Sunday, July 21, 2013

Shucking Corn

My dad grows the sweetest corn you can ever eat.  Jennifer put up one small bushel load a few weeks ago.  We ate fresh cream corn on the nights she put it up.  It was heavenly that something this fresh and organic and good for you could taste so spritely sweet.

A few days ago my dad brought over a second bushel or something close to a bushel.  It was in a huge red plastic tub that was cracked on one side.   He left it sitting in my carport.  My daughter was given the task of tackling her first bushel of corn.  She's had an easy life of being committed only to school, art, and athletics so far.

First of all, she predictably slept late and started shucking the corn in the early afternoon.  It was a bit over 90 degrees here that day with heavy humidity and a chance of afternoon thunderstorms.  She quickly started sweating as she shucked.  After a few ears, after dealing with the worms and the bug-eaten tips, after wrestling with the heavy silk trying to pick it off (her mother was not here to give her a silking brush and my daughter did not know where such a device might be in our house), after all that in just a few ears she quit and went back inside the A/C and had a coke.  When I got home she was playing X-box with her new boyfriend.  Pitiful.

First of all, you don't shuck corn in the heat of the day.  You do it in the early morning when the dew is still on the ground.  Or you do it in the cool of the evening just before sunset, so there is still summer light out,  you can still see but the heat is dissipating.  Dad preferred to do it in the morning.  That way you had time to pick, shuck, cut, blanch and freeze it during the course of the day.  There were many mornings I was gotten out of bed to go down to the garden and help pick ears from the dewy, itchy wet stalks.

If we did it in the evening then mom would help.  My sister mostly played and stayed out of the way.  My brother wasn't born yet.  Evening sessions were somewhat more relaxed, end of the day affairs.  Dad or mom would tell some funny story about something that happened recently either to themselves or to someone else in the family I knew.  Someone might occasionally stop by and talk with my parents as we shucked the corn.  I didn't say much and was generally miserable with my chore.  All that talk by others helped the time go by though.  We used to shuck two or three bushels by dark that way.   It would usually be around a weekend so mom and dad could cut the corn for putting up.  The natural juices from the cut cobs ran into the large pans and made the end result smooth and juicy and, of course, sweet.

I never cut the corn as a kid or teen.  My parents might have given me a try at it at some point but I was probably too slow for the productivity necessary to transform two bushels of raw corn into freezer bags full cream corn in one day.  My only experience with cutting corn came after dad brought over a gigantic wooden power cable spool when he used to work for the electric company.  He was the man who put the poles in the ground with a large utility truck he drove.  That's how he made a living for about 20 years, some of which was after Jennifer and I built on our present property.  We had owned the house only for a year or two and he thought the heavy wooden spool could be turned on its side and made into a table, which we did, just behind our pole barn under a large pine tree that we have now long since cut.  It was on the side of that spool I cut most of the corn I ever have in my life.  It is a messy business with piece of corn and cob and juice occasionally flying.  We had the luxury of not worrying about the mess, however.  The rain would eventually wash off the spool on the edge of our woods.  It lasted 5-6 years before rotting and having to be hauled off in pieces.

The funny thing was my dad just assumed we wanted the makeshift table monstrosity.  He just showed up with it one day with sort of the attitude that we'd be out of our minds not to take advantage of this outdoor utility furniture opportunity.  We didn't want it or like it at first, but I can still see him in the sunshine rolling the enormous spindle off a flat bed truck and letting land with a deep thumb on our gravel driveway.  He and I rolled it up a slight slope to get it under the pine tree that isn't there anymore.

Anyway, the evening of the hot day when my daughter was tackled by a small bushel of corn she had a tennis match.  She plays in a competitive 18+ league.  So my wife and the new boyfriend went off to watch her play a match.  I don't often watch my daughter play tennis.  She is very good and I admire her skill but it is like putting a muzzle on a dog.  I loved watching my daughter play softball and yelled both for her and at the umpires.  But in tennis you don't ever yell.  You can pump your fist but even that has to be limited and subdued.  The only acceptable fan response in tennis is applause and a rare shout of encouragement to your player.  The restraint frustrates me to no end.  So I have only seen my daughter play tennis a handful of times in the last couple of years.

