Wednesday, 17 March 2010
Overexcite at the museum
Under the category of 'Spontaneous Sunday activity' The American and I are at The Natural History Museum.
We are in the queue arguing over the admission fee. He wants to pay the 'suggested' donation of $16, I want to pay a dollar.
''But why pay more when you don't have to?" I protest.
"This is not the way I want to budget Emma, ripping of the Natural History Museum."
"It's not ripping them off, it's a suggested entry! They they are suggesting that we don't have to pay loads of money. You can pay what you like!"
"No. They are suggesting we pay sixteen bucks each."
"Why spend money we don't have to?"
"Well, we'll have to spend more anyway, as I want to do an exhibition. If we just do a suggested donation we don't get to go into any exhibitions."
"I'm fine with that. I just want to see the Gorillas and stuff."'
"We're paying the full rate Emma."
"I'm freelance! There should be a special rate."
Turns out there's a dizzying array of entry options, when you factor the exhibitions in. Suddenly it's gone up from $16 to $24 and we have to make a quick decision on which one we want to see. I grumpily vote for Journey to the Stars (because it looks like the least boring option). He votes for The Silk Road.
"The Silk Road? Seriously?" I protest
"Yeah, that is like totally interesting."
"How? What is there to say? Men in The East travel on camels through the desert, it's really hot, they trade silk-The End!"
"Fine! Stars it is then." he concedes, probably to distract me from the fact he is handing over 50 bucks to the guy at the desk.
''Next time why don't you tip him 20 percent too!" I shout as I stomp off.
20 minutes later and I am standing in the Hall of Biodiversity in front of the guard who's next to the roped off entrance to The Hall of Ocean Life.
"Hi, when do the fishies re-open?" I ask cheerfully
Silence, accompanied by a menacing stare. God, I need to get in there. There is a giant whale hanging temptingly from the ceiling in the distance and I want to stroke it.
''Excuse me, I say, with authority this time "When do the fish re-open?"
He looks up.
"You don't know?"
"Nope." he shrugs
'Right, well is there someone who does know?
"Listen, they're like...doin' some stuff in there right? So I can't call it."
"Great, so you just don't even want to guess?"
Another shrug is all I get in response.
We are in The Hall of Biodiversity. I admit that I don't really know what Biodiversity is. The American claims he does, so I ask him and he says:
"It's like...lots of different life and...like... lives and stuff"
Hmmm. I try and read this more in depth description but he talks and it interrupts the voice in my head:
This becomes a feature of our trip, The American imparts his knowledge without it being requested while I try and read the information on the brass plates. Then I try reading out loud to indicate that his talking means I can't concentrate. He doesn't get the hint and becomes especially feverish when we are in the North American Mammals hall and there are lots of native Alaskan animals. He lived there for 3 years and takes great pride in telling me how he once woke up to see an Alaskan moose grazing outside his window.
I don't know much about Alaska, aside from the fact that Sarah Palin lives there and online shops are always at pains to stress they will not deliver there (or Puerto Rico) but now I can add another fact to my arsenal: They have a lot of animals there with really big antlers. There are lots of antler animals in the museum generally. To be honest, I think they totally overdid it on the antlers.
We head off for the Asian and African animals halls via the dinosaur bones in the regal main entrance. The American explains how the tall one with a long neck and a small head was a vegetarian. He tells me that the ladder-like neck allowed him to munch the leaves out of the trees.
"Like a giraffe!" I say.
I tell him that I reckon that this particular dinosaur must have evolved into the giraffe, which I think is quite an intelligent comment, but The American cracks up and says "You don't know shit."
Asian and African Mammals are a bit 'seen one you seen them all' so it turns out. Predictably there's elephants in both. I insist on leaning over the velvet rope to stroke some hide and The American tells me off.
Then it's time for the stars thing and I am worrying it's going to be really boring and long and a bit like Techniquest in Cardiff. You know, one of those teachy preachy experiences ''Oww yeah, science is fun boys and girls! Now watch my bow tie light up powered by these 16 Hamsters in a cage!"
Hundreds of us stand in line for a giant white dome, that looks like the Epcot centre in Florida.
We file into a humongous circular cinema with a domed ceiling at least a 100 ft high. Whoopi Goldberg's voice booms out as a giant panorama of Central park in the summer sunshine spans 360 degrees around the screen. The American and I look at each other and mouth "WOW".
The arena goes dark and planet Earth appears at the top of the dome and then drops down from the sky. Comets and other planets pop up and move across the dome and flashes of light come right at you. Hundreds of stars rain down from the ceiling and Whoopi talks about supernovas and auroras as they dance around in front of us. I can't stop oww-ing and arr-ing and am squeezing The American's hand in wonderment.
I begin to have all these unexpected existential thoughts about who or what I am in this vast existence. This is the Universe and I am a teeny tiny me in comparison. Whoopi asks us all to concentrate on a star and stare at it and watch what happens. I fix intently on the brightest one I can find. I stare and stare and tears start to prick at my eyes. It makes me remember how Dad and I used to do the same thing when I was a kid. How we would gaze up, necks crained at the inky black sky and look for the brightest star. Then he would say that star was mine.
Two fat tears roll down each cheek because I miss him but I try and hold it in, like you do in the cinema at a sad film. When the lights come up I feel silly, like people will think I've been crying about the stars. I hurry outside the dome and find a bench to compose myself on. The American follows and comes and gives me big bear hugs.
"Wanna go to the giftshop honey?" he asks gently
*Sniff, sob* "Oh...yes please." *sniff sniff sob* "Can we go see the Gorillas too?'
*Sniff sniff* "Will you let me take a picture of you beating your chest next to them?"
"Of course honey."
*Sniff, sniff sob* "Thanks. Love you."
"Love you too honey."