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.

A Panel, Some Readings, & A Presentation For NPM 17

Every day is poetry day for a poet, but April is National Poetry Month for everyone, so I’ve been going out into the world for poetic reasons. The Oceanside Public Library asked me to be on a panel for How To Put Your Poetry Collection Together. It morphed into a discussion about publishing poetry collections rather than organizing poems, but we hit upon a lot of different important points.

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My face says, “I’m sleepy” but my hands say, “I’m holding this pen.” Which I later broke.

A really neat thing was that one of my former students was there, asking questions, being intrigued. He came up to me afterwards while someone else was talking to me (and asking to buy my book! and I hadn’t even been hocking them!), so I was like, Don’t go anywhere I know you, and he was like, Oh you remember. I remembered him but not his name, and that’s okay because he was my student more than a few years ago, so many names have passed my desk (and failed, ha!. okay, not funny, but true) since then. We chatted about poetry and then he told the guy who bought my book that he liked my class because I made them do different things that they wouldn’t normally do. Aww, sweet!

The next night, I was off to Long Island City for a reading at The Local for Boundless Tales. Yeah, that’s right. This old lady went out two nights in a row. Eddie and I drove in early, got a parking space right across the street from the venue — that never happens ever– and then walked in larger concentric circles until finding an Italian restaurant and agreeing to split a personal pizza which was one of the best personal pizzas we’d ever had. A server came to clear our plates, and then he took the remaining slices of our pizza, and we never saw them again. We didn’t say we wanted them, but he also didn’t ask if we wanted them. He simply asked if we were finished, and since we were, we said yes. Lesson Learned.

We walked back more directly to The Local which we found easily. The inside is kind of funky. Silhouettes on the walls. Pennies on the floor. There weren’t chairs. Rather, there were these large rolling cushion things to sit on. It was a great place for poetry.

The host kindly asked if I would like to change the order of readers since I was set to read first and my brother hadn’t arrived yet. We changed it up since it was just a handful of us there anyway and very informal. These are my favorite kinds of readings. No pressure. A few folks. There were also people coming in and out, standing to listen for a while and then leaving and then coming back. There was a bar, and the place is a hostel, so lots of people were around.

My brother arrived in time for my reading. He’d taken the 7 train and then walked. I swear, he can get anywhere via any subway. Meanwhile, Eddie and I walk in circles to find things that are two blocks away. Anyway, the reading ran the gamut of fiction, creative non-fiction, and poetry about all sorts of things. When it was my turn

I did my usual dog and pony show with astronaut ice cream and space stickers. At the end, the host was like, The giveaway is a fun idea. I was like, yeah, I’ve learned that at any age, people love stickers. It’s a fact, y’all.

The next week, I read as part of the faculty sabbatical reading at work for our Lit, Live! series. My poetry workshop class was there, a captive audience, but I think they enjoyed it. The next day, I discussed my sabbatical of writing poetry for the Women’s Faculty Association, sandwiched between a talk about chemistry that flew over my head and a talk about total well-being given by a chiropractor. In my experience, chiropractors are the most intense motivated people alive, and this presentation proved it. When I went to Faculty Development Day the next day, someone who had attended the WFA presentations told me she enjoyed my talk. Aw, shucks. I thought my talk went not so great because I’d forgotten to click on stuff during the presentation. Apparently, my bubbly personality makes for a strong presentation no matter what’s happening as proven by the guy at the presentation who told me I was not only informative but entertaining. I refrained from handing out stickers and astro ice cream at that presentation (though I did hand them out at the sabbatical reading, and one of my colleagues said that the prizes are unexpected, which makes for an interesting twist at a reading).

I do have to be careful. I feel like I’m walking a fine line between kitschy and sideshow. Like, if I ever show up to a reading in an actual space suit, do not let me read until I change. Then again, with these two on my team, we could take a show on the road.

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Lunacon Badge and Schedule

My LunaCon: Part 3

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Badly lit conventioning selfie

A morning panel at 10 AM was the plan. The original plan had included an afternoon reading, but with nothing to do in between and checkout at 1, the plan got pared down. I packed my stuff and then packed my car and then went in search of hot tea. The free coffee outside of the hotel restaurant did not have a hot water accompaniment, so I had decaf. Then I realized I could have taken the empty cup to my room to make tea in. So I drank the coffee and then rinsed the cup and then had tea. It was early. I had time to drink things.

I watched the news. I watched some Mystery Science Theatre on Netflix (the hotel TV had a smart TV). I check all the drawers again to see if I’d left anything behind. I found reading materials.

