On Aviation

Aviation2018 (1)When the Cradle of Aviation Museum asks you to take a survey in exchange for two free passes, the answer should be Sure thing! You know that was my answer. That’s how I wound up taking my mom on a whirlwind tour of the history of aviation.

Fact: Museums in the summer see their fair share of camp kids.

Luckily, we got there right before camp kid lunch time, so we found ourselves amid hoards of same-shirt-wearing children for only one segment of our tour. The museum actually got pretty quiet even with the sounds of different planes and a myriad of short films throughout each period of time.

Then we met Joel. This guy knows his stuff. He operated the replica of a plane to show us how the propeller moves and how the tail comes down. More than that, though, he gave us tidbit after tale regarding planes, war, and technology. We parted ways somewhere between the world wars but then met up again in the space age. That’s when he and my mom exchanged Where We Were When stories about the moon landing and then Woodstock. We sat in a replica of what I’m going to call a space cockpit. It was tiny, even for me. I asked Joel about height and he was like, yes, there was a limit.

You know what’s not limited though? Dreams. Yeah, that’s right.

Speaking of, the museum is opening a new exhibit on space in September. Which means we’re most likely going back because even more space.

Before leaving, we got to chatting with Joel about my brother the history teacher and then about how I teach right next door. He was like, Hold on a minute. He went to his office and came back with a walking tour of campus. (Campus used to be military grounds). I’m really looking forward to seeing campus in a new way!

Outside, Joel showed us the plaque declaring the grounds a historic site. (We need to get one of those for campus, too.) I’ve gotta say, jiving with our own personal tour guide was such an unexpected delight. Go to the museum on a summer Friday afternoon, and maybe you’ll be lucky enough to get one, too.

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The Cabin Reading That Wasn’t In A Cabin

DC’s Joaquin Miller Cabin Poetry Series has shared poetry for over 40 years. It used to be held in the actual cabin. I thought I was going to read in a cabin. I was ready to be sweaty and buggy. However, these days, the good folks who run the series project photos of the cabin on a large screen in an auditorium in the Rock Creek Nature Center, an air conditioned space with no critters abounding.

I’d like to reiterate: I was willing to read in a cabin with possible non-human living creatures and possible humidity that would frizz my hair out and increase my usual sweats tenfold. Gold star sticker for me please.

Really, this take-it-on-the-road poetry-reading thing becomes me. Meaning I dig it and I wish for it to continue. Not only do I get to share my work with people I don’t know, I also get to hear what’s going on in the poetry realm of others. Plus, sightseeing. This is all I want in life. Poetry and travel. And cotton candy without cavities. And these peppermint crumbly things you can buy in a bucket from CVS. And snow without shoveling. And Train concerts every night. And line dancing. And yoga. And tea. That’s all. Is that too much to ask?

The poets at Miller Cabin were delightful! Talented. Insightful. Witty. Open to my antics, which is always a plus. (If you haven’t seen the dog and pony show, come see it some time. You’ll get at least a sticker). I hope to keep in touch with them and maybe read there again in the future.

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Crazy Poet Face, Cabin Edition

As for the sightseeing, one of the officemate-friends took a ride down with me and together we saw some sights. We popped by Politics and Prose to hear Kim Roberts present on DC literary history. We also headed to the National Portrait Gallery mostly to see the Obama portraits, but then found portraits galore. And then found lots of art that wasn’t portraits, and I was confused until I realized that half the building is the portrait gallery and the other half is the American Art Museum. They’re both Smithsonian and they’re both FREE! The art gallery had an exhibit about redacted landscapes, so if you’re paranoid about conspiracies already, that might not be for you. Or maybe it is, if you’re looking for affirmation. All I know is that LL popped up in the portrait gallery, and that made my heart soar.

Also free is walking around the Tidal Basin. Not free is the parking unless all the meters at the Tidal Basin are all jacked up. In which case, you can call the number on the meter about its jacked-up-ed-ness, and then leave a message about it and then have the machine that takes the message say Thank You and hang up on you. We didn’t pay the meter, and we didn’t get a ticket, thankfully.

All around the Tidal Basin are monuments, most of which I hadn’t seen in my most recent DC trips. The FDR monument sprawls magnificently. The Martin Luther King Jr. monument stands starkly tall. Then there’s the Washington Monument that you can see from everywhere and the Jefferson Memorial that’s very cool with a cross breeze once you make it up the steps in the beat-down sun heat.

