Friday, January 14, 2022
Sunday, December 26, 2021
|Enter through the gift shop|
|A bird's eye view. Explains the lack of pigeons.|
This is the Lay of Ike. The memorial is located south of the National Mall, near the Air and Space Museum. I suppose it is fitting. The man helped build suburban mall culture and he established NASA. Not that you would learn anything about that from the spread of metal and marble in front of the Department of Education. More on that later. The Memorial has no central point. Its elements are scattered across a plaza without a central point of focus. Instead, there are two bas-relief sculptures and two large columns at either side of the park. Behind them is a sort of mesh fixture elevated above the plaza. At night it is supposed to light up and depict the Normandy Landings (D-Day, not Hastings).
The recent toppling of Rebel monuments has begun a conversation about the nature of memorialization itself. Not just who is to be honored, but how and to what purpose. Unfortunately, the planning for the Eisenhower Memorial happened before these issues came to the forefront of public debate. Not that those responsible for constructing the site are ignorant of them. Debates about memorials were present in academia before they became prominent in the summer of 2020. Still, one wonders how this memorial would look given the fallout of the George Floyd protests. Not that Eisenhower was a unworthy subject who should have been ignored. Then again, he has been absent on the National Mall for decades and Americans seemed more or less able to go on without pausing to remember him.
|blah, blah, blah tell us about the MIC!|
Personal merit, necessity, or legacy aside, there other questions to consider behind the purpose of a memorial. At one time, the idea was to provoke a kind of reverence in a secular temple. Think of the Lincoln Memorial, which brings one up a series of steps to stand under the imposing figure of Lincoln. All white and made of stone, he sits in judgment of the country. After one is done bowing and supplicating below the 16th president, it is time to look elsewhere. Now the view centers on the moving text of the Gettysburg Address. The whole process transforms Lincoln into a holy figure for the nation. He is the martyr who managed to midwife the republic through the birth pangs of a new freedom.
Gradually this approach fell out of favor. An emphasis on movements, particularly involving Women and People of Color emerged. When the “great men” (and women) of history were so memorialized, their monuments became less about reverence and more about education. This might occur through symbolism, or more often than not, actual text, preferably from the speeches of the person being depicted. The FDR Memorial and the WWII Memorials come out of this development. The experience is not of one central figure or architectural feature, but of many disparate elements. Gone is the temple or shrine. They have been replaced by open-air museums. This does pose a new set of challenges. How do you convey so much information about a figure or an event without overwhelming the spectator?
|Will it get some wind for the sailboat?|
The Eisenhower Memorial goes with a minimal approach. It deals little with public perception of Ike, the details of his life, the context of his times, or the effects of his presidency. Eschewing all that, the man’s life is condensed to a couple symbolic vignettes. The approach can be likened to the opera Einstein on the Beach, where snippets of Einstein’s life and work are abstracted to the limits of recognition. Here, Eisenhower is a boy in Abilene. Then, he is a general. Finally, he is a president. Three acts with no drama.
What war did he win? It isn’t clear. Who did we fight? It wasn’t mentioned. Why did we fight? A mystery. According to the available statuary, Eisenhower was simply a general raising a fist at beleaguered troops. The effect is not inspiring. He reminds one of the blowhard officers from Catch-22. His presidency is a foggy recollection in bronze as well. The two decent things he did in office, enforcing desegregation, and condemning the military industrial complex (which, to be fair, he built) go unmentioned. All we see of Eisenhower c. 1953 to 1961 is standing around with people from his administration in the midst of doing something presidential. The firm of Nixon & Dulles & Dulles is nowhere to be seen, presumably off in the distance plotting Operation PBSuccess.
The site is being worked on and in development. The trees they planted are still growing. I presume there is time for other things to be added to the plaza. Maybe they will figure out a way to be nicer to the people working in the Department of Education. Once they had windows looking out on the Mall, and now the view is blocked by a post-modern Bayeux Tapestry. It displays an event they might deal with teaching, but they didn’t carry out! Meanwhile in Langley, their view isn’t obscured by a steel lattice depicting the Bay of Pigs.
|The littlest toilet|
If you do want to learn more about President Eisenhower, there is a gift shop. Inside of it are many books with many words and pictures. There are footnotes and citations galore. Maybe that’s the real purpose of the memorial. Show the inadequacies of stone in order to bring people back to the page. Step one: draw tourists in who recognize the name. Step two: confuse them about the life of Ike. Step three: push people into buying books to explain why people liked him. One of the oldest scams in the…um…book. The site also has restrooms. I don’t know how the ladies’ side of the divide is, but the men’s room has the smallest toilet I’ve ever seen in DC. So it’s got that going for it.
|Who cares about the founder of the highways, go look at some model trains instead|
Saturday, December 18, 2021
New poem of mine up at the Red Ogre Review. It is titled "Action Packed." Not to be confused with the happiest place on Earth, Action Park, NJ. The origins of this work are peculiar. While I put these lines in order, the individual words were gleaned from an episode of the old Halkias Bros. Art Stream, (NSFW) especially where they review submissions from their listeners.
Thursday, December 2, 2021
|Finding a picture of Cambyses is difficult|
Three poems of mine are in Impspired. One of them involves the name of a Persian King. Another involves vegetables. And finally, the last one discusses writer's block. Fun! (The picture in question on the website was taken by Christine S. Stoddard).
Tuesday, November 30, 2021
|Where the magic in "La Mosca" happened|
Poems in pairs, ladiex and gentlemxn! Where? At the Sandy River Review. One involves Astronomy, the other Etymology. Read on and...learn?
