If Museums Had Wings…

Our appetite for fine art took us to Milwaukee Art Museum with its collection of 25,000 works on display–making it one of the nation’s largest galleries. While I was curious about the collection, I was most interested in the Quadracci Pavilion, built by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava in 2001.

The iconic winged structure has demonstrably changed the city skyline by Lake Michigan’s waterfront…

Lake Michigan

to the point that Milkwaukee now incorporates Calatrava’s  brise soleil in it logo.

visit milwaukee

Parallels to Calatrava’s Oculus at NYC–Gound Zero are unmistakable;

Oculus

comparisons are inevitable. 

Oculus reflected

The wings are extended most days until sunset, but stay retracted during nasty weather or high winds. 

wings

Sadly, Leah and I were greeted with high winds, but we were fortunate to tour the museum with so few visitors.

inside the wings

With the exception of a group of mini-pals,

mini-pals (2)

and isolated cases…

Calder dome

here and there…

patron and twigs

we felt like we had the space to ourselves–

Moves

which gave us more time to study some of the special artwork in greater detail without distraction or interruption:

poly capsule

Chihuly

Edge of England

Frank Stella

Glass and mirrors

laveview optics

Michelle Grabner(quickly scroll up and down for cool moiré effect)

While I never considered that the building was competing with the exhibitions, I was always eager to return to Calatrava’s public spaces…

hallway

to cleanse my palette before indulging in another bite of brain food!

Front End Smiles

The automotive industry has a lot to grin about, and they put it on display for all to see at the 118th edition of the New York International Auto Show, showcasing over 1000 cars and trucks from around the world at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City.

Javits Center

Conventional wisdom affirms that mid-week crowds are typically thinner than weekend crowds, but judging from the sea of people milling through manufacturers’ exhibits, the blustery New York weather seems to have driven most tourists indoors to gawk at gleaming metal and polished plastic.

Online ticketing expedited entry access, however, there was a brief hold-up at our security clearance gate when a customer refused to surrender his pen knife to a yellow-shirted official.

“But it’s just a penknife,” he asserted. “Do you really think I’m a mass murderer carrying a blade that’s smaller than your pinkie?”

Like his knife, he had a point! But the security supervisor poured acid rain on his parade and confiscated it anyway, overruling his protests.

Eventually, we safely entered the cavernous space…

welcome

only to overdose on a melange of oversized banners and advertorials covering all makes and models, with curtains of graphics and gargantuan walls of hypnotic lights coalescing into dizzying displays of one-upmanship.

Once we got our bearings, we targeted the pedestrian brands, for as much as this was an opportunity to regale in the glory of all the shapely models present (as well as the cars they were pitching), Leah and I were on the hunt for a new car. It was time to say goodbye to our Honda Civic Hybrid–who was showing her ten-year tenure after 130,000 miles–and “kick the tires” at a one-stop shopping venue like the car show with the notion that we might meet her worthy successor.

While navigating through the different brands, it became very clear that the array of chiseled lines and sculpted edges of each steel-coated body acts as a magnetic lure to onlookers, in the hopes that physical attraction follows the initial subliminal or emotional response.

Hence, each brand had its own legion of followers. Many were merely window-shopping. However, there were hundreds with more serious inclinations, who were infected with a seat-adjusting, knob-twisting, radio-tuning, steering wheel-gripping, and backseat legroom-testing fever that left long queues by the sides of the cars and trucks, as make-believe owners feature-fucked their way through the vehicle.

Of course, there was also a corps of car counselors available to cover all questions asked of them: “What’s the fuel economy? What’s the warranty? What’s the availability? What’s the cost? What’s the show discount?”

Virtual and augmented reality’s fingerprint was all over the show. Ford offered high-tech headgear tethered to microprocessing for a flight over an imaginary landscape of tomorrow’s transportation network. Dodge staged a roadster drag race challenge through a simulation windshield, complete with whiplash acceleration vibes synchronized and transmitted through the seat and steering wheel. Chevrolet incorporated dynamic movement and 360° engagement by throwing VR drivers up and down and around a test track with the wind in their faces. And Nissan employed a smartphone app and cardboard origami to build a viewer that thrusts the user through the internal combustion of their VC-turbo engine.

glasses.jpg

In keeping with the technology theme, auto companies were eager to email brochures, but almost always had oodles of glossy brochures for the taking, which made sponsor-driven shopping bags a hot commodity. Hyundai and Toyota were the giveaway gurus, providing popular blue and red totes for the asking…until there were none.