Instead I stayed home with the dog as I prefer to do.  I waited for the sun to near setting and the day to cool down a bit.  Then I took our dog Charlie for a walk to the upper field.  I came back and picked out the largest ears and shucked a mess for Jennifer to put up.  Shucking can be a form of meditation.  Just repeat yourself over and over with subtle variations.  The peeling of the leafy green and yellow husk, the breaking of the stalk stem, hand silking awhile, sometimes you snap off the tips if they are too badly eaten, sometimes the ear is fine.  Sit your shucked ears together for more refined silking.  Do that over and over and get yourself in a rhythm.  It can very easily be a flow experience.  In this case the chore brought back the above memories as the cicadas started their voluminous, crackling song in my woods.

And I was delighted by the clarity of things I had not thought about in years.   Wonder is discovered in the sudden recall of things we already knew just as often as in newly discovered things.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

When Growth Is Fueled By Nothing But Debt

In 2003 Richard Russell encouraged his subscribers to buy gold stocks, particularly NEM. I took his recommendation and bought NEM at around $23 a share. I accumulated more NEM over the next couple of years. It paid a good dividend as well, something I had forgotten stocks did back in the late-1990's when I rarely kept any stock longer than a 8-9 weeks. When the exchange traded fund GLD was created around 2005 I bought shares, more and more shares. I blogged about one of my final, big buys.

It is no secret on this blog that I have been heavily leveraged in the GLD/SLV/NEM sphere of things.

In 2012, unannounced on this blog, I sold every share of GLD I owned at about $168 a share. In the fall of 2011 I sold my entire position of NEM at about $69 a share, managing to hit that one near its peak. In this general timeframe, I also sold my position in SLV but left the profits invested. The phrase "take profits" seems strange to me. It seems more prudent to "take invested capital" and leave your profits in the investment. As I see it, then you have nothing to lose. If profits generate further profits - great, but if profits falter then you are not losing your investment. You are merely losing a bit of what you made on your investment. You still have your original money.

It felt odd owning no GLD or NEM after accumulating so much for so long. Indeed, I owned no stocks but for those in some mutual funds. After a few weeks, when GLD slipped considerably, I started making buys back into the ETF, along with a heavier emphasis on SLV. Before all this selling took place this portion of my portfolio consisted of about 56% of my investable assets. By selling almost all of it and by gradually buying back in a little as prices came down and seemed, at the time, more attractive, this portfolio became more like 15% of my assets. I was very cash heavy again, except for some mutual funds that Jennifer had gotten us in to beginning in 2011.  Those have been profitable.

Now gold and silver have crashed. After a long (and uncorrected) bull market run which I personally rode for about nine years, things suddenly turned sour, went south, whatever. No bull market lasts forever and perhaps I got too greedy or too complacent with the management of my holdings. While I have made more money than I have lost overall, it is no great joy that I have lost thousands of dollars (on paper, I have not sold any of the "newer" GLD or SLV positions) in this gold crash. It just goes to show you...nobody knows what will happen.

For weeks since it happened I have tried to understand the reason(s) for this historic crash. I do not believe the many theories of manipulation. It is true, however, that Goldman Sachs shorted the hell out of gold while JPMorgan inherited an enormous silver short position from now liquidated Bear Sterns. Apparently, those positions are now covered. My understanding is that JPMorgan is now buying back into gold.