Georgetown had lots of good food and the waterfront is always pretty. I’m on the lookout for information about what tv or film was shooting on at the end of June and beginning of July. Some streets were closed, and crowds gathered. We were told to keep moving and not to “saturate” the sidewalk. The sidewalks remained saturated with throngs of onlookers peeking between parked cars circa late 1970s and early 1980s. My guess is a Back To The Future reboot. I could be very very wrong.

Ford’s Theater has a few free slots for presentations that we happened upon. You don’t get to go into the museum with the free show. That was fine. We saw the presentation which was given by a man dressed in old timey garb, claiming to be the sheriff on duty the night Lincoln was shot. This presentation was vastly different from the one I saw the first time. That time it was given by a park ranger dressed in a park ranger uniform. So now I want to go back a third time to see what else I might get.

Off the beaten path, kind of, we stopped at the National Cathedral. This is the perk of driving around all of DC. You see stuff that’s not on The Mall. It was gorgeous. Fact: An earthquake made pieces of it fall down. Still, it’s standing tall, and it’s got a garden, and the garden has bunnies!

The plan: continue driving across the U S of A, poetry in hand, taking in the sights, drinking tea, doing yoga, listening to Train, getting sticky from cotton candy.

 

Dizzy Art

The Nassau County Museum of Art had an exhibition called Fool The Eye and as a way to continue the perk-me-up adventure, I took myself on the last day. The art was dizzying at times and a little creepy at others. Additionally, there was a film about eating paper.

These things below are not the actual things they seem to be. The cardboard looking stuff and paper looking stuff is made of wood. The toilet paper is marble.

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This looks like it’s 3-D and it’s not.

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The frame isn’t a frame. It’s part of the painting.

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This is made from Superman postcards and such.

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He’s not real, yo.

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Yeah, I don’t know how I took this upside down.

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The chocolates aren’t real.

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I became the art!

 

The World Is Sound

IMG_0625The Rubin Museum of Art brings the East to the West. The Himalayan art makes a strong impact in scrolls and statues. In addition to the visual, audio was the focus in The World Is Sound, an exhibit that offers chants, instruments, artistic snippets of sound, and a ceiling to floor soundtrack from the first floor to the top and back down. Really, sound is everywhere all the time, and in this exhibit, it’s electric.

Normally, I skip elevators, but since I was starting on the top floor and working my way down, I took it. The elevators played interviews with artists about sound. This is how all-encompassing this exhibit is.

IMG_0626The curators want everyone to experience sound with your entire body through all five senses, so some art appeared next to signs that read Touch To Hear, and you could hear the vibration of a chant that went along with a piece of art. I like museums that encourage touching stuff. I also like museums that don’t allow you to touch stuff so that I can try to touch stuff and feel a bit of a rebel when I pull it off.

I found the Om Room that plays recordings of people chanting om. I sat and hummed and listened. I went back a second time before leaving the museum because it was really neat and relaxing.

Next to that was a video that showed graphics of space and molecules and talked about sound vibrations. It was stunning with a vibrant gold statue of a bodhisattva next to it. A bodhisattva is someone reaching toward enlightenment who helps others do the same, one step down from being a Buddha, one who has attained enlightenment. See how much you can learn in one trip to the museum?

There was a bank of headphones to listen to short compositions of sound and song. I like almost all of them. While I usually refrain from putting on public headphones, these were necessary for the full experience and did not seem germy at all. The descriptions of the compositions were also artistic.

Then came my favorite thing in the whole exhibit aside from the Om Room. I did this twice. They had a recording of someone reading the Bardo Thodol, the Tibetan Book of the Dead. To experience the reading, there was a bench, and you lay yourself down on the bench to listen. Some people were sitting. I laid down. Then I went back and laid down again because I like laying down in places, especially in NYC (see: Yoga In Times Square and that trip to the Whitney where after you lie down you find out you’ve been temperature recorded). I want to find that recording because I would lie down and listen to it every day.

After taking in the permanents and other exhibits on the other floors, all the while listening to the sounds coming from the center of the museums spiral staircase, I headed back to Penn. On my way, I found the key to the city.

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Edison, The Other Electric Guy

New Jersey signage is the worst signage. Every sign has a lot of information and icons and arrows and none of them are easy to understand. Also, exit 161 used to be 162 B and 201 used to be 203 P. Or something. See? Confusing. There, now that that’s out of the way, we can dive into the fabulous fun times to be had in NJ.

