Date: Tue, 9 Sep 2003 12:03:42 EDT
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Subject: Visit to the Bernards in Washington
A couple of weeks ago, I traveled south to Washington, DC, to visit Ruth and Sol Bernards. They were in good spirits, all things considered, and we enjoyed viewing many worthwhile sites.
I arrived on Monday, and met Ruth and Sol for lunch in beautiful Union Station, the grand, recently refurbished gateway to the Capitol City. I rented an auto and we drove out to their new home, the Ring House, in Rockville, MD. They have an airy, cozy apartment, furnished with several familiar pieces from Stewart House. These, together with Ruth and Sol's hospitality, made it easy to feel 'at home.'
Ruth has lectured to the clientele at Ring House, and is rapidly taking her rightful place as a well-known contributing resident there. The interior is nicely appointed and almost the feel of a comfortable, majestic cruise ship. Ruth has made many acquaintances. I found Sol about the same as when I saw him last: his hearing is intermittent and he now uses a 'walker,' but by the second day of my visit, he was asking after my family and things in New York.
That day, we visited the Hirschorn Museum on the mall, seeing their permanent collection. Some of their new pieces are most interesting, especially a glass-fiber gigantic male nude, seen sitting in a corner of the basement, looking back suspiciously at the well-dressed museum-goers.. I discovered that while the Museum was open until 5 PM, street parking was permitted only up to 4 PM. On the way home, we got slightly lost. I didn't know whether to go right or left, but a motorcycle police office quickly 'straightened me out.'
The next day, Ruth and I went to the National Holocaust Museum [Sol remained home for his usual morning stroll]. It is a most sober exhibit, within an appropriately somber building. It contains a series of some of the most through and understandable exhibits on that nasty and horrific period in European history. There were two 15 minute films: the one on Germany's then-leader went far to permit an understanding of how the population was captivated and hypnotized.
The exhibits also presented what Jewish life had been like before the catastrophe, and included references to the persecution of the Roma [Gypsies] and the euthanasia program, in addition to the Jewish experience. There was a good number of other visitors, most seeming quite middle-American, I was pleased to note. I remained there an hour longer than we had planned.
That night there was a tremendous, terrible summer storm, with leadened clouds, high winds, lightening, thunder and such a great outpouring of rain ! From the Bernards' apartment, we could see trees whipped about with water and mud cascading through an adjacent construction site. A metal fence was blown over and I experienced my second blackout for the summer
Wednesday, I drove alone to a nearby Nature Center in Rockville. I noticed many limbs and even trees knocked over from the storm. The Nature center is a small, pretty, recycled design, with displays of turtles, snakes and birds. At its center is wonderful, motley, cracked-mosaic-tile circular mural, depicting aspects of the local natural environment. The artist, Deirdre Saunder, hails from southern Africa [Zimbabwe] and did a colorful job with this 10 ft high, 40 ft long work, containing many 'found' objects. An elaborate country house on the adjacent site, restored by the Town, is also well worth a visit.
The three of us also visited the Roosevelt Memorial, which I had never seen. It is one of the most successful, non-monumental memorials in Washington, and a real pleasure to walk through. It's outdoors, and features four pink-granite enclosed 'rooms,' one for each of FDR's terms as president. Each 'room' contains a waterfall or pool: these relate to the Roosevelt home up the Hudson River; Franklin's stint as Secretary of the Navy; his recuperation in the warm springs at Campabello; his sponsorship of the TVA project and his overseas, wartime travels.
I particularly enjoyed the sculptures by George Segal especially the one of Eleanor: it reminded me of my truncated conversation with her, so long ago, in an elevator.
That night, the three of us drove to the Kennedy Center for the opening performance of, 'Nijinsky,' a one-man presentation of this world-class dancer from the early part of the previous century. The Center, itself, was rather deserted: Congress being in recess in August: 'Nijinsky' is the only show currently running. The production emphasized Nijinsky the man, his trials and troubles, his relationship with Diagelev and with his daughter. It includes a brief scene of full-frontal nudity, notable mainly, perhaps, because in was exposed in a Federal venue.
All-in-all, the journey was a pleasant summer interlude for me, a unique visit to Washington itself, rather than going there as part of one political demonstration or another. A trip enhanced by the opportunity to enjoy the company of my fast friends, the Bernards.