Touristy and not-so-touristy stuff

One of the fun things about staying in Manhattan proper is that I get to play tourist, something I don’t do so much when I’m staying with family in the larger metro area.

For years and years — since taking an art class in college, I think — I’ve wanted to see Van Gogh’s Starry Night in person.

The first time I tried to see it there, I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but it turns out the painting is actually in the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA).

Another visit, I went to MOMA, only it turns out they’re the only museum in New York that closes on Tuesdays, instead of on Mondays.

Next time, I went on a different day, only the entire museum was being renovated and was being temporarily housed out in Brooklyn somewhere.

I gave up for a while after that. Not all my visits to the New York metro area always had time for getting into the city anyway, what with having family out here. Trips into Manhattan were often pretty short. And, after seeing so many reproductions of Starry Night, I kind of grew tired of it. I knew the original would be different than a reproduction, but how big a deal was seeing the original really?

Then, Monday, I realized I had some time and headed down there again. They were open. Starry Night was in the very first gallery.

Wow. You know that feeling when you stand out beneath the stars, and you can almost feel those stars swirl above you, or feel the earth turn beneath you? Starry Night has that–has the feeling, on the canvas, as you look at it.

But only when you look at the real thing. Whatever it is that’s there, it isn’t something that you can capture in a reproduction. It really is something you need to see in person.

And then there were Monet’s Water Lilies, which I was sure I didn’t need to see, given how often one sees them reproduced–I was pretty much burned out on those water lilies. But when I entered a room and there was the real thing–I had to stop, sit down, and stare. The Water Lilies blew me away, too.

As I was staring, I realized that there was art that could make me feel the same way I feel when I stare up at the Catalina Mountains. And I thought, that’s part of why New York feels like home for those who live there, just like the Catalinas have gotten into my blood and are part of why it’s home for me.

The rest of the museum is mostly a blur, except for Joseph Cornell’s Bébé Marie doll, trapped in dead twigs, which very much had the feel of Bones of Faerie to me. But again, the reproduction isn’t nearly as haunting as the original.

I also made it down to Books of Wonder, met penmage in person for the first time and got to hang out and talk books. She also sat me down and saw to it that I sat down and really took time with the Caldecott winner, Flotsam, in a way that made me fall in love with the book–it’s truly fabulous. Left with my arms piles with books, of course.

I made it to Bank Street Books more by accident; I was trying for the Cloisters, realize it was too late in the day to get there, saw the bookstore outside the bus window, and hopped off–but I’d been wanting to visit, and thought I didn’t have time, so I was delighted. (And they had an actual copy of The Higher Power of Lucky, the Newbery winner, too–most folks don’t have that one yet, because most folks hadn’t heard of it before the Newbery was announced. Cool to know a book that isn’t part of the buzz and discussion pre-award can win, actually.

And I spent a fabulous evening browsing more bookstores and grabbing dinner and talking with lucy_anne, for the first time in way, way too long. It feels like it’s been years since we’ve seen each other in person, and I’d missed her. We sat up in the hotel room talking ’til nearly midnight afterwards, too, and we could have gone on for hours more. (Since there were subways to catch and since jennifer_j_s was asleep in the next room, we decided not to try to beat our high school record of staying up talking until 6 a.m. :-))

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