Sunday, April 17, 2011

Trident and Triptychs

If dreams really can come true, I’m not always going to be living in NYC. But there’s no other city in this country that offers so many world-class art museums and galleries. As long as I’m here, I might as well take full advantage of more of them.

I’ve now checked out (and ruled out) the Cloisters – an institution that will never see me again unless it hosts an open-bar event or a demanding out-of-town guest badgers me to return. It‘s nestled away in a huge Upper Manhattan park – this wasn’t the first time I’ve gotten lost in there; but at least this time I didn’t wind up standing at the edge of an expressway at twilight.

While I was thinking about what a decent visit I was having, even though I’ve never been enthralled with the medieval era, a security guard followed me into an empty corridor to reprimand me for chewing gum. “Are you kidding?” I asked. It wasn’t like I was blowing bubbles or making popping noises. And older, male security guards can be hard to read. A lot of them could do stand-up at the Laugh Factory if they had slightly better delivery and personal contacts. I thought he was trying to be funny, just like the one who once saw me stretched out on a Riverside Park bench and came over to say he’d have to give me a ticket for taking it easy.

This one was no comedian. But he said he’d let me continue chewing since it was the end of the day.

What does that mean? I would have spent the same amount of time touring the premises, sullying the scene with my boorish chewing, whether it was 3 p.m. or 10 a.m. All of those innocent international tourists and babies in strollers at 3:15 on a Saturday would still have their day at the museum tarnished by their exposure to the uncouthness. Now they’ll go back to Brussels or Tribeca with memories of my jittery jaw instead of the Mary Magdalene sculpture or Annunciation triptych.

I wonder what kind of policy this place has about smoking. Or joking. Or curtsying. The tourists taking all those pictures of the triptychs were more tawdry than my silent chewing. And I can only imagine how their breaths must have smelled after their long, leisurely lunches at the lower-level café.


  1. What a strange guard! It's unfortunate that your pleasure in the Cloisters was spoiled by this odd prohibition against chewing gum. It is especially odd as the Cloisters is such an open-air place with a lot of food being sold, and people sitting around with coffee.

  2. I am a complete menace in museums. Rarely ever gone a visit where I wasn't asked to stop doing SOMETHING! Coffee, cell phone, pictures, touching, and so one. But gum?! Seriously?! Maybe he just wanted an excuse to talk to you. Isn't it almost comforting though to know at least some of them are paying attention? If not even gum gets past him then...