We've just entered the Turnpike. Riding the Shortline Bus must be getting easier because I don't have the nagging fear I'm heading to Ithica or Buffalo.
When I got to the New York City Port Authority Bus Terminal, I had a moment's hesitation as I tried to decide if I should walk to 4, 5 or 6 Metroline or enter the system under the Terminal and take the S line.
I wasn't completely awake, I wasn't sure which way I was heading, and a Very Friendly Person latched right onto me. He was kind of short, he was dark skinned, and he was unkempt.
"Where you going to?" he asked. He was kind of like a concierge on steroids.
It was one of those awkward moments where I was too nice to insist that I knew the way. The next thing I knew, my New Best Friend was leading me down to the subway entrance to the S line. It was then that I noticed the alcohol on his breath.
Once my guide had pointed the way, he got very still and said, "Help a brother out?" I figured, What the Heck, and gave him some money.
He thanked me, I walked through the subway gate, and I never saw him again. I did ponder, as I joined the stream of people shuffling to the S train, what kind of Greek plot I'd stumbled into. Would my drunken guide have been Mercury, or Charon?
I exited the subway near the MET and started walking in the direction I figured would be correct. In the past, I navigated by the sun's position, but it was cloudy and gray, with what felt like a genuine Pacific-Northwest drizzle threatening.
I knew I was heading in the right direction when I saw La Maison du Chocolat. Unfortunately the shop was closed, or I would have slipped in.
I arrived a few minutes later at the steps of the MET. Before opening. O Bliss, O Rapture Unbounded. Oh... A line.
Security has tightened at the MET, because my bag, which I've always been able to take in before, is ordered to the hat and coat check. This necessitated some awkward re-shuffling of things like my sketchbook and my contact lens case.
My first decision was choosing which wing to go first, then race to the end of that particular exhibit and work my way back toward the Great Hall. Until I win the lottery and can afford to arrange to spend the night (or a week of nights) in the MET, it's the best way to be in near-empty galleries.
For two hours I wandered the Egyptian wings. I love Egyptian art. It makes me want to twirl around with my arms flung out and sing "The Sound of Music" and then say, "Almighty Isis! (Isis Isis...)" At first I hunted for crisp examples of hieroglyphs that I have not already photographed.
I was aware of my own photography because I kept running into a young woman dressed like Lauraa Croft in tight black; she wielded a mega-zoom extra-clicky camera. Every time she paused in front of an exhibit I expected the Jay Giles band to shout "Freeze Frame!"
This time around the statue of Hatsheput compelled me. The artists communicated a sense of the Hatsheput the Monarch of one of the most powerful empires of the time constrained by her throne.
One of the objects I always seem defeated by is the black sarcophagus. Its glossy surface confuses my camera's auto-focus and the fine hieroglyphs on it come out blurry. At a carving next to the sarcophagus a man and two women stopped to look at the hieroglyphic inscriptions. The man was loud and sounded like a child dragged to culture.
"Look at those chicken scratches," he said. "They look like chicken scratches."
One of the woman said wistfully, "It's supposed to say something."
Since I was photographing right next to them anyway, I leaned over and pointed at the inscription. "This triangle shape is 'given' and this shape, ankh, means 'life' -- so together this means the phrase 'given life.' The wasp and the plant over the half circles is the title 'Lord of Upper and Lower Egypt.' This figure here is a god -- we know he's a god because he carries he rod of dominion in one hand and an ankh in the other. This man here is a king because he's wearing a crown with a snake -- the crown of Upper Egypt. This part in a cartouche is one of the king's names, but I'm afraid I can't read it."
"Wow," one of the women said. "Uh, thanks."
Later, I had more fun being amateur Egyptian docent explaining spirit doors to enthusiastic kids. There's something that strikes the storyteller in me to be able to say (while enclosed in stone passages enclosed in glass) "And this is Perneb's spirit door, where his spirit appeared to receive offerings brought by his family." I could almost smell the incense, and I'm pretty sure the kids could almost see an ancient Egyptian ghost.
I'd made a list of objects to see, then cleverly left it in the bag. And the bag was in forced check-in. But I found the MET's mark-down clearance sale instead!
When I'm in New York City, I always hear foreign languages. I like the ones that have guttural CH's or short, nasal E's. I heard a (presumably) father and son speaking as I went into the men's room to remove my contact lenses. I don't know if it's the humidity, or dust, or some funny museum chemical, but I only seem to be able to wear my contacts in the MET for about three hours before they start giving me problems.
As I stood in front of a sink, holding my left eye open and using one of those little plunger thingies to remove my contact, I felt the boy's stare. The scene reminded me of Laurie Anderson's spiel about being "The Ugly One with the Who Keeps Her Jewels in her Eyes."
I turned to the boy. In addition to whatever language he'd been speaking with his older relative, I'd heard them using English. So I said, "I have an astigmatism and my eyes are old. So I have to wear rigid, semi-permeable contact lenses. I can't just blink the contacts out, so I use this to take it out." I removed my contact lens and dropped it in its case. "But they're bothering me, so I'll wear my glasses instead." I removed the other one and put on my glasses.
About this time, the older relative realized that the boy had been staring at and was talking to a stranger in the men's room.
I enjoyed the Courtyard of American Sculpture and Arts. It's the silver. And the Tiffany's tile work. And the Art Deco. And... This time around I enjoyed the sculpture "Young Artist's Hand Stayed by Death." Perhaps enjoyed is the wrong word -- it communicated a sense of motivation to me.
I wanted to wander through the galleries of the Ancient Near East, but, alas, there was a huge queue snaking along side the displays. I kind of wished I'd stopped to take a picture of The Assyrian Bulls with the queue snaking between them, but I didn't want to photograph people's backs.
I think all the folks in line were going to see some dresses. This was too bad, because I couldn't really look at the ritual objects from the Levant and Fertile Crescent. They fascinate me -- so many of them seem to be saying something about the chariot (or cart) of the sun. While I didn't get to see examples of early Scythian art, I did get to see the Elomite Cow! Again! (I love the Cow.)
Walking through the Greek and Roman statuary, I must have hit a sugar crash, because the artwork made me meloncholy, and I wrote bad poetry. What triggered the poetry was a sphinx with no face; I've seen it before, but this time I felt for it and wondered what it might be like to come alive in a gallery some moonlight midnight and have no face. Then I looked around at the other fragments statues missing arms, legs or heads.
Wandering among the dead
Within the marble halls.
Clay and stone
House the ghosts
Of long ago.
Who can call their names
When their forms crumble?
In some wing undiscovered
There must be restoration
For faceless sphinxes and
Angels' shoulders crack'd.
7:50PM - Mark IM'ed me and ... OMG! Will you look at the time!? I had no idea it was so late. By this time I was in the bookstore and I'd become distracted hunting for bargains and gifts.
8:45 - On bus back to Suffern. I've spent almost eleven hours in the MET.