In July I went to Canada for a few days to visit my friend Bridget, and since Jen's and my time in New York is quickly drawing to a close, I suggested to Bridget that if she wanted to visit us here and see the city, now would be the time. So she spent close to a week here, and got at least a taste of day-to-day life in New York — spent the customary forty minutes waiting for a freaking subway train to show up whenever we went places, was subjected to the wail of sirens outside fighting to be heard over the tea-kettle radiator and Melvin Jenkins blasting his subwoofer loudly enough to make the entire building shake, that sort of thing — but she also got to experience some of New York's Stuff, the places like the Guggenheim and Di Fara Pizza that make this an interesting place to visit even if living here is a whole lot like being kicked in the head.

For instance, we went to the Museum of Modern Art, where the big exhibit focused on Alberto Giacometti (not my thing at all) and the smaller one focused on the museum's new acquisitions, which included a piece which depicted (among other things) Joan Crawford fighting a robot. But the clear winner, to my eyes, was the work of one Kevin Appel, a series of ink-on-paper pieces that simultaneously explored geometry (the images being composed of overlapping abstract shapes), color (said shapes are simply areas of color, with no outline), and architecture (for the ultimate effect is to suggest a structure, specifically the kind I imprinted on in Southern California.) On the way out, we hit the museum store, where I picked up a small book by Susanne Deicher called Piet Mondrian. This book was about the life and work of Pablo Picasso. Heh heh heh. Li'l joke there. Actually, it's got a bunch of prints (which is the main reason I got it) plus a bit of biography (which is nice to have, since before reading it Mondrian was just a name to me) and interpretation. This last bit I found to be quite useless, in that I find Mondrian's work endlessly fascinating without knowing why — it feels to me like a pure brain-stem thing, a reaction to Good Color and Good Shape just like a reaction to Good Smell or Good Taste — and while I'd really like to be able to articulate my reaction better, or even just plain understand it, assertions like "the painting appears to be quietly breathing" do not help. Possibly because the Orange Sunshine hasn't kicked in yet.

We also went to the aforementioned Guggenheim, which is still far and away my favorite museum layout-wise — the spiral through displays is brilliantly designed — but unfortunately, they'd taken out the minimalist and pop art stuff that'd been there in the spring and replaced it with a (to me) much less interesting exhibit on Brazil. 90% of the stuff was Catholic statuary; only at the very top did this cease to be the case. There was also a big exhibit on Norman Rockwell, which was more interesting to me, for while he's not exactly a fascinating artist or anything, he did have a huge impact on American pop culture, which happens to have been my field back in college, so.

On Sunday we saw a play (can't go to New York and not See A Show, or Giuliani will have you beaten) called Metamorphoses, loosely based on Ovid's work of the same name. It was okay, I suppose. I actually had to ask for suggestions of something to see because I'm really not into stage drama at all (yet another reason I left Northwestern) and Metamorphoses was a pretty good example of why: like a lot of the other stage drama I've seen, Metamorphoses seemed to be primarily about being stage drama. That is, the playwright's primary concern seemed to be, how can I tell a dozen different stories using the same set? how cleverly can I recycle actors? And when it comes down to it, I'm no more interested in how one can skirt around the artificial stricture of incorporating a swimming pool into the staging of a dozen myths than I am in how one can write an entire novel without using the letter E. And, yeah, I'm kind of allergic to "staginess" in and of itself, to conversations that don't sound like people hearing each other's words for the first time, to performances that just about scream "Look at me! I am Performing!"... but I'll give 'em one thing — at least they didn't sing.

That evening we rented Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould, which I'd seen many years before but then pretty much forgotten entirely. It was okay. Naturally, I was very interested in the stuff about the relationship of artist to audience, about reclusiveness and eccentricity, etc. The sticking point was that I totally failed to understand what was special about Glenn Gould as an artist in his chosen field. The filmmakers stuck tons of his piano playing on the soundtrack and it did nothing for me. Seemed like just so much noodling to me — no emotions were evoked, no synapses fired to indicate the presence of Good Sound. I had to fight not to tune it out. Don't know whether it's the instrument, the composers or the player I have a block against, but there it is.

(I also couldn't help but note that for what I paid for Metamorphoses tickets, even taking into account the hefty discount, I could have rented 64 DVDs. And if each DVD had 32 short films on it, well, hey, that's 2048 short films for the price I paid to see a bunch of people splashing around oh so very theatrically.)

Somewhere during Bridget's stay we passed a bunch of children's drawings thanking the police and firefighters for their post-9/11 work. One of them said, in a young child's scrawl, "THANK YOU POLICE". Underneath this legend was a stick figure in blue crayon with an open mouth. The stick figure was shouting "YOU GET A TICKET". Hee hee.

Then Bridget made the mistake of telling a customs official that she'd spent the week with a friend from the Internet. And since we all know that the Internet is used exclusively for distributing child pornography and organizing terrorist attacks, she got to spend 45 minutes having her luggage searched. Only in America. And, er, Canada.

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