My U.S. pictures all used to fit on one web page. But with so many locations and so many pictures, the time had to come to break things up, first a little and then a lot. I've indexed everything here by state. The ordering is neither alphabetic nor strictly geographical; it's based on some bizarre aesthetic sense of each location's relation to the others.
I used to find myself in Washington at least a couple of times a year.
(At one point when I was at Borland I did two trade shows there in the same
month.) On one trip I finally took advantage of what the city has to offer:
making the rounds of the Mint, the Smithsonian and, in this picture, the
Vietnam Memorial. Having come too close the draft for comfort, I felt a
strong connection to the names enscribed on the wall and an anger at the
incredible waste of it all.
As I get older I become more and more fascinated by history. Perhaps
that's because I don't have to learn it just to satisfy a
teacher. But it's also the discovery that history is never as neat
and orderly as we're led to believe. A small example: what possessed
a 18th century Englishman named James Smithson to leave his fortune to
found a museum in a place he'd never seen? From that curious
beginning grew the Smithsonian
Institution, surely the most wonderful
collection of museums on the planet. Even the buildings are a marvel,
from the castle where the collection began (now a visitor center) to
the building that houses industrial exhibits from the museum's
centennial. Every part of the Smithsonian calls forth a different
time and gives the merest hint of the treasures within.
The Air & Space Museum speaks to me in a way museums rarely do.
After all, I grew up with the space program, watching each Mercury,
Gemini and Apollo launch with bated breath while taking in a steady
diet of the most fanciful science fiction.
But I love Air &
Space at least as much for its collection of aircraft as for its
rockets. They're all here: The Wright Brothers 1903 flyer; The Spirit
of St. Louis that took Charles Lindbergh across the Atlantic (the
real one, not some movie prop);
the X-1 that broke the sound barrier for Chuck Yeager; the Voyager
that went round the world on a single tank of gas; and this plane that
made commercial aviation possible by making it practical: the Douglas
DC-3. From these humble
beginnings came the fast and only moderately uncomfortable jets that
can take me to London in ten hours and my luggage somewhere else
One wonders what they were thinking when our Founding Fathers decided
to put the nation's capital in this swamp between Maryland and
Virginia. Hot, humid and miserable in summer, it becomes positively
Nordic in winter. Which makes photography
an interesting challenge,
as I remove my gloves just long enough to maneuver the camera in
place. I suppose the Capitol is worth the discomfort, even if I don't
feel the same way about its inhabitants. More to my liking is the
Library of Congress across the street, whose staid and solid exterior
hides the kind of beauty and grace usually limited to houses of
Then again, what in life is more worthy of veneration than the country's
greatest collection of words: written, spoken and displayed? I dream
of wandering through the stacks, reading dime novels from the wild
west and comic books from the golden age, along with all the great
works with which they share space. Sadly, that magnificent reading
room I first saw in All
The President's Men is closed away from visitors; we can only
watch from behind plexiglas and envy the researchers their access to
our literary history.
It was almost exactly a year after the attacks of September 11th that I
found myself back in New York and then in Washington. Flying out of
National Airport (I refuse to call it Reagan), you are required to stay
in your seat for the first half hour of the flight. At left is part
of the reason. The Pentagon makes a dramatic sight as we leave northern
Virginia, looking strong and forceful and no worse off for the horror
it witnessed. In fact, at this distance it's impossible to tell that
an attack ever took place. Which raises the question of which would be
the more effective image: A fortress that has survived a massive attack?
Or repairs so perfect that they deny that the unthinkable has indeed
Comments to: Hank Shiffman, Mountain View, California