First stop on sibling summer fun part II: the Thomas Edison museum. We found the museum easily because (1) There’s a huge light bulb on the way up the street towards it, and (2) there’s an extremely tall tower next to it. The tower is reminiscent of Tesla’s tower, though this tower does not shoot off electricity. Still, since everyone stole ideas from Tesla, it’s very shady territory.

For $5, we gained access to the museum and a 35-minute tour. Here, 35 minutes means at least an hour, and the tour guide, a former engineer, told us he felt like he was rushing. The hour didn’t feel like an hour, though. There was so much to learn, like Edison worked on trains and did chemistry experiments in his compartment, and Edison was an entrepreneur, printing his own newspapers and selling them at each train stop. Also, Edison invented an electric pen that involves writing on wax paper, which he also invented, and that all seems like a really burdensome way to write except that it was the first way to make a mimeograph. So smart, that Edison. We saw some machinery from the original shop that was run on steam power. It was old.

Also, we saw the evolution of the phonograph. Since my brother is a vinyl guy, I felt this was of utmost importance for him. We learned that the phrase “Put a sock in it” comes from putting a literal sock into the horn of the phonograph to mute its sound. Who knew? Well, the tour guide knew. He knew everything.

Once we were finished with the museum itself, we went out to the tower. It’s a memorial tower, which means it’s mostly for show. There’s a light bulb in it that doesn’t actually work. It’s on a pedestal with a light that shines under it to light it up.  Fact: Edison did NOT invent the light bulb. He perfected it. It had something to do with cotton. There was a lot of information.

Second stop: Thomas Edison’s laboratory, a National Park, in one of Jersey’s Oranges. There are several of them, and I don’t remember which one we went to. Not important. What is important is that as soon as we walked in, we learned that Edison and the New York Yankees have a connection. My brother was wearing a Yankees cap, and the ranger immediately launched into trivia. Edison made the concrete that was used to build the original Yankee Stadium. Who knew? Well, this guy knew, and now we knew, too.

The grounds are the labs and workshops of Edison once he moved from the first location to this one. They remain untouched and original, which means all the bottles filled with teals and mauves, all the powders and corked concoctions, all the machinery and test tubes and rusting over sinks–all touched by Edison and his crew. Pretty neat, especially if you like old stuff. Now instead of seeing just one machine from the steam-powered factory, we were walking through the factory, stuck in time. We also walked through a storage room where Edison kept one of every kind of stuff. Example: I asked the ranger, Is that human hair? The ranger answered, Yes, we put the more curious stuff up front; next to it is an elephant ear.

I was fascinated about how everything seemed to be stuck in time. We even got to meet Edison.

We also saw his office and conference room. Every room had bottles of stuff. His desk was a mess of papers and mini drawers. There were many light bulb enthusiasts about.

Before leaving, we took a glimpse into Black Maria. I know, that sounds very not okay, but I assure you, it’s fine. There was a replica of Edison’s first sound stage, which was called the Black Maria, at the edge of the grounds. We missed the actual presentation of how he came to invent the motion picture camera, but we were able to peek inside the structure to get an idea of what it was all about.

On the way out, I found a board game called Tesla Versus Edison. If it did not cost $60, I would have bought it because Tesla needs to take a stand. Also, there were these:

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Third stop: the Yogi Berra Museum. The grounds of Montclair campus are beautiful, but also, they are confusing when you don’t know where you can park. In driving back and forth, at the top of a hill, a furry friend started making his way across the road. I stopped immediately and shouted at it to go back. My brother was like, wow it’s a possum! And I was like, that’s not a possum; it’s an otter!

Clearly, we aced zoology. FYI: It was a beaver, though I also thought it was a prairie dog. He kept making fun of me because otters live in the water. I kept pointing out that at least otters and beavers look similar. Possums look like giant balding rats. I’d call this one a draw.

Anyway, the not otter went back to the roadside so I moved on back again until we found a parking lot and decided we could park there because there was a game that night and we should be allowed to park near it even if we weren’t going. The museum is attached to the baseball field and overlooks the park from the inside.

Having already visited the Baseball Hall of Fame, I knew what to expect here. Timelines and memorabilia. Yogi Berra is known for his Yogi-isms, so reading those were the highlight for me. Also, I was fascinated by the fact that most players from that time had other jobs because baseball didn’t pay them enough to earn a living. He owned a bowling alley with Phil Rizzutto! And he was a bigwig over at the Yoo-Hoo company.

We didn’t get a ticket for parking where we parked. I’m assuming the not-possum is happily roaming through the woods of Jersey. And now my brother and I are experts in not only Yogi Berra but also all things electric.

