Daisy Bateman

Day 4- Nature: Dead or Alive

[The American Museum of Natural History] is decidedly one of those things that must not be missed… Be sure to visit the Asiatic Hall, the collection of dinosaurs (unique), the exhibit of the life and art of the American Indian, the new exhibit of bird life and anything else your time or your tired feet will permit.
-Cue’s Guide to New York City, Chap. 11: Museums

The weather finally made good on its threats and came through with the rain today. So it was a good thing that I had already decided to go to the Natural History Museum today. And it was cool, especially the dinosaurs, but I don’t know if it’s museum fatigue or just that I’m getting too old for interpretive displays, but I’ll admit that overall I was kind of underwhelmed. Don’t get me wrong- I’m glad I went; the new space hall was all shiny and interactive (though oddly skimpy on the exhibits) and, well, dinos. But I really am just not all that interested at looking at hall after hall of displays of dead, taxidermied animals. Because I know that, once upon a time, this was the only way for people to see them, and you could make the argument that zoos are no better but, well, ick. Various native cultures get a similar treatment, to less disturbing results. It is interesting, though; there were exhibits in this science museum on the primitive peoples of Africa, Asia and the Americas, but not of Europe. I wonder why that is?

Even the gem exhibit, which I thought was some kind of marquee attraction, turned out to be a dark, dingy room way down in a corner, with various (mostly not very valuable) gemstones displayed against badly faded pieces of crushed velvet and an interpretive display that must have been cutting-edge in 1952. I went all the way around the place looking for the good stuff before I realized I had already seen it.

But like I said, it was all for the best. It kept me indoors and out of trouble for most of the afternoon, and I saw some cool skeletons. (I also managed to get the hiccups in the Hall of Prehistoric Vertebrates, alarming some of the other patrons. That place sure is quiet.)

By the time I was done with the museum, the rain had cleared up and the sun had come out, so I set off to explore Central Park. Given the choice, I prefer my nature alive and well and digging through trash cans. thank you very much. I have to admit, I set off with a certain agenda in mind: to find ways that this park, so effusively praised as the most awesome, terrific, super-fantastic park in the world, really wasn’t a patch on our parks back home. And in a lot of ways it isn’t, but about ten minutes in I realized that I was being stupid and missing the point, and I needed to cut it out. So I had an excellent time there, making wrong turns, totally missing key sights, and wandering off towards equiment sheds, but also finding little pockets of beauty so perfect it made me wish I had brought my camera. But then it made me glad I didn’t, because beautiful spots never come out very well on film, and later on you look at the pictures and wonder what the big deal was, anyway.

It was good people-watching too: all the New Yorkers with their tiny little dogs, tourists looking for the bathrooms (one school group asked me twice) and just a lot of people just being outside. I still don’t think it’s the most fabulous place in the world, but I do see how, if you lived here, you would.

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