Are Museums For Americans Too?

In his book Priceless, author Robert Wittman says that more Americans visit museums than go to ball games.

Hmm.

I was recently at the MoMA in New York on a Friday night when you can get in for free. There were hordes of people waiting in line, more crowds already inside the building, and there were ten people deep by almost every painting hanging on the walls.

All of them were speaking a foreign language. French, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, Russian, you name it, I heard it.

And the Americans?

There were two. My friend, Elle and me. We didn’t speak much because we were craning our necks to see the Picassos, Van Goghs, and Monets in the room.  

There was a group of Italians occupying the middle of the room listening with rapt attention to their guide. He was a tall man, with greying hair at the temples, immaculately dressed in a European-cut suit and a yellow ascot. He was pointing out historical details about the artists with a flourish of hand gestures. This all in Italian, of course. And without a textbook.

Behind me were people of all ages, jostling for position, photographing Van Gogh’s Starry Night on their iPads. They spoke Russian.

Even the guards, in their blue uniforms, whose job was to make sure visitors kept a respectable distance from the masterpieces, looked foreign-born.

So where were the Americans?

In the Architecture and Design exhibit? No.

Viewing the current exhibit? No.

In the contemporary galleries? No.

When I rounded the corner by the Painting and Sculpture Galleries, that’s where I spotted them.

In line waiting to get into the restaurant.

Does that count as a museum visit?

Calvin says, “Only if you snap a few pics on the way to the bathroom.” 

Eccentric Art

Two friends met in a pub and over beers exchanged stories about their college years as art students.

Michael was British, 30’s, balding hair, with glasses that slipped down his nose.  Jeremy was American, 30’s, with a pony tail, and a beard. They became friends while at a gallery opening in Chelsea, New York.

“I lived in a house owned by a woman who married all the divorced men in town. By the time I got there she was hostile to everybody,” Michael said sipping his beer.

“Our RA played the blues on his harmonica every night. Midway through the year we plotted his murder,” Jeremy said wiping the foam from his upper lip with his fingers.

“Were you caught?”

“We stole his harmonica,” Jeremy said with a smirk. He knew we did it, but could never find it.

“Another guy is the house was a transvestite. He was tall and walked with a golden cane with an eagle handle,” Michael said pushing up his glasses.

“No wait. He lived in my dorm,” Jeremy said.

“Must have leased himself out. It’s how he paid his tuition,” Michael said. “There was another guy, weasel-like, lived in his left brain. Wasn’t friendly.

“I hated by those types. They talked in lists and appointments. Why they were art majors baffled me,” Jeremy said.

“It salved their little brittle brains. A third guy grew weed in his room in his mother’s tea cups under goose-neck lamps,” Michael said.

“Like the guy in my dorm. He grew it in the bathroom, under fluorescent lights, in Styrofoam containers from the local fast food joint. No pun intended,” Jeremy said chuckling.

“Sounds like we went to the same school.”

“Did you learn to make good art?” Michael said.

“No. Just how to dodge the bullets until graduation. That’s why I have a PhD in Oceanography.”

“Mine’s in Culinary Arts. I make a mean brioche,” Michael said.

Calvin says, “My career was defined the instant I smelled rabbit on the puppy farm.”

How To Enjoy Failing

There’s a saying on my wall that goes like this:

INEPTITUDE

If you can’t learn to do something well, learn to enjoy doing it poorly.

I love it.

If I’m honest with myself, I do everything poorly.

For most of my life, I wouldn’t go near things that interested me because I was sure I wouldn’t do them well.

I was a perfectionist.

But over the years I learned that perfectionism paralyzed me.

I had no fun.

I was a grouch.

So I took the plunge.

For example, cooking. I didn’t know how to boil water. That kept me away from a lot of recipes I wanted to make.

Now I boil water like a pro. Big bubbles, medium bubbles, and small bubbles.

The rest of the recipe, ask me another time.

Take painting. All my life I was told that to be a good painter, you had to learn to draw.

Drawing bores me. Too much attention spent on details. I don’t have the patience.

So I mess with watercolors on the best paper I can afford to buy. The paper produces some really good stuff, and I take the credit.

Writing. The ability to write a novel alludes me. I’ve tried so many times, only to get stuck in the middle with no way out of the maze I’ve created.

But I’m terrific at beginnings. Great characters. Lots of action. Compelling hook.

Anybody out there need an epic first chapter? Talk to me.

The truth is, I live with failure every day, but I don’t let it stop me anymore.

It scares me. I’ll admit that, but I’ve gotten used to being frightened.

I tell myself somewhere in all this mess, there’s a gem in there.

Most likely it will take somebody else to spot it.

Calvin says, “I see it. It’s the bone I buried under the chaos in your study.”

How To Do Your Real Work

Every so often I write about resistance. You know, the distractions we give in to that pull us away from our real work.

In my case, it’s writing. In yours it could be designing the next space vehicle.

Whatever your calling is, you’re familiar with the pull to distract.

Distractions allure you. Out of the blue you long to learn Latin. Or free-fall from an airplane. Or take tango lessons in Buenos Aires.

Maybe it’s not such a large vision that compels you to drop what you’re doing. Maybe it’s bull-riding lessons, finger painting, or singing with your canary.

