Monday, December 8, 2008

The thick of it

I spent a nice weekend in Rochester. Saturday morning and afternoon I toured George Eastman House and the Strong National Museum of Play. Eastman House is impressive, and the gingerbread houses and Christmas decorations made it even more fun. I got there in time for one of the two free daily guided tours, and learned a lot about George Eastman. I didn't know, for example, that he made up the word Kodak. (The tour also represented the largest single gathering of women wearing Christmas sweaters I've ever seen.) The galleries were fun to browse - my favorite was the Link exhibition of night train/depot photos from the 1950's. Of all the gingerbread on display, my favorite was the creation you see above ... a local Girl Scout troop made a gingerbread landfill.

On to the Strong Museum. The lower level was charming, but geared toward small children at play. I liked the Berenstain Bears room, and appreciated the reproductions of the cubs' clubhouses from "No Girls Allowed. (I was quite the Berenstain Bears fan as a child.) The best part of the installation was on the walls leading up to the playroom itself. They were lined with information about Stan and Jan Berenstain, and the cartoon work they did in the 1940's. It included some great magazine covers they made for Colliers. One of the fun things I read: often Stan and Jan would work on the same illustration at the same time, with one reaching across the desk and working on it upside down.

Upstairs was the National Toy Hall of Fame, and beyond it a huge gallery of toys from the past. I saw cases and cases of dolls, plates, gadgets, video game systems, dollhouses, miniatures, stuffed animals, bicycles, whimsies, shaving mugs, train sets ... it was fascinating, but somewhere along the line it became overwhelming. As I left to meet Paul for coffee, Gary the Happy Pirate was performing for children outside the main gift shop. This performance was preceded by a few announcements: "Attention guests, please join us in ten minutes for pirate fun with Gary the Happy Pirate!" The kids looked like they were having a grand time as I passed, and it was part of a toy drive being covered by the local news. Just as I walked out of earshot, I heard Gary quizzing the children.

Gary: "Okay, kids! Does anybody know what a pirate's favorite food is? Yes, young man?"
Little boy: "Chicken!"

Saturday night, we saw Wilco. It was a fun show; one I never would have attended if I hadn't pulled up first row pit tickets. But, I did. My favorite aspect of the night was the "welcome back" for Glenn, who missed the previous night's show with Neil Young to play his own gig at Carnegie Hall. Much fun was had at his expense (and in his honor) - including the drum set being adorned with flowers before the show began. The band didn't play anything new, but the Rochester crowd was treated to an energetic selection of songs befitting the band's inaugural show in the city.

Sunday I had a lazy day of doing nothing before my flight. The weather reports had looked a bit ominous, but I was only half an hour late getting home. No, the really bad weather was waiting for Tuesday. Tuesday night, when I'm supposed to drive to Chicago. Does Letters to Santa count as an emergency, National Weather Service?

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