Saturday, April 18, 2009

Met On a Real Spring Day

I made myself go. I don't know why enjoying the attractions of my great city always seems on par with housecleaning, but I'm never that jonesed for what the kids call "activity." Still, by 3 o'clock, a sunny 70 degrees, among eager tank top wearers (the first warm day I just don't wear a jacket and schvitz in my cardigan), I subwayed up to 86th St.

Didn't seem a promising start. Got to the entrance same time as a busload of elderly Korean tourists who refused to let me pass before they did, even roughly shoving me aside like we were still on Seoul mass transit so as not to lose an inch of contact with their tour guide, but once in, I could relax. In the Metropolitan Museum of Art, on my own, I'm the one who pays attention to the displays everyone passes by on their way to something they think is cooler to spend time with. In the Medieval Art wing, which has just been renovated, I searched for familiar objects I'd looked at many times over the years. The top of the sword with the lion with the curly, jewel-studded tail. The rosary beads with teeny 3 dimensional carvings that look like they should have been done with lasers, let alone rendered with hundreds of expressions no bigger than the head of a pin from a single piece of wood, no room for mistake, in the age before magnifyers were perfected. Thomas a Beckett's silver reliquary with tiny scenes from his life and death carved on the sides. And some new friends! Commemorative cloisonne enameled badges for the wedding of the dauphin and Mary Stuart, the future Mary Queen of Scots. Take THAT Obama plates! I also wandered into the Modern Art wing which I never do. I heard a couple of surprisingly appreciative teenage girls seeing Giacometti sculptures for the first time. "Look! This is supposed to be his wife. Even though she's all weirded out you can tell what she might have really looked like."

But my threshhold for museums is no more than about 90 minutes, and with an hour to kill before heading off to see friends for dinner and drinks downtown, I decided to go up to the balcony for a cocktail. If you're on your own, they sit you with strangers, and I got paired with a quiet middle aged lady polishing off a Mediterranean plate and sparkling water. We got beyond the "Nice day outs" and "Isn't this place greats" to more rewarding conversation about the Middle East and generations of children growing up without manners and sense of discipline. Turns out she's from Boston on spring break with her husband and son, who wanted to hang out in Times Square, so she ditched them for art! My kinda gal.

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