personal

Greenwich and the Perception of Value

I wrote this in July but I’m happy to share this now. I hope you enjoy.

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“We just listened to that song a minute ago.”

“So…?”

Defeated by a superior argument I had not considered from my middle school aged daughter, we listened to a solo effort by a former boy band singer for the second of what would eventually be five times during our drive south on Route 8.  I don’t need to tell you the song; you know the one. If not. just tune in to any station on the FM dial that plays pop songs and uses the words “variety” or “mix” in their promos and you’re guaranteed to hear it within an hour.

Our path alongside the Naugatuck River was book-ended by lush green hills and capped by a deep blue sky; the clouds seemed courtesy of a Maxfield Parrish painting.  Despite putting in long hours at work I often felt I was only accomplishing a feeling of exhaustion rather than that comfortable feeling of setting my financial goals aright but this Saturday I woke fresh for the day and those worries didn’t linger and through the windshield of the Toyota  I was enjoying the kind of summer day I always associate with my bygone summers when I was my children’s age. If you’re truly lucky as I was you tend to remember your youth under a deep blue sky.

“Where do you want to go?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” my daughter said.

“Museum!” my son implored from the backseat.

My daughter is interested in art and fashion so I asked, “Want to find a fashion exhibit at a museum? Use my phone and type in “Connecticut museum fashion” in a search.” Complying with my directive, the first name my daughter read was the Bruce Museum in Greenwich.   “Does it have a fashion exhibit?”

“No,” she said. “But can we go to Greenwich anyway?”

“What do you know about Greenwich?”

“It’s where the rich people are. It’s the richest city in Connecticut,” she replied.

I considered for a moment my unshaven face, my ten year old gray “Cape May,” t- shirt and well worn sneakers. ” We’ll fit right in!”  I smiled. My daughter and I may share an interest in art but I certainly wasn’t the model for her interest in fashion.

We traveled through Seymour where the winding route traverses the “skyline” of sorts in this valley community. Within a minute or two I noticed she had not returned the phone to the center console area and was instead surfing the web for non-artistic purposes.

“Let’s take a break from that, shall we?” I said half convincingly but she agreed all the same.

One of the major purposes of getting out and about on our grand adventure was to leave the ubiquitous world of screens behind. We agreed that even though there was no fashion exhibit at the Bruce, we would make that our destination anyway because “a museum” was the one criteria our companion in the backseat required.

It takes about an hour and a half to get from Torrington to Greenwich but the distance between the two communities is more than just the miles. It was time to see how the other half lives. Did I say “half”? That’s not mathematically accurate.

We made our way off I-95 and followed the signs for the Bruce Museum and once I located Museum Drive, I drove past it saying, “That’s where we should have turned!”

Circling around in local traffic we made our way past the ornate. picture perfect homes. every one suited for a magazine cover.  We discovered a two lane one-way road called Greenwich Ave that travels through the center of the community with first class shopping on either side. There’s a Michael Kors of course and a Sachs Fifth Ave” The Vault.  A beautiful historic building at a prominent intersection turned out to be a Restoration Hardware. I’ve been to one at the West Farms mall but this place looked like it should be selling tours. At the busy intersection a policeman stood directing traffic and not due to an accident or a light being out but clearly this was a full time gig. It wouldn’t have shocked me if he were wearing white gloves.

My daughter wanted to explore the shops right then and there but we already had a deal and we returned back to the Bruce Museum.

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The Bruce Museum was nestled in a lovely little park on top of a hill and we parked where it said Visitor Parking. walking up that hill only to discover too late the “even-closer” visitor parking in front of the entrance.  We were greeted warmly and were advised all of the exhibits were on one floor, of particular note was a very special Andy Warhol exhibit.

What I love most about Andy Warhol’s work is he was a master of playing the public as much as playing to the public. At the entrance to the Bruce is a quote from Warhol saying “Art is anything you can get away with”.   I love that.  Here’s a guy from Pittsburgh who came to New York and joined an advertising agency but understood POP culture and self-promotion and figured out how to make himself larger than life. As an artist he understood intrinsically that sometimes value in art comes from the name and legend of the artist even more than the artwork itself. I’m not of fan of every attempt at art he ever created; for one thing I find a lot of Warhol’s non-painting work unappealing, especially his films which are unwatchable but his iconic multi-colored portrait silkscreens are exceptional and to my mind the best of Warhol’s work stands up even if there was no name of Warhol attached.

All that being said I admit when I heard there was a Warhol exhibit I was happy because of the immediate recognition of the name. When I see Warhol’s work there’s a history I associate it from The Factory to the Velvet Underground to the tragedy of Edie Sedgwick and probably a hundred other elements encapsulated in what I’m viewing on the wall.

My daughter had no such prism through which to view the work but as we took our time in the exhibit she took out her notebook and pen and began drawing while  gaining inspiration from the “Warhols”on the wall. In another area where there was a butterfly collection (non-Warhol) and a butterfly of Warhol’s from his endangered species collection she stood for a considerable amount of time exploring ideas in the notebook until she was satisfied.

My smart phone can take almost unlimited photos but my son truly tests the limit. At times I have over 7,000 photos on my phone and I’ve taken about 75 of them.  Many photos come out clear as a bell; many are best interpreted as art, not unlike the art that inspired the work.  This particular photo below for instance represents how it feels when we go through a museum at my son’s preferred speed.

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Going through a museum at Son’s speed

 

Next we explored the natural sciences exhibit (Last Days of Pangea) and it’s fair to say Dinosaur-lore is always a hit with my son. In addition there was a wonderful mineral collection that’s a treasure to behold.

The central gallery claimed the work of beautiful paintings and sculptures and though I did not recognize a single artists’s name, I stopped looking at the names and just enjoyed the art itself.

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Before we left we found the separate gallery of the museum which exhibited the work of high school students. It was quality work and each piece was worthy of placement in a museum. Kudos to the artists and to the curators who identified the exceptional work.

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We left the museum in good spirits and drove back past the Lexus dealership, taking a right on Arch street and made our way in a circular route back to Greenwich Ave.  We enjoyed the window shopping and a stop at a Pinkberry for a frozen treat. Then we discovered one of my favorite locations to discover on any journey: a local bookstore! At Diane’s Books of Greenwich my daughter found a book on the history of fashion ( a large book with lots of pictures with a magazine style format as opposed to text book) and she loved it! My son found a sticker book and he was ready within a minute! So I didn’t venture much further into the store as I usually intend to do but was happy we were successful at this stop!

As we returned to the car my daughter asked if we could come back to Greenwich as there was so much more to discover. Certainly there was a Thai restaurant that had her eye and if I’m not mistaken, she wouldn’t have minded visiting the Michael Kors OR the Lexus dealership either!  As I started our Toyota I assured it would not be the last time we visited; we found our way back to the highway and from there traveled north. She read her fashion book. He played with the stickers. Neither asked for the phone or for a screen of any kind .

We carried with us the bounty known only to the great explorers, the treasures gained from discovery. There were the books and stickers, there were the pieces of personal art and photography inspired in a wondrous museum, but most importantly we carried with us our memories, the priceless heirlooms that can never be purchased with money but only gained through time and shared experience.  And as I pulled into the driveway I felt for the moment that I was a very rich man in everything that counted and was grateful for every opportunity lived and shared.

 

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