NYC trip

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.



I’ve now been in “fully-vaccinated” status for a few days. I still haven’t managed to talk myself into going out without a mask though. I almost tried doing my laundry today without a mask, but, well, I guess I’m not ready.

I’ve been seeing a lot of posts on social media for a lot of upcoming in-person events, and I’m starting to get kind of tempted. I haven’t committed to anything, but there’s a lot going on. Here’s a few examples:

  • Duke Farms is running a farmers market every Sunday through the summer. There’s a fair chance that I’ll head over there tomorrow. An outdoor farmers market isn’t much of a risk, of course. I went to the Bridgewater farmers market a few times last summer, but that’s been discontinued. And I don’t think they’re doing one here in Somerville this summer either.
  • There’s a walking tour tomorrow at Wallace House & Old Dutch Parsonage. I’ve managed to live in Somerville for around 25 years now, without ever actually visiting Wallace House. I should really go.
  • A friend texted me about the Immersive van Gogh thing that just started up in NYC. I guess there’s actually two of these things going on in NYC now, but I think the one I linked to is the better one. Both of these seem like they could be major tourist draws. I’d kind of like to go and see one. And since they have timed tickets, I guess I could see it without having to worry about too large a crowd. (I guess it depends on how many people the organizer chooses to try to cram in at once, and how well they manage entry and exit.)
  • Garden State Comic Fest is taking place this weekend, at the Jersey Gardens Mall in Elizabeth. I’ve gone to this in previous years, when it was held in Morristown. I’d be tempted to go this year, but I don’t really want to drive to Elizabeth. And I’m not really interested in any of their guests this year. Nor am I that interested in buying any comics or toys right now. But it’s worth noting that this is (as far as I can tell) the first (relatively) big comic con to be held in NJ since the start of the pandemic. When they first announced it, a few months back, I was really skeptical about it. But I guess it’s safe enough to go ahead with it now.
  • On a related note, but on a much larger scale, I got an email about NYCC this week. They’re going to go ahead with the con this year, in October, at the Javits, as usual. I’m really hopeful that COVID will be entirely under control by October, but I’m still worried that it won’t be. Tickets are going on sale soon, and I’d like to buy one, but I haven’t entirely talked myself into it yet.
  • I also just noticed that the NYCC folks are doing an online Metaverse thing from June 7-13. I should take a look at the panel schedule for that and see if there’s anything I want to watch. And they’re also launching a Metaverse Membership program which probably isn’t worth the cost, but might be worth looking into.
  • I haven’t been to a Somerset Patriots game since 2019. They’re now affiliated with the NY Yankees, so a lot has changed since the last time I saw them. Looking at this page on their site, it appears that the stadium is now open at 100% capacity, with masks not required. I guess I wouldn’t be too worried about that, since it’s outdoors. There’s a double-header today, with fireworks afterwards. I’d be a little tempted to go to that, if it wasn’t going to be 90º out today.
  • Only semi-related to the rest of this stuff: The Centre Pompidou is going to open a satellite location in Jersey City, in 2024. That’s quite a ways off, but worth mentioning, I think. I saw the Centre Pompidou in Paris once, a long time ago, but only from the outside. I’d love to go back to Paris and actually see the inside of the museum. (We also missed out on the Louvre on that trip, due to a scheduling snafu, so that’s two Paris museums I need to go see someday.)

So that’s my list of tempting in-person events that are coming up in the near future. I’m still not committing to anything, but I’m starting to bookmark some interesting stuff and create some notes in Evernote. So, who knows, maybe there will be a few weekends this summer where I don’t spend the whole weekend in my apartment reading comics and watching TV.

Paris during the pandemic

A friend sent me, via good old-fashioned snail mail, a clipping from the print edition of the NY Times recently. I was feeling kind of lonely and ground down that day, so it really cheered me up to get something in the mail like that, from someone I hadn’t heard from in a while. The friend in question is my old high school French teacher, so it was a clipping about how Paris is doing right now. The answer is, unfortunately, not that great. Here’s the article. And a quote:

Paris is gone for now, its lifeblood cut off by the closure of all restaurants, its nights silenced by a 6 p.m. curfew aimed at eliminating the national pastime of the aperitif, its cafe bonhomie lost to domestic morosity. Blight has taken the City of Light.

