Washington D.C. Day 4: National Gallery and Ballston (VA)

I took a good number of pictures this day.

After brunch in the hotel, some friends and I took the metro into D.C. It was a comfortable, overcast day, warm in the sun.

Our destination was the National Gallery of Art. It's a respectable museum though I was disappointed there are few to no explanations of pieces.

The West Building has traditional art up through the nineteenth century, mostly Italian (some religious), French, and German. This building has all the good impressionists: Pissarro (who I like), Monet (who I like) (including The Houses of Parliament, Sunset), Gauguin (who I don't like much), and Cezanne (who's somewhere in the middle). Also, I enjoyed paintings by Canaletto (incredibly detailed), Turner, and Thomas Cole (except for the religious parts).

The National Gallery also has an exhibit of medals (a la coins) from the Renaissance. In addition, it has an exhibit of sketches that wasn't my thing.

The special exhibit on early photography (Modernity in Central Europe, 1918-1945) showed photographs that look like they were taken by people who just discovered the camera. Most were experimental, some were activist, some were montages, and some were surreal (but the surreal photos at the Mountain View festival I attended shortly before are better).

In order to spend time in the East Building, we didn't view the north side of the ground floor of the West Building.

The East Building has modern art. We saw Rothko, Warhol, Lichtenstein, Ruscha, Pollock, Calder (his pieces make awesome shadows), Jasper Johns, and O'Keeffe, among others. Sadly, we didn't have time to finish exploring the building. I'll have to come back sometime.

We spent several hours at the National Gallery.

During the trip, I heard about an art project to photograph pay-phones (before they disappear). Sounds neat!

Upon leaving the museum, we happened upon a gay street festival: Capital Pride. The shop booths sold colorful glass items in the shapes of hearts, stars, etc. The food booths sold crab cakes, gyros, crepes, fajitas, funnel cakes, etc. Sadly, most booths were closed; we stumbled upon the festival too late in the day.

We headed to Ballston, a neighborhood in Arlington, Virginia, to meet a friend of one of us (E). Downtown Ballston, located next to the metro station, has a nice four-story mall. There are also bars around. The area was fairly empty when we visited. Away from the main drag, Ballston is pretty bland (like the rest of Arlington). Lots of brick buildings and houses.

With this friend, we went out for Afghani food at Bamian in Falls Church. The menu explained Afghanistan: "Afghanistan has occupied a favored invasion route since antiquity and was known as Ariana or Bactria in ancient times." Sounds a bit politically-loaded given the times.

Our waiter was funny. For instance, when asking him about a Afghani "dough" drink, he asked us about a different drink (a lassi I think): "Tried that? Liked it? Don't get this! It's an acquired taste."

Over dinner E's friend told us about bar tricks and about his drinking kickball league, which apparently is very popular in the area.

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