Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Doing the MET

It's ditch the family day. I wake up at 6:20 AM (because Arthur is kicking me in the stomach). After a fevered night of tossing and turning, wondering if I have enough battery charge for my camera batteries, if my clothes will be unwrinkled by the morning shower, or if I will wind up in some horrible, dark, shady corner of New York City (The Capital of Big Evil Cities), I'm awake and ready to go.

After a quick (for me) toilette, I down a bowl full of cereals and milk, dress, hunt for a belt, and am driven by Mary to the Shortline bus stop.

There's a short moment when I think that the bus I'm on is going to go to the George Washington Bridge and that I'll get to the Port Athority around 1 PM -- but it takes the Lincoln Tunnel and I'm ready to hunt for the subway entrance. I overshoot it by a sub-basement.

Since there's a friendly subway lady helping folks with the FunPass kiosks, I ask her the best way to get to the 6 (and the MET). Her instructions work (take the S to the transfer point to the 6).

I call Mark just before plunging into the MET's depths.

First, it's the new Roman and Greek Sculpture Court. I'd have to say that the piece I'll remember the most is the marble stele of the woman with the huge hair.

I put my contact lenses in in the new sculpture court. It's sad but true; my vision is getting middle aged, so if I wear my contacts I have to hold my camera a short distance away to see the LCD viewfinder, but if I wear my glasses, distant art is blurry. I don't know what's in the air here -- probably a mix of construction dust and cologne -- but my right contact started flipping out a few hours later and I finally took them out again.



I enjoyed some of the Roman and Greek statuary, but I found myself comparing it to Egyptian figures. The Greco-Roman stuff is nice, but it has a mass-produced feel to it that lacks the sensuality of some of the nicer Egyptian statues.

Mmmmmm.... Egyptian sculpture.

Upstairs from the new court is a study room with touch screen stations that allow you to locate items in the forty-some cases. You can select by time-period and material (or see a list of all the cases).

I saw a gallery filled with fine carvings. Probably the oddest was a rosary of medallions that had knights and priests on one side and skeletons on the other; it ended in large beads that were half face, half skull. There was also a skeletal Death on a skeletal horse. And lots of crucifixions. Lots.

11:28 AM: I'm poised with about fifty other museum patrons to enter the Cafeteria. We're all hoping to beat the hordes of school children rushing about the galleries like Visigoths. I could be dining in one of the Museum's overpriced cafes, but I'm cheap. The gates open! Uttering a "Moo!" that is ignored by the other patrons, I surge into the cafeteria with everyone else. For the record, I had a thrifty lunch of poached salmon, asparagus, potato & and Coke.

Noon: Back into the fray!

When I go to the MET I look for griffins, bronze carts and wagons, medusa cameos, fantastical monsters (sphinxes, fauns, and dragons) and I spend time in the Egyptian, Near East, and Mediaeval wings and the sculpture garden. The sculpture garden was closed -- but I didn't figure that out until after I spent 20 minutes trying to get through the American and Portrait wings. So was part of the Egyptian wing, so I didn't get to see my diadem.

They've moved things around, so I had many pleasant experiences finding familiar art in new places and new art in old places.

I kept wandering into galleries about thirty seconds before tour groups -- this could be either good or bad depending on the average age of the group. The kids tended to be loud and squirrelly; the elderhostel groups were large and were led by a docent.

As I wandered through galleries and saw familiar objects, I took some pictures to try to improve my selection of photographs. The banner in the Mediaeval Wing frustrated me once again -- I always think I have an image of a banner of the Virgin Mary in red and it always comes out blurry. I've given up on trying to get a clear image of signet rings because the glare always confuses the auto focus. The other image that eludes my auto focus is the Egyptian frieze of a "Ball Playing Ceremony" where a pharaoh is tossing a ball at the feet of a goddess (probably Hathor). The composition has the goddess's single breast the same size as the ball.

The Special Exhibition, Venice and the Islamic World, left me cold: there was one cool minbar tile mosaic and the rest was portraits and fabrics. The docent wanted to be my best new friend (I think I was supposed to ask her out).

The exhibit Poiret: King of Fashion was . . . interesting; but I wanted something a little more oomphy -- although I must have been a model in a past life because most of the dresses looked like something I would wear. The most educational part of the exhibit was watching how he sculpted bolts of fabric into dresses. The most entertaining part of that exhibit was learning that he'd throw private parties for scores of people and demand that they wear his clothing designs.

3:30 Back in the cafe for another Coke and a cookie.

4:50 In the gift shop for SHOPPING! After looking at expensive, age-inappropriate gift candidates for Arthur, I go downstairs. I've come to the conclusion that there's nothing sadder than a bibliophile on a tight budget in the MET bookstore. I could easily spend $400 on Very Nice Art Books there. I managed to purchase a book on (surprise) Egyptian Hieroglyphs (leaving behind two sale books on Egyptian Calligraphy and Perfume in the Time of Anthony and Cleopatria) just before the museum staff herded everyone out of the building.

When I got out of the MET I gave Larry H a call to see if he wanted anything from Maison du Chocolat. We chatted for a few moments; he said he really enjoyed seeing Mark and me in parent mode. Then the poor thing had to endure a John non sequitour as I caught sight of some griffins outside a brownstone.

I managed to retrace my route back to the Port Authority. The weirdest thing to happen all day happened as I was buying my return bus ticket to Suffern. A guy, maybe a few years older than me, slammed right into me. I'd noticed him out of the corner of my eye about twenty feet away, walking along the wall the ticket booth was set into. I had my wallet in one hand (I'd been counting dollar bills for the fare). I didn't go down and I managed to hang onto my wallet.

I wound up facing away from the ticket booth, facing him. "Oh my, sir," he said. "I'm sorry; are you alright?" His tone sounded more calculated than conciliatory. He held out his hands as if he wanted to help steady me. Maybe he was drunk, or needed the wall for navigation. Maybe he did want to help me, but I recalled a story from some friends in Mexico who were "helped" in a similar way by a pickpocket.

I watched his hands and I probably gave him a "don't mess with me" scowl. He stopped in mid-step, I assured him I was fine and he went his way.

Evil Big City: Zero; John: Four.
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