Such was our luck after accruing an armful of stuff that could no longer fit our coat pockets. After visiting a number of surrounding company information counters, Toyota reassured us of a mid-afternoon delivery. Fortunately, our good timing was rewarded with a couple of red handbags before they quickly disappeared. Yet we couldn’t help but covet State Farm’s flattering, complementary shoulder bags worn by many hands-free car insurance enthusiasts.

As we moved through two levels of automotive mania, and contemplated the contours of carchitecture, it was reassuring to watch the happiness on people’s faces–their smile an irrational testament to the prospect of owning a new dream car–as they engage the navigation software to plot a course to the poorhouse.

Likewise, it seemed that the cars were grinning, laughing, howling and roaring back at them too. Gotcha!…

…with miles and miles of beguiling smiles!

Serenity Now

New York City is an acquired taste.

To many who live and work in haste,

the din of Manhattan traffic is the soundtrack of modern mayhem.

TSQ traffic

And the synthetic daylight of Times Square practically requires sunglasses,

regardless of the weather or time of day.

Times Square1

While many visitors may revel in the tumult,

equal numbers endure the assault,

induced by constant hustle and bustle.

skating.jpg

But the Herald Square Angels

have a secret to share:

promenade

“Step back to infinity,

wait for twilight to set the city zest aglow,

and bask in the serenity.”

skyline (6)

Stomping Grounds

After eight months of highways and high country, I took a deep breath and returned to the nest. Leah and I had already flown to Philadelphia from Charlotte–where the Airstream was idling in storage until our travels resumed–and continued by car to Northern New Jersey where we planned to reunite with our families for Thanksgiving dinner and my 65th birthday celebration.

While commuting to New York City to attend a union-sponsored luncheon of like-minded teachers and retirees was never part of my original plan, it seemed difficult turning down a free lunch after receiving the invitation a month earlier, and realizing that the event would be a pleasant diversion from all the doctor visits Leah had scheduled months ago.

Although the trip by bus from Willowbrook Park and Ride to Port Authority was uneventful, memories of tidal traffic flooded my mind as the bus crept at a snail’s pace until we entered the Lincoln Tunnel.

Port Authority was as grimy as ever. No one dared to linger longer than necessary, so travelers were quick about their business, and goodbye exchanges tended to be short and sweet before people parted ways for different places. Only the homeless and drunks cared to share the surroundings, as they dutifully sifted through trash cans in search of redeemable bottles and discarded deli.

Walking out onto 8th Avenue and looking beyond 42nd Street, a familiar game of human pinball was playing out across over-crowded sidewalks, with pedestrians weaving through imaginary obstacle courses, unable to avoid each other.

Times Square1

Also familiar were the cacophonous sirens of emergency vehicles frozen in gridlock, and the scent of the big city.

TSQ Asserie

I routed through Times Square for an essential rush of nostalgia,

TSQ traffic

as this was my traditional walk to work for the better part of a school year when I taught World History and Chemistry at JKO (Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis) High School, renown for once housing the school characterized in the movie Fame.

Subway

Times Square2

SWAT

Winding my way to 6th Avenue,

Torsos

camera towers were rising between decorated office buildings in preparation for Thursday’s Thanksgiving Parade.

Xmas lights

Ornaments

Arriving at my destination, I joined a reception in the ballroom lobby of the New York Hilton that soon transitioned to an open call for lunch, as the doors to the ballroom parted and 800 attendees scrambled to locate their seating assignments.

After customary introductions and rousing speeches from union officials,

Ballroom luncheon

we settled on servings of institutional indigestion masked as fish or fowl, while catching up with complete strangers around our table.

Table 60

Entertainment was provided by retirees with a passion for colorful clothes and random gyrating.

tiny dancers

Belly dancers

fan dance

By two o’clock, it was all an afterthought, and the crowd slowly dissembled…in search of what’s next after retirement.

Upon my return to Port Authority, I re-routed through Rockefeller Center–ahead of Thursday’s masses–to sneak a peak at Christmas future…

Rockefellar Center Promenade

Angels with Trumpets

…but alas, the Northern Spruce–like so much of New York City–was still a work in progress.

Scaffolded tree

Ironically, I felt myself immediately transported back to the classroom for one brief moment, reflecting on one of my earliest teaching revelations: that instruction, much like construction, is best achieved with proper scaffolding. For without it, most students would be skating on thin ice.