It was 7:30 am, in Seattle.
The city was just starting to wake, and there I spotted it – the line.
A very long line.
Wrapped around a building.
Let’s back up a bit – last week I was in Seattle for business – for an in-person 3 month planning and strategy session with a client I’ve been working with for the better part of a year. The trip was a bit of a last minute affair, and beyond my work obligations, I traveled in large part without a plan. (The opposite how I usually travel, but blissfully free.)
I’d never been to Seattle before, so sightseeing and playing tourist were the goal. Home base for this part of the trip was in West Seattle, I was staying on Alki Beach.
This morning, I woefully mis-judged the amount of time it takes to get anywhere in Seattle without a car. Public transport in Seattle definitely leaves something to be desired! My first experience with transit, the 37 bus simply didn’t show up at the stop. I waited an hour, hitchhiked to the water taxi stop with two women who were in the same boat (literally), and I took the water taxi in for my first day walking around the city – taking advantage of my newfound morning person status (thank you, time zones!) to get an early start around town. My first plan – find coffee.
And so, it was a that point, I came upon the line – before taking my infusion of caffeine – and it was already wrapped around the building. Having no idea what the line was for, I walked over to Pike’s Place Market, hoping to grab an early breakfast before starting my day. But it was quiet, shops were still closed, and I found myself thinking…coffee can wait; you probably should get into the line. At this point I still hadn’t established what the line was actually for, but I was pretty sure that I should probably just get into it.
I eyed the line. I walked to the front of the line.
And in quick succession I:
1. Determined that I was standing in front of the Seattle Art Museum. (SAM!)
2. Determined that the sold-out Yayoi Kusama exhibit was what was causing this Disney-line lunacy.
3. Asked a line-minder if there was any hope; was met with confirmation. THERE IS HOPE!
4. Realized that this was possibly my only chance to see the Infinity Mirrors exhibit, and to hell with my day, I was going to get into the line, without my coffee, at that very minute.
5. Spent the next three hours in line; with my kindle, my phone charger. Without my coffee.
Who am I?? In this narrative, I am a person who makes time for art; an avid museum goer; a conceptual art appreciator; a person who loves bright colors; and critically here – a person who has infinite patience for lines.
Let’s talk about the line. You get into line and you wait.
Observations about the line at this point – outside the building we were met by a variety of characters as we waited for the building to open at 9:50. A man dressed as a monk (perhaps actually a monk? I’m skeptical…) came to offer prayers of peace to the couple in back of me. In a woo moment, I hear him repeat a mantra of “peace” just as my audio book starts playing at a random spot and blares the word “peace” in my ear at a high volume. An elderly Canadian couple in the line were very excited to be there, and the wife offered to get coffee for anyone who wanted some. (I declined, although in retrospect, I should have taken up her generosity.)
Around 10, we get into the building, walk through the building, down the stairs, around the corner, and the woman in front of me who has waited two hours in the line at this point, gives up to go to work. At that point I ended up behind an engineer who looked oddly like Breckin Meyer’s character in Clueless. He had his laptop and was getting his sprint work done. The folks in back of me expanded as the line went on (seemingly texting more and more friends to get in line with them.) There was a woman with her two daughters, maybe 6 and 8, in front of me having a grand ole time just talking with each other without electronics. I become fascinated with the tattoos of the petite woman two steps ahead. I learn a little bit too much about my neighbors.
I should pause here and mention – if you live in Seattle, the museum membership would have SO been worth it to get both a free ticket to the exhibit and a bypass of the longer line.
And then you get up to the counter and get tickets for later in the day. By that time it was close to 11:30; having spent my morning in line, I chose to come back at 5:15 – just enough time to walk around downtown, but not stray too far. I clutched my ticket, worked, wandered, and ate.
At 5:00 I came back for yet another line.
This is the line where they tell you about what you are in for.
Spoiler alert – more lines! Think the lines are over? No. You then wait in line for the boxes – individual spaces within spaces, filled with stuff. You get to the front, get 30 seconds in the box, and then you are out. You can go in as many times as you want – a few of the spaces I waited in line a couple of times to get the experience – first with my camera, then, blissfully electronics free.
Do not touch the art.
Do not lie down in the rooms.
No more than three people to a room.
No photos in the pumpkin room, and you’ll go in there with a minder.
I hear it’s because someone fell and broke some of the art. I spent 10 minutes in the pumpkin line wondering if I could peek my phone camera out of my back pocket and then just take the photo with my Apple Watch trigger… I opted to just experience the room instead. Also, I take linguistic pleasure in the fact that her name, Kusama, sounds like Kusa – a type of squash, and that she’s known, in part, for the famous pumpkin room.
