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It was great to be able to have plenty of time to spend chatting with Cal and Joni over the long weekend, and especially for Nancy and Joni to finally meet! I think Matty their lemon beagle was happy to have new people to play with too :-)

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On Thursday morning, we drove down to the Naval base at Norfolk, to meet Cal’s nephew JJ’s ship coming in to port. Funny, JJ was visiting the last time I was in D.C., almost two years ago.

We thought that this ship below was JJ’s ship, and we watched with a good size crowd while the tugboats nudged it into the dock, but after a long while everyone was off the ship with no sign of JJ. Then Cal’s cellphone rang, and it was JJ wondering where we were! Turns out there were two ships coming in to port that day!

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Friday

This was a very full day of sightseeing. Cal’s contacts with former coworkers in the White House got us into the White House tour without having to wait in the line that stretched halfway around the grounds. No picture-taking was allowed inside, but here’s a picture of the North Portico just after we left the building.

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After the White House tour, we walked around the neighborhood for a while looking for a Starbucks :-) And, oh yeah, we also checked out the Renwick Gallery, one of the national art galleries.

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Here is one of my favorite pieces. It’s a parody of an ancient greek urn, but instead of monsters or fierce creatures, the band across the top shows hamsters, bunnies, and mice; and the noble warriors (male and female), instead of fighting or posing dramatically are riding a tandem bicycle!

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(For comparison purposes, below are some authentic grecian urns, in a picture I took in a visit to the North Carolina Museum of Art, almost three years ago.)

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I dunno why, but I really liked this one.

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Right after taking that picture I noticed the sign that said “No Photography”, so that was that :-) Which is too bad, because there were a lot of other really interesting pieces. The lower floor mostly had modern sculptures, while the upper floor had a large collection of historical paintings.

After we left the museum, we drove across the river to Arlingon National Cemetery. We walked around for a long time, and even watched the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns. It was a gray day, and a very moving experience. Then it started to rain, and we had to make a dash for the car.

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Saturday

This day we spent at the American History Museum, one of the Smithsonian Institution’s museums. There were some very interesting exhibits that we spent a lot of time at: the ongoing restoration of the Start-Spangled Banner, a history of electronic technology from the telegraph to the computer, and even an exhibit of the history of a single house from colonial times to the 50s and all the different owners and families who lived there.

But this one was my favorite: an exhibit and history of paint-by-numbers, which were very popular with adults and children in the 50s (and I remember enjoying them as a kid in the 60s). The “real” art world looked at this phenomenon with horror and disgust, but the narrative says that for many people it was an introduction to the creative arts, and to the thought that they could create art of their own rather than only buying works created by a sort of priesthood of “true” artists.

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Most paint-by-numbers kits were of landscapes, or animals, or family scenes, done in a basically realistic style. This piece is one of the few that were intentionally “modernist” styled. According to the description, it was entered and actually won first prize in a legitimate art competition! But when the artist revealed that it was really a paint-by-numbers piece, it was retroactively disqualified and the judges were publicly embarrassed.

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I found the pair of paintings below interesting: the first was done exactly by the numbers, while the second was done by someone who took it only as a starting point and didn’t mind coloring “outside the lines”.

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Sunday

Then it was time to fly home, but if you’re ever in the D.C. area we highly recommend Cal & Joni’s Bed and Breakfast! :-)

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