Friday, September 4, 2009

tea and archaeology

Weekdays can get a little maddening when you're unemployed. Friends are working. Oprah is still in summer reruns. And I refuse to allow myself to get hooked on the soaps. If I start talking about how Brad thinks Sage is totally his, but she's actually been sleeping with Dylan while Madison is in a coma -- come over here and slap me.

It shouldn't be that hard to find interesting things to do with my time that don't involve TV or alcohol. After all, this is a fairly bustling metropolitan area. Plus, I live within walking distance of two of the most geek-chic-elite universities in country! Surely there must be something more intellectually stimulating to do besides camping out in the cafe of Borders, reading all the British tabloids.

A Yelp search of "Cambridge arts & entertainment" opened a whole new, touristy world of activity to me. Boston/C-bridge is chock full of museums and galleries, historical monuments and trails. I have seen almost none of these things, because I spend all my free time in karaoke bars. Or my apartment.

So what better activity for "back-to-school" month than to learn more about my hometown, and take advantage of its uber-intellectual resources?

Sure, I may not be smart enough or rich enough to attend Harvard. But on Wednesdays and Sundays any shmuck with a Massachusetts license can check out the University's "collection of artifacts we begged/borrowed/stole from native peoples" -- for free!

You all know how I love free shit.

So, come with me on a magical mystery tour of Harvard University's Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology!

See -- it's appropriately brick-ish and museum-like from the outside:

A brief note about Tea and museums -- I effing love them. Truth. Every since Miz Linda and I did our "backpackers tour of London" back in September '07, I've learned to appreciate the weird and wonderful world of display cases, dioramas, and ancient-dust-covered shit. I enjoy crappy museums and world-class, state-of-the-art museums with equal measure.

For the record, the Peabody Museum is neither.

But let me start from the beginning.

Wednesday, 3pm. I wandered into the lobby of the Peabody Museum, which reminds me a bit of a Victorian-era high school. Or library. Actually -- remember that '80's movie, The Neverending Story? When the kid hides in the attic of his creepy school or whatever, reading the magic book? It's kinda like that:

Attic from Neverending Story . . .

Attic of Peabody Museum.

Point made?

Anyway - the woman at the reception desk appeared genuinely surprised to see me. I suspect the museum is not exactly a happening place most weekday afternoons. In fact, I seemed to be one of only 4 people wandering the halls of the place, which added to the overall creepy-haunted-museum vibe. Excellent.

So after showing her this:

. . . I was given one of these:

I love these little museum lapel clips. I usually lose them about 5 minutes into my museum visit . . . but there must be some sort of fun craft I could do with 'em . . .

Back to the Peabody:

As the name suggests, the Peabody Museum is full of artifacts "recovered" from various indigenous peoples. The entire first floor is a homage to Native Americans. Complete with piped in sounds of tribal drums and chanting. This was a little disconcerting, as I was wandering the floor alone. In some places, the exhibit rooms were completely dark until I tiptoed in and set off the light sensors. The overall "you're-about-to-be-scalped!" vibe was way more exciting than most of the exhibits, which were limited to 1950's-era dioramas of tribal huts and displays of old baskets, blankets, and sliver jewelry / belt buckles that could have come from straight Urban Outfitters.

Clearly, I need to foster a greater appreciation for the arts of our native peoples.

Anyway -- there were a few highlights, including this totally random modern graffiti piece:

And this sign, explaining how Native Americans kinda hate Harvard University . . . and the rest of America:

There was also a small installation on "Excavating Harvard Yard". Digging in the Yard unearthed a whole load of broken pottery, animal bones, and bits of old pipes -- giving us a unique window into the life and times of Ye Olde Harvard Students. For example -- did you know that back in the day, the food at Harvard was really, really bad? We're talking rancid butter bad. Also, your socio-economic status determined whether or not you were allowed to eat with a fork:

Bored with the dusty old crap of the USA, I wandered up to the South American floor, where I found the best display in the whole museum:

. . . also, the most hot-pink display in the whole museum!
That, my friends, is a Dia de los Muertos shrine. I wish my cell-phone camera was less crappy, because it was the most ornate, detailed, fabulously cool thing ever. I could have stared at it for an hour. Sadly, some obnxious lady and her super-bored children wandered in and interrupted my private gawking session. But I would seriously go back to the Peabody just to visit this shine again . . . which maybe makes me a loser. Whatever - I stand by that statement! It was cool, people!

