Melting Museums

Wednesday, June 8, 2005

It’s me again. It’s late, I’m a bit tipsy (again). I think I’m secretly a wanna-be-alcoholic, my drinking kept down by the requirement of having to drive everywhere, first in Houston, then in Seattle. When I’m free from driving, as I am every time I visit NYC, I let my true self out, drinking copious amounts of alcohol to make up for all my time without the sweet nectar of the gods. Okay, I’m not really an alcoholic, but I do enjoy a drink or two (or ten, as it happened last night) with dinner to open up my conversation. I guess it’s true what they say: alcohol lowers inhibitions and let’s you be the person you would be if your internal critic wasn’t screaming his head off at the smallest opportunity in an attempt to save you from social inadequacy or disgrace. Of course, playing the part of the wallflower doesn’t exactly introduce you into the swells of higher society, but it’s hard to convince the critic of that.

For Doolies’s birthday (today was officially Doolies’s 29th birthday, although, unofficially, she was born in Taiwan in the morning, and with the time difference, her birthday, as she calculated yesterday, was around 8pm last night, making my birthday dinner and subsequent proposal the perfect birthday gift), her two sisters and I took her out to a Japanese restaurant called Kai. The décor and pottery were quiet nice (and this coming from someone who forswore all pottery in museums as something worse than torture), and the sake, a cold, unfiltered type selected by Janie, Doolies’s middle sister, was thick and interesting, but not as tasty of some of the more refined sakes I’ve tasted. The problem with the restaurant, however, was the seven-course meal. Like the pottery and décor, the food looked very nice, but tasted rather bland and conventional, especially after coming off yesterday’s extravagance in the form of the French mastery of Jean Gorges.

While we again ate too many courses (Doolies had one extra course, after the wait staff delivered her an extra dessert for her birthday with a candle in the miniature cake; before you start pointing fingers in my or the sisters’ directions, we had nothing to do with the singing. Because I have a terrible fear of being sung at in a restaurant during my birthday—the results, as I can best tell, of my social critic and my fear of all eyes on David—I do not participate in the planning of singing in restaurants for anyone else, including Doolies. Doolies did this to herself when she made the reservation. Janie told her to request a window table, and when she did, the restaurant refused her. She mentioned that it was her birthday (something that Doolies is never shy about sharing), and all they promised was to try, which they failed; but to no real harm, as our table was no better or worse than the windowed table.

The dinner was fun. I don’t get much of an opportunity to spend time with Doolies and her sisters without her parents around. Not that Doolies’s parents are bad, but the sibling interactions are a more interesting study when the parents are not around.

Doolies and I once again braved the heat this morning (or early afternoon), and after fielding many family calls wishing congratulations on our engagement, we went to my favorite brunch place: a diner. I, as is my normal operating procedure, ordered a grilled cheese sandwich, and relished the opportunity to dig my sharp teeth into the tender, lard-smothered bread, and yellow processed cheese. I don’t know what it is about NY diner grilled cheeses, but I’ve never been able to duplicate the taste in my own kitchen, or find such perfect grilled cheeses outside of NYC. I’m thinking it must be a Greek secret.

We visited F&O Schwartz, what used to be the world’s largest toy store as featured in the movie “Big,” which now is just a shadow of its former self, to try to find a present for my niece Rachel’s birthday. Her birthday is the same as Doolies’s, so it’s much easier for us to remember (or, at least, it’s much easier for Doolies to remember—she is definitely the birthday-rememberer of the relationship). We failed after being unable to figure out exactly what a four-year-old would want for her birthday. We did manage to buy a nice card, with a bear on the cover, and one of those plastic globes with a loose, large black circle inside. The circle usually represents a wobbly eye, but on this clever card, the circle is the bear’s nose, which Doolies and I thought was quite clever, and worth a purchase in a stationary store in Rockefeller Center.

We visited the MoMa, or the Museum of Modern Art (to those who aren’t up on the NYC lingo). The MoMa was a small museum up through a few years ago, where they moved the collection to a temporary showcase area in Queens, and began construction of a new, larger museum at the same location. They finished the construction a few months ago, and the MoMa has been terrible popular ever since, attracting large crowds on the weekends, so much so that it is sometimes difficult to visit, or so I’ve heard. There was a decent crowd there this afternoon, especially for a weekday afternoon, but we didn’t have much of a problem getting tickets. They cost $20 per person, which for a museum I think is rather ridiculous. On the outside, the new architecture is interesting, with large walls, and large cut out boxes in the walls, to which you can see the inside of the museum, or through the museum to the inner walls. The inside is less impressive, however. It is a rather standard layout across six floors, with escalators running along the edges of the building.

The collections were interesting, but nothing groundbreaking. I enjoyed my visit to Paris’s modern art museums better, but part of that might have been my reaction to the terrible heat that has descended on NYC since our arrival. (This is similar to the heat that descended on Seattle when Doolies visited two weekends ago. I’m beginning to see a pattern here, with the heat following Doolies where she visits.) The heat sucks the energy out of Doolies and I, and after the first four floors of exhibitions, we were accelerating our viewing. Overall, the MoMa had a rather large collection of paintings and drawings, but a rather small collection of the large, more interesting works of modern art (think deconstructed cars).