And they warn you – we won’t let you out if you need to pee. PEE NOW or forever hold your PEE. I saw them let someone out, so I think it’s just to scare you.
Yes, the lines, they are long, but this experience though, it’s magical.
I spent two full hours in the exhibit. There were big pink balls. Stickers for collaborative art. Flashing lights. Phallic imagery; a woman explaining the phallic imagery to her pre-teens. Joy and smiles. Women wearing polka dots. A kind woman held my camera as I headed into the pumpkins; I made friends with strangers in the lines. A couple took my photo; leave it to me to find someone who was in Course 12 at MIT.
The art beyond the walls of the boxes was also delightful – possibly even more so for me than the infinity spaces – the colors were much more bright, cheerful, and so few people were really looking at it. If you go, don’t forget to look at the walls!
If you have the opportunity to see this exhibit, go. But maybe take a book, or a good friend you can make conversation with for five hours.
Yayoi Kusama: Inifinity Mirrors
In Seattle SAM through Sunday, September 10th
The Broad, Los Angeles, Oct 21, 2017–Jan 10, 2018
Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, March 3–May 27, 2018
Cleveland Museum of Art, July 9–Sept 30, 2018
We got sun today! It’s been a week of dreariness. Grey, sludgy, slushy – I’ve been under the weather, and trapped in the house. It’s the time of year that I get bored of the cold and grey, and hope that we get out of it soon. Spring, when I can play outside again. Spring, when things grow and bloom. Spring, when the ice cracks up on the lake, that whistling and howling and popping that requires you to be walking next to the water at precisely the right moment. Spring, when things feel like they are happening again. In the mean time, I’m patient. I’ve been reading. I’ve been dreaming about writing a cookbook, and a children’s novel, and learning how to paint botanicals. I acquired a bright new lamp, and a little yuca tree, and I’ve been drinking warm beverages.
There’s a lovely photographer I follow named Xanthe Berkeley, who has been working on a collaborative project with Andrea called the color/colour project, focusing on shooting a color at a time. In the cold and grey, I like to pick up my camera to combat the dreariness, so I thought I’d follow suit and capture some yellow this week.
I think we could all use a little less of this ^, and a little more of this..
For a city better known for sports rivalries, accents, and the mafia, Boston is making great strides in public art these days! Walking through town you can see murals, light installations, public pianos, sculptures, concrete barriers and electric boxes that have been lovingly painted, wacky public seating (Street Seats), and more. Many of the pieces have been located on the Rose Kennedy Greenway, a stretch of green parks that loop around the city, but lately it seems like art is popping up around every corner.
In the past few years there’s been a movement in Boston to illuminate historic monuments, buildings and landmarks at night, and one of the newest additions is the old Northern Avenue Bridge, the pedestrian bridge connecting the Seaport District to the main part of the city. The artist, John Powell, worked with the city’s Public Works department, the non-profit LightBoston, and Phillips Color Kinetics to create a stunning LED light show. It’s an interesting case study on public and private sector working together to make change in the neighborhood.
I’ve been walking over this bridge almost every night for the past year, and this colorful installation (which was turned on last month) completely changes the entire experience. I can’t quite explain it, but it feels positively joyful – the lights make the bridge beautiful, and not only do you want to be there, but it feels safer, too. This is definitely a welcome addition to my evening commute!
This zebra has nothing to do with Netflix. When you take thousands of photos a year, and you publish significantly fewer than you take, you are bound to stumble across one here and there and think “Hey! I bet the internet would like to see a little wire statue of a zebra today!” So here one is! (The piece is from a show a few years back at Nahcotta, and I have no idea who the artist was. If anyone knows, I’ll update this!)
When Netflix dropped a massive amount of titles a year or so ago with no fair warning, I was ready to break up with it had it not been a good source of guilty pleasure series and my favorite British crime dramas. Fortunately, the service has started to redeem itself for me lately – specifically with their additions of some new food related content. Last night we watched Sally Rowe’s documentary ‘A Matter of Taste‘, following the career of the chef Paul Liebrandt. The film was both fascinating and depressing. Liebrandt, who achieved some notoriety in his very early 20’s (for good reason) and whose career started going downhill from there doesn’t seem to catch any breaks, and most of the film caused me significant pain like I was watching some sort of accident in slow-mo. It’s weird to think of what it takes to make a documentary that spans nearly a decade (or sometimes more in filming). What is that special something that the film maker sees that the rest of the world doesn’t know? How many crappy films are made over a decade where the protagonist just never does anything interesting?
We’ve just started with David Chang’s ‘The Mind of a Chef’, the PBS series where Chang goes around and eats stuff, meets chefs all over the world, talks science, and comes up with crazy shit, and it’s proving to be just as entertaining as I expected it to be. I think it was the first or second episode where he made gnocchi out of ramen noodles (the dried package kind), and I was hooked for life.
