Aug 21, 2005

More thoughts on NMAI

Had a chance to spend some more time at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington recently. It was a beautiful day, and the facade of the museum building shone with the opulence of canyons in the desert. Very much the point, I guess. It's really quite serene outside of the museum, where the architect and ethnobotanists have created a rich landscape of waterfalls, grandfather rocks, serene streams, and flora that has attracted interesting local fauna, namely ducks that float contently around the building.

Starkly different from its neighbors on the National Mall, the Museum is a hallmark of the dedication and commitment of many folks who brought their collective visions together to make it happen, many years after the commitment from Congress to build it.

This was my second visit, but the first time that we were able to go together, and it was interesting to see it through someone else's eyes. We were rushed, with less time to spare as a result of our tight schedule, but we took some time outside, which lead me to a few observations.

The large waterfall on the Mall side of the Museum beckons you, asking to come closer to hear the water, feel the mist, and try to channel the landscape that it echoes and pays tribute to. I felt drawn to it immediately, and as with other waterfalls and fountains, just watched it for a while, captivated and rejuvenated by the flow.

The low serpentine walls around the inner perimeter of the path around the NMAI, one bordering the body of water that surrounds the accessible sides of the museum, and the other across the main thoroughfare from the former. The walls are conducive to sitting, and mirror the larger walls of the actual museum. I was immediately struck at how perfect they would be for skateboarding, the low walls in smooth material the perfect staging ground for a wide assortment of tricks. The funny thing is, there were no skateboarders, there were no marks, and you couldn't even imagine it happening.

Meanwhile, I was reminded of the renovation and beautification at the end of Wall Street that has been going on for at least 2 years. At long last, they were finally able to put in the final touches around the plants that they'd put in, with the penultimate step being the installation of beautiful stone benches where worn out Wall Streeters could take five, smoke a cigarette, or have lunch. Within a week of the installation, long grating marks could be seen on the benches, and youth with boards could be seen testing their acumen and prowess to the accolades of their peers. However, the folks who put in the benches were certainly not happy, installed another addition to the whole works, a sign that said "Absolutely No Skateboarding."

Finding that tactic far less than effective, they were finally forced to resort to a crude deterrent: thick metal chains placed around the benches at 2-foot intervals which made it near impossible to pull off a skateboard trick worth the hassle of glares from the local patrons who had been so quickly robbed of their only respite in the ruthless financial jungle.

You can't stop the passion of a good ride, a crushing move, or the temptation of a smooth surface to stage your best set of personal pyrotechnics.

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