I’d bookmarked a couple of other Paris-related articles over the last year, as the pandemic has progressed, including one from May: Atget’s Paris, 100 Years Later. It compares the photos of Eugène Atget, from the early 1900s, to current ones taken by a Times photographer, both showing empty streets in Paris.

And one from April, back at the beginning of the pandemic: Denuded of Tourists, Paris Reveals Its Old Beating Heart. It’s kind of sad how there doesn’t seem to have been much progress made between last April and now. Paris has a 6 PM curfew, and the Louvre is closed.

I’d been thinking about a trip to Europe on and off over the last decade or so, but never actually got around to making any real plans or committing to anything. Now I’m regretting that. I don’t think I’ll be comfortable with the idea of international travel any time soon, probably not for at least another year or two. So maybe 2023? Heck, I’m not even comfortable with the idea of a train ride to NYC yet.

Anyway, I guess I need to cherish whatever human connection I can get right now. I think I’ll print out this article about the Louvre and send it off to my friend, via good old snail mail. Or maybe this one from the Post about Edward Hopper’s early Paris paintings.

Five months and counting

We’ve just passed the five month mark since this whole COVID-19 thing kicked into high gear. My last day in the office was Thursday March 12. I took Friday March 13 off and, at that time, wasn’t even sure if we were going to be allowed to work from home the following week. Well, we were, and I’ve been working from home since. At the end of May, it looked like we might have to come back in August. That got pushed to September, and has now been pushed to October 5. Meanwhile, I never even got a chance to clean out my desk, so it’s probably still cluttered with a desk calendar stuck at March 12, a few boxes of granola bars that likely expired a month or two ago, and random scribbled notes from whatever I was working on in March. (The wasted granola bars bother me more than they probably should.) It seems like we’ve been living in a state of denial through this whole thing, where we’re always a month away from reopening everything, but that date keeps getting pushed back.

I’ve really been missing my trips into New York to visit The Met and MoMA. The Met is supposed to be reopening on August 27 for members and August 29 for the public, and MoMA plans to open on August 27. I don’t think I’m ready to go in to New York yet though. I’m not ready to deal with NJ Transit, Newark Penn Station, the NYC subway, or all of the extra stuff that would be involved in getting into and moving through the museums. But I’m tempted to give it a try. I spent a little time last night thinking through it, but couldn’t really come up with a plan that sounded like it would be both safe and fun.

One thing that’s probably a bright spot is how well the S&P 500 is doing right now. It’s at a new record high, which should probably make me happy, given how much of my retirement money is in S&P 500 index funds. But it’s a little unnerving for some reason. Maybe I just don’t know how to process good news? Or I just don’t trust anything that looks like it might be good news?

I have a bunch of other stuff I wanted to blog about, including some tech stuff and some comic book stuff, but I should really stop now and plop myself down in front of the TV and relax for a bit.

MoMA and WNYC follow-up

Here’s a quick follow-up on two subjects I’ve posted about recently. First, WNYC announced today that they’re keeping New Sounds, after previously announcing that they were canceling it (and all their other music programming) a couple of weeks ago. This is really good news, and I think it might inspire me to actually listen to New Sounds more often.

Second, MoMA is now open to the public, and the NY Times has run a couple more articles about it:

The Times may have overdone their MoMA reopening coverage. I think I’ve seen six articles about it so far, and I’m not even really looking for them. I probably missed a few. But hey, it’s still interesting to me, and I guess it really is the kind of thing you’d expect the Times to cover thoroughly. I really did enjoy the member preview. I’ll probably go in again at some point in the next month, if I can. Hopefully, the crowds won’t be too bad.

post-MoMA trip report

OK, so this isn’t really going to be much of a “report,” but I needed a title for the post, so here we are. Per my earlier post, I did indeed head into New York for the MoMA reopening preview. My verdict: I liked it! (Keep in mind that I’m a computer nerd and not an art and/or architecture critic.) There’s a lot more space, and they’ve certainly used it to display a lot of art. Some of it is stuff I like, and some isn’t, and that’s all OK. I managed to locate most of my favorite stuff from the “old MoMA,” including Monet’s Water Lilies, a couple of Pollocks, and Ruscha’s OOF. (Somehow I completely missed Starry Night. I know it’s in there somewhere though.) A lot of the new stuff (or at least “new to me” stuff) was interesting. Some was puzzling. Some was funny. And some was just “meh.”

