Saturday, February 6, 2010

Schmaltz Across Texas, Part Two

It's so nice 'n' romantic to keep a little mystery in the relationship.

Our first morning in Houston, Cheez was indeed mystified by me.

Specifically by my comprehensive knowledge of the lyrics of every song played on 97.1 FM Country Legends, the radio station I found on our rental car radio.

Okay, maybe hearing your girlfriend belt out the Oak Ridge Boys' Tryin' To Love Two Women isn't exactly romantic. But when your full up on the Hyatt's continental breakfast, it puts you in the mood for something.

First stop of the day: the Rothko Chapel.

Which I have to admit, had me kind of confused.

Mostly because:

1) I could figure out where all the Rothkos were;


2) I didn't understand why they need so many acoustic panels in such a small room.

So yes, I wasn't much of a fan of the Rothkos.

Although I'll grant you that it's better than what they usually mean when they say We have a Jew hanging in our Catholic church.

Being a wandering, rather than a hanging, Jew, I was ready to ramble over to the Menil Collection, one of those lovely museums where rich people put all their stuff on public display for the edification of the masses.

It was indeed very edifying.

There was a three-foot-tall wood carving of a humanoid figure with long red hair.

It looks like one of those Hawaiian totems I said.

Or like a leprechaun Cheez said.

I squinted at the curatorial tag. Turns out, we were both right. Memorial figure from New Ireland, Melanesia it said.

How edifying is that? If it weren't for the Menils of Houston, I would never have learned there was any place to get a pint of Guinness and a plate of boiled cabbage is all of Oceania.

The Menil also had a large exhibit of Surrealist works on display. But we hurried through that gallery. Surrealism doesn't really melt my butter I noted to Cheez although I guess it does melt my clock.

Next stop: the Museum of Fine Arts. Which was a focal point for our Texas trip, actually. Because they were having an exhibit of Moon Art.

Again, edifying. Such as footage of Mission Control during the moon launch. That is so amazing said Cheez, who has loved lunar landings ever since those long childhood days he spent reading old National Geographic magazines at his grandparents' house (note: Labrador is not a vacation paradise for nine-year-old boys. Or anyone).

You mean, that we really sent people to the moon and back? I asked.

No, that the guys who worked at Mission Control could smoke RIGHT AT THEIR DESKS! he answered.

Other learnings: eighteenth-century telescopes were made of cardboard. We had just bought a kaleidoscope for Cheez's nephew, on which we squandered an extra eight bucks to get a metal rather than a cardboard specimen. Turns out, we were robbed. We could have had a more authentic ocular device if we'd started with the core from a tube of toilet paper.

We also watched this lovely 1902 French film, La Voyage Dans La Lune

It was no Panic in Year Zero, but still it was the second best film of the trip so far.

Doougie Rocker, PhD and Little Lord Portleroy had to wander off and leave us, because we were spending way too much time in the moon exhibit. Indeed, it soon became clear that though they are dear friends, we were not entirely perfectly matched traveling buddies, being as they are the sort of people that believe vacation should be leisurely and relaxing. Whereas I believe it should be crammed full of as much nuttiness as possible.

Thus, after the museum closed, we agreed to all return to the Hyatt and freshen up before dinner. At which point Cheez and I doubled back to the Menil compound to see the separately housed Dan Flavin exhibit.

Can we take pictures in here? I asked the guard.

You're not supposed to he answered but I can't be following people all through the building watching what they're doing.

Given that it was 6 pm on a Sunday night and we were the only people in the entire facility, I realized he was not going to be taxing himself on our account.

So here, without further ado, is the Flavin exhibit:
Unless of course you who are reading this happen to be a lawyer employed on behalf of the Menil Collection, in which case those brightly colored lights you're seeing are just part of the fabulous decor of Tan Tan, the Vietnamese restaurant where we had dinner.

After a long day of fine art, who doesn't want to unwind with a refreshing Salt Plum Soda?

Which, in case you're wondering, is a small bottle of soda water, which is brought to the table and then poured by the patron into a glass that contains a salted plum.

Be sure to stir vigorously to distribute the salty plum flavor evenly!

After eating a ginormous amount of delicious, deep-fried delights, we wandered around the neighborhood, taking in the neon-lit sights.

The adjacent strip malls offered everything you could possibly ever want or need, from fashion to housewares to groceries to law enforcement.

We couldn't quite figure out why Johnny Law needed quite so much wattage, until we wandered into the Asian grocery store and spotted this sign:
In one form or another, this sign is ubiquitous throughout Texas.

What a helpful reminder to bring only your LICENSED weapons with you when you run out to the store for that oh-so-adorably packaged squid or anchovy snack.
And so ended day two in Texas, with Oak Ridge Boys tunes in my head, art of all sorts amazing our eyes, and visions of salt plums dancing in my belly.

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