A coworker twists a desk lamp so that it shines directly
into my eyes. "Why do you want to go to New York?" she
Why indeed. Mostly to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art and
the Brooklyn Museum of Art.
"And what's so special about them?"
I have it on good authority that they have lots of really nice
stuff from Ancient Egypt. And so, I called on my friend Dave to
join me in endless stultifying hours of looking at very old
sculptures and mummies. He foolishly agreed, and thus a road trip
We took the train from Aldershot (outside of Toronto) into
Penn Station, New York. It left around 10:30 in the morning, and
arrived around 10:30 at night. Which is fine, as long as you
don't mind being aboard a train for 12 hours. At the six hour
mark, Dave asked me how much longer. I mumbled that we'd be
another six hours. "So you're saying we're half way
there?" I didn't have the heart to say.
view from the hotel room.
New York: "Hole", or "Pit" --
You be the judge.
We stayed at the fashionable Habitat hotel which is both
modest and clean. It's in Manhattan, just down the block
from Bloomingdales, and within easy reach of a Starbucks. But I
guess that's not saying much because everywhere in Manhattan is
within easy reach of a Starbucks. I tried to count them all in
the taxi ride ride to the hotel, but I lost count. It looks like
those university degrees weren't worth the paper they were
Back to the hotel: their claim to fame, apart from their
convenient location and modest price was that they were able to
fit a bed, sink, and colour television set into every room, no
matter how small, a feat that must have involved the bending of
space, or at least folding it up neatly and stowing it in the
linen closet. Beggsy (Dave) took a picture of it; I decided there
simply was not room. And so I hung out the window and took the
picture at right, looking down. Waaay down. From our suite on the
13th floor, there was no telling what lay at the bottom.
Day 1: Central Park and The Metropolitan Museum of Art
We started the day by skipping the continental breakfast
offered by the hotel (Miniature muffins. How appropriate) and
dropped into a convenient Starbucks for a coffee and cinnamon
scone. The coffee was fabulous, and strangely, about the same
price as I would expect to pay back home in Canada. Except that
they were asking for US dollars. This will happen a lot. But the
coffee was hot and tasty, and the scone proved to be an excellent
travelling companion for the next couple of days as it took up
residence in my knapsack.
I couldn't get over how pleasant Central Park was. Just steps
away from the busy road, you could look at trees, and sun, and
maybe even spot some wildlife.
And tourists who insist on trying to take arty photographs.
We spend the rest of the day at the Metropolitan Museum of
Art. If you've never been there, all you need to know is that
it's huge. Vast. And that's just the Egyptian gallery. It's room
after room of stunningly nice artifact after the next. And just
when you think you've seen all of the really prime stuff, you
wander through a doorway and come face to face with a couple of
red granite sphinxes of Hatshepsut. Go through another room, and
see something that makes you think there's some mistake -- a
temple surrounded by a reflecting pool in an space large enough
for an Olympic sized swimming pool.
|Dave, the Explorer
I took a picture of Dave there, saying that I'd
make him look like an explorer.
I'd just finished taking a course on reading
hieroglyphs, so I was bounding around from stelae to coffin
saying, "I can read that, you know. Do you want to know what
it says?" Over and over again, which was a treat for Dave,
I'm sure. But what a blast to be able to read stuff that 6 months
ago was just art. The only drawback is that it really slows you
down. I used to be able to stroll casually though a gallery,
seeing only pretty carvings, but now that I can actually read
some of them, I'm compelled to stop at every one and try to make
out what it says.
That evening, we eat what would be the worst meal
in New York at a very nasty pizza slice shop masquerading as a
proper restaurant. Here's a snippet of conversation:
Me: Do you know the taste of freezer burn?
Me: Have some of my ravioli then.
Later, as I was about to filch one of his
Dave: Don't put that in your mouth!
Me: I want to taste it. (I do so). What part of the
cow does this come from?
We resolve to spend part of the next day scouting
out a decent place to eat dinner.
Day 2: The Brooklyn Museum Of Art and
After almost overdosing on Egyptian stuff the day
before, I wonder if seeing more is a good idea. Especially since
it's out in Brooklyn, and I only have a very vague idea of where
it is. But being male, that was no impediment to our setting out.
Forty-five minutes underground, switching from one subway line to
another, we eventually ended up at the museum.
It's not a very welcoming place. At least not the
day we were there. They ran us through a metal detector on the
way in, and to this day I'm not sure why. Were they afraid I was
packing heat and had it in for some Afro-American art? No other
museum I've been to has gone so far to make it difficult to find
your way around. You shouldn't have to wonder, "Where do I
go" when in the lobby. Over to one side there's a dodgy
looking staircase that must least somewhere, right?
Climb three floors and you end up in a room that
was largely empty, but had a couple of Egyptian statues and
(carved) heads. The display cases were a bit dusty, and many were
empty. After the opulence of the Met, I couldn't help thinking
we'd made a mistake in coming. There was no one there, and --
well. I'd seen better.
And then we found the real Egyptian
gallery, which was in the next room over. My my my. Lovely
carvings from the Amarna period with rays from Aten touching the
people below. And then a large room with the most beautiful
coffins I've ever seen, looking as if they had been finished the
artisans sometime last week. Everything they have has colour on
it. Paint, or lapis, or glass inlays. Gorgeous stuff, well lit.
If you go, be sure to take a look at a sandy
coloured head from a statue of the King (from the Ptolometic
period, the exact identity was unknown). It's mounted at about
head level so you can look him eye to eye. He's smiling just a
bit, and likeness is so life-like that I expected him to burst
out laughing at any moment.
Dave bails to the cafeteria. "You'll want to
see the stuff in the next room," he tells me, jerking his
thumb over his shoulder. "There's more?"
Yup. A mummy. A wooden shrine. Shrines, plural.
And everything in colour. There's no time to read the description
cards; there was only time to look and gawk.
Later... A bit of shopping and pure touristy
stuff. We shoot for Times Square and come close enough. There's
construction everywhere, and none of it looks a thing like I
remember from the last time I was here. The adult video stores
are all gone, and in their place: Starbucks. I guess that's
progress. We walk back to the hotel, nap.
The meal I enjoyed most was in a restaurant three
doors down from the hotel. Definitely not fancy, but I wanted to
eat everything I saw. I think I was just in one of those states
of mind where you want to taste everything even though you're
full to bursting. Which after a nice chicken cordon bleu, some
spinach, mashed potatoes, salad, and bun -- I definitely was.
Desert! Yeah. Good idea. I'll have what that woman over there
just ordered. It's huge and looks tasty. "And where you put
that?" I'm asked. Never dine with the voice of reason.
Just for yucks, here's a night time picture from
the hotel room. The building in the upper right at the street
intersection is Bloomingdales.
|Near Lexington and East 57th
Related Web Sites
VIA Rail Canada
The Metropolitan Museum of
The Brooklyn Museum of Art