it had been snowing late last night, the streets of boerum hill covered in white with fresh snow still falling heavily. i walked 10 blocks in the wrong direction before commonsense told me i was walking farther away from where i wanted to be. eventually i did find the hoyt-schermerhorn station (after walking back to the bergen street F train station and looking on the subway map), taking the A train a long ride uptown to 86th street to the american museum of natural history. i went to the museum straight via the underground subway entrance. when the woman asked if i was a student, i lied and said yes, but i still ended up paying full price admission anyway. bofore i started my tour of the museum, i bought an overpriced hotdog from the museum cafeteria and then used the bathroom. well fed, relieved, i was now ready for the museum.
northwest coast indians: ever since i saw the totem poles at the peabody museum of archeaology and ethnology (harvard university), i've been really into this kind of art. the museum of natural history has the largest collection i know of, so i spent a good amount of time slowly appreciating the artwork.
next came the halls of minerals and gems. the museum was pretty empty for the most part (as can be expected on a weekday), except for the occasional mob of school children on field trips. one such group was noisily playing hide and seek in the darkened labyrinth of the rock exhibit. there were security guards but they turned a blind eye to children running around and shrieking to one another. my two favorite rocks here are the examples of labradorite (the first time i'd seen that kind of material was on a ring klea was wearing) and pallasite, which is actually a type of extra terrestrial meteorite deposit, kind of looks like nuggets of translucent amber encased in metallic silver rock (the harvard museum of natural history has samples of this rock as well).
one thing i never noticed the few times i've been to the american museum of natural history is the large mesoamerican art collection. since my trip to cancun seeing mayan ruins, i've been a big fan. i find that mesoamerican art has more life to it. egyptian art is kind of rigid, figurines look like they've been starched. mesoamerican art on the otherhand has a curvy playfulness to it, its art expressing more emotional states, whether its depiction of horrific cruelty (human sacrifice) or more mundane portrayals of people playing, having a good time. if i had to pick favorites, i'd say olmec artwork and nasca artwork. the olmecs are famous for those large human heads sculpted out of rocks found in south american jungles. there's a mystery to these heads because the appearance looks characteristic african, not mesoamerican, which has lead to all sorts of theories as to why this is so. the olmecs also worshipped a jaguar monster, which has the head of a baby but the mouth and eyes of a jaguar, which repeatedly makes appearances in artwork. the olmecs also relished in the grotesque, many other artworks depicting deformities (severe dwarfism, harelips, missing limbs due to genetic abnormalities). then there's the nascas, who's art reminds me of classic mayan codex artwork, bold lines and the use of various shades of earth tones, which i find to be quite beautiful.
i browsed floor by floor, occasionally resting my pained feet, taking a swig from my bottle of water. i eventually reached the 4th and last floor, which is where all the skeletons (including the dinosaurs) are kept. from this floor i also got a good view of downtown manhattan from the upper westside, over the wintery landscape of central park. i was on the lookout for the dodo skeleton but i don't think it exists (there was however a faux dodo replica in the basement level).
by then it was close to 5pm, and soon the museum would be closed. i still had a lot of hours to kill, so i went outside, bought a street vended hotdog (cheaper in price, but tasted rubbery, although i was hungry enough that i didn't care), and then cut across central park to the upper eastside to revisit the metropolitan museum of art. central park was filled with kids, out sledding on this apparent snow day.
on fridays the metropolitan museum of art closes at 9pm (instead of 5pm), so i still had a few hours to see some more galleries. i got in with my sister's museum membership, and went back to the mongolian exhibit. i already knew the answer but i just wanted to confirm it with the guards, which was no photography is allowed in special exhibits, therefore i couldn't take any snapshots of some of the interesting muslim/chinese fusion art. from there i visited the modern art gallery, which apparently can be applied to any art created within the past century. i'm not a fan of modern art (too experimental, doesn't fit my definition of art), but there were a few paintings i really liked, including july hay (1943) by thomas hart benton (american), the midnight ride of paul revere (1931) by grant wood (american), and la maigre adeline (1906) by walter sickert (british), who i know from a television documentary might have been the real jack the ripper (his paintings certainly has a lurid quality to it). next came the native art of oceania and americas, they had several more pieces of nasca and olmec art. the egyptian gallery was the next destination. i've said this before, but egyptian idealization of the perfect human body shape fits perfectly with modern standards, the kind of trim and well-toned bodies you see in fitness advertisement. i also really like egyptian art in that there's a simplicity to it, but usually mere lines they can convey a lot of meaning (i like egyptian 2D art, compared to mesoamerican art which i really like their 3D objects). my last gallery was the american wing of the museum. with european art, maybe because they've been studied so much in schools, i don't really see the art but rather the art movement that particular art represents. i don't feel the same way about american art, which seems to be more art for art sake, not because this was the popular art movement of the time. besides, american art is usually about americans, things that i can relate to, as opposed to european art.
being at the metropolitan museum of art is not only about appreciating the art, it's also a test of endurance over how long you can stand on your feet before they start hurting, plus, it's an exercise in map reading skills too. at no time was i completely sure where i was, and i was constantly looking at the museum map. being my second day of museuming, i wasn't sure how many miles i must've logged, but my feet were definitely hurting, and i took the opportunity to sit down wherever i found an empty bench. next time, i think i'm going to borrow one of those wheelchairs downstairs and see the museum sitting down.
by then, around 8pm, john called me on the cell phone so i left the museum to take the call (there's no cell phone usage allowed within the museum). we made arrangement for me to meet him at his place on the lower eastside, where i took the 6 train to bleecker street then caught the F train to 2nd avenue. we played some freekstyle (an extreme freestyle biking game) on john's gamecube then watched the second half of that michael jackson documentary, where we actually saw his children covered in masks because michael's afraid what the paparazzi might do to them. we also learned that he's still sleeping with boys. when deanna got out of work, we met her a few blocks away on this one particular street lined with garishly decorated indian restaurants. we had dinner at sonali, the interior flanked by wall mirrors, dazzling holographic paper and christmas lights festooning the ceiling of the establishment. instead of fortune cookies, the check came with a pan of fennel seeds, which i couldn't stop eating for some reason. after dinner we went back to john's apartment, where after a brief revisit of freekstyle, i left to go back to brooklyn, taking the F train once more.
one thing i noticed is that the subway stations of new york city smell. the predominant odor is urine, with faint traces of god knows what else. maybe because the trains are constantly running 24/7, the stations are never completely shut down to give them a good cleaning. the tracks are littered with garbage, like an open river of sewage, and while occasionally you might see mice on some of the seedier boston stations, in new york city you see rats. nevertheless, the complexity and multileveledness of new york city's mass transit system is impressive. all those horror movies about people living in the sewers and the subway tracks, i could see how NYC would be an inspiration.
i got back to cynthia's place around 1am, happy that the keys worked and i was able to get back into the house. cynthia was already home, asleep in her room, i saw her briefly when she came out to use the bathroom. i downloaded my photos, took a shower, and went to bed, relieved to be finally lying down, welcoming the sweet release of unconsciousness, knowing that by tomorrow i'd be back home again.