The best answer to the crash, in my unschooled opinion, is it is not a crash. The Gold Sphere has been long overdue for a correction. It is a case of turbo SnapBack, combined with Wall Street investment bankers knowing how to manage their vast amounts of money, combined with a bullish stock market (lack of fear devalues gold), combined with the association of Ben Bernanke's Fed Policy with the devaluation of the US dollar (as QE ramps up gold goes up, but the gold price dropped on the idea of a QE-less world). All that created a perfect storm for gold and gold stocks and silver to go down. Way down.

Most now believe the great gold bull market has ended. If, in the coming weeks, I feel they are correct I will look to exit and take my losses as an expensive lesson. That is certainly an option. But gold is way (way, way) oversold right now and overdue for some sort of rally even if this is the beginning of a gold bear market. It behooves to sell into rallies when the bear is around. But the advisers I have followed most closely these last several years disagree. They think this is an overdue correction and the gold bull market will continue. Of course, no one knows WHEN.

So, I am taking Douglas Adams' brilliant advice. Don't panic. I will likely hold on to my little piece of the gold and silver universe. I might sell it all again, however, if I get no indication that the bull market will resume in the near future. Or I might buy more while the price is of greater value (assuming the bull is intact). Who knows? I am not confident enough to add to my gold right now, but I am not ruling out future buys as it (probably tentatively) makes its way back toward the $1500 mark.

For the record, gold peaked in the late-summer of 2011 at about $1900. A historic high. It recently fell to about $1180. While my trading last year meant I didn't experience some of that decline, gold's recent action hurts. Gold sucks right now which just goes to show I don't really know that much. Of course, that doesn't stop me from acting on what I think is going to happen. In the end, I'd rather be lucky than good. So far, I consider myself very lucky in spite of the recent pain.

So what do I think is going to happen? Investing is supposed to be analytical, dispassionate, and measured. Dow Theory is a great guide in that regard. As I mentioned in January, that theory has given a bull signal for stocks and, as of this post, the primary trend according to that time-tested theory is bullish.  Jennifer’s mutual fund bets have prospered.

But I have adopted an economic philosophy over the last two decades. As I have always blogged, long-term debt is bad. I have an admittedly blind faith that an economy can't have massive gains in growth and wealth fundamentally fueled by the creation of debt. Yet that is precisely how the capitalistic west has driven its consumer culture since the end of World War Two. The final ripples are now coming to China and India. Maybe one day to central Africa.

Eventually the markets fueled by central bank debt place such a weight on the pristine market forces themselves that capital becomes....what?

That is the question. What becomes of capital in this debt-ridden situation? De-leveraging in the private sector means more capital for the consumer culture. Does this force outweigh the amassing of central bank debt? The answer to this question validates either inflation or deflation. Or possibly stagflation. Gold wins only in an inflationary world, or at least in fear of potential inflation. In deflation everything goes down as the value of the dollar rises. In the debt game the last thing we want is deflation because a strong dollar makes the weight of public debt feel heavier. Which, it seems to me, ultimately makes inflation the most likely outcome.

Dave Stockman, former head of Ronald Reagan's Office of Management and Budget, summarized the situation in this recent video: "What happened in September-October 2008 was a drastic, horrendous, historical mistake. It was a Rubicon because it was done by a republican White House and it was done by a republican congress and administration. And so, if they are going to throw out all the rules of free markets, if they're going to throw fiscal rectitude to the winds, passing the $700 billion TARP, if they're going to basically say that markets don't work and therefore anything that is big and interactive can't be allowed to fail, that is financial institutions, when it makes mistakes...when all of that happens you can't go back to Kansas anymore. It's gone. Free markets are gone. Fiscal management is gone. Any kind of notion of central bank prudence is gone after Bernanke increased the balance sheet of the Fed, and this is a startling fact, Bernanke increased the balance sheet of the Fed between Lehman, September 15 and October 27, that's roughly seven weeks, by $900 billion...the reason I bring it up is that the first $900 billion of the balance sheet of the Fed had taken 94 years to produce....Bernanke replicated it in seven weeks of panic. And then he tripled it in 15 weeks through the end of December, that got it to $2.3 trillion and now you know where it is today, $3.4 trillion and even if they start to taper, if they can figure out what they're doing, we're going to end up in the $4-$5 trillion range. So this is a central bank that is a rouge institution, run by hopeless Keynesian academic zealots, who don't understand that interest rates are the price of money, and they're not smart enough, those 12 geniuses on the Fed, to figure out the entire market of the world and everything that moves back and forth by the nanosecond ought to be priced. But that is what they are doing today. It is a mission meant to blow-up, explode, create a massive dislocation and failure and it is only a matter of time. The good news is that Bernanke is going back to Princeton in a few months. The bad news is that Yellen is worse. So, if any of you have hope, don't, because it’s not merited."

