after Luke Skywalker blew it up.
b) The remnants of Earth after a nuclear explosion.
c) A bronze sculpture by Italian artist Arnaldo Pomodoro.
d) I have no idea.

The correct answers are c and d. The piece is one of several by Pomodoro and I’m still not sure what it’s supposed to represent after reading several stories.

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Mount Vernon restoration

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Lafayette – the Frenchman that Americans loved

The General Marquis Gilbert de Lafayette was a key figure in American winning its independence. Lafayette blocked the escape route of the British ships at Yorktown, thus forcing Gen. Cornwallis to surrender to George Washington.

Lafayette stands atop a marble pedestal wearing civilian dress, but carrying a sword. He holds a cloak in his left arm while his right is outstretched, maybe to friends.

The woman below symbolizes American. She beckons Lafayette with a sword to implore him to fight for America.

On each side are two generals. On the right are Comte de Estaing and Grasse with an anchor indicating their French naval forces sent to help. On the left are Comte de Rochembeau and Chevalier de Portail with the cannon indicating their French army. On the rear side are two cherubs indicating the delight of the people.

The bronze statue is eight feet high and four feet wide, but the whole monument is 36 feet high and 20 feet wide.

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James Garfield Memorial – my 6th cousin

The only thing I knew about James Garfield was he was once U.S. president. I would have struggled to write a fifth-grade report on him

But coming across Garfield’s memorial on the U.S. Capitol grounds intrigued me into learning more. Turns out he was shot three months into his presidency in 1881 by a failed job applicant and died three months later at age 50.

And you thought today’s economic times were tough.

The only clergy member to serve as president, Garfield is also the only person in U.S. history to be a Representative, Senator-elect and President-elect simultaneously. He was not only left-handed, but known to simultaneously write in Latin in one hand and in English with the other. (My handwriting looks like Latin, but is really English.) Garfield was related to a Mayflower passenger later convicted of murder.

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Red Light

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The Chess Players: It’s not over until it’s over

I’m telling you, the player on the left could still win this match. Come on, take the castle already. This game has been going on for an eternity.

Well, at least since 1983.

The Chess Players is one of those fun artworks that make people stop if not take photos. Two life-sized men are playing chess, neither having a great advantage. However, the older gentleman on the right holds the queen in his hand and showing a slight smile while the other looks sad. A key piece has been won and the game’s outcome will soon follow. But you know, if the other guy moved his castle . . .

American artist Lloyd Lillie actually modeled the two figures after family members. This right one is his father, the left his son despite the ages seeming the same barring close inspection.

The bronze artwork lies in John Marshall Park on 4th and C Sts. N.W. aside the Canadian embassy and just a short stroll from the court houses. Supposedly, the park is the perfect place for lawyers to play chess on their lunch hour, though I’ve never stumbled upon a live version.

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Detroit pizza in Washington?

I love pizza and always ready for new experiences. When I heard of perogies on pizza at Red Light (14th and R Sts. NW) it was a no-brainer to try it.

Well, the perogie one was good, though you tasted the Polish topping more than you saw it. But I also liked the pizza shown above that’s essentially a Hawaiian. The red sauce was replaced by a creme kinda like when chicken fried steak gravy.

The bar was converted into a corner restaurant, but basically it’s a bar with three TVs overhead, great staff and a chef who knows how to make damn good food like pizza and boneless chicken appetizers. It’s definitely worth a look (or bite.) But be warned – Detroit-style pizza is deep dish and eating more than two slices is nearly impossible.

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The Concert makes you stop

The ConcertI’ll admit to not knowing much about art, but I know what I like and “The Concert” by Dutch artist Gerrit Van Honthorst made me stop, sit and ponder.

The 1623 oil painting hangs in the National Gallery of Art, West Wing, falls into my favorite category of big in size yet intimate enough to get a personal read. Honthorst liked scenes of contrasting dark and light with big gestures. Here, we see a musical group whose outfits give Hornthorst a chance to use vibrant colors. The painting also shows that following a leader produces great results.

The best part of the National Gallery of Art is its free admission where most similar venues would charge at least $20 elsewhere. All part of your tax dollars at work.

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White House Visitors Center

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Save George Washington, get a statue – Casimir Pulaski

Brigadier General Casimir Pulaski was a Polish count who came to America to fight for freedom. He once saved George Washington’s life, but is best known for teaching American troops the discipline needed to fight the mighty British troops.

Pulaski was known throughout Europe for his bravery and came to the U.S. in 1777 to continue fighting for the cause of freedom. Ben Franklin recommended to George Washington that Pulaski serve in the cavalry. In Pulaski’s first battle at Brandywine, he saved Washington from capture.

Pulaski was made a brigadier general in the cavalry. However, American troops didn’t like fighting under a foreign leader who didn’t speak English so Pulaski resigned from the unit and went to Valley Forge where Washington created a new cavalry of deserters and POWs for Pulaski to lead. Sadly, Pulaski was killed in the Battle of Savannah in 1779.

Ironically, the Revolutionary War hero is shown at the eastern corner of Freedom Plaza in a Polish military uniform with a long cape and a hat adorned with fur and feathers. His feet are in the stirrups and he holds the horse’s reins with both hands. The sculpture rests on an oval base decorated with a band of foliage and Greek key design. Wreathes flank the inscriptions which appear on the long sides of the base.

Erected in 1910 at a cost of $50,000, the bronze equestrian statue is 15 feet high, 12 feet wide. The granite base is 12 feet high and 15 feet wide.

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A 3D map of town at your feet – Freedom Plaza

Freedom Plaza may be filled with skateboarding teenagers, lost tourists or protestors, but the Pennsylvania Ave. near 14th St. N.W. median is also a map of town’s original plan.

The L’Enfant Map detailing the 1791 plan by Washington’s first city planner Pierre L’Enfant is at your feet. With the white and black stone, it’s like being on a chess board of sorts as you can see how the streets were to be layed out. Maybe the first version of the Sims City game.

L’Enfant envisioned Pennsylvania Avenue as a great ceremonial street, the symbolic link between the Capitol (which he called the Congress’s House) and the White House (which he called the President’s House). Freedom Plaza’s open space reinforces this symbolic connection.

The upper map terrace has a grass lawn where the mall occurs and inlaid bronze plans of the White House and the Capitol located at either end of Pennsylvania Avenue. The inlays illustrate L’Enfant’s intention to have these two buildings balance each other and symbolize two main branches of government.

L’Enfant’s plan of Washington combines two orders of scale. The giant order is the diagonal avenues that sometimes terminate in a building or a monument. This order characterizes the federal scale of the city. The minor order is the rectangular grid pattern of the local structure of the city. There are quotes from famous people about the city carved into the paving stones that surround the L’Enfant Plan.

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National Fire Dog Monument honors arson teams

FIREHOUSE DOG

After looking for the new National Fire Dog Monument every time I drove by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, I walked the area one day. And there it was in plain sight — by the Engine Co. 2 fire house one block west at Fifth & F. Sts.NW.

Now we mostly think of a fire house dog as a dalmatian riding atop the fire engine on the way to an emergency, but this monument remembers the 81 K-9 teams nationwide that handle “accelerant detection.” Translation: they look for sources of arson in the ashes, which is why the piece is called “Ashes to Answers.”

Sculptor Austin Weishel of Colorado is an EMT and volunteer fireman and seen remarkable success as a sculptor at just age 24. According to Washington Post columnist Joe Kelly, the only younger sculptor of a major piece in Washington was Vinnie Ream, who created a Abraham Lincoln marble statue in 1871.

Weishel’s piece has the dog looking up to a fireman like they’re a team. It was dedicated on Oct. 23, 2015. There is also a plan to have a bronze fire hydrant pour water into a bowl for passing dogs to enjoy.

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Layed off – On the street again

I was sitting in the Redskins media room like I have off and on since 1983. I was reading Twitter and saw my boss say her last day at the paper was tomorrow.

Wait, what?

A quick call told me I was also done. The Washington Post Express was putting out its last edition in the next few hours. I wrote my last column and said goodbye to staffers. As a contract employee, there was no severance.

For the third time since 2013, I’m layed off from my newspaper job. The Washington Examiner let non-political writers go in 2013. PressBoxDC went video only in 2017. Now the Express is gone.

Now, I’m not unemployed. I also write for 106.7 The Fan, Warpath magazine, SportBusiness.com and others. And, I tour guide regularly. Have three tours this week as fall season resumes.

But I’ve been a newspaperman since I was 18 and losing a print outlet always hurts. Maybe another opportunity will come along. If not, it was a great 41-year run and I’ll continue to work elsewhere.

Covering the Redskins has taught me many life lessons, but the biggest is the ability to move on from losses. Chew on it for a day, then focus on the next thing.

To the hundreds of readers who have sent supportive messages, thank you so much. Don’t worry – I’ll be fine. Just read my stories on other outlets and follow me on @Snider_Remarks on Twitter.


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