Sometimes the distraction is even closer than that.

Facebook.

Twitter.

Pinterest.

Blogging. (Checking your analytics every hour)

Text messages.

Skype.

Video games.

I could go on, but you catch my drift.

The social media platforms are massive distractions! They will absorb you. Consume you. Smother you.

They  also:

Stall you.

Numb you.

Suck your energy.

They’re only a worthwhile investment when you’re building a posse of fans for your work.

Otherwise it’s death to your creativity!

Go on a diet.

Make a pledge to look at these platforms only after you’ve done your work.

Tell a friend to hold you accountable.

And then notice your productivity and creativity soar.

Calvin says, “Yep, when I get pulled off a scent, I end up in a ditch with thorns up my butt.”

 

 

 

 

Conversations on the Run9

I’d like a fat-free cheese sandwich on gluten-free bread with soy mayo and a real tomato slice.

I’ve never been to the Genius Bar. I always go to the Greek Squad.

So I was like Wow!

What? Do you think I listen to myself?

May the Fourth be with you.

Paintball: It hurts like art.

I’m turning 25. It’s a real age, not like 24.

You can’t make up the news until it happens.

Calvin says, “You don’t need to be a genius to know these conversations aren’t even in Greek.” 

 

Give Mom a Kick-Butting Day

Mother’s Day is just around the corner.

That horrid one day of the year when families take mom out for brunch and fuss over her with eggs Benedict and Mimosas. Then she’s returned to the daily grind and all is forgotten.

I’m sure the restaurant industry contrived the holiday to beef up their bottom line in May.

What if mom doesn’t like eggs with a last name and orange juice spiked with bubbles? Maybe she prefers her steak grilled with a heaping plateful of shoestring potatoes and a large pitcher of sangria?

And please don’t give her a cheesy card with a sappy greeting that a computer spit out last century that you found in the greeting card aisle at the supermarket next to the artificial smelling air fresheners for the house. Definitely don’t buy one of those either.

Instead, head out to the mall and buy her an all expense paid shopping spree to her favorite shoe store. Or put her on a plane to a beach somewhere. Or give her a lifetime of body massages at the Holistic Health Clinic where Mai, the masseuse will be happy to walk all over her back.

Then install the dog in the pet hotel so she doesn’t have to walk him for a month.

Hire a private chef for the rest of the year and give her a break in the kitchen.

Oh wait. The kitchen. It needs a desperate overhaul before Wolfgang can cook there.

Maybe mom has a dream she’d like to focus on for a change. Provide her with the tools she needs. Lipstick, make-up, haircut and color, liposuction, a new wardrobe.

Singing lessons? Maybe she’s always wanted to develop her voice beyond yelling at the kids.

Calvin says, “My mom never got to develop herself. I know she had a secret nobody else knew. She always wanted to be an owner.”

For Better or For Butter

My friend, Alice is the mother of an artist son. Not a graphic or computer artist, but a fine artist. The type that spends hours in a studio slapping paint on a canvas and brooding over it. No painting is ever finished. And he hates everything he does because it’s not perfect.

Alice invited her friend, Naomi to lunch recently to talk about this. Naomi is also the mother of a fine artist. Her daughter is an accomplished, well-known oil painter who makes a full-time living making art. Naomi has years on Alice in the patience department.

At a seaside restaurant, Alice asked Naomi, “If you tell me my son won’t be famous until he’s in his 40’s, then I need anti-depressants or alcohol.” Alice decided to start drinking then and there and ordered a glass of wine.

“Be happy for him. Life will eventually move him on, for better or for worse. We’re only mothers, not God,” Naomi said and ordered a dry martini with a twist.

That didn’t help much. Alice unfolded her napkin and stared out the window. The waves crashed against the rocks and spewed white foam in her direction. The waiter came with their drinks and a basket of bread sticks and a plate of butter balls piled high in a mound.

Naomi added, “Your son has decided to live his life as he sees fit and you need to let him.” She sipped her martini and bore into Alice with her eyes.

Alice snapped a bread stick in two and stabbed a butter ball with one of the halves. The butter ball rolled off the plate, onto the table, and kept rolling right into her lap. Naomi followed it as it made it’s journey off the table.

Alice was embarrassed. She couldn’t return it to the butter plate. She couldn’t leave it in her lap. And she couldn’t drop it on the floor because, knowing her luck, she would probably step on it as soon as she got up from the table.

Instead, she popped it into her mouth and washed it down with her wine. “Not bad. Needed a little garlic.”

“I see where your son gets his creativity from,” Naomi said as she took another sip of her martini.

“So what you’re saying is that I should forget the whole business and take on a hobby,” Alice said.

“Buy a dog. That will distract you,” Naomi said draining her martini.

“I’m over the pet thing, too much work,” Alice said. The waiter was back at their table waiting to take their lunch order.

“I’ll have another martini, this time with a pickled onion,” Naomi said.

“And I’ll have the escargot…skip the butter…I’ve had plenty,” Alice said.

Calvin says, “We don’t distract. We love you to distraction. Now how about rolling one of those butter balls in my direction? I’ll be under the table with my mouth open.”