Wednesday, September 23, 2009

H St. Festival, D.C.

After St Elizabeth's, we headed down to D.C. to see the H St Festival which is held annually to encourage people to the area. They have music, craft and food vendors, health screens, art cars and a fashion show.
The place was jumping and the sun beat down as people crowded the streets, dancing, eating the international food available, or viewing the multiple art pieces on show. The fashion show seemed to be the main event so we headed for there to grab a spot by the catwalk.
The children were adorable and strutted to rap music up and down the catwalk, but the highlight of the day were the male models. Ladies, feast your eyes on these hunks!
Of course, there were some female beauties also and I managed to get a great collection of photos. By the end of the afternoon, I was ready to head home for a glass of red, some quiet relaxation and to tend to my sunburn; it had been a long day.

St Elizabeth's Hospital, DC

On Saturday a few of us went to D.C. to take part in a tour of St Elizabeth's Hospital, now closed and owned by Homeland Security. John Hinckley used to be a resident here and we were very excited to see one of America's most famous mental hospitals. It was also used in the movie, 'A Few Good Men'. We had a wonderful view looking over D.C. and then doubts started setting in. We spent nearly half hour of our 1.5 hour tour standing here learning about H.S. and their plans with the site. We were also informed that we would not be allowed inside the buildings but would only walk around the site. I was devastated. This campus was an urban explorers dream, visiting wonderful empty old buildings and and being allowed to be there. But it was not to be. We were allowed to take photos of the outside only and we weren't allowed to wander. I was using my new 50D for the first time and had really wanted the opportunity to put it through its paces.


All the buildings, though wonderfully preserved, looked the same as we traipsed round. They all had red shutters over the windows, some of which had metal vents powered by solar panels on the roof for climate control.  

The hospital is a Kirkbride building planned to give patients a sense of freedom and views of beauty. Civil War soldiers were treated here and there is also a cemetery at the back of the site with many unmarked graves.

We weren't allowed too long to take photos and I often felt like a kid on a school trip, constantly being told to move on by the teacher. This link gives more information and photos of the hospital. The tour guides mentioned that because they had so many photographers on the tours, they would organize a trip soley for them. I'll wait and see. 

Friday, September 18, 2009

George Washington Masonic Memorial, Alexandria, VA

On Saturday after sleeping in late, making some phone calls and reading the paper, I felt I should get out of the house and do something with my day. I headed down to Alexandria to the G.W. Masonic Memorial. This is a beautiful building which I had passed by countless times and looked at, thinking, one day I'll visit.

The building was completed in 1923 and was styled after Greek and Roman architecture with the tower based on the lighthouse of Alexandria, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. It's the only masonic temple in the U.S. that is maintained by a group of lodges. The building is in honor of George Washington built by a Fraternity as he was himself a freemason and believed that 'the grand object of Freemasonry was to promote the happiness of the human race.'

There is marble throughout the building, in the rooms, the stairways and in this theater which holds events open to the public. First I knew of it!

This room is actually used for lodge meetings and holds a lot of G.W. mementos, including his apron above, which he wore when laying the final piece of the Capitol. Today, no one is sure which piece that is and our guide thought that this was the subject of Dan Brown's latest book, The Lost Symbol.
This room in the tower pays homage to George Washington, with displays illustrating his life from birth to death. It even had his will there and newspapers documenting his death.

The photos above are of rooms in the tower dedicated to different lodges. I was eager to reach the observation tower and see the view which I was expecting to be spectacular. The elevators that we rode in were unusual as they tilted at 7.5 degrees so at the bottom ,they were 58ft apart, yet at the top, only 8ft apart. And, built by Otis Elevator.

This was the best view from the top, looking straight down through Olde Town Alexandria to the Potomac River with Maryland over the other side.