Now, I don't agree with how Stockman categorizes the start of the Great Recession. He basically dismisses fragility to debt exposure as a myth and says there was never such a thing as contagion. As I blogged elsewhere, good reporting has been done on this topic and it would contradict Stockman's perspective. But in the particular matter quoted above Stockman is absolutely accurate. What I think has happened is we have crossed the Rubicon. It is an amazing time to be alive, because I feel debt economically changes the world at least as much as growth.

Debt is the assumption of someone else’s capital in order to acquire things, whether a consumerist item or a corporate expansion, with a promise to pay back the capital, plus interest-capital, in the future. Since 1945 there were steady global increases in overall public and private debt via the expansion of credit into the general population. The assumption of debt has traditionally been rewarded with overall economic growth, which generates new capital which pays off debt and allows for further assumption of new debt which, in turn, feeds new capital growth.

That paradigm shifted beginning in Japan in the 1990's and in the western world in the 21st century. Growth no longer generated new capital. Instead, growth generated nothing except demand for more debt. New capital generation came not from growth itself but from an expansion of credit alone. As soon as credit expansion (predominantly via central banking) became subdued or restricted then growth suffered. This is a fact of the Now.

There has been a lot of news about the dot com bubble and the real estate bubble and the capital markets bubble. All sorts of bubbles. Bubbles occur near the end of every kind of bull market. Bull markets typically “blow-off” at the end before switching to bearish conditions. Likewise, bear markets tend to create a bloody mess and drive everyone out before they turn back to bullish conditions. This has traditionally been the story.

But we live in extraordinary times. Markets are not allowed to express themselves. Central bankers try to control growth via stimulus actions and direct capital (debt) injections that do not necessarily result in capital expansion through consumer-driven growth. This disrupts the post-1945 historical narrative, the norm.

You cannot generate wealth by increasing debt alone. The debt has to be tied to growth and if growth doesn’t come and you add more debt then you are rolling Keynesian dice. This has worked historically and Keynes represents the primary economic school of thought globally. But, what happens to growth when, as we are now, you are saddled with unprecedented debt? We know in Japan this led to stagnation. So far, in Europe it has led to repeated recession.

The US still has by far the most robust economy in the world. So maybe there is no comparing what happens to capital markets here with other capital markets globally. But that seems naive to me. It is difficult to imagine any economic formula where ever-increasing amounts of debt-fueled capital expansion generate sustainable wealth in absence of genuine job growth.  We are in the fog of growth and we look Japanese to me. 

Thursday, July 4, 2013

The Jefferson Memorial: A Photo Tribute

In celebration of America's Independence Day, here are some additional photos of the Jefferson Memorial taken by Jennifer and me on our recent vacation to Washington, DC.  Jennifer took the first two from our trolley and from the FDR Memorial along the Tidal Basin.  I took the others on my solo trek to the Memorial a couple of days later.
 
Jennifer took this shot from our trolley as we paused on a bridge crossing the Tidal Basin. We are looking northeast, showing both the Jefferson Memorial and the Washington Monument - in scaffolding undergoing repairs.
 
The Memorial reflected in the Tidal Basin.  The FDR Memorial is up a small hill behind us.

