Sunday, March 29, 2009


The rest of the article is interesting (this is the man who founded The School of Life project in London), but I just had to keep this paragraph.
Despite being firmly settled in England, he still comes over as foreign, and his
books often sell better abroad than they do here. But he writes and speaks
perfect English so the foreignness is a bit of a mystery. Partly, it's his
exquisite manners and neat appearance, but also a constant need for deep,
meaningful conversations. He says his wife often gets irritated when he launches
one at breakfast and she says: "Look, I can't deal with this now, save it for
later." But he has a friend in Australia who will ring up and say without
preamble, "What is shyness?", which is his idea of a good conversation. At
dinner parties he likes to launch a topic - "What is the best form of
government?" - rather than making small talk. Or he asks people questions until
they get irritated. He complains: "There is a coldness in English social life.
No one reveals anything, says anything that is in any way naked, vulnerable,
interesting, honest, and that does frustrate me."

— From a profile of Alain de Bottom in The Guardian

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Kaitlin and Emily do Washington D.C.: 12 March 2009.

We had a leisurely breakfast with Lolly and then she dropped us off at the metro station in Vienna. When we emerged, we were almost at the doorstep of the Library of Congress.

I loved it.

I got a blurry picture of Cotton Mather's name on a ceiling mosaic that we really weren't supposed to take pictures of. According to the docent who told me I had to put my camera away, ceiling mosaics are rare because of the weight that they add and the difficulty that they pose to installation.

I took lots and lots of pictures of the things that we were allowed to take pictures of.

The main room is filled with quotations. I kept wandering around going, "This is my favorite one. . . . No, this is my favorite. Oh wait, look at this one . . ."

There were other rooms too, an exhibit on the historical progression of cartography and a tribute to Abraham Lincoln.

Upstairs was a room preserving Thomas Jefferson's library. The presentation was brilliant—bookcases stood in a semicircle in a clear casing. Every title was visible from both the front and the back, and computers let you browse some of the titles. Jefferson organized them according to idea, like "Imagination," which is where all of the literature was, mostly classical drama and poetry. To think how little had been written in the 1700s. . .

Yeah, I loved that place.

Right outside was the Capitol Building.

We couldn't go in that day, but we did get to look at it and imagine what was going on inside.

Next door to the Library of Congress was the Supreme Court.

We peeked in, and then realized that we could actually go inside with the tour. So we got to go all the way up to the bar and sit in the tiny room where so many pivotal decisions are made.

There was a magical staircase inside that, once again, we couldn't go on, but could look at.

We had lunch at the Museum of the American Indian, where they served things such as rabbit soup and venison.

We next walked down the Mall to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. Above is the Wright brothers' plane.

And this is Apollo 13.

It was a massive, shiny place with so many "that's really it!" things it was unbelievable.

We spent the rest of the afternoon in the west end of the National Gallery. Emily really liked this painting, and I did too, but I forget who painted it.

We spent some time on a couch conveniently placed before this Rubens, depicting Daniel in the lions' den. This man was making a stroke-for-stroke replica.

A Whistler that Emily also liked

That ubiquitous portrait of Washington

There were even more Vermeers here. I cannot believe how many I've seen now.

This Brueghel reminded me of another, "The Fall of Icarus," that I spent some time with last year when I wrote an essay analyzing the poem W.H. Auden wrote in contemplation of it.

A striking Van Eyck that I'd studied in art history

A Raphael

A da Vinci, the first I think I've ever seen. I've loved him since elementary school. He's the reason I write backwards.

This Renoir was on the front of one of my textbooks, which made seeing it that much more exciting.

I took pictures of almost all of the Catlins for Angelica, since she did that presentation on him last year.

"Watson and the Shark" by John Singleton Copely is one of those iconic images that stick in your brain, and it was incredibly brilliant up close.

That night, Frank drove us around to see everything lit up.

We stopped in front of the White House.

The Washington Monument

It was a long day, but only the first. . .

Monday, March 23, 2009

Kaitlin and Emily do New Jersey and a lot of driving: 11 March 2009.

