Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Rainy and mild
My head is so stuffed full of information, it’s ready to burst. It was a good day, but a long one.
Train ride in was mediocre, as usual. I couldn’t stand the thought of being underground, so I decided to take the bus up Madison Avenue and then across 79th St. to the west side. The bus ride up Madison was excruciatingly slow, because there was a water main break at 57th St. The ride across the park was fine, except for the bratty, spoiled little rich kids with their nannies on the bus. One, in particular, a little girl of about six, was exceptionally horrid. Tantrums, screaming, whining, hitting other kids, trying to hit adults. She didn’t try it with me – like most bullies, she’s a coward at heart. I glared at her once and she hid behind the nanny. I’m not one for hitting a kid very often, but this one needed a good smack. Actually, maybe if they started by telling her “no” occasionally – and meaning it – it would make a difference. If she’s like this at six, what will she be like as a teenager, or as an adult? It’s a shame, because she’s very pretty. Too bad the inside doesn’t match the outside.
The Museum of Natural History was full of kids. I forgot that this is the time of year for school trips. You can tell the city kids from the suburban kids. The city kids are loud and rambunctious, but, living in the city, they’re very aware of personal space. They invade their friends’ space, but they’re careful not to invade that of strangers. The suburban kids have the same unwarranted sense of entitlement that their parents do, and just don’t care.
There was a really cute little boy of about eight with his dad, who thought EVERYTHING was AMAZING. There was a little girl of about eight or nine making sure her younger brothers and sisters didn’t wander off – there were about five in that group. The youngest could barely walk, but liked all the animals. She’d (Eldest) read a bunch of books before coming to the museum and was telling them stories about everything – it was great. A teacher-in-the-making (and most of it was even right). There was a girl of about eleven or twelve sketching, photographing, taking lots of notes in the Northwest Coastal Indians exhibit. Either she had a paper to write, or she’s an archaeologist-in-the-making. One little kid fell asleep in a corner of the Hall of Gems – it’s dark and only the cases with the gems are lit. There was a group of teenage boys wandering through North American Mammals, singing Pat Benatar lyrics. I told them I was impressed that they knew the lyrics to her songs, and they all blushed.
The Museum has a lot of stuff for kids, and several of the shops are geared specifically towards kids, filled with learning toys and books – really, they have one of the best shops I’ve ever seen. Low on the kitschy souvenirs, high on the education-presented-engagingly.
I wandered through the special floor of the main store dedicated to books. I could have easily dropped nine or ten THOUSAND dollars just in that bookstore. Fabulous stuff.
I visited some of my favorites – the Blue Whale, the African elephants, the owls, the biodiversity exhibit. I spent more time in the Human Evolution exhibit than I planned, because they were explaining archaeological and anthropological methods and evaluations, and I figured that would be good for the Gwen/Justin books. Yes, I eavesdropped, but the (very cute) lecturer didn’t seem to mind.
I spent quite awhile in the biodiversity exhibit, refreshing my memory. It’s a great exhibit, but once you’ve spent time in a real rain forest (I went to one in Australia), nothing else quite compares. You can recreate the look of it, but not the energy flow.
I spent a lot of time in the Halls of Minerals and Gems. It’s one of my favorite places. It’s very soothing to sit amongst enormous chunks of amethyst and crystal. Because of the dramatic lighting and carpeting, when it’s not full of rambunctious kids, it’s a great place to simply sit and be quiet. It’s a very meditative space.
The Hall of Meteorites is always fascinating. And I spent a lot of time in the Rose Center for Earth and Space. Honestly, I liked it better when it was the Hayden Planetarium. This has more levels and more open space, but I felt there was more concentrated information in the former, and it wasn’t all focused on making you buy an extra ticket for the Space show or the IMAX show. I took a lot of notes on the information that was there, and the Planetarium shop is terrific. I jotted down many titles, but I bought three books: Miss Leavitt’s Stars by George Johnson, about the woman who figured out how to measure distances between stars and galaxies. I’d never heard of her before; have you? I also bought a very basic book on the Solar System, because I haven’t read anything about it since about the fourth grade, and, other than being able to recite the planets in order from the sun and know what the retrogrades mean . . .that’s all I know. There was also a book on the sale table that I scooped up called A Traveler’s Guide to Mars by William K. Hartmann. The more I read about Mars, the more I think it was once fairly similar to Earth and that civilization destroyed the planet much as we are destroying this one. Flipping through the book, it seems that some of my theories are laid out and backed up in the book, but some of the things I think are possible are discounted, so I’m interested to read it and learn. It’s over 400 pages, so it will be quite a read. I also jotted down a bunch of titles that I’m going to try to get elsewhere.