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Decisions, decisions.

Then I headed out to the second panel I’d attend on social media. If you’ll recall, the first one didn’t exactly go as planned. I hoped that this one would not include unwanted touching or any other kinds of accosting.

When I got to the room, the door didn’t open, so I leaned against the wall and tried to get the wi-fi to hook up to my phone. I’d been doing this since I’d arrived on Friday to no avail. Then I heard a door open and someone say, Hey you stalking me?

It’s game time! Ooh, I think this is the first time I’m doing this on this blog. Or maybe the second. Whatever, we haven’t done this in a while.

Question: Who was the guy who came out of the room across the hall?
(a) Hotel staff
(b) Someone from the Brooklyn Speculative Fiction Writers crowd
(c) Okay, this is dumb. We all know the answer is B because there’s no one else it could be.

Answer: B!

I was like, Oh hey.

And he was like, You waiting for a session to start?

I was like, Yeah but I think the door is locked.

He walked over and then opened the door.

This. Is. My. Life.

He held it open for me, and I walked in, and we both told each other to have a good day. I sat on an aisle seat towards the middle and again fought with the wi-fi. Then two men came in–two of the three Glenns from yesterday–and one asked if I had moved from that seat. Because that’s exactly where I sat during their panel. On the plus side, someone remembered me, and that’s actually a nice change of pace. Usually, I have to introduce myself to people about nine times on the average until they recognize me later on. This is not self-pity. This is another fact of life, and I’m okay with that.

More panelists came in followed by two more audience members, so the panel began. It was a good conversation about social media. They didn’t really give the ins and outs of actual examples of how-tos and which apps (Reddit was mentioned but not like how to actually use Reddit so it is still a complete mystery), but they did give solid advice about writing: be genuinely consistent and consistently genuine. I kind of know that, but it’s good reinforcement. One of them talked about how one of his non-fiction pieces went viral and how he continued to blog using interesting titles. So, click-bait.

Another is a creative writing professor at St. John’s and a fiction writer. He made some grading references and student paper references, so he was speaking my language. So much so that I went up to him afterwards, introduced myself as a professor at NCC, and then chatted about students and social media. Yeah, that’s right. I went up to someone. I engaged in conversation. A conversation I started. He agreed that that the younger generation is into the way everyone thinks they are.

Here are the two take-aways that stood out:

  1. Pieces should be personally dangerous.
  2. No matter how or why you begin a project, in the end, it must emotionally resonate with an audience.

What I’ve found is I do all the things these panels talk about. I don’t have the kind of following they all have. The main difference seems to be that I don’t go out and meet people face to face as much as they do. I suppose I should go to conventions and conferences more often. I can take my department travel money and run! (Of course, the travel budget for each faculty member barely covers one conference registration, but you know, one can dream.)

I ate a Larabar, put on The Dear Mattie Show Podcast, and drove home, listening to the GPS until I got to Bronx River Parkway and then took my own way home. Where I found the house immaculately clean courtesy of Eddie. Aww, what a way to end a weekend.

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Lunacon Badge and Schedule

My LunaCon: Part 2

Because I’m an 87 year old woman, I wanted to turn in before midnight. I even chose a quiet floor to cater to my wanting to sleep. When music came booming from somewhere and echoed throughout the entire hotel, I used my nifty Marriott app to inquire as to why I could hear blasting music on the quiet floor. Apparently, it doesn’t matter if you’re on a quiet floor if there’s an event  that goes until midnight. You have to wait it out.

Marriott App Chat

You also have to wait out evens. (read closely)

Even so, I woke up early, did some dance aerobics to a workout DVD on my laptop, and then headed out to the Stop and Shop to gather food for the day. Yes, I’m a gatherer, not a hunter. I then wandered around until it was time for Plausible Impossible.

I’m getting a lot out of attending fiction-writing workshops. Though I don’t write fiction, I teach it in Creative Writing, so it helps to pick up these tips like 1. Create your own set of rules, and 2. Break the rules for conflict, and 3. You can’t know everything. This last one is a really good rule for life, too.

0174e6a3ca2e8bbf08ce2d4740123b981a4587e9c9I went to the Lobby to pick up my stuff from Programming. I got a name thingie and a badge thingie, making me a pretty big deal. Thingie.

The woman who handed me my stuff asked me, “Did you dance last night?” I took a moment to think and then said it wasn’t me. I’m not sure why I had to think about this.

