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Friday, October 15, 2010

Hurrah! My Visit to D.C.

[Management is obliged to point out this posting on November 7th should actually have been posted earlier, but was delayed. It shall remain here a few days, then magically fly back to its correct date of October 15. Please - return to your gawking.]

Hurrah! Kirk, Sydney and I were off to Washington D.C. To get there we drove to a park and ride lot at the metro.

Kirk and Sydney head up to the trains

The Metro

We took a 20 minute ride to downtown. The train was clean and the scenery was interesting. Before long we made it to our destination.

Washington D.C. Metro

Guess Where we were!

We walked off towards our destination and on our way enjoyed a short, fun stop with the goal of staring at the sun without melting our eyeballs.

The mini-planetarium offering safe and free peering at the sun

Sydney & the Sun - in a brightness contest,
Sydney would win, hands down

After our brief view of the sun spots, we walked another block or two arriving at our destination.
And there it was - HO!

The National Museum of the American Indian, a place I've wanted to visit since it opened back in September of 2004. It represents all American Indians, from Alaska to Argentina. First up here are the impressive bits that give the museum its panache. There was a planter filled with the crops of the southwest tribes – maize, beans and squash. Which brings up the question, did the Southwest Indians have trouble getting their kids to eat their veggies?

"Don't play with your squash Little Hawk, eat it!"

"Aw Ma...."

The Three Sisters - Corn, Squash, Beans

I was totally excited when I entered the museum, particularly as our first objective there was - lunch. We headed straight to the museum’s famous, Mitsitam Cafe. I knew nothing of the Mitsitam, which I've found out means, "Let's Eat". Immediately on entering the place I was flabbergasted - no McDonalds type fare, corn dogs or milk shakes. Instead there were Native western hemisphere foods, served in creative dishes that paid homage to the original food of the Americas. The various cuisines were represented by a kitchen for each geographic area.

In the Great Plains you could have bison chili on fry bread
with with mesquite pinion cookies for dessert

The 'Northwest Coast' serves up the yummies shown above,
washed down with Chia Seed Lemonade

You can imagine how hard pressed I was to decide what to sample. I stood in the center of the room with my empty lunch tray, spinning like a top as I tried to settle on which region's food to sample. The final decision the 'Northeastern woodlands' and the shores of New England. I went for a yummy cup of Quahog Clam & Corn Chowder with Parsley Foam. I has the appetizer for my entree - roasted duck with wild sprouts (below on the right). I've heard of Quahog clams and was amazed they could be purchased at all. I wondered if the shells of the Quahog clams were saved to make wampum and jewelry as in the olden days.

Yummmm....

My nephew Kirk opted for the Great Plains, having a spicy bison stew - I tried nicked some - delish! I also sampled his Wild Rice with cranberries, pinon nuts, pumpkin seeds and such - I am so going to get that recipe! Kirk also had a nice bit of fry bread, which was served as a dessert, sprinkled with powdered sugar. Niecelette Sydney went for universal Indian children's fare - that is, chicken tenders with fries.

Kirk found the bison stew a tad too spicy

Sydney enjoyed her chicken tenders with fries

When adequately stuffed, as advised we headed to the fourth floor to start our museum tour. The museum building is built to move its visitors in gentle circles that flow like the seasons. There exhibits detail the old and modern lives of many, many tribes from Northern Canada and Alaska to the tip of Argentina. Looking over my photos I wasn't surprised to see what mostly caught my eye was the Plains Indian's things and the treasures from Northern tribes like the Athabaskan and Inuit.

Friendly little Inuit dolls - I love the
knowing looking doll on the left - what a face!

Charming and warm Inuit boots

Children's toys from the Central Plains of North America

But there were other things I hadn't expected. For example there were many animated movies that told classic Indian tales. They often just played by the displays and dioramas, giving the feeling you were being told your history by a village elder - fascinating.

tale of the 7 brothers

After touring the floor, we came out where we could look down onto the first floor. There was a man playing a hand drum down there, where there were various Indian boats on display, and plenty of casual seating.

Looking down 4 levels to the drumming

One of the exhibits I loved was on traditional clothing worn by Canadian Inuit. The video was about the 'old fashioned' seal skin gloves and how they were gradually replaced by manufactured gloves that added no additional warmth and detracted from the tribe's traditions of having the women produce gloves with seal fur for their families - really, I didn't stay long enough to hear the whole presentation. That is why I have to return some day and take a full day to tour the museum. Hummm... I think I will bring a little portable chair so I can hear the presentations in comfort when my feet give out.

Yes. I'm now officially an old fart.

One more thing, in an alcove on each floor there was a single statue. One was an Indian firing an arrow into the air, but my favorite was this one - a present from Oneida Indians to the museum, and it is entitled Allies in War, Partners in Peace. Awesome statue.

Click to see the incredible detail of turtle,"
wolf and bear at statue base

The museum has gift shops on the second and first floor, and it took all my self-restraint to not go nuts and spend all my retirement money. Life is cruel when you are among the newly frugal.

When we had toured all four floors I decided at some future visit I will have to spend a full day at the museum. I also decided I will bring a folding chair so I can sit and listen to the various exhibits. Read ‘old fart’ comments above.

Outer areas Sydney in front

We decided we had time for one more museum. Even leaving the museum was interesting. There were fountains and ‘streams’ surrounding the building.

On the left, you could look over the waters and into the Mitsitam Cafe

After visiting the National Museum of the American Indian, we didn't have much time left but we decided to stop at the National Air and Space Museum. The entrance was changed since my first visit back in 1985 - how dare they!

Just inside the front doors of the Air and Space Museum

Sydney takes that one giant step, no,that's one giant smile for mankind

The bit of the museum dedicated to the first flight

We visited a room that saluted the Wright Brothers - having been to Kitty Hawk last February, it was nice seeing the exhibits.


After a quick tour, it was time to head back to to Kirk's house. There was more scenery to give a look-see on the walk back to the Metro.

The turrets are the Smithsonian

The fun didn't end with our return home. Later in the evening, Kirk, Nicole and the kids & my sister Dolores, and my niece Bea and her husband Avon, all headed over to the condo home of Nicole's parents, the Colemans. Very chic building! No photos, so you must use your imagination. The Colemans had a dinner - in my honor - can you believe that! I was floored.

It was a pleasant evening. Ok, I hate to focus on food - and you KNOW I do! - but the dinner was to die for! The stand outs of the meal were the best crab cakes that ever floated over my tongue, and an okra/nibblets corn veggie dish I adored & got the recipe for. I have got to post it with my favorite recipes some day.

So it was my last evening in Baltimore - I was flying back to California in the morning. I can't believe it took me so long to take up Kirk's invitation to Baltimore. I won't be waiting long for a revisit. You can count on that, as sure as the maize grows, the rivers run and the bison roam the plains.

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