Monday, November 15, 2021
Thursday, October 21, 2021
Thursday, September 23, 2021
Outing my age, sorry if you thought I was a young hot thang. Anyway, thanks to Jeremy Scott of the Sparrow's Trombone for publishing two funky poems of mine.
Sunday, August 22, 2021
Wednesday, August 11, 2021
Friday, August 6, 2021
|To read part one, click here|
After spending the night in New Orleans it was time to take the Sunset Limited in the morning. I wish I could've stayed longer to debauch myself, but at least I had a fairly decadent bed. The New Orleans station is small, but they did have a waiting area for us special sleeping car passengers. While it was no Metropolitan Lounge, they did have a coffee pot and some baked goods, which were mostly still in their packaging.
|Guess what's behind the doors? If you said gambling, you were right.|
|Laptop case for scale|
|Half of the time it was packed with Mennonites speaking Pennsylvania Dutch to one another while filling out coloring books|
The observation cars, like the whole train, had no wi-fi (it puts the "limited" in the Sunset Limited) but they had outlets spread through the area. I spent my time at the tables but you can sit in one of the seats and imagine yourself on the deck of a spaceship. One that is hovering very low to the ground for some reason. The tables were a rare commodity. I had to park myself at one early and the day and stay there until lunch, if I wanted any chance of a place to spread out and work. For passengers not using the sleeping cars, they provided an area to eat. Under this level, the Sunset Limited keeps its regular café area. Normally the seating around it would be open too, but because of Covid it was closed off.
|Lobster Cake: I thought it was good, a nice amuse bouche in a sense before the main course|
|The steak was decent, I normally don't eat much of it to be honest let alone in a brown sauce. But it was a nice cut and the vegetables were well done. I enjoyed the polenta it came with as well.|
|The desserts were probably the best thing on the menu|
|The French Toast was good, but then again it's a hard dish to mess up. It didn't taste eggy, which is a plus. Not pictured: a side of breakfast sausage I ordered|
|A simple lunch, I got a grilled cheese sandwich with bacon. It was advertised as "artisanal" but, anyway, it was bacon. Pictured: wine. The choices are limited, but when the view is great, who cares?|
|The cheesecake. For some reason I forgot to get a picture of the carrot cake, which was my favorite on the trip.|
|There were some ethnic options. They had tortellini (which I avoided since I make enough of it in NYC) and a tamale. It was good, and the salsa verde was a nice addition.|
|The chicken. Yes, it looks like the steak. But notice, no potato! I liked it. The sauce was better than the one that came with the steak.|
|The depressingly small Houston train station|
|The titular mountain. The title itself I forget, but it was obviously titular|
It was like being in a Western, in part because even the cell service was down now. We went by Marfa, but saw no lights. A couple of hours later, I understood just how big Texas was. Thirty minutes after that, we were in El Paso.
|El Paso, where all the Mennonites on the train got off.|
|We were somewhere near Lordsburg, NM when the wine began to take hold and I took a nap|
Monday, August 2, 2021
Last week I embarked on another cross-country journey across this country's rails. No, I didn't pack up my bindle and hop on board a cattle car like a hobo in search of adventure and vittles. Instead, I took the Amtrak from New York to Los Angeles, by way of New Orleans. From New to New and LA to LA. The first leg of the journey was on the Crescent. It took me along the first 1,377 miles (2,216 km) of the trip, through Philadelphia, DC, Atlanta, Birmingham, and Meridian, Mississippi.
|Amtrak Valhalla, where only the bravest and least claustrophobic travelers go|
|I recommend the provolone and fig sandwich|
|Ha! Peasants! Ha! Look up my free bag of chips and despair!|
They called my train number and I went down into the bowels of Penn Station. While the entryway where I made my descent was changed, the actual platforms where the trains pull up are the same.
|Looking at it reminded me of the Skylab exhibit at the Air and Space Museum|
|The table that folds out isn't big enough for a standard laptop|
|I found the secret storage rack!|
We pulled out of Penn Station and started to head south and west away from the city. The first stops on the Crescent were all familiar to me since I go between DC and NY on the train quite frequently. There was nothing drastically new to see while this part of the country flew by. I took a leak while looking out at the Meadowlands, so that was a change of pace from usual. It wasn't until the train left Union Station that I got to see a new side of America. Now I got to experience going over the Potomac in a passenger car and the sight of the Alexandria, Virginia station.
|Playing hide-and-go-seek with the Capitol|
|I watched Chinatown in honor of my second destination|
|The salads come with two dressings: ranch and Italian. |
Oh, and you get a free alcoholic drink on the train.
You spend roughly a day and a half on the train and get into New Orleans at night. That meant one more dinner. I went with the chicken marsala. It was fine. Overall I rank the enchiladas first, the marsala second, and the creole last. To accompany it, I bought a glass of white wine.
|Metro Card for scale|
With a little innovation you too can transform your spaces to help with work and play! From this perch I watched Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi roll on by. Lots of lush landscapes, forests, glens, farms, paddocks, and some cities.
|Like Birmingham, Alabama|
Then as night fell, the Crescent went across Lake Pontchartrain (putting the "train" in Pontchartrain you can say) It was too bad that it was dark out and I couldn't see any of the water or the city or the other side. It's one of the issues with the long journeys on Amtrak. You can't time things just right so you see things when you want to. The train keeps going and stops when its wants. You're a passenger, along for the ride, surrendering your control, in exchange for the ability to stand on a toilet and write.