August 19th, 2006

new chi


We hardly slept last night. I think Spooky slept even less that I did, which is a reversal of the usual state of things. I might have had five hours. And there were dreams — dreams too odd to even try to tell.

Today, this next to last day we have here in Rhode Island, would best be spent at Newport's National Museum of American Illustration, which has for one weekend set aside its usual policy of visit by reservation only. The collection of the NMAI includes the work of such artists as Maxfield Parish, N. C. Wyeth, Norman Rockwell, Howard Pyle, and J. C. Leyendecker, and I've wanted to visit it since my first trip through Newport in 2004. Right now, the museum even has Parish's Daybreak on loan. To quote an NMAI press release:

The National Museum of American Illustration announces today that Maxfield Parrish’s record-setting masterpiece, DAYBREAK, will be on loan to the Museum this summer for a period of seven weeks. This announcement comes on the heels of DAYBREAK’S May 25, 2006 auction at Christie’s, in which its sale set a new record for a work by Maxfield Parrish of $7.6 million dollars. Now privately owned, the loan of DAYBREAK to the NMAI presents the only opportunity available to the public to view this masterpiece before it enters a closed collection. DAYBREAK will be on exhibit July 12 - August 25, 2006.

The catch? Admission is $25 per person. It would be $50 for the two of us to visit, not counting the cost of gas (locally averaging $3.10/gallon). Long have I lamented the escalating cost of museum admissions. On the one hand, I do sympathize with the plight of American museums, which are almost universally underfunded, to the point that many of the oldest and most important are facing closure or the selling off of portions of their collections to avoid closure. We do not live in an age which values museums. Regardless, I suspect the National Museum of American Illustrators is better off than most, and while I'm sure the monied sort who live in and frequent Newport wouldn't bat an eye at a $25 admission, I cannot help but find it exorbitant. Treasures should not be held ransom for the wealthy few, the "have-mores" as President Asshole has fondly called them, anymore than Parish's Daybreak should vanish into a private collection. Anyway...

Over the last few weeks, we've worked at finding things to do that don't cost us an arm and a leg. One of my favourite has been driving out to Point Judith late at night, after the horde of sun-loving tourists has fled back to their summer houses and motel rooms. The best of these night trips was undoubtedly this past Monday (14th), when we reached Point Judith about ten p.m. We watched a low red moon, waning and bloody, rise above the Sound. There was a strong, almost intoxicating wind from the SSW, and the light pollution was confined to the northern horizon, where we could make out Narragansett and the Newport Bridge. We spotted Perseids #10 and #11 streaking by overhead. One was spectacularly bright, arcing down towards the sea. The wind had whipped up large waves (there was a surf advisory), which crashed against the rocky shore of the point. Towards midnight, we drove from the parking lot just north of the lighthouse to the sandy place at the eastern jetty marking the southern edge of the point, at Harbor of Refuge. To the south, we could just make out the glow of Block Island. At the jetty, the wind was even stronger and the waves higher, throwing great sheets of white spray as they slammed into the granite boulders. I watched a fishing boat pass between the Point and Block Island. Over the wind and the breakers, we heard or only imagined we heard a persistent sort of barking coming from the rocky shore, an eerie sound rising occasionally above the gale. Most likely, it was only water rushing around some nook or cranny. We were alone, save for a Winnebago and whoever was camping inside it. These are the sorts of things I will miss so badly when we're back in Atlanta.

Today, I need to write the prolegomena for Sirenia Digest #9 (August '06). This month, the digest will include my vignette "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Ghoul" and Sonya Taaffe's (sovay) very wonderful new sf story, "The Boy Who Learned How to Shudder." You can subscribe to the digest this very afternoon. Just click here, read the FAQ, etc.

Okay. I should get to it.