There is a scene in the 2nd season of Slings & Arrows where Darren, the pretentious, ham-fisted director, is watching a rehearsal of his production of Romeo & Juliet. The show is bad. It’s devoid of emotion, with no resemblance to the original. Characters stand in ridiculous, barbed-wire like costumes, facing the audience, reciting lines in monotone. As Darren watches over the mess he has made, it’s clear that he knows it’s all wrong. He’s too far afield. Yet, unable to quite let his idea go, he turns to his technical director and slowly, deliberately orders “More gray.”
That may as well have been the weather forecast this weekend, which we spent in Boston visiting Willa and Matt. The air was chilly, dismal, and yes, gray; more November than June. The rain and the dampness kept us indoors, for the most part. There were several bright spots, in spite of the weather: we had pizza at one of my favorite restaurants, Picco (great beer—Jack D’Or—on tap). Pho at W&M’s favorite Vietnamese restaurant. We watched the game 5 of the Stanley Cup finals and I was introduced to the sartorial splendor of Don Cherry.
We also went to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and walked through all four floors of the new American Wing. The art was presented in a straightforward, linear chronology, which was rather refreshing, given the way American art has veered all over the map from derivative to quintessential.
One piece caught my attention, much to my surprise. Thomas Sully’s Passage of the Delaware, which is notable for a few reasons:
- It’s fucking huge: they planned the room around it and it still looks shoehorned into room;
- It’s kinda goofy: everything about Washington—the details of his clothing and horse, the warm coloring on his face—is rendered in an over-the-top, heroic way, practically inviting cliches;
- It’s actually a pretty awesome landscape painting: the windswept scene behind Washington is rendered in grays and light blues. Clouds and snow swirl, obscuring the view, with only a small gash of reddish light provided by the sunrise defining the border between the land and the sky.
After the museum we walked over the chilly Charles River to Cambridge, where we had planned to visit the MIT Museum. It was on the bridge that I remembered “more gray,” and thought it would be a good thing to reference in this post. I stopped to take a few pictures which I intended to stitch together, to showcase the gray.
On the Cambridge side of the river, we stopped to eat some sandwiches we had purchased at Whole Foods a few minutes before. As I leaned over to pick up the front of the stroller to lift it up a few steps, my iPhone fell out of my pocket and landed face down on the concrete with a telltale (but oddly satisfying) smack. The front glass was completely shattered and, although the phone still worked fine, it was unusable unless you wanted little splinters of glass to stick in your finger with every swipe.
Fortunately I was able to get a replacement, free of charge. But I lost all the photos I had taken this weekend, including my gray panorama. I never thought to take them off the phone when I went to the Apple Store because I never thought they’d just give me a new phone. Alas. Many of this weekend’s highlights exist only in memory. Below is where I would have used my amazing panorama of the Charles:
We came back to NYC via Amtrak, which is a relaxing, 4 hour trip. Regardless of whether we’re coming or going, by far the worst part of travelling by train is hauling our stuff to and from the train station. Penn Station is a hole, one of the worst experiences New York City has to offer. This time, we got off our train and immediately brushed past a mother who was yelling at her child to "GET UP. GET UP." off the floor and go toward wherever it was that he didn’t want to go.
Everything is public in NYC; bad parenting is especially visible. I’ve gotten used to it, for the most part, but both Maggie and I have a renewed sensitivity to it now that Charlotte is with us. There are times when I want to go up to the parent and say, “Here, let me help you, he can come with us,” because the verbal and physical abuse is so great that all I can see is a kid with no future attached to a parent who never wanted the responsibility in the first place. It just seems like a solution that would make everyone happier.
Maggie looked really sad on the subway ride home. Charlotte was on her front, and had pulled herself in closely to Maggie—gone was the fun of looking for boats and playgrounds and the ocean out the train window. In its place was the harsh atmosphere of the subway: metal-on-rail screeches, flickering fluorescent lights, and a car full of people who were not having any fun.
The things that drew us to Brooklyn five years ago seem less important by the day. But where to go? Often it seems that we’re so completely invested in urban life that we would be fish out of water in any other context. And yet, I don’t want to be the person calling for more gray in a hopeless production. What to do about this is anybody’s guess; fortunately there was somebody around this weekend to guess.
Maggie got a new press a few weeks back, a large flatbed press that we’re both very excited about. This past week, her dad helped move the press from Iowa City to his workshop in Marion. Throughout, Maggie was in contact with the press’s caretaker and it came up that she has also, at times in her life, felt an indecisive paralysis about being either here or there. After the press had been moved and thank yous exchanged, she took a minute to offer completely unsolicted advice which just might stick with us for years to come:
after years of doing whatever popped into my head i can honestly say that to make something happen you just go. that’s how i got to Seattle, Arizona, Texas, San Francisco, Taiwan and Hong Kong. that’s how i got to work in teaching, theater, film, archaeology, human resources, the international writing program and now ‘archiving’. if you think too hard, it gets harder.