Saturday, April 07, 2007

Travelogue: March 30, 2007

I Know Why Dali Does Art

Salvador Dali died in 1989, and still he managed to rip me off for £10. Actually quite impressive when you think about it.

I started the day off by going to the Dali exhibition at County Hall. I had wanted to do this when I was last in London in 2004, so when I saw the £10 admission charge, I shrugged it off as necessary to fulfill something I should have done long ago.

Until I got inside, and discovered that there were almost no actual Dali paintings there. It was only later that I realized that I entered from the rear of the exhibition, but the first thing I came to was a bunch of Dali prints, statue replicas, and lithographs on sale for exorbitant amounts of money. I was not pleased with the realization that I had just paid $20 to look at things on sale.

Once I got to the main part of the exhibition, I found that there was, in fact, an artistic element to the set-up after all. But even then, there were next to no paintings there. Some sculptural highlights to be sure, but it was mostly obscure illustration series that look like Dali spent about half an hour on some of them. It was advertised as the largest and most comprehensive collection of Dali's works in the world. Well sure, if you're going to take all the stuff no one else would ever bother exhibiting.

Still, I should have known what I was getting myself into as soon as I saw the first poster next to the entrance I used (pictured here).

Transatlantic Party of Elites...or Whatever

Sek hosted a shindig at his place today, and there was quite the company present. The party itself was a get together for Cambridge alums who knew Matt back when they were all at MIT at the same time. Academically, the party represented Harvard, Cambridge, and Oxford. Nationally, Australia, India, Germany, South Korea, UK, US, and Canada were all in the house. Engineers, consultants, investment bankers, lawyers, doctors. At one point, I had to sit back and realize that this was perhaps the most prodigious-yet-diverse collection of academic distinction and professional success I had ever been a part of. In the 19th century, a group like this would have meet weekly for scotch, cigars, and conversation. You know, if the 19th century wasn't totally racist and wouldn't have excluded most of the people present from any form of social advancement.

When I first got to HLS, I had a period of time when I was perpetually intimidated by the people around me. It wasn't that I necessarily thought people were smarter than me, but they were all so damn accomplished and experienced and worldly, and I felt totally out of place. This is probably the first time since then that I've experienced that feeling again. But unlike before, it didn't make me feel uneasy or unworthy, it just made me feel privileged to be in that kind of company, and honored to be accepted into it. This is something I hope I can hang onto: to enjoy traveling in those circles, but to be humble about doing so.

I'm also proud to report a small victory. The party was low-key, and eventually poker was introduced into the affair (in the 19th century, I guess it would have been bridge). Most people were novices, some refused to gamble even £1, and very quickly it became clear that only one other person (Samir, an Indian Oxford engineer) and I had any clue what was going on. So when the game ended, we reached into our wallets and put whatever we had on the table for one round of heads up: £12 from my wallet, and €20 from his, about equal in value. What happened next, I consider to be a victory of America over England for best international superpower, Harvard over Oxford for best superpreppy university, and Jews over Indians for best overachieving minority. Of course, Samir may have the last laugh, because now I have €20 in my wallet and no way to spend it.

When the Sky Betrays You, Drink More Tea

Weather-wise, the day was a minor disaster. No Boston, of course, but chilly and rainy. Actually rainy, not the usual heavy fog/mist that qualifies as London rain. But I took it in stride, and basically turned the chill temperatures and unfriendly outdoors into an excuse to consume tea or coffee in 3 consecutive settings, including a proper high tea at the Orangery in Kensington Gardens (complete with cucumber sandwiches, scones, and clotted cream). And I feel as though my flexibility and perseverance have been rewarded, because walking through town at 2 am after the party was through, the sky was as clear and the air as warm as they've been this whole trip.

1 comment:

GlobalJanine said...