Detail of the Memorial's front facade bathed in the light of the setting sun.

The impressive 19-foot statue of our third President.  A quote from the Declaration of Independence is engraved on the marble wall behind Thomas Jefferson.  There are four such quotations inside the open-air Memorial.

Jefferson was a writer first and foremost.  He did not possess a commanding voice and his speaking abilities were not particularly charismatic.  These words contain probably his most famous and timeless phrase: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal..."

There are four such sections from Jefferson's writings inside the Memorial.  More Americans should remember these words: "No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship or ministry or shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief, but all men shall be free to profess and by argument maintain their opinions in the matter of religion."

Jefferson, who professed no religion but, rather, edited the New Testament to suit his own views, was nevertheless a spiritual person: "God who gave us life gave us liberty....when I reflect that God is Just, that His justice cannot sleep forever.  Commerce between Master and Slave is despotism. Nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate than that these people are to be free."  Of course, Jefferson owned many slaves in his lifetime.  His contradictory personal nature fascinates me and is a revelation of Southern American culture, such as it still exists at all.

My favorite quote in the Memorial: "Laws and Institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind...with the change of circumstances institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times."  Jefferson was in no way a "static" thinker.  He realized that governments must evolve with changing circumstances.  I know of very few political figures who have been willing to proclaim the limitations of their own politics in the future tense.

The portico facade as entryway to the domed colonnade of the Memorial.

The crescent Moon graced the top of the Memorial as I entered.

A profile of the statue from the eastern side of the Memorial looking west.

Detail of the marvelous neoclassical colonnade.

Another profile of the statue, this time from the western side facing east.

The back of the Memorial facing north.  From this angle the Memorial looks almost of alien design, certainly its domed nature makes it look more like something in Italy or Greece than in the United States.  The accent of trees is wonderful.

Finally, a profile facing the west from the eastern side.  The sun has already set and the dream-like night lighting in the dome is just becoming visible.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Washington DC: A Bit Beyond the Mall


Here I am admiring Renoir's The Luncheon of the Boating Party, worth going to DC all by itself. 
Note: This is the third travelogue post on our recent vacation to Washington, DC.

Jennifer usually researches everything for our trips before we go. She did all the research for Alaska, all the research for Boston. For DC her efforts were minimal beyond figuring out accommodation and transportation. For the most part, we walked, which simplified a lot of things. We figured we each walked a minimum of two miles a day. On the day of Jefferson Memorial sojourn, I hiked a bit over six miles. Our primary aim was to see and experience The National Mall. We accomplished that in spades. One item she researched screamed for our attendance away from the Mall, however. She asked me if I wanted to do a half-day jaunt to see one of our favorite paintings of all time. How could I say no?

Pierre-Auguste Renoir as my all-time favorite painter. The Luncheon of the Boating Party (1881) is arguably his greatest artistic accomplishment. One can devote a great deal of time seeing everything Renoir places there for us to appreciate. It is a thoroughly balanced and dynamic work with beautiful soft human tones accented with a spritely colored hat bouquet and glasses with bottles of wine on the table. The drapery trimming brightly connects everything even with the lips on the face of a young man. A remarkable work of art. The fact that it was at The Phillips Collection in Washington DC, that it was the only Renoir in the collection, meant Jennifer and I greatly desired to see it placed on the wall there.

We took the Metro to the DuPont Circle stop. This was a chic district in DC, with law offices, embassies, super-convenience stores, and sidewalk cafes. The Phillips Collection was about three miles away to the northwest of the Capitol area. The Phillips was featuring an exhibition of Cubism by the great Georges Barque. The gallery has international connections and probably very close connections with the French. Hence, Barque in DC. It must be a bit of controversy among serious Renoir aficionados that probably the artist's greatest painting is isolated from any other Renoirs, first of all, and, secondly, is owned in America. I am speculating, of course. But it isn't a stretch that there are some tensions in the art world over the Phillips Collection's Renoir coup.



