Friday, January 30, 2009

Ah, Detroit

The good news is that we made it to Detroit. The bad news is that the next flight doesn't leave until 7:25. That gives us many hours to spend at the airport. We considered going into Detroit but since it's snowing and 18 degrees outside, we decided against it. So now we're sitting in the Coney Island Sport Bar eating fries. Northwest Airlines did give us vouchers for lunch ($20). Next we're going to explore the airport, which seems to be new. The "A" wing, where we are, has almost 100 gates. They have an indoor electric train that runs back and forth, making stops along the way.

We finally boarded

Just two hours and ten minutes after our scheduled departure time, we boarded the plane. We are taking bets as to when we take off. M says 12:00. I say 11:53. We already missed our connecting flight, so we're not due to get home till about 9:30 now. :( :(

Still in Baltimore

We are still here, while a mechanic looks at our "aircraft," as they call it. First she said "five to ten minutes." We knew that wasn't true. Then she said "five to ten minutes," and we were pretty sure it wasn't true. Most recently she said, "fifteen to twenty minutes." At least that is slightly more realistic.

In the meantime, here's a photo I forgot to post from yesterday. This is the children's chapel at the National Cathedral. It's a tiny chapel with little chairs, little altar, and even a little organ. There are also little kneeling cushions with animals from the ark on them. It was delightful. M is in the picture for purposes of scale.

At the airport

I was just looking at yesterday's blogs and realized I sent the same picture twice. O well. I don't think I sent this one before.

Now we are at the airport. M is reading a book about saints which she purchased at the Opus Dei bookshop. I'm not reading anything at the moment. I finished "Greenmantle," the sequel to "The 39 Steps." I enjoyed it. Maybe I'll read "Mr Standfast," the sequel to "Greenmantle."

I neglected to mention that yesterday afternoon we went to the Holocaust Museum. That Lefebvreist bishop should be required to go through it. I don't see how he can profess to believe in the Gospel on the testimony of eyewitnesses if he can't believe in the holocaust, for which there is a mountain of evidence in every form - on paper, on film, etc, etc. The museum's main agenda was to prevent genocide from happening again by raising people's awareness. It was restrained, but very intense.

We are about to board, so I will bid you farewell. See you in Detroit!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Farewell to Washington

We are leaving tomorrow at 6 AM!!! So here's a farewell view of Washington.

M on the Mall

I'm trying to send this photo which came out 2mb for some reason.

At J and B's

They are doing great! Jason is doing really well as an attorney, specializing in international trade contracts and the like. Bethie is studying at Peabody. During the summers, she teaches at Sidwell Friends. !!! Who knows? She might be teaching Sasha and Malia how to sing next summer!

On the frozen tundra

We stopped by the Mall to take a few more pics. Now we're heading for Jason and Bethie's for dinner.

Jefferson Memorial

Thomas Jefferson is facing the White House.

At the FDR Memorial

No time to comment on the breadline; we are trying to stay ahead of a group of about 60 Catholic schoolgirls. RUN!

Obama gear

We stopped to buy some Obama gear. The lady in front said, "the Burberry is coming off, and the Obama is going on."

At the W H

At the "Catholic Information Center"

We were supposed to meet someone for lunch today - the lady who coordinated the "Sacred Art" exhibit which featured some of Maria's art. Turns out she thought it was next week. In any event, we were to meet her at Mass in a strange little chapel accessed through the Opus Dei-run bookshop on K street. The Mass was one of the strangest I've ever been to. All the furnishings of the Chapel were brand-new, pseudo-Baroque. The tiny sanctuary was full of red pillars that looked like they belonged in a villa in Pompeii. During the intercessions the priest stood directly behind one of them to make room for the reader. The mingling of water and wine was done with a tiny silver spoon. The bells were rung a total of 9 times. The purification of the vessels lasted longer than the homily. 'Twas a sight to behold.


Just off the porch they had an amazing historical display in celebration of the centennial of the laying of the cornerstone (1907). It had display cases with artifacts and MSS., maquettes, fragments of statuary, even a flatscreen TV continuously playing video clips. We calculated that it must have cost $40 thousand or more. (The display only, cathedral not included.)

On our way to and from the Cathedral we passed the Sidwell Friends school, where Sasha and Malia go.