Clearly, I blog. I’m on Twitter and Instagram and Snapchat, though Insta and Snap are more for fun and not for promotion for me because I can’t really figure out the promotional aspects for my purposes. And I really can’t figure out Snapchat at all aside from sending funny filtered faces to people. Anyway, I figured I could get something out of the panel on Pop Culture and Social Media. The panel wasn’t well attended and two of the panelists were MIA. No biggie. I moved to the front and engaged in listening to everything the three remaining presenters had to say.

There was talk of Refinery 29 (that site that sends you lots of emails when you sign up for it and then you spend two hours reading everything and then you realize you can’t get anything else done in your day so you unsubscribe only to resubscribe when you come across it again and then it all starts all over). There was talk of saying yes to everything and being nice to everyone. I pretty much do that. What I don’t do is talk to people face to face, and that’s kind of why I’m here. I need to do that more as it seems to be key in, you know, life.

There was talk of blogging and friending and being a woman on panels at conventions where that is not the norm. There was the very brilliant idea of hashtagging and metatagging using words that are not traditionally for your own audience so that you reach a wider audience, whether or not they’ll immediately like what you have to say. Simply. Brilliant.

The moderator explained that Twitter will be gone very soon, replaced by Instagram. Hmm. IMHO, until you don’t have to write Link In Bio on Instagram, I don’t think Twitter is going anywhere.

Most of all, however, Things. Got. Weird.

The panel dynamic seemed to be someone who tells bad jokes and knows it combined with two very outspoken voices. I don’t think they knew each other prior to the panel, and it seemed like the moderator had a list of items to discuss but was thrown off by the two additional panelists not being there, and it also seemed that the list was not shared beforehand. This seems to be common at this convention, however, because there’s simply a lot going on all over the place.

So that wasn’t exactly the weird thing. This was the weird thing. Okay, not so much weird as really uncomfortable because sometimes people don’t understand boundaries, especially when they think they are half-joking in a friendly way but what they do is not funny and they aren’t your friend. The moderator basically attempted to cover the mouth of one of the panelists. Jeez. No no no.

The main reason I loved this panel was that the two panelists were simply fabulous at being confident people. Immediately, they were like, that’s not okay. Immediately, he was like, I’m sorry.  See? Make it clear and don’t get cutesy, and your point gets across.

Remember that song “The Bad Touch”? Yeah, that’s what this reminded me of. Not the entire song, just the title.

A bit later when the moderator was explaining something or other, the two panelists were whispering to each other. That was a bit distracting, true, but the moderator was like, I’m just going to stop because the thing that gets to me is people talking when I’m talking.

As someone who encounters that every single working day of my life, I get the frustration. I have even used that tactic in a classroom.

However.

I have never done it while on a panel in front of an audience. It was really, really uncomfortable.

So when asked if I was interested in promoting myself on social media, my response was, Well I’m not sure. I wasn’t responding to the question being asked. It was more of an I’m not sure what the hell is happening here. I wanted so very badly to explain to the incident-maker how to not make things weird, but I’ve been really good at not trying to micromanage strangers, putting my teacher-persona aside in situations where I’m not in charge. Plus, the panelists held their own. They did not need my help.

When it was over, I thanked both of the panelists for their insights and followed them both on Twitter. In fact, I realized that I had already started following one of them before the convention when she was retweeted by LunaCon. That’s serendipity.

Things got a little lighter at the Marvel Comics/TV/Film panel. It was billed as a panel of Glenns. All three guys were named Glenn with two n’s. Then another Glen arrived, with only one n, sent there by Programming to do a song about comics. Because his name is Glen.

This is why I’m loving this convention.

The discussion went in all different ways. I kept busy, jotting down snippets of super hero ideas and tidbits. My next collection is going to incorporate super heroes in some way, so anything that sounded like it could be a poem went straight into my notebook.  This panel ended in a song by Glen with the one n.

Moving on to the next session: Writing Social Change in SF. Again, the women from the character dialogue workshop was on this panel, so that’s three things I’ve attended that she’s been part of. I feel like I’m fanning out on her. The panel offered insights into diversity and building worlds. Mostly, I was distracted by the two people in the room who were coughing. Lately, I’ve been getting really bad with cringing at first cough. People cough for many reasons, not only because they are sick. Some of them even cough into their inside elbow as we are all supposed to. Still, I get germ-ed out and fixate on where the cough is coming from and my potential of getting sick from it. Then the panel was over.

