My husband and I went to Manhattan today. It was a beautiful day for sauntering through Greenwich Village, which we did plenty of as we searched for the right subway line to get to our destination - the Museum of Natural History. Of course, we couldn't have asked anyone on the sidewalk for assistance. It would have been like pulling over at a gas station and asking directions.
We finally found our way to the Upper West Side and the museum. They are near where my husband lived last summer while interning for the firm he works for now. The museum was impressive, to say the least. However, I could only walk through a fraction of its exhibits. I wasn't at all prepared for the initial exhibit. It was an enormous room housing at least fifty animals taxidermied (it's a word, don't look it up) into stances and environments as if they were in their natural habitat. My husband was in awe, fascinatingly reading all about each animal and their native environment. I was in shock! It was a zoo...of dead animals. In my mind, all I could see were these animals being killed, stuffed, and put on display in glass cages. I kept imagining how each one of them suffered and then died, and I was subconsciously looking for the fatal wound that was cleverly masked by a skillful taxidermist.
My husband was very sweet when he found me in the bird photography hallway with tears in my eyes. He tried to console me by explaining that these animals were killed (I say "murdered") for science, and that we have learned so much from studying them.
I'm not radical, I'm emotional; there's a huge difference. I'm the one you see on the side of the road bawling over a dead squirrel I accidentally ran over, and I'm the one who had to call Daddy when I came home to find that my cat had suddenly died. He had to come to my house at midnight that night. I was 27 this time, but this situation had been repeated countless times before.
After strategically weaving our way through the museum in an effort for me to avoid rooms where I would imagine each animal's cruel death, I made it out having only used one Kleenex. And all in all, I enjoyed what I saw. Truly, the dinosaur exhibits were absolutely magnificent.
Then, we walked through Central Park, which was beautiful and full of happy weekenders like the ones you read about in some of the sappy ChicLit books out these days, such as my favorites - New Yorkers and Emily Giffin's four books. Because of the size of Central Park (683 acres total), it didn't seem terribly crowded. As we were leaving, there was a funny sign that said "250 acres of grass to mow." There was something written below in fine print, but I didn't want to ruin the image in my mind of the happy August day in the park with a plea for a donation or a demand to pick up your trash.
I have Netflix'd a 7-disc PBS series on the history of New York City, and it contains a short history of Central Park. As we were walking through, I thought back to its history and the requests for architectural drawings to build the park. The chosen drafter wasn't an architect at all. That's what has been so interesting in my learning about New York City. People were coming to re-create themselves, take a life-changing risk. The series has also been helpful for me to appreciate Manhattan for its diversity and success, in spite of having no reference to help guide it to succeed at all, much less thrive. In short, the series has helped me look past the swarms of people, the publically urinating homeless men, and the rude and unapologetic woman who literally stepped on me today in order to get in front of me on the sidewalk.
But in the end, to me going to Manhattan is like baby-sitting. She's fun to visit, learn about and watch develop, but I’m always ready to give her back to her rightful owners. Tonight, I'm happy to be home in Hoboken.