The DC Metro at Union Station.
 For us, visiting a prestigious private art gallery was a terrific experience. The gallery was smaller, was visited by only paying customers ($12 to get in, still reasonable), and it featured a family's (or at least a Trust's) acquisitions and exhibitions. The atmosphere was much more intimate compared with the Smithsonian exhibitions back on the Mall. We were in the realm of private art collecting, not public art. This allowed us to feel a bit snobby, perhaps, but I felt more honored to be there than anything else. I recalled my experience with a large Renoir I saw in Boston, which I only mentioned in passing in my original Boston post. It was a moment of inspired reverence, somewhat heartbreaking to be before such brilliance and yet so much appreciated. This experience felt much the same, though The Luncheon is a more complex work, so there is much more to investigate.

Jennifer snapped this detail from The Luncheon of the Boating Party.  Renoir uses warm colors and smooth brush strokes.  But the lady's hat bouquet and the glasses on the table are like small explosions of color giving additional energy to the masterpiece.
I took this photo almost by accident.  The gentleman's hat in the middle matches the hats in the painting, his shirt a perfect color compliment to Renoir's pallet.  The lady beside him seems to have the hat bouquet coming from her own hair.  This shot gives some idea of the spacing of paintings within the gallery, with an entire wall devoted to the Renoir, of course.


Jennifer is non-plussed by Cubism, beyond certain Picassos. I find it interesting for a time but ultimately not that fulfilling. Still, Braque ranks with Picasso, so I was entertained by the exhibition and the other offerings at the Phillips. Yet, I was so overwhelmed by the magnificent Renoir that it overpowered much of the rest of the gallery's experience. Still, I was particularly impressed with El Greco's The Repentant Saint Peter, Raoul Dufy's The Opera, Paris, a token Van Gogh, as well as many minor works by great artists. But, the Renoir simply remained fixed in my mind's eye no matter where I looked. Jennifer and I ventured back to it at least three times, studying it closely and discussing it between moments of silent reflection and admiration. We didn't go to DC specifically to see this painting but we certainly looked forward to this moment contemplating the vacation in the future tense. I was not disappointed. The Luncheon of the Boating Party was almost worth the whole trip by itself.
Raoul Dufy's The Opera, Paris (1924)
Another wonderful Dufy in the Phillips Collection.
Afterwards, Jennifer and I soaked in the vibe of the DuPont Circle area. Multiple low-rise buildings sandwiched together, an occasional small well-manicured lawn. There was a hustle of traffic but not excessively so even though the circle itself is a major intersection of secondary streets and avenues in a heavily urbanized historic area. We enjoyed a relaxed lunch on the sidewalk under the canvased awning of the Kramerbooks & Afterwards Cafe. We lingered there, talking and admiring the moderately warm summer afternoon over fancy salads and refreshing cokes. On that day we returned to the Mall via the Metro.
A couple of views of DC's smallish Chinatown district.  For the past several decades more and more Chinese property owners have been selling their real estate at inflated prices.  They can make more money selling their property than they can remaining in business, thus threatening the unique look and feel of Chinatown.
Jennifer took this shot me walking toward Chinatown.  A homeless man is passed out in the morning sun.  Must have had a late night... 
The next day was our final full-day in DC and we decided to get away from the Mall completely. After a reasonable breakfast at the Corner Bakery Cafe across from Union Station we walked several blocks to Chinatown. Rather spontaneously we decided to visit the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National PortraitGallery (which share the Old Patent Office) close to Chinatown. We visited a few shops and walked through part of Chinatown while we waited for the museum building to open at 11 am.