I Don’t Know Why I Thought The MoMA Wouldn’t Be Crowded

The Friday before Easter, I was like, Hey, let me hop on a train and go into the city to see art because I feel like ending my Spring Break on a leisurely relaxing jaunt. I was even able to drive my car to the station and park instead of walking there like I did on my last (sweaty) museum adventure. I got in enough walking through the museum, though it was more like being pushed along with throngs of people than actual walking.

The Travel Zoo discount pass I had instructed me to go to the counter for entry. Easy enough. I walked into the MoMA. I had thought that there would be a lonely counter waiting for me to walk up to it for entry. I don’t know why my mind creates such ideas.

First off, there are many counters. Secondly, there are also many lines. Thirdly, there were many, many, many people. Wall to wall people. People everywhere.  I found a line for special ticketing and showed my printout and a woman told me to go ahead and get on that line, which was shorter than the others, which made me happy.

I’m pretty good with crowds. I’m used to being jostled because people don’t look down. On this line, however, I was clearly on it, standing there, taking up existence in space. The woman behind me did not seem to care about that. There was some bumping. A bit of elbowing. Some more hovering. I kept standing and breathing and telling myself I was not being annoyed. Then she hit me in the head with her museum map. This annoyed me. I turned around and looked at her. She looked at me. I turned back around, satisfied that this eye contact would solve the issue.

The map hit my head again. I turned around again and gave her my “quit it” face, which is a pretty powerful face if you ask any of my students or strangers who have annoyed me like this before. It didn’t seem to phase her. So naturally, I did the very adult thing of putting my hand on my hip and jutting out my elbow to create space, and also so that when she bumped me again, she’d get a pointy jolt. She continued to bump and hit me in the head.

This is the point when I thought to myself, I am about to get into the first fist fight of my life. And I don’t think I was joking to myself. I was literally thinking about how she was taller than I was and how I wouldn’t cause much damage. I also thought about how people don’t get into fights in museums. Then I thought that I could be arrested if I got into a fight, which is when I really stopped thinking about punching her. Yes, that’s the reason I didn’t get into a fist fight at the MoMA. And then I was called to the counter and allowed entry. She’s so lucky.

I went to the top and worked my way down, meaning I did what everyone else did, and it was crazytown. I knew I was done looking at a piece of art when the people around me were also done because we all moved together, being pushed and pushing each other from room to room. This was a different kind of pushing from the waiting-in-line pushing. This was more like a flow of artistic mesmerization.

The non-permanent exhibitions were Nan Goldin: The Ballad of Sexual Dependency. That exhibit came with a warning before walking in that not everything there was suitable for all ages. The first thing I saw was a photo of a penis, so, agreed. Unless you’re European. This one does not have a visible unit.

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The Hug, New York City, 1980 — this reminded me of a Vettriano painting.

Nearby was Teiji Furuhashi’s Lovers: a dark room with a motion-sensor projector in the middle that projected silhouettes of naked men wandering from and to nowhere.

In non-nakedness, there was How Should We Live?, an exhibition that felt like a fancy showroom in IKEA. This is not an insult.

Dust Gathering was another, though I didn’t really know what it was about other than there was a helicopter floating from the ceiling.

I spent most of my time moving through rooms and rooms and rooms of permanent exhibits, or what I think were permanent but I’m not sure.  I just kept moving through rooms.

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Paul Chan: The Body Of Oh Marys — because anything with writing on it draws my attention

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Barnett Newman: Vir Heroicus Sublimis — because I think it’s pretty neat that someone can paint the same color across a canvas that size evenly

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This isn’t the artwork, but I loved it. It’s a shadow of Aleksandr Rodchenko’s Spatial Construction #12.

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Shirana Shahbazi: Composition 40-2011

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Giorgio de Chirico’s The Serenity of the Scholar — because I’m a scholar, right?

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I don’t know what this was. I was amusing myself because of the reflection.

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This is Andrew Wyeth’s Christina’s World. I’ve always loved this painting for obvious reasons until I actually read what it was about–this lady has polio and is movement impaired. It’s less whimsy, more tragic.

At one turn, there was a huge mob, bigger than the other normal mobbing from room to room. Then I realized why.

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This is Starry Night.

Oh, I also got admonished by a security guard who asked me to step back from a Dali painting. Heh heh. Where was he when I almost decked that woman on line?

I stood in the sun for a while when I got back down to the ground floor.

Then I decided that the museum itself was art.

I headed home just in time to miss the non-running-train catastrophe at Penn Station, which meant I got to have a leisurely train ride home with a seat all to myself.