Thursday, June 25, 2009

Seeing the sights

One of these days I’m going to have to go to Washington DC with no agenda other than seeing the monuments, visiting the museums, and generally basking in the historical glow that seems to permeate the city. On my latest foray through the nation’s capitol (this past weekend), I was once again heading for an AMSA meeting. I saw a bit of the city as we flew over it, and then promptly took the shuttle from IAD to the hotel in one of the somewhat creepily planned suburbs near the AMSA office. I didn’t have nigh hopes for seeing the city, as I’d seen the 8am-9pm meeting agenda already.

We did get to head into the city on Saturday night though, and in a new departure from the usual bar-themed evening outings, we went to see some of the monuments. Complications of time and trying to meet up with folks meant that we didn’t see many, but those that we did were brilliantly lit, and beautiful. First we saw the George Mason monument. We were skeptical at first, but after seeing some really beautiful quotes about the equality of all people and the evils of slavery, we were converted. At that point we all wanted pictures with George – the results are shown above. We also saw the Jefferson and FDR monuments. Jefferson was a classic man-in-a-set-of-columns monument, but was nonetheless inspiring. Reading the words of thoughtful and interesting men is inspiring and motivating. The FDR memorial was less typical, and I think I would have enjoyed it more had it not been rapidly approaching midnight. I thought the waterfall and reflecting pool were beautiful (not surprising as I love water), and I was assured that the rest of the monument was also striking, but was too tired to make it through.

Seeing the mall lit up for the evening was a wonderful break from a long meeting, and made me wish I could see more.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Summer of Detroit

Alicia and I biking on Belle Isle

A few years back Alicia and I decided to have a summer of ice cream. We weren’t necessarily planning to eat more ice cream than usual, but we wanted to branch out a bit and try places we hadn’t previously considered. We stuck to the greater Ann Arbor area, trying Kilwin’s, Washtenaw Dairy, both Stucchi’s, and Dairy Queen, as well as the notable Ice Scapes - a fabulous place for soft serve and Italian ices located inside an old Jack-in-the-Box building. I learned yesterday that Ice Scapes is apparently now closed, and mourned the loss for a few moments. At any rate, we had a great time - we had a lot of fun exploring Ann Arbor and we both love ice cream. This summer, we have another plan. We’re hoping to have a summer of Detroit. We both grew up in the Detroit metro area, and have been going to events (sports, music, theater, etc) downtown as long as we can remember. There are things we haven’t done though, and places we haven’t explored that we’ve been talking about for years. Don’t let anyone tell you there’s nothing to do in Detroit, or that it’s dangerous. There is, and it’s not! Spending lots of time at the DIA, visiting MoCAD when they have new exhibitions, shopping at Eastern Market, looking for new places to eat, and riding the bike routes in Detroit are all things we’ve talked about doing, but often in the middle of the week in the middle of winter when we have neither time nor daylight in which to do any of them. This summer, we’re doing them all.

We started a few weeks ago with a bike trip around Belle Isle. I’m pretty out of shape, so it had to be a fairly gentle ride, making Belle Isle the perfect destination. It’s pretty flat, gives a lovely view of both Detroit and Windsor, and is only about a 5-6 mile loop all the way around. We did it twice, and then had a picnic lunch on the river. The park was designed by the same person who created Central Park in NYC, and all of the buildings are beautiful. It’s clear that there isn’t enough money going into the city - the zoo is closed and some things look a little shabby - but it’s a nice ride and the bathrooms seemed much more well-maintained than the guidebook would have suggested. Making sure our summer of Detroit was off to an awesome start, we headed to the (relatively-) newly redesigned DIA to check it out. It is, as all previous reports have indicated, wonderful. They’ve moved things around, arranging them thematically in a way that makes sense to someone without an art history degree, and added lots of informational placards that narrate the entire experience. I really enjoyed it, and am hoping to go back soon. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the summer holds…