Moving up to the attic-like 3rd floor, I found the Pacific-Islander Artifacts. This crap was actually pretty cool:

I have no idea what this little dude represents. I probably could have read the accompanying explanatory placards . . . but who has time for that?

There was a brief moment on the 3rd floor where I actually did get spooked. I was the only person on the entire level, and most of the floor was still shrouded in darkness, since all the lights are on occupancy sensors. Suddenly, there was a tremendously loud creaking noise behind me, and I jumped about a foot in the air. Total Ghost Hunters moment. Then I realized the noise was actually coming from the floor below me, where that annoying family was still hogging my Day of the Dead shrine.

Any museum that can so fully capture that spooky, Hollywood-esque haunted house vibe gets two thumbs up from me! The whole place is like a little portal back in time . Maybe not to ancient times, but perhaps a Victorian Harvard where students still wore caps and gown to class and stealing from the "Indians" was not considered a crime. Bottom line -- I would love love love to spend the night in this building. And not so I can read up on gods of the Pacific Islanders.

After about 45 minutes, I'd had my fill of the Peabody Museum. Since it was free, I didn't feel like I needed to linger and read all the boring signs to get my money's worth. As I skipped back down the steps and up the street towards home, I was mildly impressed that a) I'd just gone to a museum all by myself in the middle of the day, and b) all this crazy ancient crap was tucked away in an unassuming brick building just up the road from my house. This "learning about my city" thing is a-ok! Next up -- the MIT Museum? The Somerville Museum? The Lars Anderson Auto Museum? How many of these bad boys can I hit before the end of September?

Only one way to find out!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

trapperkeepers unite!

Wait -- it's September?!

Seriously, where did the summer go? A whole season gone -- poof! Just like that. One minute it was May, and I was sitting in a lonely cube, contemplating taking my own life with an staple remover . . . now suddenly, autumn is here and I'm living off Uncle Sam while trying to stay sober long enough to come up with a life plan.

Fortunately, fall has always been my favorite time of year. Perfect weather, perfect sunlight, an abundance of apples and pumpkins. Halloween! Seriously, what's not to love?

And obviously -- it's back-to-school season.

Now, when I was actually enrolled in a school of some sort, I was perpetually bitching and moaning about something . . . the loss of free time, the homework, the early bedtime. The uniform. The B Line. There was no end to my educational complaints.

I stand before you today a reformed girl. I, Tea Guarie, miss going back to school. I miss the smell of the floor polish, the shopping for Lisa Frank folders, new backpacks and booklists, the syllabi, the after school activities, the day planner dutifully filled in until the second week of October.

I was pretty good at school. Not an Einstein or anything -- as the grammar and spelling of this blog can attest. But I loved that feeling of a fresh start every September, with new teachers and subjects and challenges. I love learning things. I don't retain most of what I learn -- but I have always found the process of learning enjoyable. In school, your job is to simply be open to knowledge -- have an opinion or an idea, and defend it. Express yourself. Think beyond the borders of your own world.

God, why wasn't I so hot n' bothered about learning when it actually counted? Probably because they were making me learn Geometry and Chemistry.

But, yes. This year more than ever, I wish I was going back to school.

Which brings us to September's One Girl, 12 Ways theme. While I may not be currently enrolled in any formal educational institution, I vow to make this a month of mind-expansion. Clear the cobwebs out of the ol' brain and learn a little, goddamn it!

And unlike my half-assed summer posting schedule -- this month I vow to be on the ball! In fact -- I already have the topic and research for my next September post all ready to go! That's right -- I'm doin' the assignments ahead of schedule! How do ya like them apples??

Don't worry -- just like every other school year, my motivation/enthusiasm will have all but disappeared by October. Just in time for Halloween.