The preview was well-attended but not too crowded. (And it’s always nice to visit MoMA on a day when there aren’t going to be any tourists there.) It’ll be interesting to see what the new MoMA is like on a “normal” day, with the usual crowds of tourists. Will the larger space allow the crowds to thin out a bit? Will the crowds congregate around the popular exhibits and leave some other areas a bit sparse? Will the larger space just attract bigger crowds? (Probably that last one is most likely.)

I’ve uploaded some random photos from today here. And the last one is a photo of my lunch. MoMA’s two cafes weren’t open for the preview, so I had to go somewhere else to eat. I decided to go to La Bonne Soupe, a small French restaurant I first went to back when I was in high school. It’s only about a block from MoMA. It’s kind of cool that a restaurant I went to so long ago is still in business, in the same spot, and with nearly the same decor and menu. (Well, OK, there are a bunch of changes to the menu, but they still have some of the old classics.) I had a $22 lamb burger and an $8 beer. Both were good, though maybe not “$30 total” good.

The last thing I want to mention: The NJ Transit train broke down on the way home, and I had to take an Uber the rest of the way home. Initially, I waited on the train to see if they’d get it working again, but decided to bail out after 10 or 15 minutes. I figured they’d probably get it running again right as my Uber showed up, but I just checked, and nope, they had to cancel it. So if I’d stayed, I’d have been stuck for a full hour. Not a big deal for me, but I feel bad for people who rely on NJT these days, and don’t have a lot of spare cash for Ubers and Lyfts. They’re having a lot of these delays and cancellations lately, and it doesn’t seem to be getting better.

a bit more on the MoMA reopening

Following up on yesterday’s post, here are two more articles from the Times on the MoMA reopening.

First, Holland Carter’s general review of the new MoMA. It’s a pretty positive review. He gets a little cynical near the end:

My guess is that in some hopefully ever-improving version, this 21st century MoMA will work, if only for self-preservative reasons. Multicultural is now marketable. To ignore it is to forfeit profit, not to mention critical credibility. And the new MoMA is obviously tailored to a new and younger audience, one that has no investment, nostalgic or otherwise, in the old pre-Taniguchi model, which now lives on mostly in the memories of a fading population (…).

I guess I’m old enough to be part of that “fading population,” but I am interested in seeing what they’ve done with the place. As long as I can still find Monet’s Water Lilies in there somewhere.

The second article, Backstage at the Modern, is a short piece from the Times Magazine.

I plan on hopping on a train today and going to the member preview, so hopefully I can share my own opinions later today.

MoMA reopening

I’m currently several months behind in reading the stuff in my email “read/review” folder. So far behind, in fact, that I just hit two NYT articles about MoMA’s closing, from back in February:

MoMA to Close, Then Open Doors to More Expansive View of Art

MoMA, the New Edition: From Monumental to Experimental

I may or may not have read them (and/or posted them here) when they were published. (February is a long time ago. Also, apparently, the Patriots won the Super Bowl. Sigh.) The first one is a straightforward news article, and the second is a “Critic’s Notebook” piece by Holland Carter.

And here are two more recent articles, now that the reopening is almost here:

The New MoMA Is Here. Get Ready for Change.

With a $450 Million Expansion, MoMA Is Bigger. Is That Better?

The first is a fairly long feature article and the second is a “Critic’s Notebook” piece, by Michael Kimmelman, more about the architecture than the art. It’s a pretty interesting piece that digs into the history of the site, and includes some diagrams showing how the museum’s footprint has grown over the years. I have mixed feelings about the way Manhattan has evolved recently, with so many new “supertall” skyscrapers, like the 53W53 one that’s now tied into MoMA, but I don’t want to go too far down that rabbit hole today.