I had an expected treat, however, as I found a couple of paintings by Cy Twombly hidden in the back of one of the floors. As soon as I made out his distinctive scribbles, I made a beeline to the two paintings, dragging a surprised Doolies behind me, to bask in his glory. I don’t know what it is about his paintings—most of which I don’t understand an intellectual level—but his scribbles really brings me hope in art. I think it was the Manil collection’s Houston museum, which dedicated an entire building to Cy Twombly’s eccentric art. The building smelled of plaster, had no admission price, and was usually empty. Every time I went in there, an intellectual peace descended over me. If I were to visit Houston again (something I’m not exactly looking forward to), that would be one of my top places to visit.

We picked up Doolies’s younger sister Jennifer from Penn Station early this evening and went with her to her hotel. Since it was rush hour, I made the executive decision to walk from Penn Station to the Millennium Hotel near the United Nations, where Jennifer and her parents were staying. I was going to say that I don’t know why I make these bad decisions, but before I started typing it, I knew it was a lie. As I’ve talked about before, I have a bit of a problem with anxiety. It’s not debilitating or even that bad when I think about it, but there are times I’d rather be moving or doing something than standing around or waiting: e.g., looking for a parking spot, I’ll always take the first I find, even if it requires a long walk with a high probability of finding a spot closer; given the choice between walking or anything else, I’ll always choose to walk, since I feel I’m in much better control of my options, and there will be less chance of downtime or stoppage—which, when I think about it, is rather silly since it usually takes more than twice as long to walk most places than take the public transportation or car. Bringing this back to today, instead of either waiting in the taxi line by Penn Station (it was a long line), or walking a few blocks away and trying to hail a cab, I decided to take Doolies and Jennifer on a long, hot cross-city walk to Jennifer’s hotel, while dragging her suitcase, and her computer bag on my back. If I hadn’t said so already, or even if I had it bears repeating: the day was hot, and the sport coat I was wearing in preparation for dinner wasn’t making things cooler. We did finally make it to the hotel, all of us in need of a cold shower to clean up. As I told Doolies after we arrived, the next time you see me about to do something stupid, don’t let me. I do lots of stupid things trying to avoid anxiety that surely would end up less than the stupid idea. I just can’t see past the anxiety to the real pain.

Because I didn’t have any large pockets today, I didn’t bring my camera during most of our activities. I did manage to bring my camera to dinner tonight, but I, yet again, forgot to take pictures of Doolies’s birthday dinner. When we returned to the hotel after dinner (we hailed cabs for both the trip to the restaurant and back to the hotel), I took off my sport coat, began emptying the pictures, and when I pulled out my camera, I cursed loudly (to which Doolies answered with her own curse—very uncharacteristic of her; I’m obviously starting to have a very positive effect on her). I guess my days of being a good picture taker are wavering. Part of it (I’ll pretend) is that I’ve been very disappointed with the quality of pictures my camera has taken. I don’t know if it’s dirt on the lens or a weakening battery, but it’s becoming more and more difficult to get the proper flash distance on the subject, and the proper focus (this is one of those point and click camera) for the picture. I tried to take a close up of the engagement ring yesterday, and failed miserably. I also failed to take any pictures while in Brooklyn, where I have even less of an excuse (my excuse in NYC is that I don’t want to be mistaken for a tourist—I’m a local, and don’t you forget it). We still have an opportunity to take pictures of both my family (on Saturday when I visit my sister Eileen and her monsters), and Doolies’s family (tomorrow and Friday), so we’ll see if I can turn this into a better picture-taking outing.

This has been a ridiculous easy musing to write. I guess these vacation musings usually are since I have something to say (unlike usually, where I go off about how I successfully picked my toe for two paragraphs before running out of anything else to speak about). I did have a little help from caffeine in the form of a few cups of green and brown tea at the Japanese restaurant. The restaurant was an outgrowth of a teahouse below it (or, at least, that’s what it looks like—I wasn’t sure which came first, or perhaps they came about simultaneously), and they served tea as part of their marketing program, a program I was more than happy to partake in to ease the efforts of writing tonight.

I’m (again) hoping that I will tell a story tomorrow. Doolies has planned to spend part of tomorrow shopping with Jennifer, an activity I will allow them to do without me (you should know my fear of shopping—what with the lack of oxygen and the trying on of clothing). I will hopefully find a comfortable coffee shop or bucks of stars (since, obviously, they are two distinct things), and write a story. I keep saying this is going to happen and I keep failing. I’ll get to it eventually, just think of me as the little engine that could, or something like that.

I probably won’t be able to post this until tomorrow because the internet in the room doesn’t want to cooperate. I’ll try again anyways, since I still haven’t had the chance to write real work or personal e-mails (all that I’ve sent out over the last couple of days I pounded out at a record 5 wpm in T9 type, which, if you don’t know, is an ingenious, but not terribly useful, way of typing words on a phone keypad, which, as it turns out from an anecdotal experiment, is slower than Morse code). Time to brush my teeth and get to bed. Until tomorrow, where I’ll wow you with a story (cough, cough).

I’m slipping. I forgot to include a word count in this musing. Obviously (well, obviously if you’re reading this on Wednesday night), I was able to get my hotel room’s internet working. Word count: x; caffeination: brown tea, large cup, green tea, small cup, two refills.s

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