The interior of the cathedral is quite splendid. Marred only by the noise. Four vergers in green garments were lounging near the entrance, chatting. And some guys bringing in sound equipment were having a rather loud argument in the north transept. "I had a plan, man!" one of them yelled.

The bronze gates

We have been wanting to see Ulrich Henn's gates at the National Cathedralfor a long time. Here is a detail of the conversion of St Paul. We both think our doors are nicer.

On to the Nat'l Cathedral

From the shrine we went on to the National Cathedral. To get there we had to take the Metro, a bus, and the longest, scariest escalator I've ever seen.

Our Lady of Marianzell

The question one must ask upon seeing this shrine is - "why?"


The Shrine is covered in mosaic. The image of Christ in Majesty over the altar is by no means the strangest of these. I think the giant mosaic of Mary battling the hydra is even stranger. But the creation mosaic is pretty odd, too.

This is one of the tamer specimens - the saints of Poland in one of the side chapels.

At the Shrine

Good morning, blog-readers! The sun is shining today. Usually that doesn't happen till we're on our way to the airport.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

On the other side

The other side of the museum has American Art. This is a work of folk art by a crazy janitor. It is a throne and altar for the second coming, with assorted paraphernalia. He called himself the "Director of Special Projects for the Lord Almighty." You can't tell from the photo, but the original filled a garage. It is made mostly of tinfoil, I believe.

At the NPG

After the Archives we went to the National Portrait Gallery/Gallery of American Art. I got my picture taken with Louisa May Alcott. We didn't get to see Pocahontas because the first gallery was under construction. That is always the way of it. We did see just about everybody else, from John Brown and Julia Ward Howe to Mary ickford and Dan Quayle. It was an exhausting journey through the centuries.

Talking trash

Back in Wash.

After a gruelling cross-Baltimore treck, we made it back. We went to Ford's Theater but it is closed. Fortunately, the National Archives was just around the corner. After viewing the Charters of Freedom exhibit in the Rotunda, we went to another gallery where you can interact with history. I made a documentary about D-Day that was projected on a screen. I think they get a lot of 6th-graders there.

A specimen

This is what happens to snow when it is covered with freezing rain. It becomes rock-hard and very slippery. The entire city of Baltimore is covered with it. (This specimen was collected at the Catholic Center across the street from the Basilica.)

At the corner of Cathedral and Mulberry

A view of the nave

The Basilica is pretty small. My estimate is that it seats about 4-500 at most. Notice (if you can see it in the photo) that there is a cross atop the ambo canopy, and a miter atop the cathedra. There's also a balcony where the slaves would sit.


This is the tintinnabulum, another mark of a basilica. It has a bell in the center and can be carried in procession. This one is about 12 feet high.

The Basilica

Everything is white marble and pale cream, except for the umbrellino. It's very nice. Archbishope Carroll and Cardinal Gibbons, among others,0are buried in the crypt.

Bust of Archbishop Carroll

We are at the beautifil Basilica of the Assumption in Baltimore, "America's First Cathedral."

In Catonville

We made it to Catonville where Father Chirico is living. It's a nursing home, very efficiently run by the Little Sisters of the poor. Father Chirico is in the Our Lady of Lourdes wing. He was dozing in front of the Regis and Kelly show when we came in. He looks good, but can't talk much. He was interested in the report we gave him on Linda (whom he always called "fatso"). Still, it's very sad to see someone so brilliant diminished in that way.

In the Metro

We are in the subway on our way to Union Station to catch the train to Baltimore. Unlike Paris, in Washington every station looks exactly the same. Also, unlike Paris, everything is spotlessly clean and doesn't smell like you-know-what.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

'Twas long ago

The curious reader may wish to compare and contrast the pictures we took on our last visit to Washington. 'Tis twenty years since. We've changed a bit. Maybe not as dramatically as the weather, but close.

More at the Capitol

The distinctive Corinthian columns of the Capitol. Or should I say, corn-inthian?

It stopped snowing

...just long enough to snap a few photos of the Capitol. We also got to go on a tour. No need for advance reservations on a day like this. The Capitol was amazing. The only problem with it was that the grand buildings are filled with some really execrable statuary.

Cool cafeteria

The cafeteria at the National Gallery is part of the underground link between the two buildings. It has a really neat cascade from the outdoor fountain on the upper level.

Cool campaign buttons

They have a great collection of political paraphernalia of yesteryear. (Note Harry Truman button.) They even have a "Biden for President" sign. Now that's history.

