Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Oh, Man Is A Giddy Thing

The class I'm scheduled to have on Tuesdays was cancelled for this week, so I found myself with nothing I had to do today. Based on my experiences in Fall, these kinds of responsibility-free days really only exist in the first part of the semester. They are precious and not to be squandered. So I set my alarm for 8:30 and got up bright and early for a museum day.

It was snowing pretty enthusiastically when I left the apartment, but I was not to be discouraged. I was determined to see The Cloisters, a branch of the Metropolitan Museum on the far north end of Manhattan. The Cloisters are in Fort Tryon park, and house more than 6,000 artifacts from Medieval Europe. I didn't think much of it's being in a park ahead of time, but I probably should have. The paths to the museum were ankle deep in snow, and in many places the snow covered long-standing patches of ice. The Cloisters are on top of a hill pretty far into the park, and it was a steep, slippery journey up. I was determined to make it, and even ended up using hands, feet, and one knee to climb the two sets of stairs pictured here (and got a purse full of snow, which I fortunately remedied quickly enough to avoid any damage).

By the time I got to the top of the hill I had actually exerted myself so much with snow-trudging that I had taken off my gloves, hood, and scarf. Fortunately, it was worth it. The Cloisters were gorgeous, and full of breathtaking rooms. The whole building has been designed to look like the original homes of the artifacts they house (and often things like doorways and windows are from the period). I tend not to take many pictures in museums, since they always fail to properly capture whatever I'm witnessing (and, to paraphrase my professor from last night's class, I'm trying to savor the experience rather than simply consume it). But I feel like this one is worth sharing, at least to give a vague impression of what the museum is like. I'd like to go back in the Spring, because the museum also has gardens that are supposed to be amazing. Of course, today the whole place was covered in snow, which gave the whole thing a borderline supernatural quality (for me at least).

Luckily, by the time I left the museum the snow had stopped, and I found a clearer path down. It was still icy in places, and required presence of mind while walking. But then, pretty much everywhere in New York requires that now. I think my time in high school working in Ye Olde Fashioned helped prepare me for this. At Ye Olde the floors behind the counter were covered in grease, making them randomly slick and borderline dangerous. We even used salt to absorb the grease, the same substance used to clear streets and sidewalks of ice here. So at least I have some practice in maintaining my balance when one foot suddenly slides forward from under me.

In any case, a ticket into The Cloisters is also a ticket into the Metropolitan Museum of Art, so I went there next. At this point all I'd had to eat for the day was a tall nonfat chai from Starbucks on my way to the subway in the morning, so with all the snow climbing and art viewing I was famished. I devoured a salad and pasta in the Met cafeteria, and then decided my best use of time would be to take advantage of some of the free guided tours. The Met has the largest footprint of any building in New York, and at 2 million square feet and 2 million artifacts the whole thing can be pretty overwhelming. I started out with a one-hour highlights tour (which included the actual ancient Egyptian temple - moved when the Aswan Dam was built - pictured here), and then went on a one-hour ancient Greek and Roman art tour. I truly love the Met, and hope to go back a good bit more while I'm here. After all, I barely scratched the surface of all there is to see. After the tours, I spent an hour in my favorite sections - European Paintings and 19th- and Early 20th- Century European Paintings and Sculpture. For your consideration, below are my three favorite paintings I've encountered in the Met (two, by the same artist, are related).

"Diana and Cupid" by Pompeo Girolamo Batoni
"Springtime" and "The Storm" by Pierre Auguste Cot

Saturday, January 22, 2011

It All May Be A Lesson For The Hasty Heart To Know

Well, it was a glorious full five weeks in South Carolina. It's where my home is, complete with family, dear friends, pets, and my future husband. Christmas, New Year's, and everything else that happened was fantastic. Packing up and leaving was not easy. But it happened.

So after a night in the sleeper car (best travel method EVER!) I arrived back in the Big Apple at around noon today. I had already made some plans in preparation for my arrival - catch up with Michelle in the afternoon and see Wyatt Cenac (of Daily Show fame) perform stand-up in the evening. Having immediate plans was the best thing for me, I stayed busy all day and managed to avoid being dragged into the homesick mopeys.

New York is mostly how I left it, with a few changes to the landscape.
I understand that snow isn't a big deal to people here, but I just want to gawk and marvel at it. Sidewalks are slippery, big piles of refrozen snow (so, ice) are in patches along the sides of the roads, and dirty slush occupies the most heavily trafficked areas.

I met Michelle at her place, and we went for coffee, walked around, wandered through a bookstore, wandered towards a grocery store, thought better of it, got bagels, and wandered back. It was great to catch up, and the few hours we spent really zoomed by for me.

Those playing the home game will have noticed that we did an awful lot of traveling in that time, and may be interested to know that the temperature we were walking around in was 24 degrees Fahrenheit. Which is the kind of cold that freaks me out and usually prevents me from leaving the house (maybe because I grew up in a place where those temperatures can shut down schools and government offices). But the sun was shining, and we kept moving, so it really wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. Actually, it was pretty comfortable. Possibly because I was dressed like I was preparing to attend the cremation of Sam McGee. I'm not the only one taking tips from the Jack London fashion school. Apparently when the snooty yankees of the past scoffed at my claims to be cold with their "You haven't seen real winter"s, this was the winter they were referring to. And yes, it is colder. But at least there are the supplies to cope with it. Of course, it is supposed to get colder this week - the low tomorrow night is 5!

After I got all my things put away, it was time to meet Kim and cash in our free tickets to see Wyatt Cenac! We met a little early so that we could get some hot chocolate to sip while we stood in line - we got there around 8:15, and it was 9:00 before they let us in the building. Which was kind of a long wait in the cold, but I enjoyed catching up with Kim, and the time went by quickly. And the show was completely worth the chilly wait - Wyatt was hilarious! The show was being taped for Comedy Central, so if they pick the audience I was in (they filmed two), there's a chance we may be spottable when it airs on TV. We'd be good choices, since we did a lot of laughing. All in all, a great first day back.