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Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Arts of the ages

After the visit to the church, I did feel better, and went back to my hotel room. My roomie came in (eventually) and we talked awhile, and got out all our makeup stuff and compared notes. Cool! I never did a pajama party before.

In the morning we got her checked out and en route to the airport, and I checked out as well, but I sent my stuff to my car which was still in valet parking, and joined a tour to the rightly famous Getty Museum. We scattered out, and from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., I wandered among the arts of the ages.

I found that paintings tended to be on exhibit on the fourth floor of the various towers, so that natural lighting from skylights could illuminate the paintings in their truest colors. I'm big on Impressionist-related stuff, so I sought out works by Corot, Courbet, Pissaro, Manet, Monet, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Degas, and some others. Man with a Hoe is maybe their most famous piece, but I found other things by Millet more interesting. I also like their Jackson Pollock painting and some Gainsboroughs that I found very modern in brush technique, and the photography exhibits were really good.

I think their curators are terrific, and I lost a lot of time reading captions.

But the architecture doesn't work for me. I'm a bit offended that 100 full shiploads of Italian travertine had to be hauled across the oceans to build the thing. It's all out of human scale, and too angular -- many dangerous edges. Worst of all is the design of the balcony and stair railings, which offer too much room for a small child to slip through. I was proceeding from a third to fourth floor on a perimeter wall of a tower, and a little girl fell at her parent's feet right in front of me, about one foot from a drop of some 125 feet.

I was also unhappy with the famous "views." At one's feet a vast serpent of concrete, covered by fast-moving steel ribbons made up of thousands of SUVs, unreels into a brown cloud that stretches from horizon to horizon. It was sad to see my own sin of owning and depending on a gasoline-powered vehicle multiplied so to infinity.

On comparing the Getty to the Huntington, I found that I had a very strong preference for the Huntington. Perhaps they are reflections of the two billionaires. One seemed to collect things he liked. The other seemed like collecting things. Even the guards seemed more relaxed, friendly, and art-oriented at the Huntington. I felt they were my friends, whereas at the Getty it felt so like there was an FBI agent in every room. One thing I will have to say for all of them; it's hard work standing there, darting your eyes around and trusting no one, yet answering polite inquiries and remarks with the patience of a librarian. I don't think they're paid enough. And every one of them that I chatted up said "ma'am," which of course means a lot to me.

Concerning what is called passing, I had an experience at the Huntington which I regard as definitive. A man, tanned and muscled, with a receding hairline, expensive shorts, and that air of authority that money conveys, hailed a youngish woman who seemed his opposite number in every way, then stood by the shaded bench on which I was sitting, shouting into a black-and-yellow walkie-talkie.

"I've located Claire! Yeah, yeah! We'll wait for you here!" Boom-boom.

She seemed agitated at his standing right by me shouting to his radio buddy, and indicated they should relocate. He ignored her. She moved to a bench about fifty feet away, and in pantomime indicated to me that, well, she'd tried. It was a very girl-to-girl communication, and I pantomimed back that I was really just pleased to have such a great people-watcher's ringside seat. He, of course, standing right there, missed the whole exchange.

Late in the day, as I was leaving the parking area (on foot), she passed me in her Mercedes, slowed up, stopped, and rolled down her window.

"I'm so sorry, he's always like that, I told him to move away and leave the poor lady in peace and he just got worse."

"I thought it was a lot of fun. Is he yours?"

"Me, God, no. You don't want him either, I hope."

I didn't. But it was nice to be regarded as a candidate, however remotely. And she seemed to me bright and observant, and had never read me as anything but a woman.

This incident, trivial as it may seem, was the clincher for me, because of course I'm a woman, just one with a kind of prolapsed vagina, that's all; and I know now with absolute certainty that I have done the right thing and will never, ever look back. Thank you, dear, whoever you are.

On the return journey from the Getty, I made myself as comfortable as possible and slept almost the entire hour. I knew I would need this for the ordeal that lay ahead, as i must return the RGB projector to the library Media Center, back home, by 6 pm the following day. That was 15 hours' driving time distant, meaning the rest stops would be my motels. I know it's considered unwise for a woman to do this, but we sometimes do, and the bright lights and car-door locks seem sufficient protection for such a transient rest.

I picked up my car at 5:30 p.m., gassed up, and headed out onto I-210 to join the moving ribbons of steel.

-- risa b


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