Washington, DC is one of our favorite cities, so when I had an opportunity to attend a conference, with Diane joining me for the weekend, it was a no-brainer. Visiting is always fun, but with the World Series in town, now tied at two games each, spirits were running high, with fans out late, rooting for the Nationals.
The conference was held at the Marriot Wardman in the Woodley Park neighborhood, close to the zoo. Poet Langston Hughes worked here briefly as a busboy in 1924 when a chance encounter with established poet Vachel Lindsay helped jumpstart his career.
I read some of Langston’s poems this morning; they still resonate today, as our county continues to grapple with its long and complex history of racism, inequality and the imperfect narrative of equal opportunity for all.
If your curious, check out “Let America Be America Again” with its plaintive opening and call to authentic vs. sentimental patriotism: “O, let America be America again—/The land that never has been yet—/And yet must be—the land where every man is free…”. Here is a link to his ten most famous poems, including my favorite, ” A Negro Speaks of Rivers.”
One very positive attempt to advance the conversation on racism in America has been the opening of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture , which stands in the shadow of the Washington Monument. We visited yesterday, taking in this massive place, trying to absorb the 400-year history of slavery in the America’s and the forces that created it –unchecked greed and economic exploitation, evils that are alive and well today, just as they have been throughout history.
We also had time to visit the National Portrait Gallery and the Michael Sherrill retrospective at the Renwick Gallery of Art , both are highly recommend. One of the featured exhibits at the National Gallery was the Outwin Portraiture Competition , which is described on the web site: “Every three years, artists living and working in the United States are invited by the museum to submit one of their recent portraits to a panel of experts. The selected artworks reflect the compelling and diverse approaches contemporary artists are using to tell the American story through portraiture. Our visit concluded at Kehinde Wiley’s portrait of President Obama; it’s stunning.
No trip is complete without food, and we thoroughly enjoyed the Washington food scene. Lunch on Saturday was low-end, from the food trucks parked on the Mall, followed later in the day by drinks at Penn Social and dinner at the upscale Indian restaurant Punjab Grill . On Sunday, we had brunch at the memorable Bindass celebrating Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights – good’s triumph over evil, light conquering darkness.
The best meal of the trip, by far, happened before Diane arrived, when I was invited to be a guest at the ultra- high end Fiola Mare in Georgetown. The food, service, wine and overall ambiance were exceptional. So was the price! I am so glad I was not paying for the bottles of Mayacamus Cabernet, the seafood towers and the glass of 18-year old McCallan I enjoyed at the end of a three plus hour dinner.