V is for Vacation

I have alluded to this before: the wife and I had not been on a vacation alone together in over five years. This correlates nicely with the fact that we have a five-year-old daughter. So a couple years back, for our 10th anniversary, the wife began saving some money for us to do something.

As it turned out, we decided to travel a mere 32 miles from our home in Albany to Saratoga Springs, NY. While our actual anniversary was May 15, we decided to travel Thursday through Sunday on a week Carol had off from school in April and the in-laws could come up from Oneonta – about 70 miles away – and watch the child.

Thursday, we checked into the inn. We had had Indian food in Albany for a late lunch so all we had for dinner was popcorn as we went to the movies to see I Love You, Man, which I reviewed here; not high art, but we enjoyed it.
Friday morning, we went to the Tang Museum, discussed here.

Then, we went to this cute little restaurant for lunch; had an Old World charm. The food was good, but we noted that they used peanut oil in some of their cooking. Tasty, but the child is allergic, so I suspect we wouldn’t be going there as a family.

In the afternoon, we went to the National Museum of Dance. Ah, piled snow melts slower.

Here’s the building. That person in pink is my wife, BTW.

I have to say that we found the museum quite disappointing. A good museum or hall of fame – and this purports to be that for dance – needs enough “stuff” to make you want to come back again. This place just did not.

On the other hand, this was the only museum-like place we went to that actually allowed us to take photographs. Make of that what you will. The showcase pictured above is the primary part of the Peter Martens display; Martens is the most recent inductee. Oh, there are the dresses below, signed by some of his dance partners.

But there were no permanent items for each of the artists, save for a banner with fairly limited information. BTW, I no longer remember WHAT this is.

One of the cool things this place DID have were coverings on the windows representing the Hall of Famers. Don’t recall who the couple are, but the woman on the left is choreographer Agnes deMille.

This begins the section “The Evolution of Dance on the Broadway Stage”, starting with a replication of the streets around the Great White Way.

This is Sardi’s, the famous restaurant where performers hung out.

A picture of one of my favorite performers, the late Jerry Orbach.

The museum is working on developing a section on the “spa” history of Saratoga. This is a machine used in that period.

There was a small Russian dance exhibit.

The place was so casual that the purse of the woman working on the spa area, which was adjacent to the Russian area, was just sitting on a table nearby. Fortunate that we did not have larceny on our minds.

For dinner, we decided to go to the famous Hattie’s, nee Hattie’s Chicken Shack. As we were going in, a contingent of folks led bty U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer were coming out. The chicken was good, but the macronini asnd cheese was fabulous. BTW, Hattie’s is on the lower left, a comic book store which I went into briefly is on the lower right and above that is the legendary Caffè Lena.

(Incidentally, these are right across the street from a nice Thai restaurant that ADD took Rocco Nigro and me to last year.)

The next morning we went to the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame Now THIS is a great museum! THIS is a hall of fame! And though I’m less interested in horse racing than dance, this is a place I could return to. There were three sets of plaques: for horses, jockeys anmd others, primarily trainers. Interesting exhibits, informative films. (Picture below is not from the Hall but an exhibit of a street vendor.)

There was soime sort of vendor event in the city’s civic center, and we managed to eat enough sample foods that we actually didn’t need to have lunch. Afterwards, we went up to Glens Falls to see the Hyde Collection. It’s part a couple’s actual former house. The living room had 1500 books, surrounded by works by Rembrandt, Degas, and Rubens. The kitchen featured 17th century German chairs and 17th century French table. You can read about the collectors’ philosophy for the eclectic collections throughout the house. Definitely worthwhile.

The gallery featured Thomas Chambers (1808-1869) born and died in England, who helped create the popular market of landscape painting. He spent much of his time in the United States including NYC, Baltimore, Boston and Albany (c. 1850) before returning to UK in 1865. Just didn’t much care for it.

Then we ate an extraordinary dinner at our inn; the horse above, BTW, is just outside the main entrance of the building. Each morning we also had a nice breakfast there.

Alas, after breakfast, we had to return from our little getaway. This was a most enjoyable time where we didn’t talk about the child all weekend but rather enjoyed each other’s company.


T is for Tang Museum

When my wife and I took a mini-vacation to Saratoga Springs, NY in late April, we went to the Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College.

On the second floor, we came across Tim Rollins and K.O.S.: A History. This is a “major survey exhibition” that “examines the unique collaboration between Rollins, an artist, activist, and educator, and the Kids of Survival (K.O.S.), a group of artists originally made up of Rollins’s special education students from Intermediate School 52 in the South Bronx.”

The gallery presented “over twenty-five years of work collaboratively produced by Rollins and his students from the Bronx and from workshops conducted nationally and internationally. Based on literary texts, musical scores, and other printed matter, these works comprise one of the most celebrated and controversial art projects of the past quarter century.”

The piece above was inspired by the Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane. The markings are wounds, but not always wounds in the pejorative sense. Alice in Wonderland (after Lewis Carroll) looked as though it were all white, but one could see Alice in silhouette. The Scarlet Letter (after Nathaniel Hawthorne) showed a series of bold versions of the letter A. Animal Farm (after George Orwell) used the tradition of making animals out of then-current political leaders.

But each canvas is the most interesting aspect of this process. They are made from the actual pages from the books, glued together but painted over. Yet one can still see the book text to greater or lesser degree.