I walked through the fair and this time bought stuff. Yeah, that’s right. I. Bought. Stuff. Me, the girl who hates shopping. I bought some spices from Auntie Arwin Spices. Then I bought two charms for  myself. Yes, that’s right. I bought stuff for myself. I couldn’t decide between the two, so I bought them both. And because I bought them both, I got two dollars off. Steal! Thanks, Geeks Bearing Gifts!

It was break time. I came back to my room to warm up. All the conferences rooms are about 20 degrees below zero. I’m keeping my room at a balmy 70something. I wrote. I ate dinner. I had coffee. I then headed back out into conventionland.

I first sat in on a panel about Cult Films. I thought they might show film clips because there was a projector in the room, but they didn’t. It was still interesting, listening to plots of movies that people watched in the 60s, 70s, and 80s on Channels 9 and 11 or on Mystery Science Theatre. A lot of cult films sound like horror movies. Then there was a guy in the audience who was participating as if he were part of the panel. Then a lot of people were participating. I had nothing to offer, and then I had to go to my own panel.

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I look like a poet, right?

Erasing SF and Fantasy: Creating Found Poems! The panel/workshop in the room before me seemed to not want to end, so at 7, I walked in and started putting my stuff down on the panel table. Some people in the room saw me setting up–the folks from the Brooklyn Speculative Fiction thing because of course–and asked what was going on. I was like, It’s poetry! I showed them my book, prompted by my colleague who was attending. I didn’t sell one, but I gave away a space sticker. People like stickers.

There were five people. Two girls I’d met in the lobby. I was walking down the hall from Cult Films, and a guy pointed at me and said to them, She’s a poet so maybe she knows. I was like, Know what? He was like, There’s a workshop. I was like, I’m giving that workshop. So I had the girls follow me there. They were really awesome young women. I keep saying girls because they looked 12. They were, I believe, college age.

The workshop went exactly as I’d hoped. I talked a little about found poetry and then erasure poetry. We went through examples of different ways to erase. Then I let them pick up photocopies of different sources ranging from sci-fi novels to science textbooks. I put colored pencils, crayons, and pastels on their tables. Then they made poetry.

The room got quiet. Every so often, I suggested ways to spark new poems. They really worked at it. Time flew. I mean, we started late, but it still flew. They all shared what they wrote, and what they wrote was so fantastic. I told them if they wanted to send me their final product, they could. One of the young ladies asked if my email was on the handout. I was like, no but it should be. So I handed out my publicity postcards. Then I said I also had stickers but they could get one only if they bought a book. Both gals were like, Stickers! And I was like, I know, right? And they were like, Stickers are awesome. So I gave them each a sticker. See? People like ’em.

Then I sold two books AND I found out that there’s an old Solaris movie, one without George Clooney, that I haven’t seen and need to see. How did that come up? One of my sample poems is from Liberating The Astronauts, based on Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris. Want to read the poem? Go here.

I went with my colleague to the masquerade. It lasted for maybe 20 minutes because there were only four entries. Then the emcee made bad book puns as a band that sings about fandom set up. This went on for much longer than it should have. My colleague tapped out after they’d sung two songs, and I thought I’d stay to hear the winners of the masquerade, but I tired pretty quickly and headed to the lobby for some semi-silence before the last panel.

The last panel was Real Bio-Apocalypse. Basically, we’re all going to die because everyone takes antibiotics too often when they shouldn’t like when they have viral infections AND because there are many of us who stop taking meds when we feel better instead of finishing out the dosage, which means we are potentially leaving behind bacteria that is now getting stronger because it hasn’t all been killed off.

I will point out that there was an incessant cougher at this panel.

I called it a night so I could go warm up from the ice den that was the last meeting room. My head is swimming from all the stuff of today. There’s more to come tomorrow, too.

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Liberating My Video Skillz

Whenever I use the word “skillz,” you know I must be up to something creatively good. “Good” is a subjective term. You’ll see. I’ve been playing around with Storify and my MS Movie Maker to teach myself how to teach a class in rudimentary tech skillz. The other reason: my book is going to be published soon, and this is my new marketing plan. Make videos. Storify them. Send them out into the world. Here goes.

UPDATE: Okay, so my mad WordPress skillz seem to not be on point. I’ve got the embed code from Storify and the HTML tab chosen. It’s not working. And so, to see my video skillz, here’s a link instead.

https://storify.com/christinamrau/liberating-the-astronauts-a-video-pastiche

Impressed, aren’t you? With, like, this whole thing, huh?