Walking Through Georgetown

Georgetown, a university area of Washington DC, had that understated style and nothing-to-prove confidence about itself. Houses looked modest enough in size but seemed really stylish inside with soft light and muted graceful décor.

There was money for sure, but it seemed like a professional money bracket, not the old propertied vast amounts of money category we would later see in Charleston. The nicest part of it was up from the water, away from the expensive bars and high condos. It reminded me of parts of Chelsea or over by Shoreditch in London, where the money is hidden, and hiding it seems the proper and mannerly thing to do. Terraced two stories or maisonettes, a pale red brick and bright white pointing. Steps up to the solid front door. High windows giving insights into tall-ceiling rooms well used to urbane and witty conversations over crab cakes and chardonnay.

Quietness seemed more important than ostentation. The calming effect of the knowledge that you, the citizens of Georgetown, are the masters and mistresses of the universe. And that’s the way is should be, was meant to be and will be forever and ever amen, so help us God (a white, Christian, American, paternalistic, God).

There we were too, strolling through that balmy early evening air at the start of a holiday. Easy and full with the knowledge that this won’t end tonight or even soon. This gets better, the cup gets fuller, this is under no threat, just relax; take it easy, relax. There will be dinner, it will be good, with a glass of wine and iced wine and an attentive server. And the sun will get low in the west over the bridge. And planes will take off from Ronald Reagan and bank to the north, west and south, bringing the brightest and best of America homeward. And tomorrow we’ll be somewhere new, doing something similar to what we did today, and enjoying each breath of it.

 

In The National Gallery of the USA

Strangely here, unlike in the other smaller museums and galleries, there were no x-ray machines and body scanners. But you have to carry your bag on one shoulder not two. Water inside the bag here.

And it’s free.

Two experiences, both very fine.

The first, in the modern eastern building. Late afternoon and you wander in to the vast atrium. Take a left and you are looking at Van Goghs, Hoppers, Lichtensteins, Warhols; you name it, they got it.

The apparent rightness of it all. That these works of wonder, shining down through the ages and calling to us, whoever we are; that, when you are walking down a hot and politically charged Pennsylvania Avenue, looking up at Capital Hill and the dodgy decisions being made there, that the timeless masters are on the other side of a wall, just there. Available for free. Just like that.

A tall Giacommetti on the 2nd floor bridge.

A Cézanne portrait, a Degas garden, a Picasso family. Georgia O’Keefe. Hanging there, just there. And the quiet of it all. Throngs wandering around outside on streets, or over in Arlington, or down the Mall, but so few people here to hang around with (haha) the great masters of our civilisations.

Outside, a huge Henry Moore bronze, Knife Edge Mirror, Two Piece, ah for God’s sake.

The second building, the original one to the west with a grandeur and scale that took the breath away. Centred with a huge rotunda and a sculpture of Mercury/Hermes in a fountain under a vast dome.

In the next room a Da Vinci portrait. In the next a Fra Angelico and Fra Filippo Lippi Adoration of the Magi. In the next, not one Titian nor two but whole roomful, right there, looking down at us from the heights of the middle of the 16th century. In the next, El Greco’s sharp lines and dark strains of the Spanish monarchy.

Down the corridor, the American masters: John Singleton Copley’s Watson and the Shark.

Vermeer, Rembrandt.

It was all too much. Like 10 main courses in a three star Michelin restaurant. We had to walk it off in the fresh air. Outside the sculpture garden was beautiful and refreshing. Blue sky, a fountain. The Bourgeois spider sculpture a reminder of my book and Saoirse Keane’s love of the great Maman – an affirmation in the American capital, a great city of the world.

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