The Guilty Party

Thursday, July 16, 2009

With a Song In His Heart

With a Song

There were a few Essentials we felt we missed during our first big trip to the Big Apple. We didn't get to The Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island or Balto's statue in Central Park. I'm not sure why Balto's statue was important, but my wife said it was, so it was. And speaking of Central Park, we hadn't strolled The Mall, the headwaters of which are also known as Literary Walk, with larger than life representations of Shakespeare, Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott. The only American in the neighborhood was a fellow by the name of Fitz-Greene Halleck. According to the plaque Halleck was quite the popular and influential literary fellow in his day. But you can't help but wonder if some funds made their way into the Park Commissioner's bank account when the question of whether Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Mark Twain or Fitz-Greene Halleck should be the choice for Lone Literary American on the Walk. I suppose we shouldn't begrudge him the spot; dollars to donuts it's not easy being the only fellow on the Walk that just about everybody sidles up to and says, "So, just what the heck are you doing here?"

But back to The Missed Essentials. During our last visit, back in '05, the Museum of Modern Art/Manhattan division, commonly known as MoMA, had been going through a major renovation and so if you wanted to visit you had to go to Queens. Well, we used up all of our borough-hopping, long-distance mass transit energy on a trip to the Bronx Zoo and we never made it out east to Queens. So this time we just had to go. Kind of like we had to go see Balto.

Was it worth it? Yeah, pretty much. I've got to admit that a lot of what has passed for art these past fifty or sixty years leaves me scratching my head, rolling my eyes and mumbling, but there was enough stuff there that was engaging, amusing and even thought provoking that I felt our time was pretty well spent. But the one real memory I will carry with me of our visit to MoMA has nothing to do with Pollocks, Warhols, Dalis or even Picassos. What I will remember the most vividly will be a sweet, joyous sound that had me looking around to see just what multi-media installation was using a Bobby McFerrin recording as its soundtrack. What I found instead was a security guard--or whatever title properly belonging to the folks whose dreary task it is to watch over a room full of highly valued art (worthy or not) all shift long--who was, almost without moving his lips, producing beautiful music. In no other way was he drawing attention to himself, and it wasn't even all that easy to tell that the music was coming from him unless you were really paying attention. "Maybe they have it piped into this particular room for some reason" you could easily think to yourself. But it was coming from this man at the right of the photo above, a man whose simple presence was enough to discourage the young woman on the left side of the photo from applying a Sharpie moustache to Roy Lichtenstein's Drowning Girl.

And whose irrepressible song made my day. I should have told him so.

Keep singing, especially when you're in the car. It'll make the other drivers look up from their texting.

Go Ye Forth and Do Likewise.

And remember to floss.


Lexi said...

Dangerous advice, Alan, to anyone as tuneless as I.

If I was in that chap's place, and sang, I'd clear the gallery.

plumboz said...


But you can still have a song in your heart. And I will steadfastly maintain that singing whilst driving or hoovering (gee, I feel like an authentic Brit!) or doing the dishes or any solitary occupation outside of perhaps eating crisps (there it is again!) is a lift to the spirits and a good workout for the respiratory system.

Lexi said...

Alan, you can be an honorary Brit.

Truly, it's best if the song stays in my heart and does not make a break for the wider world.

A Bit About Me

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I am a writer with a longtime interest in photography. I'm a dad, husband, photographer, and not very good guitarist. My first novel, Boomerang, is available in both paperback and ebook form at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and As a matter of fact, my second novel, The Baer Boys, can be found at exactly the same places.