Sure, it wasn't quite as much driving as we'd done going straight from Virginia to New York, but we didn't leave New Jersey until 3 p.m. because we'd been having such a great time. In the morning, the grandma of Emily's friend, a practicing lawyer in her seventies, brought us bagels, a weekly family tradition. Then we went to a mall so that Emily could get shoes (we had been doing a lot of walking). We went back for lunch, and finally said good-bye. Emily let me take the wheel about halfway into it, and I settled into the rhythm of the New Jersey Turnpike. Above is the Susquehanna River, which we passed under the lowering clouds of a steady rain.

The sky cleared dramatically as we neared Washington D.C., and we got to watch a spectacular sunset.

The Mormon temple made a perfect picture. Despite all the cars here, we really didn't hit much traffic at all, which is fairly unusual for the area, I'm told. We didn't get lost, either, which is also fairly unusual, I've also been told.

Frank and Lolly, my first cousin twice removed (as we determined) and his wife, welcomed us with dinner and warm beds. He is an international law lawyer, and she is a photographer who used to freelance on Capitol Hill, and I'd never met either of them, but was quickly very glad that I had.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Kaitlin and Emily do New York: 10 March 2009.

On our second day in New York, we drove in with Emily's friend, who had graciously offered to have us stay with her family in New Jersey, and some friends of hers as well. We did not have nearly as much luck finding parking as Emily and I had had the day before, but eventually we found a space that wouldn't involve wedging a piece of cardboard and nudging the car behind us (as an obliging man suggested we do at the first spot we tried) and made our way over to Central Park.

Just walking down the street was fascinating. Even in cold, blustery March, the city was beautiful.

The Met was open this time, and I submerged myself in the old masters. I found this Rembrandt, depicting Aristotle contemplating the bust of Homer, which correlated incredibly with the book I'm currently reading (in my spare time, so not very much at all...), Whose Justice? Which Rationality? by Alasdair MacIntyre.

There are only 35 known Vermeers in existence, and the Met had four of them. So awesome.
There were so many Monets, Renoirs, and Van Goghs that I was more than a little overwhelmed. It would take a lifetime to fully appreciate their collection.
I had an idea of finding Holden Caulfield's sarcophagus, but it turns out there are a ton of sarcophagi in the Egyptian exhibit, so I just made sure I got a picture by at least one.
The Egyptian section was truly brilliant. From a partial tomb that you could walk into, to jewelry crafted from precious stones, to scrolls of papyrus running down the walls, I could have spent the whole day there.
Emily and I beside Queen Hapshetsut, who had an entire room devoted to her.
Can I just say that I love public transportation? Such a good idea.

We enjoyed all the sights and smells, like slabs of raw fish for sale on the sidewalk, which was both a sight and a smell.

We had a good time haggling with the shopkeepers and picking up souvenirs.

Then we headed over to Times Square. Emerging from the subway moments after being in Chinatown was a little surreal, and a lot of fun.

From left: Emily, her brother, her brother's fiancee, her friend we stayed with, and me.
I was excited to see the NASDAQ.
Everything was so shiny and flashing and bright. I could have stood there looking forever.

We found some exciting mirrors in the ladies' room at Toys r Us.

We also found a giant Barbie house there.

Emily and I toured Times Square for a bit more (here we are in front of Radio City Music Hall) before meeting her brother and his fiancee and her cousin and his girlfriend for dinner at a little Thai place. Her cousin's girlfriend works at a publishing company in New Jersey, so I talked to her about her industry for a while, and she basically gave me the same advice James McBride did last semester: get an internship in New York. "You'd probably be sharing an apartment in Brooklyn," she said. "But lots of people do it." I said I'd think about it.

I was also super excited to walk past the New York Times.

And the Dow Jones. As we had walked around all day, we had realized that there was an inordinate amount of black, puffy quilted coats on the streets, and so every time we saw one, we'd whisper a code phrase, culled from a sign we'd passed: "Hot bagel." There were a lot of hot bagels. And Washington D.C. would have a hot bagel of its own, which is where we headed next.