Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Dispatches from DC #09

08 March 2011

Hello there... Rodger French here.

Washington, DC (well... Arlington, VA) is a fine place to live for a couple of years. In addition to having groceries, restaurants, and all manner of other services within easy walking distance, we even get Al Jazeera English on the TV, so it's possible to obtain actual comprehensive international news 24/7. Knowing what's going on outside the good old U.S. of A. seems increasingly important these days.

Anne and I are still quite keen to go forward to our next assignment in September 2012; with any luck, we'll decamp before the 06 November election and subsequent (and eagerly anticipated) Apocalypse predicted for 21 December. (Not to cast a pall on anyone's End Times festivities, but isn't it possible that the Mayan calendar ended just to start all over again? Or maybe they ran out of special calendar stones to carve it on? I'm just askin'.)

In any case, we continue to make the most of our stay here, which often entails hopping aboard the socialistic Metro system and taking in one of the many wonderful socialistic (and consequently) free museums. Last Saturday, we visited the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery, which are contiguous and located not far from what's left of Chinatown. Naturally, we meandered through the "Hall of Presidents," a suitably impressive display. I especially admired the painting of President Andrew Jackson, which may be the most flattering portrait of a war criminal ever commissioned.

Then came something totally unexpected.

As many of you know, I am not a religious person, having long ago escaped the clutches of Baptist fundamentalism, and generally regard organized religions as cults that have simply gotten out of hand. But what the heck; "to each their own," "do to others what you would have them do to you," and "laissez la fin des temps rouler." Heathen though I may be, I do nonetheless fervently appreciate that religion has been most beneficent to our tragically failing species when it comes to music and the arts.

I was reminded of this when, whilst perusing the "Folk Art" exhibition, I happened upon "The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations' Millennium General Assembly" by James Hampton. For a comprehensive description and image, here's the link. You should check it out:


Mr. Hampton, a janitor and the self-titled "Director, Special Projects for the State of Eternity," created, in a rented garage, religious art of the highest order and I am earnestly grateful to have come across it. For me, it's a visual equivalent of the music of Marion Williams, the great Gospel singer; majestic and fearless, abundant with faith and power. If Jesus ever does need an earthly place to perch, he couldn't do better than Mr. Hampton's throne.

Duly moved, we spent the rest of the afternoon wandering about the 'hood, peeking into shoppes, and enjoying a Chinese lunch in a funky little place where most of the diners were apparently Chinese. It was a nice trip into the nation's capital (Official motto: "Taxation Without Representation") and we'll be visiting again soon. I urge you to do so as well, especially if you're an American taxpayer. After all, you deserve your socialist money's worth.