After thinking about it a lot, I took the plunge and went into NYC this weekend, on Sunday. I went to the Met and MoMA, which is a pretty standard Sunday NYC day trip for me. It’s the first time I’d been to MoMA since October 2019, when I went in for their reopening. And I also hadn’t been to the Met since October 2019, when I was in the city for NYCC. So it’s been more than a year and a half since I’d been to either museum. And of course this is the first time I’ve gone into the city since before the pandemic. I thought I’d write up some thoughts on the experience.
First, NJ Transit: Masks are still required on trains, but not everyone is following that rule. The trip in was OK, and seemed safe. The train wasn’t crowded, and the other passengers were nearly all wearing masks. The trip back, though, was a little scary. The train was pretty crowded, relatively speaking, and there were a lot more people without masks.
I made reservations for both the Met and MoMA before going in to the city. I don’t think I needed to though. Neither museum asked about the reservation. They both just scanned my member card and let me in. And I don’t think non-members really need reservations anymore either. So next time I’ll probably skip that.
Both museums require masks, and most folks at both museums were keeping their masks on, so that was good. I felt relatively safe.
Entry procedures have changed at both museums. At the Met, I used to have to get a ticket from a kiosk with my member card, then wear a sticker to get in. Now, a person scans the member card, and there’s no ticket or sticker. That’s easier, mostly, but it also means that you need to get scanned back in if you go from one wing to the other. At MoMA, they had a new checkpoint set up for bag checks and temperature checks. Then, they scan your card at another checkpoint a little further in. At both museums, the process was a little chaotic, but not too bad.
As to other changes, neither museum lets you check your bag anymore. So that’s inconvenient. I always bring a backpack into the city with me, and I don’t want to drag it around the museum.
And both museums have really cut back on dining options. The Met has the old cafeteria open, which they’re now calling “The Eatery.” I looked around, and it’s not much changed, though there’s less to choose from, and (of course) no salad bar. And the American Wing cafe is open, but they’re just selling pre-packed stuff. You can’t get a fresh coffee there, only canned drinks. I was kind of hoping they might have the bar on the roof open, but that was closed too. It seems like the roof would be a pretty safe place to remove your mask and have a snack, but I guess they’re not ready for that yet. So there’s really no good place to eat at the Met, as far as I can tell.
At MoMA, the cafe on the second floor, where I usually eat, is closed. There’s some kind of cafe on the sixth floor now, and that was open, but honestly I couldn’t even figure out how to get there. This was only my second time visiting the new expanded museum, and it’s pretty confusing, trying to find your way around. They also have a bar open in the sculpture garden, but there’s not much you can get there. I got a $3 bottle of water.
Both museums have their bathrooms open, but the water fountains are all still turned off. That’s pretty inconvenient, since I try to drink a lot of water when I’m in NYC. I got a $1 bottle of water from a street cart after I left the Met. And I got a $3 bottle of water at MoMA (as mentioned above). And later, a $2 bottle at Penn Station. So I stayed hydrated. But it’s a pain to have to rely on bottled water. (Probably safer though.) I should also say that the bathrooms were pretty clean in both museums, and MoMA has wisely gotten rid of their fancy Dyson air dryers and replaced them with paper towel dispensers.
After MoMA, I ate lunch at an outside table at La Bonne Soupe. That was pretty good, and felt relatively safe.
On my walk back to Penn Station, I wanted to stop at Midtown Comics. I made the mistake of walking through Times Square to get there. Times Square was way more crowded than I was comfortable with, and lots of people there weren’t wearing masks. I just got through it as quickly as I could, but if I picked up COVID in NYC that day, it was probably in Times Square.
In all of this, I haven’t said anything about the actual art in either museum. Honestly, I wandered randomly through both museums and just enjoyed being there. I spent a bit of time staring at some familiar Monet and Van Gogh paintings at the Met. I paused in front of a favorite Jackson Pollock painting at MoMA and enjoyed that. But I didn’t seek out any of the special exhibits at either museum. I skipped the Alice Neel exhibit at the Met. I don’t know much about her, and (on first glace at least) her art doesn’t appeal to me. I wandered through the Cézanne exhibit at MoMA, but didn’t get much out of it. I like Cézanne, but I’d have to look at the drawings more carefully to get anything out of them. Maybe I’ll go back and give that one another try.
It’s Wednesday now, and I don’t have any COVID symptoms, so I guess the vaccine works. I’m not sure when I’ll go back into NYC again, but at least I feel like I can do it now. And I have a better idea of what to watch out for now, so maybe I can have a slightly safer and less stressful visit next time.