Circling back to the building, I entered it as a child. I had no expectations really, only vague preconceptions. That is why it all sort of blew my mind. Even after all the incredible art and history we had experienced, these two collections in opposite wings of a gigantic Federal neo-classical style building were almost overwhelming. The American Art wing is filled with fascinating works. It is plentiful, there are hundreds of paintings and sculptures. Jennifer I spent more than and hour venturing through this wing before we realized that we had not seen anything in the portrait gallery at all. Many famous landscapes were prominently featured. I introduced Jennifer to the work of Thomas Benton, who I admire.  His enormous mural, Achelous and Hercules, was on display among several of his other paintings. 
Part of the large atrium in the American Art Museum.  This section of the building is more of an archive than a museum with hundreds of paintings and sculptures on display is multiple alcoves.
A shot of me on the second level of the atrium.  Notice how the art is cataloged into short, numbered shelf spaces.
Part of a spacious lobby area dividing the American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery.
A huge atrium or covered courtyard served as a place to dine or to relax and converse between the two museums.  The darker stone in the floor is actually water running in large, slightly slanted rectangular areas.  It was just enough water for children to splash through and was neatly drained at the lower edge of the water feature; just enough water to hear it trickle in the large enclosed space.
A portrait of Katharine Hepburn and her four Oscars in the National Portrait Gallery.  These were first Oscars I have ever seen personally.
An old cigarette machine transformed into vending for art trinkets.
A work by famous American painter Edward Hopper.
Jennifer managed to sneak a pic of this artist's charcoal portraits before being told that it was part of a special collection.  Photos were not allowed.
Walking to the opposite wing, the portrait gallery had hundreds of works, mostly paintings but some sculpture and some large charcoal work. It was like I was walking inside a dream and these fantastic emotional manifestations of art were everywhere. My Samsung camera's battery died after my trek to the Jefferson Memorial, so we were dependent upon Jennifer and her iPhone. She took a lot of great photos but we saw far more of which neither of us took pictures.
Stuart's famously unfinished portrait of George Washington (1796) was a grand treat as part of the Hall of Presidents in the Portrait Gallery.  This photo comes from Wikipedia.  Seeing it up close and real was an unexpectedly powerful experience for me.
We walked every inch of the museum including the top two floors where works are stacked in shelved isles more in storage than on display. Hundreds and hundreds of fine works, amazing. After this we spent probably a half hour in the Hall of Presidents portion alone. By this time Jennifer, like me, was not even thinking about taking pictures. We were in the moment. There was an incredible huge abstract painting of President Clinton, an impressive rich oil rendering of Ronald Reagan, and a wonderful, humorous sculpture of Bush Senior. And, of course, there was the Gilbert Stuart unfinished rendering of George Washington along with his portrait of Thomas Jefferson. I remember standing in front of the Washington portrait with Jennifer. The unfinished canvas is not faded a bit to a faint grey tinge, no longer white or even beige. I was honored to be there. That unexpected moment compared favorably with the Renoir experience the day before at the Phillips. Neither Jennifer nor I thought about snapping photos. Seems incredible and somewhat regrettable in retrospect. But something had happened to us and we felt no need for photos. We had finally arrived at the wonderful vacation possibility of a satiated moment, lacking nothing, rich and generous and calm. So rare and appreciated.
A good beer store located a couple of doors from our hotel.
Jennifer really admired this bronze sculpture in the American Art Museum.
Jennifer took this interesting photo of the inside of a light fixture in our hotel lobby. 
After lunch in Chinatown and a couple more shops we walked back to The Liaison, hit our now favorite beer store, went up into our boutique room and enjoyed the air conditioning for a couple of hours. Chinatown was not that impressive to me but I think Jennifer enjoyed it. The double museum experience was like a "artistic overload" dessert, the decadent cherry on top of the cream. Unexpected in its magnitude and wealth of rich art. There are many things to see and do in DC that Jennifer and I did even attempt in our time there. But, we pretty much nailed the National Mall and DC Art experience. The trip vacation is a treasure to reflect upon like Alaska and Boston and even Destin and Lake Seed.
After 25 years of marriage, loving DC, and each other.