January 27, 2011 Greetings from Washington D.C.! My semester ‘abroad’ is now in full swing, as I and 15 other Hamilton students will be down here in our nation’s capital for the next three months, subjecting ourselves to the glorious life of D.C. interns in an ambitious play to move up in the world.
After getting over the intial awkwardness of not being up on the Hill while my friends and classmates were trudging up there to begin another semester in Clinton, DC has been a great experience thus far. There’s something to be said to be in the ‘real world’ for such a prolonged period of time, in an area where you feel like things are always happening, things of consequence. Getting up, putting on business clothes, going to work, getting home, being exhausted, and making your own dinner? If anything, this is a nice little reminder of what greets us after college, and I’d rather not be blindsided by that.
My internship has been very educational so far as well. I came in not knowing all that much about energy policy, but as I’m working with a consulting firm that specializes in just that, I’ve been getting up to speed on it and finding myself more interested in it than I otherwise would have imagined.
Tuesday was the State of the Union, and for Washington D.C., it might as well have been the Super Bowl. The gossip rags were in a tizzy over Democrats and Republicans asking each other out on ‘dates’ to sit next to each other during the SOTU rather than sit in party solidarity, because of course it is an extraordinary action to put yourself within physical contact of someone of opposite political beliefs. Michelle Bachmann deciding to launch an official Tea Party response, going over the head of the Republicans, was another pregame twist that got the decisively career-driven populace of D.C. excited for more political drama. Then of course, the speech came, and while we had the predictable (Joe Biden fist pumps, John Boehner tears), nothing all that dramatic ended up happening. No, “You lie!” or Supreme Court justices muttering under their breath about how much of an idiot their president is this year, unfortunately. Oh well.
Wednesday is our wonderfully scheduled midweek break from our internship. Instead of going to work, we have class in the morning, followed by lunch and some excursion or another. Last week, we went to the Newseum, which is so vast that you sort of get the feeling that they’re still looking for ways to fill it completely out. But the 9/11 and Katrina exhibits in there are both incredibly jarring.
Yesterday, after class, we had lunch at a wonderful little pizza place called ‘Ella’s’ and then crossed the street to check out the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery and American Art Museum. Although I can only hope one day to be a real art snob, in my limited experience, I would rate it as one of the best museums I’ve been to. There were some really spectacular portraits, from the original Benjamin Franklin portrait that you saw in every one of your elementary school history textbooks, to the iconic ‘Hope’ Barack Obama portrait made by Shepherd Fairey during the 2008 presidential campaign, to a massive LL Cool J shrine. Any museum that manages to fit both Abraham Lincoln and Erykah Badu portraits under the same roof has to be doing something right.
The Hide/Seek exhibit that is attracting so much controversy was the highlight for me. The exhibit explores gay artists, self-identity and expression, and as a result, has unfortunately been the target of prudish culture war criticism. But the entire exhibit was as thought-provoking as it was provocative, and incredibly powerful. It features the work of artists like Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg and David Hockney, although George Bellow’s ‘The Shower Bath’ may have been the most jarring in its unapologetic boldness.
The presidential portraits also proved to be a source of endless wonder, although I think the larger than life Bill Clinton portrait created by Chuck Close stole the exhibit with an edginess you wouldn’t normally expect from stodgy presidential commissions.
One thing that is taking some getting used to in D.C.: How ill-prepared they are for snow. I’m used to trudging to KJ even with six inches of snow on the ground. Here, the city is in a partial panic as soon as any snow sticks. Hence why I’m sitting in my apartment sipping coffee and typing this on a Thursday afternoon, work cancelled because of the snow and ice that enveloped us last night during what my fellow program-mate (is that what you’d call it?) Dylan Eisenberg ’12 would call ‘THUNDER-SNOW.’ Oh frabjous day! You can follow all of the exploits of the 16 Hamilton D.C. students at: potomafever.blogspot.com