Here’s a few from my Netflix queue – mostly documentaries, and a few fictitious in the mix. I’ve linked to the Netflix instant viewing for your convenience:
Three Stars – “Focusing on nine Michelin-starred chefs from three continents, filmmaker Lutz Hachmeister reveals the real business of cooking on the highest level.”
The Raw and The Cooked – “This sumptuous doc explores Taiwan’s diverse culinary culture, drawn from both ethnic Chinese and myriad outside influences.”
Eat This New York – “The difficulties of two restaurant owners are highlighted by interviews with some of New York City’s most successful and famous restaurateurs.”
Haute Cuisine – “Based on real characters and lives, this food-rich drama recounts Hortense Laborie’s experiences as personal chef for the president of France.”
Sushi: The Global Catch – “This documentary traces the history of sushi from its origins as Japanese street food to its current status as an internationally popular cuisine.”
I Like Killing Flies – “Come peer into Shopsin’s, a hole-in-the-wall Greenwich Village restaurant that’s served comfort food to satisfied customers for more than 30 years.”
El Bulli: Cooking in Progress – “This appetizing documentary follows world-renowned chef Ferran Adrià as he plans and perfects a new menu from the privacy of his Barcelona lab.”
Step Up To the Plate – “Acclaimed French chef Michel Bras passes the torch (in this case his namesake restaurant) to his son Sébastien in this intimate documentary.”
Le Grand Chef 2: Kimchi Battle – “To settle a dispute about the origins of kimchi, the president of Korea sponsors a contest that attracts a pair of competitive step siblings.”
Le Cirque: A Table in Heaven – “Follow restaurateur Sirio Maccioni as he closes his celebrated Le Cirque restaurant, then works feverishly to relocate and reopen a year later.”
The Restauranteur: “In this foodie documentary, director Roger M. Sherman shadows restaurateur Danny Meyer in an attempt to find out what fuels his business cravings.”
Have you watched any of these? Any great food documentaries not on this list that I should be watching?
The street pianos have arrived! 75 pianos have been installed around the Boston area, each painted by a local artist. I found two today, the first was this glorious ‘Mericana piano over by the Boston Children’s Museum. (Yes, that’s ‘merica and Americana, in one awesome extra made up word for you.) This piano was decorated by Amanda Baldi, hosted by Children’s Museum and donated by Sarah Asetsano. A few years ago when we had painted cows everywhere I thought that was pretty cool, but pianos! I hope people play them. I touched the keys apprehensively today, but maybe I’ll sit down and actually take some time with one in the next few weeks.
Here’s the second one I came across at the Greenway by the North End – a sort of ombre faux wood grain thing going on, by artist Tova Speter, hosted by Greenway and donated by Berklee College. I’m generally a big fan of public art, even if it’s a little out there, wacky, or ugly – there’s no better public conversation starter – and most of the time the art is delightful. These will be up for just a few weeks, and I hope people get as much a kick out of them as I am.
After a long, busy (but fun!) day at work, I was looking very forward to my evening plans! Tonight was our second monthly Boozy Book Club – with several women from my gym. Jacqueline was the gracious hostess this go around, and I was greeted enthusiastically at the door by her sweet pup Simone (Momo!).
You guys.. this dog.
I’m obsessed with Frenchies, religiously read The Daily Wag, and lust after my own. The first five minutes I pretty much completely ignored my friends so I could get some puppy love. Look at that face!
In fact, I was so enamored, that I failed at getting good photos of the food, because I was so distracted. But the food! Jacqueline made a feast for us:
Sweet potato beefy chili
Sesame crackers, guacamole, and grilled spiced chicken
Bacon roasted brussels sprouts with balsamic glaze
Carrot and beet slaw with pistachios
Rolled prosciutto, walnuts and comb honey
For dessert, Bets brought a gorgeous apple tart (with the apples perfectly arranged), and Lisa brought baked figs wrapped in prosciutto.
At some point, we ended up chatting about the book – Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter. Because apparently I’m incapable of reading anymore, this was the second book club that I’ve shown up without finishing the book. Despite the fact that I’ve actually had this book on my bedside for two straight months. And, yes, if you’re paying attention, that’s two out of two delinquencies. We’re slated to read the cult classic, Anita Diamant’s The Red Tent next month, so hopefully I’ll be on top of things.
What are you reading?
Open Book #3 (Island Wilderness), 2010
This is my current desktop background, art from the ICA in Boston. I’m smitten with this piece. I’m also exhausted, and all I’d like to do is just sort of jump into that ocean right now.