You know when your alarm goes off in the morning, or when you’re sitting at your desk watching the clock go backwards, or your friends are day drinking but you’re stuck at work, or when you have a day off but no idea what to do with it? You know how the only singular thought you have in those moments is hunkering down under covers and going back to sleep, or packing your stuff up and hopping the train to wherever your pals are, or taking in that matinee, grocery shopping, or a free museum day? Well let me tell you then friend, I am living the dream. Well, minus the glory of hitting “off” on the alarm and the day drinking. The clock moving backwards and the overwhelming question of “what shall I do with this day off” bit? Spot on.
Today marks day 13 of unemployment, not including weekend days. I am bored. To say that I am doing my best to avoid day drinking (dollar cans happen Mondays at at least two bars I’m particularly fond of, btw), that I am catching up on my sleep, and that I’ve reached the end of most movie sites, is to frame it pretty accurately. I try not to harass my friends into entertaining me as much as I have the urges to, but I will admit to a certain deeper sting when I find out a few of them are hanging out together and I don’t get a call. Sounds petty I know, and it’s something that never seems to go away in spite of aging, but I can’t deny that it’s there and it’s exaggerated by the need to get out of the house to do something, anything. And they know it.
This week I took advantage of my quiet winter city’s attempts at keeping staff employed and getting us to work off that pizza we probably shouldn’t have eaten at 11:27 pm: Museum Free Days. I began on Tuesday with the Museum of Science and Industry where I managed to walk all four floors and every single exhibit (and even paid for one, which I never do), then I caught the bus back downtown to the Museum of Contemporary Art.
A quick aside: I will gladly pay to view art. When I was 17 and occasionally skipping class or ditching the burbs for whatever reason, I drove to the peninsula where the Adler Planetarium resides, paid the $1.50 in the meter (for three hours, man I miss the old days), and wandered up to the Art Institute before back down to the lakeside to sketch the city skyline. I killed time in museums. They fed me more than church or dinner or any class I could take. Particularly, the Art Institute. It is, in the entirety of my city, my second home. I know it like the back of my hand. I walk in, head straight upstairs to the El Greco and sweep around to the post-modernists (skipping the Impressionists entirely, thank you). From there I pop into the newly-opened modern wing and begin to give a lecture to my fantasy college class. I talk about DeKooning and his mother issues, about the Pollock with its embedded cigarette butts and bottle caps, why Rothko isn’t just slabs of soft and undulating color, and what’s so great about Eames. I have an entire curriculum entitled “Art in Context” that speaks to the times the works were created, what was going on in the world simultaneously, and how they relate. I’ve had years to hone it and I think it’s pretty good, if I do say. No one has ever heard it, but I’ve taught for many semesters, all in my mind. I’m tenured.
But then comes modern art. Oh, the frustration of it. On one hand, it challenges me to articulate what I like and don’t like about art in general (or artists). On the other, I have “anyone could do that, it’s not art, it’s slapdash and I resent it” playing on a near-constant loop for about 75% of my time spent at the Museum of Contemporary Art. I struggle with the genre. I can barely speak about it articulately or clearly because my emotions get in the way of clear observation. And that is precisely why I force myself into viewing, even if I come away with at worst total irritation and at best, an eye roll.
If modern art was a person, it would be a character from Girls. A spoiled, entitled, irresponsible, overly-indulged, clueless 20-something wandering around New York City, waiting to be discovered and made famous with minimal amounts of effort and empathy. Infuriating at times. Except in place of dad’s boundless credit card is an art dealer’s infatuated glad handing. Honestly, were it not for the free days I wouldn’t go. That is one style of art that I would rarely pay for the privilege of dissecting. Except for this exhibit and this one, those two have stayed with me for years. Wonderful. Zero annoyance or entitlement.
Anyway, my man friend and I killed Wednesday at the Field Museum, taking in all the stuffed and mounted animals, mummies, bugs, and dinosaurs we could muster. We didn’t even make it to the second floor, in hopes of hitting the aquarium. Unfortunately due to some bad information, we hit it on the wrong day and it wasn’t free. We opted to go for an early bar bites dinner instead. The lake effect snow was fluffy and furious, and by the time we cleared the second tunnel through the Museum Campus and onto Michigan Avenue, our eyelashes and jackets were sprinkled with staccato frozen fuzz. Cold yes, but absolutely stunning.
Unemployment is difficult for so many reasons. Boredom and a certain forced poverty have put me into a dark place, and a somewhat mentally frenetic place as evidenced by this post, which is apparently in dire need of Adderall. I’m so happy to have such a wonderful person in my life as I have in him. I mentioned that I had hoped to get back to Cleveland for a visit, considering my abundant downtime and super cheap Megabus fares but then realized that my unemployment benefits wouldn’t be fully operational in time for my plans. Knowing how bored and frustrated I’ve been the last two weeks, he refused to let the visit fail and insisted I book the ticket using the gift of a good time sponsorship. He’s amazing. To be with someone who just wants to see me happy fills me up, and my mind reels with how I can return all the good he gives me.
So a trip to Cleveland it is, the weekend after this. It will do my heart, soul, and head such good to be among my friends there. I visited in early November and it was almost perfect. I seriously toyed with a move back during that trip, though admittedly I was in a bit of a lost state at that time. I was still sad and spinning, and I hadn’t yet met the man who now makes me so glad I didn’t jump that gun. The trips to Cleveland are draining, financially and mentally. There’s a lot of party time built in, a fair amount of pressure to see everyone that I can (but never actually get to), and recovery is necessary after I get back. Fortunately it would appear that I have the time to devote to that and in spite of it all, it is so well worth it.
I don’t make full use of all this down time in ways that I know I should. I don’t read enough, I haven’t picked up any creative pursuits, and I won’t have a whole lot to show for all this daily solitude. The frustration is that I know I would be in a better place if I did pick up a paintbrush, or finish the needlepoint or knitting I’ve been putting off for a year. There is literally zero excuse for not doing it and I feel quite like a jerk for spending my days doing anything else but. So that’s what I’ll do on Monday: fetch some art supplies out of my storage space as well as some blank canvases that are in there, and begin to create. It’s the best muscle workout I can give myself, and I’ll feel a lot better when it’s started than the third nap of the day ever makes me feel. No one should be so critical of art when that same person has the talent and skill to make art, but chooses not to. Monday, I face you with defiance and intent.