The first day for member previews is tomorrow, Sunday. Since I was in NYC last weekend for NYCC, I wasn’t really thinking about going back again this weekend, but I think I probably will. The weather looks pretty reasonable, and I’m feeling mostly recuperated from the con.


NYCC 2019 wrap-up

I’m back home from NYCC, so I might as well write one more post about my trip. I didn’t go to the con on Sunday. Instead, I took a walk from my hotel up to the Met. I took a fairly circuitous and leisurely route through Central Park. It was a pretty good day to do that. It was a nice autumn day, and Central Park on a Sunday morning was certainly more quiet and peaceful than NYCC would have been. At the Met, I went into the members preview for The Last Knight exhibit. (The title of the exhibit is quite similar to the title of the new Scott Snyder Batman series, Last Knight on Earth, but they are definitely not related in any way!) I then walked down to the Breuer and saw the two exhibits that are currently running there. The Vija Celmins exhibit was pretty interesting. A lot of her “Night Sky” paintings are cool.

My hotel was just right across the street from MoMA, so it would have been easy to go over there too, but they’re still not open. They will be opening to the public October 21, with member previews next weekend. I’ll probably miss the member preview, since I’m going to have other stuff to do this coming weekend. But maybe I can get in on Sunday. The NY Times has a lengthy article about the reopening that I haven’t had time to read yet. I did peek through the windows at MoMA, and it looks like they’ve enlarged the gift shop, which isn’t a surprise. That was about all I could really see. I’m definitely curious to see what they’ve done to the place.

Back on the subject of NYCC, The Beat published a Sunday wrap-up article that includes links to all (or most) of their NYCC content over the whole con. This includes a write-up of the big Castlevania panel that I missed. It sounds like it wasn’t that different from what I saw of those guys at the Viz panel, just longer and with more of the cast and crew present. And there’s a write-up of the Star Trek panel for Discovery and Picard. That one would have been fun to go to, but I imagine it would have involved waiting in a very long line and was probably quite crowded. I just found a reddit thread talking about the panel and various other NYCC Star Trek items. It turns out that there was also a Star Trek panel as part of PaleyFest during the con. If I’d known about that, I might have gone to that one, since you have to buy tickets in advance for PaleyFest panels, so it wouldn’t have been one of those “wait in line for two hours and hope you get in” things. Oh well. I’ll try to keep a closer eye on Paley Center stuff in the future. I should probably sign up for their mailing list.

Despite being fairly interested in Discovery and Picard, I still haven’t talked myself into paying for a CBS All-Access subscription. Nor have I managed to convince myself to shell out for a DC Universe subscription, despite some interest in a few of the shows on that service. Any time I get too tempted to subscribe to DCU, I remind myself that I just bought a Blu-Ray box set of the complete Batman Adventures, and I should probably just watch that if I’m keen to see some superhero action on my TV. (And I’ve got the new seasons of Flash, Arrow, Supergirl, and Batwoman to look forward to also!)

I’ve spent a little time reflecting on whether or not I learned anything from this year’s con, and whether or not I’ll go back for next year’s one. Here are a few takeaways:

  • I surprised myself a bit, in that I made it through four days in NYC carrying around a backpack and getting in 20k+ steps each day, without really much back pain or any major trouble sleeping. Yes, I did bail out on a few things, but I still did quite a lot.
  • After five nights of pretty decent sleep on a hotel mattress, I think I’ve almost convinced myself that I need to buy myself a new mattress. Depending on how I feel tomorrow morning, after my first night back on my own mattress, I might have to start getting serious about that.
  • There might be a few new things that I’m curious about, but I’m not really jumping on any bandwagons right now. I have such a huge backlog of stuff to read and watch that I can’t add anything new unless it’s really great.

So it’s back to the old daily grind tomorrow. I haven’t checked my work email since Wednesday, so there should be a good pile of stuff to go through when I get in tomorrow morning. (Yes, technically I could check it now from home and clean it up a bit, but I really don’t want to!)