On the spur of the moment, I decided to go up to the dinosaur exhibits. I’d always loved them as a kid (if I hadn’t gone into the arts, I would probably have been an archaeologist). I’d wafted through briefly after it was re-conceived, but hadn’t spent any time there. This time, I did.
The curators truly did a spectacular job. One of the things I loved was how graceful the skeletons looked. That sounds weird, since they were these huge, lumbering beasts, or these delicate raptor-type things, but the way the spines curved and the tails stretched and the angle of the heads and front arms – really beautiful. I took a lot of photographs and wrote a lot of notes (so I’ll know what the photographs represent). This will help me in the evolution of world-building, as will the biodiversity exhibit and the Space Center exhibit.
I probably gathered information for about a dozen projects here; it’s information I can use on projects in progress, and information I can continue using in the future. I think I’m going to get some children’s books on the basics of stars and their physiology (when in doubt, get it in children’s book format – they often have terrific information stated engagingly). I still might contact some of the staff at the museum with questions, but I want to see if I can answer them on my own first.
That was the bulk of the day. I wandered down Central Park West and over towards Lincoln Center. I browsed in the big Barnes & Noble there – since when did it become a pickup joint along the lines of San Francisco’s Marina Safeway of the 1980’s? At first I thought I was delusional, but after the sixth guy asked me for my phone number . . .
My friend and I were supposed to meet at a place on Columbus Avenue, but Fordham University had its graduation ceremony and the place was packed. So I grabbed a few bar stools over at Josefina’s on Broadway instead, and that’s where we met. It’s a place for grown-ups and was a much-needed respite. We had an elegant glass of wine and caught up on life, then maneuvered through the renovations at Lincoln Center to the Walter Reade Theatre for the PEN Literary Awards.
What a beautiful evening! Low key but elegant and friendly. Jonathan Ames was the host. I’ve never read anything of his, but after listening to him up there last night, I am going to! If he writes anywhere near as wonderfully as he speaks, he’ll become one of my favorite aauthors. The ceremony was lovely, simple, from the heart, and inspiring. Richard Nelson received a lifetime achievement for his plays – one of my favorite playwrights, by the way. Janet Malcolm, whose work I thoroughly admire, received an award for her biography of Gertrude Stein and Alice Toklas (if you haven’t read Malcolm’s work on Sylvia Plath – read it. Now.). Cynthia Ozick received the Nabokov award. There were awards for translation and a children’s book-in-progress, and first novels and poetry and all sorts of inspiring stuff. Truly lovely. And there was an empty chair to signify the writers we work so hard to release via the Core Freedoms/Freedom to Write program who are imprisoned throughout the work for speaking their truths.
The reception after was lovely. Whoever does the catering for PEN always does a terrific job. The h’ors d’oeuvres are just the right size, not too messy, and tasty. My favorites were the sesame rounds with guacamole and the farmstead cheese with pear drizzled with lavender honey.
The only unfortunate part of the day was how badly my feet hurt. I was dressed up, yes, and on my feet all day. But I wore one of my most comfortable pairs of boots. Yet, by the time I got home, after 11 PM, I could barely limp. I couldn’t believe it. And I realized – I’m not used to wearing shoes – at all – any more.
I work at home. We have a no-shoes-in-the-house rule. I put on a pair of shoes to go to the store or out to dinner, but that’s maybe a couple of hours. I wear my Timberland sneakers to do shows. But, other than that, I don’t wear shoes. I buy them. They’re on my shoe rack looking cute. But I spent most of my time barefoot.
Shoes hurt. My feet get claustrophobic.
Actually, my feet hurt, my ankles hurt, my shins hurt, my knees hurt, my back hurt, and my neck hurt by the time I got home, and I’m not feeling so perky today (damn alignment)!
Fortunately, I have acupuncture tomorrow.
I have to have an organized writing day. On the train, I figured out the final obstacle for THE MATILDA MURDERS, so I hope I can finish it today. And I got some interesting ideas for the adaptation, and want to do some work on the two stories.
I should probably also pitch for more short-term paying work.
5 in 10: Create 5 Short Stories in Ten Weeks by Devon Ellington. This ebooklet takes you from inspiration to writing to revision to marketing. By the end of ten weeks, you will have either 5 short stories or a good chunk of a novella complete. And it’s only 50 cents, USD. Here.
Writing Rituals: Ideas to Support Creativity by Cerridwen Iris Shea. This ebooklet contains several rituals to help you start writing, get you through writer’s block, and help send your work on its way. It’s only 39 cents USD. (Note: Cerridwen Iris Shea is one of the six names under which I publish). Here.
Full Circle: An Ars Concordia Anthology. Edited by Colin Galbraith. This is a collection of short stories, poems, and other pieces by a writers’ group of which I am a member. My story is “Pauvre Bob”, set at Arlington Race Track in Illinois. You can download it free here: