I spent three days in Washington, D.C.
I visited my kind friend Ellen.
I love the feeling of city streets.
Long ago, when I lived in D.C., my haunts were Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe at Dupont Circle, The National Gallery, The Freer Museum, Safeway (my daily destination after work, naturally), and 10K races. In those days I thought Washington a very dowdy city, but now it seems glam beyond my wildest dreams.
Ellen and I did enough to last me a year (and it will have to, as I live in a city where there is nothing to do–though that has its own virtues). We enjoyed a Classical Master Session at the American Voices festival at the Kennedy Center, where Eric Owens, an opera singer, coached young singers and almost brought them up to professional level when he told them not to sing like opera singers.
It made me think not of opera, but of rock (yes, that is more my medium): R.E.M.’s “All the Way to Reno (You’re Gonna Be a Star)”
Your Achilles heel
Is a tendency
But you’ve know that from the beginning
You didn’t have to go so far
You didn’t have to go.
Then, at the Millennium Stage at Kennedy Center, it was moving to see the enthusiastic Washingtonians lined up in their warm coats to attend a free concert of opera and blues on a first-come, first-serve seating basis. I very much liked Afro Blue, Howard University’s jazz ensemble, who sang “On the Sunny Side of the Street,” “This Can’t Be Love,” and “We’ve Only Just Begun.”
Grab your coat and get your hat
Leave your worries on the doorstep
Life can be so sweet
On the sunny side of the street
Now let me critique the one event that was in my line of expertise.
It is an exhibit is at the National Gallery: From the Library: The Transformation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses.
Alas, as soon as you walk into the tiny almost-corridor space, you realize that the curator doesn’t know Ovid. The books on display are, inexplicably, translations in Italian, French, and German–none in English, oddly, if that’s the route he/she is taking–and only one in the original Latin. Clearly he/she did not understand that the Latin text of Ovid was widely read from the Middle Ages through the beginning of the 20th century, not only by scholars and schoolboys, but by brilliant writers like Chaucer, Petrarch, Thomas More, Marlowe, Marvell, Erasmus, Milton, and Pope. In fact, Marlowe, Dryden, Pope, and Joseph Addison all translated Ovid. Many European writers wrote not only in their own language but in Latin, or exclusively in Latin: Erasmus’ In Praise of Folly, Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy, some of Milton’s poems, and Thomas More’s Utopia were written in Latin).
I left a nose print on the glass case as I squinted at the one Latin edition of Ovid I saw, with a commentary by Thomas Farnaby, published in 1637.
Thank you, Guard, for not warning me to step away from the case. (When I got too closed to the scroll of Kerouac’s On the Road at the University of Iowa Art Museum, I had to step away from the case–slowly–no, I’m kidding about the “slowly.”)
There are a couple of nice engravings and a lithograph by Braque of Phaethon, but it’s really just a very few books in a very few glass cases.
And scholars’ heads will spin if they read the brochure. The “Selected Reading” was apparently chosen at random by a person with moxie whose boss fortunately knew nothing about Ovid. Recommended is a 1955 Penguin edition of a prose translation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses by Mary M. Innes (why the 1955 edition? when there are so many brilliant poetic translations); and a random article that does not apply to the exhibit; and a book that barely applies.
Have I trashed this enough?
I think so!
I love the National Gallery, but skip this exhibit.
I very much enjoyed the Impressionist paintings, and we admired the 19th-century photographs of Paris by Charles Marville.
I’d love to live in D.C., but every time you leave the building you spend $10—and then $10 more–and then $20 or $30 more–and then maybe $50 more–and then your Metro card gets mysteriously demagnetized and the guard has to let you through the gates because frankly you’re out of money.
For those of you who read about my harrowing flight to Washington (here), let me say that flying home was great. I was pre-approved. Yes, I got to WALTZ through security with only an ID card.
It’s the way to go.