Sunday, February 21, 2010

D&C's DC, Part 3: Around the Tidal Basin

(I've changed the name of this series, from "Mysterious, Decadent, Spooky or Hidden DC," to something a bit less clumsy and more to the point.)

Well, it's been about a week and a half since the last blizzard, and we're STILL digging ourselves out. Tons of snow remains on the ground in my neighborhood, many sidewalks are still impassible, and street parking is still dicey. It's been sunny but only in the 40s, giving a slow melt which is good for those worried about flooding...except they're calling for rain all day tomorrow. Yipes! We'll see how much goes away.

However, springtime is just around the corner. It's the last week of February, and before we know it, it'll be cherry blossom time here in DC.

You've probably heard a lot about it, but here it is again. The famous cherry blossom trees in DC were a gift from the mayor of Tokyo to the city and people of Washington, back in 1912. Since then, many trees have been replaced as they died out or were damaged in floods, but the National Cherry Blossom Festival has established itself as a celebration of the coming of spring and a tribute to the natural beauty of the trees. (That said, while I'm linking to the festival's site, I hardly ever take part because it's often a tourist madhouse, and there's been concerns raised about the effects of all the foot traffic through the area on the roots of the trees, so if you're going down there, use some discretion.)

But, if you do go down, here's a few shots that I took this past fall that'll point you toward some things to see...

Of course, everyone knows the Jefferson Memorial, but it's one of my favorite spots, and Jefferson was always a hero of mine, so I'm including it.

If you look south across the Tidal Basin and the Potomac, you can spot Arlington House, the former home of Robert E. Lee and the centerpiece of Arlington National Cemetery.

And there's waterfowl galore on the basin, great if you're a birdwatcher.

Thousands of people walk across the Inlet Bridge and never stop to look at the odd bronze sculptures on the sides. I noticed them once, and then did a little digging.

What they are (according to Barbara Seeber's book A City of Gardens), is a joke. When the bridge was refurbished in the 80s, Parks chief Jack Fish was retiring at the same time, so the sculptor used Fish's face as a model for the fish. It's a nice little surprise for anyone sufficiently observant. When I was taking the photos, a family walked over, and the kids were just fascinated by them, but the parents didn't notice or were too determined to get to the next stop.

This rough-hewn stone pagoda was a gift from the mayor of Yokohama in 1958. I love it.

And here's one of DC's most unknown and neglected monuments, the World War One Memorial. Technically, it's not a national memorial, but only for DC residents who fought and died in the Great War, regardless of race, class, or sex. In 2003 it was listed as a "Most Endangered Place" by the DC Preservation League but since then it appears to have been spruced up a bit.

Inside the dome.

Still, as you can see, while it may be no longer physically neglected, it's neglected by tourists, who don't know what it is or don't even know it's there. I wonder if locals know what it is. It's got the names of those who perished in the Great War carved on the sides, and it certainly dignified enough, but it's got a mysterious air about it, almost like a manufactured folly on the grounds of a great estate.

So, if you come down for the Cherry Blossoms (and if you do, let me know...maybe we can assemble and do a Lafcadio Hearn reading under the trees), and you go about to the various memorials, keep your eyes open for these little treasures.

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