Thursday, April 19, 2007

Feets, Planted

(Cincy Feet)
On a Westward (Ho!) expedition recently, ostensibly a road trip to see, smell, touch, and hear the progeny, added benefits of new museums and eateries to visit were thrown in. Here follows a very subjective travelogue.

The Ever-Loving Wife and I have been blessed. Blessed that neither of the kids went through that stage of the teenage years when Solipsism was the religion of choice for them. No need for missionary work on their sole-centered souls. They both have continued a fortunately un-natural curiosity in others. How they came upon this life view is beyond me; I recall with embarrassment and regret (for all of the lost days)of my own bellybutton gazing in the teen years.

All that wasted inward energy when I could have been running barefoot in the uncut grass. But, enough about me; let's talk about my trip.

Traveling of any sorts, especially on any trips extending past a couple of days, always results in a great case of what the French call "le espièglerie". A giddiness layered in thin coats of adventure topped with a dollop of childlike wonder. I can stare down at the
passing waters of a river in a strange city for hours while acknowledging I'd be ignoring the gurgling streams in my own city. It's what moving one's carcass a few hours from base will do to me.

Cincinnati, parked on the muddy (when we went) and swift and deadly currents of the Ohio, was one of our stopovers. Cincy has not been usually associated with positive national headlines in the 5 years or so, what with the 2001 riots and the travails of the Bengals. We spent 3 gorgeous days there, encountering only friendliness and pride from the folks we dealt with. From the over-the-top concern of the staff of the Underground Railroad Museum to the interactive staff of the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame (great exhibit was in place for Pete), to the can't-beat-working-here staff of the Montgomery Inn (sloppy ribs, great river view, and, did I mention, ribs), we were always greeted and engaged by folks who took an obvious pride in their city. The Purple People Bridge, one of many bridges spanning across the Ohio River to Kentucky, takes you from Pete Rose Way across to Newport, Kentucky. No cars, no exhaust fumes, all pedestrian power. Newport on the Levee is a painfully clean current mode of shopping center. Big on experiences of the dining variety with a faux village layout that suggests downtown shopping where no downtown exists. Worth a visit for a look, but then a quick return to Cincy via the Purple People Bridge is suggested to prevent the Mallaise that will surely strike you down if you stay too long.

Speaking of bridges, there is this one, the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge, connecting Covington, KY and Cincinnati. Look familiar? Sounds familiar? Mr. Roebling went on to design and begin supervision of the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge after "trying out" his ideas in Cincinnati.

The Contemporary Arts Center, located in downtown Cincy, was fairly empty of visitors but packed with entertainment. John Pilson's visual works were on display. His take on life/work in the concrete stacks of NYC where he "reconsiders the banal, daily routines office workers as quixotic deviations into sublime moments", made for an interesting alternative reaction to the depression of fluorescent lighting and wall-to-wall grey carpeting. The museum itself, designed by the Iranian Zaha Hadid, winner of the Pritzker Prize in 2004, is relatively plain on the outside, blending in well with the business offices and skyscrapers on the same block. The first floor seems to be a bank lobby without the bank tellers. When you start climbing the long shallow steps to the second floor, however, an odd experience starts sinking in. You must really concentrate on your stair-climbing and what this concentration does is cleanse your mind of what you've seen on the previous floor. Unlike many staircases, the three in this museum are bathed in natural light from the glass ceiling three stories up. It was a cloudy overcast morning when we came in, but the light streaming in was intensified by the way only a shaft of rectangular sky illuminated the staircases. You won't trip but you will be lifting your feet a lot higher to the next step than is necessary. This high-stepping continues throughout the climb from floor to floor; a pleasant discombobulation.

