Thursday, June 6, 2013

Time Keeps on Slippin'

"Next time will be different." I make that vow whenever I find myself in a huddle of strangers in front of a painting, sculpture, or piece of history at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Crowds give me the shudders, and I hate the feeling I'm holding up the line when I peer at a brush stroke or stare at portrait that speaks to me. Why oh why do I hit exhibits on their dead-last day or uncomfortably close to it? And why do others do the same?

In late May, on the last evening showing of the Picasso Black and White exhibit at MFAH, I edged around the clumps of headset-wearers who'd stopped dead to listen to the exhibit's audio tour, skirted the couple who couldn't keep their hands off one another, but got stuck in a pack of strangers. When that happens, do I rejoice in Picasso's relevance? Do I give the MFAH props for mounting a popular show? No. I decide I don't like people very much.

Picasso Black and White ran from February 24 until May 27. That three-month window means I could have circled a date in the middle of March, ordered tickets, shown up and had Picasso, Olga, Jacqueline, and Woman Ironing to myself. Was the window too wide? Nope. My focus is too narrow, and I suspect yours is, too.

Every person in that last-Thursday-evening-of-the-exhibit crowd put off their visit until it was almost too late. We delay gratification and turn desired outings into rewards for work completed, tasks finished, chores done. But when is work ever completed? As soon as we finish one chore, another pops up. 

If we can schedule work meetings weeks ahead of time and hold them sacrosanct, surely we can do the same for leisure activities that lift our spirits and help us see differently. A Picasso exhibit may not float your boat, but a concert might. Maybe it's time for you to dance, take a ferry ride, go kayaking, or pick up the guitar that's missed you.

Next time you type an important work assignment or appointment into your phone's calendar, set a play date for yourself. The play date's not a reward or carrot, mind you; it's a scheduled break you get to enjoy whether or not the assignment's going well. (When the assignment's cratering, you really, really need that play date.)

Did you mark a fun activity on your calendar? Good. Now I've got a question: Do crowds energize you or make you cranky? 


Anonymous said...

Hi Pat,

I hate crowds, because like yourself (I think), I'm a "flaneur". Flaneurs didn't dislike crowds - they just didn't like being "crowded" and that"s what I think your issue might be. I guess you would be known as a "flaneuse". See below the explanation which I copied from Wikipedia.

Flâneur (pronounced: [flanuʁ]), from the French noun flâneur, means"stroller", "lounger", "saunterer", "loafer". Flânerie refers to the act of strolling, with all of its accompanying associations.

The flâneur was, first of all, a literary type from 19th-century France, essential to any picture of the streets of Paris. It carried a set of rich associations: the man or woman of leisure, the idler, the urban explorer, the connoisseur of the street.

It was Walter Benjamin, drawing on the poetry of Charles Baudelaire, who made him the object of scholarly interest in the twentieth century, as an emblematic figure of urban, modern experience.

Following Benjamin, the flâneur has become an important figure for scholars, artists and writers.
The terms of flânerie date to the 16th or 17th century, denoting strolling, idling, often with the connotation of wasting time.

But it was in the 19th century that a rich set of meanings and definitions surrounding the flâneur took shape.

The flâneur was defined in a long article in Larousse’s Grand dictionnaire universel du XIXe siècle (in the 8th volume, from 1872). It described the flâneur in ambivalent terms, equal parts curiosity and laziness and presented a taxonomy of flânerie—flâneurs of the boulevards, of parks, of the arcades, of cafés, mindless flâneurs and intelligent flâneurs.

You Pat are definetly an intelligent "flaneuse"!

- Patrick

Anonymous said...

Hi Pat,

This might interest you.

- Patrick

Jennette Marie Powell said...

I did the same thing last month, with an exhibit I really wanted to see at our local art museum. Waited until the last day, and yes, it was crowded. Oh, and the older I get, the less I lime crowds (or the lines that come with them).

Jennette Marie Powell said...

That should be "the less I like" crowds... stupid smartphone.

Patricia Rickrode w/a Jansen Schmidt said...

Most of the time, crowds make me cranky. Sometimes they are a necessary evil. Like when you arrive early to an event and you're waiting for the doors to open. As the crowd grows, I get more impatient. I could have arrived a little later, but then I wouldn't have found a good close parking spot. I choose to battle the crowd for close parking.

Sometimes, crowd don't bother me a bit. Like when I'm at Disney World or some other such place. I just expect crowds as part of the day and make up my mind that the crowds are not going to annoy me. (I still get annoyed but it is trumped by the good time I usually experience.)

I hope you got to enjoy the exhibit a little bit. I would hate to think that you wasted the effort and money completely.

Patricia Rickrode
w/a Jansen Schmidt

Lark Howard said...

Glad you got to see the exhibit, Pat, if not totally comfortably.

Whether or not I like crowds depends on the activity. At the Museum of Natural History's Butterfly Hall I wanted everyone else to go away and let me commune with the plants and butterflies. At a rock concert or the rodeo, the crowds are as entertaining as the show. :-)

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Hi, Patrick,
I like your flaneur/flaneuse description and, yes, it fits me. People-watching is one of my favorite things to do, but I seem to require more personal space than the average bear. I can take being squished in an elevator because the ride only takes a minute or two, but the thought of standing shoulder to shoulder with strangers for an hour is anxiety-producing.

It's easier for me to make up stories about people when they're not cheek to jowl with me.

Right now, I wish I were in Paris, strolling and people-watching.

Thanks for the Montclair State newsletter!

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Hi, Jennette,
I hate that we have no one to blame but ourselves for waiting until the last minute. Did you get something out of your exhibit despite the crowds?

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Hi, Patricia!
One of these days, we'll meet at an RWA conference, complain about crowds and be cranky together.

I spent an afternoon at The Animal Kingdom in Orlando, armed with a list of must-sees provided by my Disney-loving brother. I started off a disbeliever and ended up humming songs from The Lion King. I may have danced. What a great place!

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Hi, Lark!
Good point! Sometimes people make the event and sometimes we want to be alone with our objects of affection. That reminds me: there's a Groupon, Living Social deal or something out for (Houston's) Museum of Natural Science--see all the permanent exhibits for $11, including the Butterfly Hall. Of course, the deal will bring in lots of people. My father always advised me and my sibs to take our cars in for inspection "the middle of the day, middle of the week, middle of the month." Think that rule applies to museums, too?