The puffy shirt

Right now we are taking a break in the cafeteria at the National Gallery. We spent the morning at the museum of American history. It was very interesting. I won't bore you with any anecdotes, but we did get to see some mementoes of Harry Truman. Not to mention Kermit the Frog, Oscar and his garbage can, and the puffy shirt from Seinfeld.

A lone skater

There were a few people attempting to skate on the Mall. They weren't exactly gliding. More like slogging.

One week

Can you imagine if this storm had hit one week earlier??? You can't even see the Capitol.

The confessional

People come from miles around to go to confession to Father Visitor. He is reknowned as a reader of souls. Not only that, but he also speaks Spanish.

My favorite chapel

This Cathedral has a number of little chapels. My favorite is the Franciscan chapel, on the right as you enter. It has a panorama of the countryside around Assisi, of which this is a small detail.

More at St Matthew's

This is a remembrance of the visit of Pope Benedict in April. The coats-of-arms on the special paschal candle are those of Pope Benedict and Archbishop Wuerl.

At St. Matthew's

The weatherpeople were right about this morning's weather. It is snowing like - cats and dogs.

We came to St Matthew's for Mass - it's only a little ways from our hotel. It was designed by Heins and Lafarge, the architects of St. James, so we were very interested to see it. It's more in the Byzantine style. It probably seats about 600 - it was not built as a cathedral, but was turned into one when the diocese of Washington, DC was created, in the 1930s. It has a grand dome, which is still standing (depending, of couse, on how much it snows today).

Monday, January 26, 2009

Another view

Here's a view of the Washington Monument from the interior of the Lincoln Monument. I tell you that because the camera on my Blackberry leaves much to be desired.

Maybe the snow will offer some interesting photo ops. We shall see...

At Johnny Rocket's

She's happier now that she's warm with a cheeseburger, fries, and onion rings on the way. Of course we left our map there. Fortunately a crazy man gave us another one in the lobby of our hotel.

It's cold - 26 degrees, they say. I was guessing 17. The next two days are supposed to be lovely - a big snowstorm tomorrow and ice on Wednesday. Good thing we're staying in the museums all day, hey?

So famous

The Lincoln Memorial was most impressive, with the Daniel Chester French portrait of Lincoln. On one wall is inscribed the Gettysburg Address, and on the other the Second Inaugural.

There are really no signs of recent events on the Mall, but the parade route is still lined with bleachers. They look very uncomfortable, but just a week ago I'm sure everyone wanted a seat in "Blue Section B" or "Blue Section C."

On the Mall

Here is M at the Washington Monument by night. It is SO COLD. Now we are thawing ourselves at Johnny Rockets. I found out it's difficult, if not impossible, to operate a Blackberry in gloves.

Ah, beautiful Baltimore

We have arrived, sort of. We are sitting in the unattractive waiting room of the Marc train service to Washington, or DC, as those more accustomed to the place seem to call it. Our train is due to arrive at Union Station at 5:37. From there, we plan to get a taxi to our hotel. Then, the sights.

On the plane, we developed our plan for tomorrow. It's basically what we always do:

1) Go to Mass at St. Matthew's at the unearthly hour of 8 (ET).

2) Walk down the Mall and see as many museums as we possibly can.

3) Return to hotel room to watch cable TV.

Salt Lake City

Lots of snow and ice on the ground here. But our plane made it just fine. Guess who was on the plane? Ray Phillips, on a business trip to Salt Lake City. He's flying back again tonight. We stay on this plane and continue on to Baltimore in about half an hour.

I finished "The 39 Steps" and took a nap. I didn't quite get the ending. I thought he was going to prevent the outbreak of war between England and Germany. But they went to war anyway. I guess the hero just prevented a German invasion.

On our way

We are off. Our flight is going to Salt Lake City first, then on to Washington, DC. I am looking forward to the coffee most of all. We had to get to the airport so early (6 am flight) that Tully's wasn't open when we walked by. People were standing outside the gate, staring in.

Our reading right now: M is reading "In a New World" by Horatio Alger. A boy was just kidnapped by Australian bushwhackers. I am reading "The 39 Steps" by John Buchan, a thriller. It's pretty good. He's being pursued over the moors of Scotland by a man in a monoplane. I downloaded it for free on my Kindle.

They are beginning boarding with Group 1. We are Group 9.