At least I can take comfort in the fact that when the gods of culture come to pass final judgment on my Philistine soul, they’ll have a good laugh at my expense. And if you can make the gods laugh — no matter the price — then you know your life on this dimension wasn’t a total waste of time.
No, they won’t laugh at my cheap, silly jokes while wandering through Italy’s Uffizi Gallery, the first public museum in the world. They’ve surely heard countless references to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles when stupid Americans see Raphaels or Michelangelos. Frankly, the jokes are well past their prime — as are the Turtles.
The gods won’t even be cracking grins when my daughter asks what Michelangelo’s full name is and I tell her THAT IS his full name, Michael Angelo. Sophomoric at best. Uncreative. Uninspired.
No, what will bring the lightning bolts or the celestial swords to cleave off my head — like the umpteenth decapitated John the Baptist I’ve seen — is the way I tend to visit museums. I prefer to catch the abbreviated, ‘Best Of’ tour through some of the world’s most amazing collections of art. I’ve been to many museums and seen countless incredible creations, but I have adopted a technique that, although I’m not proud of, still manages to get me through.
Here’s what I do; I run.
Okay, well, running isn’t exactly my method, but I walk really fast ahead of the group and glance at the little tags below the paintings or sculptures. If it’s a name I recognize, I look up. If not, I keep moving. That way, 99% of museums can be discounted. I know, I know, it’s pig-headed and ridiculous, but give me a break. How many times can someone possibly look at a manger or crucifixion scene and actually care about the third soldier on the right being the face of the artist’s patron who commissioned the work or the lowing cow in the manger who was modeled after their beloved childhood pet?
Let’s face it, if I really have a compelling need to view an El Greco, I can hop on the internet at home and check out his greatest works in five minutes and still have time to get mad at Twitter before bedtime. This waiting in endless lines to slowly wade through a mass of foreigners, passively-aggressively pushing their way to see art is just not my cup of beer.
Okay, yes, it has its pitfalls. My wife asked on the museum tour what I thought of the Birth of Venus and I actually had to backtrack a room or two since I didn’t know that Botticelli’s first name was Sandro and just passed by the tag. I looked at the painting for a while and couldn’t shake the image from the opening sequence of Monty Python where a long hand reaches in and turns the young Venus’s boob like a radio dial and she starts dancing.
“It seems less animated than I imagined it,” I say. Thankfully she didn’t get the reference.
We stormed through the Uffizi in record time and saw some daVincis, Titians and Botticellis once I figured out what his first name was. I think we missed the Corleones, Fellinis and Pinocchios, but I may have my Italian masters mixed up.
It’s not as bad, though, as my last trip through an Italian gallery. It was at the end of our honeymoon and I really wanted to see the Sistine Chapel. So me being me, I got there early and when the papal doors opened, I took off at a dead sprint with camera in hand and determination in my shoes like the winged feet of, of … I know I saw his painting somewhere but I can’t remember who — DiGiorno maybe?
Velvet rope after gilded frame flew past me on my way to the chapel and finally I reached my destination. There were a few priests already there who must’ve negotiated a FAST-PASS or something — they have connections I’m told. I quietly burst into the chapel, set my camera on the floor with the self-timer churning and there I committed my biggest heresy possible.
I shot half a dozen pictures and sat back on a bench and looked up. “Huh,” I said to myself, “this place is a lot smaller than I thought. I wonder why it took him so long to paint it.”
Of course the joke I told my wife at the time was much better, “You know honey, if he’d have had a paint roller, he could’ve done the whole ceiling over a long weekend.”
Yes, I’m doomed and I know this because as I was leaving I glanced up and couldn’t help but think that one of the tortured, dammed, lost souls on Judgment Day looked eerily just a little too much like me.
Paint roller. Yeesh! I don’t believe in Hell, but if there really is one, mine is destined to be tucked in the back of an infinitely long exhibit showing slightly different variations of Edvard Munch’s The Scream, all featuring me shrieking.