A couple of end-of-summer visits to NYC

It’s Labor Day morning, and I’m kind of exhausted from a visit to NYC yesterday, so I think I’m going to write a rambling blog post about my two recent visits to the city, and some associated topics. I hadn’t gotten into New York much this summer. I always think about doing a bunch of stuff in the city over the summer, then I do about 10% of that. Or maybe 5%. Anyway, I tried to make up for it a bit with a visit last Friday, and another visit yesterday.

On last Friday’s visit, I first went to the Met. I hadn’t been there in a while. I finally saw the Play It Loud exhibit. I honestly didn’t expect much from it, but it was great. They had a lot of stuff in this exhibit that reminded me of my teenage years, including my obsession with Jimi Hendrix, and Rick Griffin’s album and poster art, and guitar rock in general. The exhibit included one of Griffin’s Hendrix posters (which I had on a t-shirt when I was a kid), Eddie Van Halen’s Frankenstein guitar, and many other guitars, played by the likes of Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Pete Townshend, Jimmy Page, and many others. I don’t actually listen to a lot of classic rock these days, but the exhibit reminded me of how much I loved that stuff as a kid. So that was cool.

I also went to the Batman exhibit at the Society of Illustrators. There have been a number of interesting exhibits at the Society of Illustrators in recent years, and I keep meaning to go to them, but I never get around to it. So I’m glad to say that I finally made it to one of their exhibits. It’s a small space, and the exhibit was primarily black and white original art, so it’s not immediately visually impressive, when you first walk in. But they had a lot of really great art on the walls. There’s a good write-up of it on and another one at the NY Times. I was glad to see that they had some art up from some of my personal favorite Batman artists, like Jim Aparo, Marshall Rogers, and Gene Colan. (Colan, in particular, isn’t primarily known as a Batman artist, but I really liked his Batman work in the 80s.)

For yesterday’s visit to NYC, I made it to three museums: the Guggenheim, the Met (again), and the Frick. At the Guggenheim, their main exhibit right now is called Artistic License. The idea is that they’ve gotten six artists to curate themed mini-exhibits through their rotunda, one on each level. It’s a mixed bag. There are some works in there that I really liked, but a lot of it didn’t really do much for me.

At the Met, I saw Apollo’s Muse again. (I’d seen it once before, not long after it opened.) I also made a point of wandering into Death is Elsewhere, which I’d also seen before. And I saw Epic Abstraction again, which honestly isn’t that great, but it’s got some good Jackson Pollock works, so I like it. And, for the full Met experience, I got a hot dog from this cart right outside of the Met for lunch. (The lady in that video is actually the one I bought the hot dog from.)

After that, I stopped by the Frick. I hadn’t been there in a while, and I figured that maybe I should, since they’re closing for renovations soon. They have an Edmund de Waal exhibit going on right now. I was curious about that, since I read his book The Hare with Amber Eyes a few years ago, and liked it a lot. But the exhibit didn’t really do much for me. It’s a bit too weird seeing his abstract art in a setting like the Frick, I guess.

I wound up doing a fair bit of walking yesterday. I took the subway up to the 86th, initially, and walked across Central Park to get to the Guggenheim. Then, I walked down to the Met, then the Frick, then walked the rest of the way back to Penn Station. So that’s a fair bit of walking for an old man like me. (Which is why I’m too tired to do much other than write a blog post this morning.)

As an aside, I walked by the Paris theater at one point, and thought to myself, “Cool. The Paris is still there.” Well, yes, it’s still there, but it just closed. It was, apparently, the last single-screen theater in the city. I’m kind of sad about that, since i have some good memories of seeing films at a number of the great single-screen theaters in NYC, including the Paris. And now they’re all gone. The article ends with this quote: “All these people lamenting the loss of the Paris, I would be curious about the last time they set foot there.” Well, ok, yeah, it was probably twenty years ago.

If it wasn’t raining today, and if I wasn’t so tired, I’d take a look at this Labor Day art guide and maybe catch a couple of more exhibits in the city. I’d like to get to the Whitney Biennial before it closes, for instance. But I think I’m going to spend the day reading comics and watching TV instead.