How do I explain this? The pages are far more impressive in person than any visual I can show you. Our appreciation of the works was greatly enhanced by a docent who not only knew the history of each piece, but knew some of the young men, many of whom became successful in their lives.

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (after Harriet Jacobs) was designed to represent the size of the room the slave girl hid in while seeing the world. There are a series of ribbons in front of the canvas, representing each student’s color of freedom. The ribbons don’t stop at the bottom of the canvas, but run free to the floor.

X-Men (after Marvel Comics) is a run of 1968 episodes of the comic book by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, totally unaltered beyond being placed as the canvas.

The Adventures of Pinocchio (after Carlo Collodi) was a variation on the theme. There were a series of logs, with eyes affixed, representing the person inside these pieces of wood. We were told that this book cover provided K.O.S. with a modicum of fame but no royalties.

The most poignant piece for me was Invisible Man (after Ralph Ellison). One of the Kids of Survival did not survive. He was killed along with four or five others, just being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The Daily News (New York City tabloid) headline read VICTIM… The pages of IM were whitewashed, with only the letters IM appearing in the Daily News font. But you’ll notice that while on the top of the page, the words of the book cannot be seen, by the bottom of the page, they are readable. The slain young man is not invisible after all.

We wanted to buy the catalogue but it was not yet prepared as of our visit. The website says: “Tang Curator Ian Berry will serve as curator and editor of the project. The catalogue will be co-published with MIT Press and will include extensive new photographs of Rollins/K.O.S. work; exhaustive biographic information for Rollins and all K.O.S. members, and their first fully researched bibliography and exhibition history. Berry will provide a wide-ranging overview interview with Rollins, and a number of essays will be commissioned… A selection of writings by Martin Luther King—a key source for Rollins as he formed his early practice – will also be included.”

We did buy the now decade-old video from the Tang store and found it extremely moving. One of the aspects of the process that it touched on was Rollins’ use of the classic literature – read “primarily written by white people” ; other pieces that have been done included A Midsummer Night’s Dream (after William Shakespeare), Diary of a Young Girl (after Anne Frank), The Creation (after Franz Joseph Haydn), The War of the Worlds (after H.G. Wells). The critics asked: “How are black and Latino kids supposed to relate to these stories?” But relate to it they do; such is the power of this collaboration of literature and art. Also, many black writers WERE ultimately used.

Tim Rollins and K.O.S.: A History runs from February 28, 2009 through August 23, 2009; see it if you can.

I wish I had written it down, but the elevator music was labeled, with the musician and composer listed, as though it were part of the art experience, which I guess it was.

The program on the first floor was Oliver Herring: Me Us Them, a “fifteen-year survey …including sculpture, performance, photography and video.” One of his pieces appeared to be a menage a quatre. But it wasn’t sensual; it was, after all silvery Mylar. My favorite piece actually was a Mylar bed with a coat on it. I was not allowed to photograph it, but art critic David Brickman found a shot of it here; it’s even more impressive when seen from the mezzanine. Overall, I think David enjoyed the Herring show more than I did.

It runs from January 31, 2009 through June 14, 2009.

I couldn’t take shots inside, but I COULD take the external photos.


The weekend without the child

My wife and I haven’t been away alone together in over five years. This correlates nicely with the age of our progeny. (This is not to say that Lydia’s never been away from both of us; last summer, while Carol was in college, I dropped her off at Grandma and Grandpa’s in Oneonta, about 75 miles away, so I wasn’t the position of both taking her to day care and picking her out.)

But the wife and I alone together for more than a few hours? Doesn’t happen. Yet our tenth wedding anniversary is coming up next month. Taking off time during the school year is tough, and the summer will be pretty packed, too. This past week, on the other hand, school was off.

So my parents-in-law kindly drove up the hour and a quarter to watch Lydia Thursday afternoon while Carol and I took a vacation in Saratoga Springs. Saratoga? Isn’t that only about 30 miles away from Albany? Indeed it is. but we stayed at an inn, and visited places we’d never been before. You know how people in Manhattan never go to the top of the Empire State building unless they’re hauling in relatives from out of town? It’s pretty much the same thing.

It was near enough that the trip there and back wouldn’t be onerous, but unfamiliar enough to be able to explore.

I’ll undoubtedly discuss the specific aspects of the trip over the next few weeks, but let me give you some first impressions:

*We end up watching either the Today show or Good Morning America only when we’re off work. saw Today on Friday, GMA on Sunday. What depressing shows. No wonder people tune out the news.
*We ate too much.
*We’ve become near experts at getting around Saratoga.
*We worried that the child would miss us. we called Thursday night and she talked to us, but when we called Friday night, she was too busy watching TV to pick up. (That is NOT a complaint.) However, she (with Grandma’s help) called us Saturday morning.
*She has so many things that getting Lydia yet something else seemed undesirable. Ultimately, we opted for flipflops.
*The hotel allegedly had a public computer, but the two times I actually had time to use it, it died after 16 minutes one times and 20 minutes the other. So no, I haven’t read any of your blogs lately; I will, I will, eventually.
*The times I did get on my e-mail, I got e-mails from a friend of a friend of Raoul Vezina’s and my high school history teacher, both of whom came across me through this blog.

Ah, my wife needs to use the computer. Bye for now.


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