Sunday, December 05, 2004

Ice-skate on the Mall

LOCATION: National Gallery of Art sculpture garden ice rink (Near Constitution and 7th St) EQUIPMENT: Yourself, $7 to skate, $3 to rent skates (What, you don't own figure skates?)

My DC activities don't usually involve spending money - this is not on purpose, just a reflection of my mode d'etre. But for ice skating in the sculpture garden it's worth it.

What happened this afternoon:

I carried my bike down the stairs and rode past the crackhouse across the street, recently featured in a CityPaper article, and down the 16th st hill. I was thinking about Ben, who is always very worried about working to be useful, and wondering whether working is the only way to live well; is it not okay to be a religious hermit living in the wilderness? Is it not enough to have family and friends, and to enjoy yourself? I noticed a woman waving to me: Elizabeth, my neighbor at the art gallery I used to live in, and the mother of the two little girls I babysat at Dumbarton Oaks. She gave me a hug and said she’d missed me, and I invited her to my yoga classes. "Just email me," she said with a sad smile, "It's my work address and I’ll definitely get it, it’s a place where I spend way too much time."

I kept on riding through a park with a monument to Andrew Jackson, sitting proudly on top of a poor dumb animal. There was an engraving: "Preserve this Union", and I thought more about monuments, how they transfigure perfectly simple places into reminders of genius and ideals and cataclysmic events. Next to Andrew Jackson there was a large group of Japanese tourists crowded around something. I couldn’t see what it was because they were crowded so tight, but the enthralling thing was quite close to the ground, because they were looking down.

I went closer and saw a man sitting on the ground between two home-made billboards covered in posters and flyers: "Ban all nuclear weapons" and "Peace now!" The text was bordered with bright yellow paper cutouts of flowers. The man was old, skinny, and dirty, and he was hugging his knees and rocking, with his nut-brown face cast down. The Japanese tourists were taking pictures of him: posing next to the man, taking close-ups of the bulletin board. One man was lying on his belly to get an interesting camera angle.

It was a greenhouse-effect-warm winter's day and the sun was shining. A squirrel darted from a tree, and ran through the crowd, causing a few of the crouching photographers to jump up in alarm.

I had stopped, and my mouth was hanging open. Some of the tourists noticed me staring, and fidgeted. But nobody met my gaze except one woman in a red dress, standing off to the side, whose mouth was also hanging open. She was looking at me, then at the peace protester, then at her friends taking pictures.

After a while the group of tourists decided they’d had enough of the pictures, and they all kept on walking at once, leaving the man to rock alone. But the woman, who had jammed her hands in her pockets, climbed over the fence into the park away from the group. A man - I think it was her husband - called to her, but she did not turn around.

I kept on riding and met Collin at the National Gallery of Art sculpture garden, where we went ice-skating. "Building an ice-skating rink in the middle of a sculpture garden is basically like crapping on all of those sculptures," Collin said. "But I guess they have get funds somehow."

Some of the skaters were hobbling anxiously along, clinging to the side wall, and some were carving gleeful arabesques in the center of the ring. And there was one little girl, with long stalks for legs and a tea-rose for a face, who didn’t know how to skate, but she’d zoom off at top speed anyway, and when she crashed into the ice, she’d just pick herself up again, giggling.

Oh, it is so terribly hard, to live inside a poem. How do we endure it? Can we endure it, without dying a little?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Help me Dude, I'm lost.

I was searching for Elvis and somehow ended up in your blog, but you know I'm sure I saw Elvis in the supermarket yesterday.

No honest really, he was right there in front of me, next to the steaks singing "Love me Tender".

He said to me (his lip was only slightly curled) "Boy, you need to get yourself a shiny, new plasmatv to go with that blue suede sofa of yours.

But Elvis said I, In the Ghetto nobody has a plasma tv .

Dude I'm All Shook Up said Elvis. I think I'll have me another cheeseburger then I'm gonna go home and ask Michael Jackson to come round and watch that waaaay cool surfing scene in Apocalypse Now on my new plasma tv .

And then he just walked out of the supermarket singing. . .

"You give me love and consolation,
You give me strength to carry on "

Strange day or what? :-)

11:34 AM  
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5:24 PM  

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