There’s something that’s both energizing and calming about watching a ballgame. I’m not sure how to describe it, but I get such a charge out of just sitting and enjoying a major league game.
Contradictory, I know.
It’s also the only thing I’ll do when I’m traveling. What I mean by that is, usually I sit and work in my room when I’m on the road. But if I have to be in the city with the baseball stadium is located downtown, I’ll catch a game.
Tonight it’s a pleasant September evening in Cleveland.
…and you’ve never seen the Hirshhorn. Well then…
You’re in DC for business and you’ve got a few hours to burn. Most likely this isn’t your first visit– maybe you brought the kids here a few years ago or you came into town as a kid yourself with a school trip (either recently or a hundred years ago like me). You’ve probably already seen the monuments and the standard Smithsonian museums like Air & Space, etc.
If that’s the case, here’s a nice, simple itinerary that will give you a 2-3 hour shot of modern art…at one of my favorite museums in the world, the Hirshhorn.
You’ll have to move sort of quickly, and I realize that that isn’t the best way to take in art. But if you’ve got limited time, there’s no choice. If you keep up the pace you can do this in 2 hours. If you take your time you could stretch it out to three (easy), maybe even 4 depending on how much of the Hirshhorn you want to see.
TIMING TIP: After you’re done, are you heading to Union Station? When you’re done with this short walk you’re going to end up at the Hirshhorn. That’s a walkable distance to Union Station, but it’s a long walk. It’s about 1.5 miles from Union Station to the Hirshhorn, which should take you 40 minutes at a regular pace. Make sure you factor that into your timing if you need to catch an Amtrak, for instance. There isn’t any super-convenient public transportation from the Hirshhorn to Union Station. There is a DC Circulator Bus not too far away and the Metro at L’Enfant Plaza, but by the time you get to both and wait for your stop, you might as well walk already. When I go I usually take the long walk back to Union Station— besides, it’s good for you! End of Timing Tip.
Start by grabbing a cup of coffee at the Starbucks on 7th St. and Pennsylvania Avenue. The store is actually a block off of Pennsylvania, but not really. Technically, it’s on the corner of 7th and Indiana, but Indiana is almost like a side-road and you can see the Starbucks from Pennsylvania. I say start with a cup of coffee because (1) I like coffee a whole lot, and (2) there’s a short stroll ahead.
Take your coffee and walk south on 7th Street, into the Mall. It’s only about 2 blocks…plus, you’re not going far — once you get into the Mall, you’ll immediately see the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden on your right. It’s on the corner of 7th And Pennsylvania, but the entrance is on 7th. Turn in there and take a walk for 20 minutes or so.
After you’re done, go back out the same entrance (on 7th) and make a right, heading deeper into the Mall, but stay on 7th. Walk down 7th and cross through the Mall…and take in the scenery. This is a popular area, so look around and savor the moment. Depending on the time of year there could be people playing ball or jogging– this is a great place to stop and people-watch, if you’re into that sort of thing. If you have some coffee left you could sit on a bench and enjoy it. Otherwise, keep walking through the Mall to the other end, which is where you’ll find the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. If you want more Sculpture Garden, then walk through the Hirshhorn’s. Personally, this is my favorite Sculpture Garden anywhere. There are pieces by Henry Moore, Rodin, and Koons. In fact, there’s a shiny Koons work called Kiepenkerl at the entrance to the Gardens on Jefferson Drive. I did a little research on that work and I wrote a blog post here, if you’re interested.
After you’re done with the Garden, don’t go into the Museum just yet. First, walk all the way around the Hirshhorn and take in the artwork outside. One of my favorite sculptures is here- “Needle Tower” By Kenneth Snelson. Do a complete loop around the outside of the building so (1) you don’t miss anything, and (2) you get a good look at the building itself. It’s a piece of art in-and-of itself.
After you enter the museum you’re on your own. However, if you’re under a time constraint, I recommend that you go to two places– the 3rd floor and the basement. For some reason, those two floors always have the most interesting things (according to my taste, that is). From a time perspective, the 3rd floor will take you much longer than the basement. The third floor wraps all the way around the building and also has an inner corridor with sculpture. The basement is usually a few current exhibitions and is smaller (and quicker to get through).
Remember- if you’re walking back to Union Station to catch a train, you’ll need to give yourself a good 40 minutes for the walk.
I’ve just boarded a 6 AM flight from Seattle to Newark. Do the math- if the flight is scheduled to leave at 6 am it means that I’ve been up since 3:30. You could imagine that I’m in a mood.
Just before takeoff I learn, against my will, that the young man sitting next to me is a student at U-Dub. That’s the abbreviation for the University of Washington that everyone in these parts thinks is so catchy. “Dub?” So now we’re too lazy to say a whole letter? It’s a single letter for Pete’s sake. I mean, I know today’s generation can’t communicate in phrases that exceed 140 characters in length, but this is one friggin letter.
Back to the youngster to my left. Seems he’s a sophmore who has a layover in Newark, on his way to visit a friend in Italy. That’s all well and good, but here is what I’m thinking as he tells me his life’s story. You have GOT to shut that window shade. It’s not quite 6 am yet and the sunlight is blaring in my eyes. Blah, blah, blah…exchange student I used to know…blah, blah, blah…a few miles outside of Milan…seriously dude, I don’t listen to my own college-age kids for this long. I don’t care about you and your roommate living in a hostel for a few weeks (just as an aside, didn’t you see the movie?) Just shut that shade before I go blind.
Eventually he stops talking. I think it’s because I started to close my eyes when he was mid-sentence. He does not, however, close his shade. I sat there quietly for a few moments, giving him a chance to come around. Maybe he’d notice that the rest of the passengers shut their shade. Maybe he’d heed the flight attendant’s announcement asking people to close their shades.
He doesn’t look like he has any intention to close it, however, because he’s staring longingly outside. What the hell is he looking at? We’re 33,000 feet in the air and the only thing he can see are mountain tops. Okay, maybe that was interesting for ten or fifteen minutes, but it’s been a half-hour already. You can lose yourself in thought by staring your tray table just as easily.
I’m waiting patiently for him to stop staring outside so I can tell him to close the screen. I’m trying so hard to be patient. Just stop looking out there for a second. Please. Truth is, I’m not so patient. On the outside I seem calm, but this kid doesn’t realize that inside my head I’m stabbing him in the throat. Seriously, what the hell is he staring at? Maybe he’s looking off into the distance and contemplating his existence. Yeah, my ass. He’s a sophmore in college- he’s probably contemplating beer. Dude, shut the window shade and let us sleep.
I waited for him to stop looking out of the window for just an instant. I was waiting for an opening to politely ask him to shut the shade. I was watching him peripherally like a hawk. About ten seconds later he turned away from the window, closed his eyes, and fell asleep. It all happened in an instant. All I could think was, OH HELL NO! The plane was as dark as the inside of a soda can, with one pinhole pierced in its side. And I was smack up against the light beam. Although I was impressed with his ability to fall into his REM cycle instantaneously, I woke his ass up and had him close that damn shade.