You may recall: I wrote a rather scathing assessment of the new National Harbor complex recently (evidence here). There was really nothing "wrong" with the place; my skin naturally crawls with paranoid terror when faced with glitzy "place-making" developments like that.
Instant city-center: poof! Now be happy and go shopping...
It's a matter of taste. To me, the place stank of artificial life; of manufactured opulence and cufflinks and hair-plugs and expense accounts. Classless and gaudy and overdone, like a child's sci-fi exaggerated vision of corporate success. Perhaps I've read too many J.G. Ballard novels (Super-Cannes for instance).
Then, Mr. T posted a comment which reminded me that The Awakening had been moved out to the new Harbor complex. Aahh, I must have missed it when I was out there looking at the conference halls.
For the unaware: The Awakening is a sculpture of a bearded man, some 100 feet in length, partially embedded in the earth as if he's crawling up from a premature burial; a foot, a leg, pair of arms, and a tremendous head with nostrils flaring and mouth gaping in what could be a yawn. Or a scream. It was originally installed at the end of Hains Point in Washington DC's East Potomac Park, and was to be a temporary fixture there.
My mother took me to see it in 1980 when it was brand new (uh, that would make me.... twelve years old at the time). And it was awesome. The vision of that sculpture stayed with me throughout my years of living in New York, Arizona, and Maine, and when I finally returned to DC, it was one of my top five places to re-visit.
And it seems many folks my age had a similar relationship with that silver psychotic dude in the ground. He was like a pagan deity; raw and intense and he ignited a child's imagination simply by being there.
After reading Mr. T's comment, I had to return to the National Harbor and this time, go directly to the harbor itself. Avoid all that conference-hall insanity at the Gaylord and visit the Old Silver Man in his new digs on the wrong side of the Potomac. And being the sentimental fool I am, I didn't approve of what I saw.
Of course the Hains Point site was temporary, but we were rather used to seeing him where he was. He was mighty like a grandfather oak tree, a witness to the creation of the world. Seeing him plopped in the middle of this wretched Disneyland of corporate hotels and cafes was like a violation of nature. For those of us who grew up around here in the '70s and '80s, The Awakening was almost a rite of passage; EVERY 12 year-old boy had to go crawling around the dude's mouth.
Look at him. He's clearly unhappy about it and just wants to get back to sleep. I'm turning forty in a few weeks, which gives me the right (nay, the imperative!) to be a sentimental dweeb about these things. And dweeb I shall.