And woo hoo, a pentagram. We all know that the pentagram is fundamentally a life symbol, but it still has an ominous feel to it thanks to its misuse, and it did seem a little creepy to see it on the floor with candle stands, evoking images of hooded ceremonies and chanting!
This is a spectacular building and anyone who is a George Washington fan, like me, should pay this a visit. It is much bigger on the inside than it looks from the outside, and be sure to do the full tour and not just the trip to the observation deck, which for me was the least interesting part.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Labor Day in Baltimore

On Labor Day, my friend Joel and I headed off to Baltimore to spend just a few hours exploring. We started first with a favorite, the abandoned clothing factory. We had come close to not being able to go in because I had bottled out of climbing a 15ft gate with spikes on the top. It had felt a little wobbly at the top with few footholds so I ashamedly clambered back down, hanging my head, despite Joel's reassurances that I wasn't a wuss. Imagine my delight and relief when we found another entrance which involved no more than bending down!
This place was supposed to be sold off and emptied but as we got on the main floor, little had changed from the time I was here before except some of the coats were thrown about. We spent a quick hour or so capturing images of rusty machines, coats and buttons bathed in dim lighting and coated with plaster dust before we hurtled off to grab a quick lunch and on to the next location.                                                         
 The next stop was Green Mount Cemetery which since being established in 1869 has over 65000 graves. There are many beautiful works of art and famous people interred here, including John Wilkes Booth. Green Mount was one of the first 'rural' cemeteries in the U.S.
The photo above is my favorite sculpure so far in the cemetery, Riggs Monument by Hans Schuler.
This headstone intrigued me, and I stood pondering for a few moments trying to fathom it out. I finally figured out that the answer might be on the other side.
It was. But I have no idea what the orange was about.
After only seeing about a quarter of the cemetery, we left heading to our last location which we had spotted on the way up.We were only able to be out for a few hours total, and not wanted to miss a thing, we sped back the way we'd come.
The bonus location was the American Visionary Art Museum. We had driven by in the morning and been amazed by the building and me particularly by a glass tree outside.
The building was completely covered by a glass and mirror mosaic and an old school bus had also been decorated in the same manner. With the bright sunshine, the place just glittered and glinted, it was wonderful. Since I'm attracted to anything shiny, I was in my element but felt that I wouldn't be able to do the place justice with my camera.
The bus was covered in little plastic animals as well as the glass pieces. Even the wheel walls were not spared, nothing was left uncovered.
I would love this big shiny egg on my patio! My favorite piece, though, was the glass tree. 
This would look beautiful in a snow scene and sounded better than any wind chimes with its gentle tinkling. I'm thinking I'm going to have to make a smaller one of these as a Christmas decoration.
With our memory cards loaded, we headed for home and it was wonderful to spend the last few hours of the holiday relaxing with a glass of red wine, listening to the rain that had finally caught us up, pelt against my lounge windows.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Partying in Paradise

Sunday was a glorious day for partying and a group of us headed off to Jimmy Buffett at Nissan Pavilion. I was very lucky to be picked up from my house so I had no driving issues and could instead concentrate on downing multiple margaritas. We arrived before 3pm which gave us 5 hours before the concert started so we wasted no time in setting out chairs and tables with food and drinks whilst stopping frequently to throw back some Alabama or Watermelon Shooters.
After a while, some of us decided to go on a tour of the parking lot to see how people had decorated their 'areas'. We met some wonderful people and happily hung out in their camps while they offered us more drinks. I refused none and after a while became aware that I had a constant grin plastered on my face. Why can't we have Buffett concerts every weekend? It's such a happy place to be.
I'm not sure if there were a few of these or whether I was seeing the same one each time, my ability to recognize the driver had diminished somewhat, but this mobile margarita maker was awesome. It had different flavor margaritas for sale and a large blender perched on the back.
Cameras weren't allowed inside the concert area which really was just as well since I don't remember a great deal about it except that it seemed to last 5 minutes and there was a lot of dancing going on.
We had a great deal of fun that day and it seemed too soon when we had to drink our last drink, sing our last song and head back home. Roll on Buffett 2010!