Reading this week:
- Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez
Before we talk about anything else, let’s note the top picture. It’s a Congolese nkondi, which, when I took the picture, could be found for sale in an otherwise very lovely bookstore in downtown Annapolis that I frequent whenever I’m in town. If you had something like $1500, it could be yours, presumably to display in the corner of your living room or something so you could go “look, it’s a Congolese nkondi. It’s witchcraft!” Whenever I see something like this, I have to wonder how it wound up in some Maryland storefront. What are the chances every person in the chain between here and the Congo thought they were getting the better end of the bargain? The store is about 500 feet from a memorial to Alex Haley and Kunte Kinte, who was delivered, enslaved, to the Annapolis docks. The cultural context of the nkondi has been reduced to whatever the storeowner could Google and stick on an index card next to a price. Maybe it was all on the up-and-up going all the way back to when the thing was hopefully made as an export piece for the tourist market, but does the person selling it and the person that is going to buy it have any clue?
Anyways, that’s not what this post is about. This post is about friends! With finals over, for the week before Christmas I went to go stay with my parents down in Maryland. Maryland is conveniently very close to DC, which is, conveniently, where a good chunk of my Peace Corps friends have moved to. So, since I am trying this hip new thing of actively maintaining friendships, I visited as many as I could while I could. It was great! It is extremely lovely to have friends, and they are all settling down to a variety of exciting things. They are working for the EPA and the Peace Corps and the FDA and all sorts of cool places! My major mission while visiting all of them was to get in with the DC happy hour scene I hear about so that I will then have friends who are in with the DC happy hour scene. This, I am told, is useful.
Importantly for the context of this post I also have a friend who is working at the Smithsonian American Art Museum (I write this blog partially just to stay in the habit of writing, but now I find when I write essays I write them like they’re blog posts, ie I will just mention something without any context, imagining that I will just add a hyperlink; this is probably not a great thing?), which is co-located with the National Portrait Gallery. The National Portrait Gallery is full of portraits, so when I was waiting around for her to get off work so we could get dinner I went to go look at some portraits. I was happy to see ole’ 2-6 Teddy Roosevelt, and while there you also have to of course check out Barack Obama. Then finally it was on to my absolute favorite admiral, the inestimable Chester Nimitz. Related, I am currently reading Invisible Women, and now that I am writing this blog post I feel terrible. Anyways.
What is he possibly looking at with those binoculars when he would also be wearing this outfit, with his hands in his pockets? Goddmanit I love you Chester Nimitz.
My other friend (man I have so many DC friends) also wanted to take a picture of the National Christmas Tree to send to her mom. So after dinner we wandered on down there to take a look. It was pretty neat! They don’t actually decorate the tree so much as design a whole different tree out of lights and then put the light-tree around the real-tree, but there ya go. They also had model trains running around, at which people from all over the world have apparently thrown coins (the around-the-world-ness evident from the variety of coins). And then they had around the big tree in the middle a whole set of smaller trees, arranged as though it was some sort of tree-cult ritual scene. The smaller trees were decorated from representatives from the 50 US states and then also, encouragingly, each of the US territories. 99% of the time, you’re totally forgotten, US Virgin Islands, but not at Christmas time! I was going to be resolutely unimpressed with the mini-trees, until we came across the Maryland one and it had an Old Bay ornament, so then it was worth it.