My wife and I are just back from a long, romantic weekend in Manhattan. One of our favorite things is to be alone together in another city where no one knows who we are nor wants anything from us.
We think of these trips as renewals, a way to break free of the everyday.
This NYC trip was packed: A history/pizza tour of Brooklyn; waffles and coffee in a little park at 35th and Broadway; the American Institute of Architects (AIA) boat tour of lower Manhattan; a play that pushed our heads around (The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night, highly recommended); leisurely tea at the Inn at Irving Place; long walks without destinations; lunch at Eataly; standing in the Times Square half-price ticket line, listening to the number of languages being spoken around us; noodles at Momofuku after drinks at a nearby wine bar in the East Village, and sleeping in until 7:30 am instead of getting up at 5:00 to work the way we do almost every day at home.
At least once per trip we visit an art museum. It’s become a ritual, but probably not for a reason you’d guess.
Much of the art in many museums eludes me. The 4 upright Hoover vacuums in an acrylic case at The Whitney, for example, baffles me. But part of the exercise is to look at art that’s not familiar and not comfortable.
Years ago, as a single parent, I would drag my young sons through a variety of art museums in an attempt to counterbalance their lives filled with sports equipment and bicycles. Their assignment every time: 1. find one piece of art that interests you, 2. come and get me and show me the piece, 3. explain to me why it interests you, what made it stand out, and what it stimulates in you, 4. expect me to know when you are faking your interest or doing sloppy thinking, 5. once you have done this you are free to follow me around or play in the halls (but not the galleries) until I’ve seen the full museum collection. Then you can choose the lunch venue and order anything you want.
My wife and I have adapted this routine for ourselves, only without playing in the halls. Sometimes we surprise each other. At the Whitney we each unwittingly selected a piece by Joseph Stella. The two works were very different yet connected somehow. We like to think this is true of us, too.
I had chosen a small, earth-tone work (Collage Number 21, c. 1920), a piece I would not have noticed 20 years ago. Linda had chosen a large, vibrant painting with lots of color and black (The Brooklyn Bridge: Variation On An Old Theme, 1939).
We also find ourselves regularly entranced by the architecture of new museums, big art that surrounds and often dwarfs us. At the Getty in Los Angeles we almost missed the collection entirely because we were busy taking tours of the building itself. If you get to Manhattan, don’t miss the new Whitney, a building set gloriously between the southern end of the High Line and the Hudson.
What have we brought home from our long weekend? Memories and stories. We rode with a very nice Bangladeshi cabbie who didn’t know where we were going, so I used Google Maps on my iPhone to tell him when to turn and which street to get on next. We split a hamburger and a shake at midnight after the theater. We wore ourselves out walking, and refreshed ourselves by taking long, deeply satisfying naps. We shared a Sidecar and listened to live music. We became freshly connected again.
Our thanks to The Whitney and the late Joseph Stella. They helped remind us of our inner landscape as individuals and as a couple.