The final museum we had a chance to visit was the fairly new Underground National Railroad Museum Freedom Center, located a few streets from the banks of the Ohio River. The ELW and I loved the museum. Two main levels provide informative layouts of interactive exhibits as well as a clear presentation of the historical beginnings and continuation of slavery and its depressing practices. There are quite a few spaces available before and after exhibit spaces where one can comfortably sit and mull over what you've just seen and read. There's an objectivity to the written/visual presentations that leaves one with a heavy heart. But, the light and space of the museum allows you to recover...or not; I noticed some folks go through the first few rooms and then just sit in the expansive glass-wall room on the second floor and just stare out at the Ohio River and the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge. The staff of the museum, right across the board, were one of the friendliest and most enthusiastic I'd ever encountered in a museum. They were as interactive as some of the cutting-edge technology the museum held. We left the museum in a jumble of emotions. Sadness, guilt, empathy and pride in the human condition.

In a few days, off to Pittsburgh and a new museum favorite, the Carnegie Museum of Art, located on one of the main drags, Forbes Avenue, between the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University. The museum always has an interesting current exhibit in place. When we went, a modern Japanese print exhibition was on display. The permanent exhibits are laid out in a historical way as opposed to, say, the Barnes Foundation methodology where the date of the artwork is not as important as the resulting visual stimulation of parking pieces 400-500 years apart next to each other. I am not a self-educated museum buff like the delightful Mr. Donald Pittenger of 2 Blowhards is. While I use my brain as does he, my museum ratings are based on the level of headache pain I leave with when I exit a museum. It must be the lack of safety valves in my cranium that are the cause of my problems. I can still feel the head-pulsing and nausea I experienced after a Picasso show at NYC's MOMA back in the late '70's. Does that mean that if I leave a museum without my head throbbing that the exhibits were mundane, totally lacking in stimulation? Perhaps. I've gone to the Carnegie Museum quite a few times and I've left with a smile, questions, insights, and no headaches.

Michael Blowhard recently went to Pittsburgh and the Warhol Museum and posted his observations here. I'd agree with him entirely as to his experiences on Pittsburgh as a truly livable and interesting city and his take on the Warhol Museum. I had my own 2 cents about the museum here(if you like Yoko Ono even the tiniest bit, please don't click).
If you prefer cold to hot weather, meandering streets to long straight avenues, distinct neighborhoods to malled communities, then Pittsburgh is the place for you, if only for a visit or two,

Now home again, sitting at the desk, music spilling on the planted feet, it's a longer time spent regurgitating the 5 day 1,300 mile trip than I'd thought. Still have the sweet aftertaste of the Montgomery Inn's ribs rolling around the back of my throat and the smooth and rich gelato tastings of Madisono's dancing in my head.

Note Bene: clicking on all of the pictures, well not all at once, will allow you to view them as larger versions of themselves...if that's something you're in dire need of.

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Nice shoes.

A giddiness layered in thin coats of adventure topped with a dollop of childlike wonder.

Too true! There is something about traveling that allows us to see things fresh and new and to appreciate the "little" things.

Your opinion of Warhol matches my own (just read the post in your link above)..."ick" was the word I used in a prior post after a visit to the Chicago Contemporary Art Museum.
Thanks, as re. the shoes. I've been wearing Naot clogs for the last 6-7 years. They're very comfortable and they last forever, the latter being a great quality to convince myself to ignore the high cost. With socks, without, a very comforting shoe. Loose enough to not constrcit bloodflow; tight enough to grip your foot like a glove. And no, I would not be going for this style any time soon. There are over 6,602,224,175 people in the world. Based on personal experience, of that total, I'd suspect 74 have toes that should be allowed to be viewed by the general public. For the rest of the 6,602,224,171 people, God created socks and closed toes shoes.
For the rest of the 6,602,224,171 people, God created socks and closed toes shoes.

Ahem. You mean, like these? ;-)

Hey, I'm all about the comfort. Who cares what the feet look like? I got married in Birkenstocks. ;-) Naots fall into the same camp. Comfortable, long-lasting and good looking. After you've worn a pair, nobody cares how much they cost.
As a naturalized citizen of the US of A, I've learned to never inquire of a specific person's earnings nor comment on a specific person's toes.

Commenting on the general theme of those subjects is o.k., however. I'm sticking with my estimate of 6,602,224,171 people who would look better to the rest of us if they wore socks or closed toe sandals.
:-) Agreed.

But that doesn't change my right to wear open toe sandals if I wish to do so. ;-)
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