Monday, April 26, 2010

The Self-Judgment Free Zone

For several unfortunate reasons, I grew up thinking that exercise was something you were either good or bad at and that I just happened to be really bad at it. So of course I never tried to get better and was a perennial gym class failure, which made me dread that portion of the school day. Until a few years ago I associated the word "workout" with "humiliation", because it made me think of gym. I fell into that trap of believing that a brainy nerd like me couldn't be athletic as well. I'm afraid the Dearborn Public Schools didn't help to dispel that notion. My high school curriculum included freshman and junior year phys-ed classes but if you were in the "gifted and talented" program, you could skip it in the eleventh grade. I found out about this loophole in elementary school and made it my goal over the next several years to swap good grades for required physical activity. I succeeded. And while I know that I'm about to reveal a part of myself that I should perhaps keep reserved, I can't help being completely honest - when my father ran over my foot with the car in the spring of my freshman year, my first thought was, "OUUUCH!!!" and my second thought was, "Oh my god. I bet I can be done with gym class forever." And I was.

Nearly fifteen years after my last phys-ed class, Dan made me get a membership to the Boll Family YMCA in downtown Detroit. This is a heavy testament to my love for him. I didn't even argue; he just wore me down with care and charm. It turned out that the Boll provided a great reentry into the gym world. My biggest fear was that the other customers would make fun of me, like the mean kids who pointed and laughed when the volleyball hit me in the head. Of course, I didn't encounter that at the Y because everyday life isn't that much like junior high school, or not at the Boll, at least. There were a lot of families and fat people there, and very few of the vain, glistening hotties and musclebound freaks that you hear about at Bally's Vic Tanny. Also, the Boll features a rock-climbing wall and a pool and a lot of other cool stuff I didn't use, floor-to-ceiling windows that face the Woodward skyline, a sweet second floor track that wraps around a basketball court where I got to watch a lot of really intense games, and complimentary towels. It was just a nice place to be. Also, I learned right away that few people watch each other at the gym. They watch TV. All the machines are arranged facing a row of flatscreens, and the patrons form this mechanical band of zoned out exercising robots. Some people listen on their headphones and others stare into space. It's pleasantly anti-social.

After we moved to Ypsi, we joined Planet Fitness, which has just machines, weights, and the all-important TVs. But it's also just $10 a month! Their schtick is that they offer the "judgment free zone". They claim that they will kick you out if you "judge" others, and if you drop your weights like douchebags sometimes do, they sound the "lunk alarm" (for the first year and a half, I thought the lunk alarm was just a dead siren for show, but I've actually heard it go off a few times recently; I think it's just an employee testing it out for fun). It's a pretty corny atmosphere and their purple and yellow paint job makes me feel like I'm on the set of "Saved by the Bell", but I've grown quite fond of the place and actually look forward to being there. In fact, I've recently started to enjoy exercise for itself, instead of just the good feeling it brings afterward.

This is a big turning point for me. I used to do just a forty minute workout on a single machine a few times a week. That was all I had to do to not gain weight and maintain a lifestyle that included lots of cheese and fried foods. I did it dutifully, but I didn't get excited for it. I would try to distract myself from it by reading because I just wanted to get it over with. But then Dan started working out longer and I didn't see any point in sitting around while he exercised, so I switched to an hour workout on two different machines. I felt less bored with the repetition. I noticed how many more calories I was burning, which made me feel proud and that made me want to push harder. But the only way I could do that was to let go of the reading. I noticed that it was keeping me from burning as many calories.

It's true. Thinking too hard gets in the way of my workout. This is why TV is a wonderful workout companion - it doesn't make you think. But I've come to appreciate my workout as a fun time for my brain . It isn't a great opportunity to work out a problem in my head; usually I just get obsessed with simple fractions, as in "I'm three fifths of the way through my workout. If I divide the number of calories I've burned so far by three, double that number and add it to the original, I will burn x calories." But I also find that exercise clears my mind to the point that I realize that whatever had been stressing me out earlier in the day wasn't really such a big deal. It's these mental health benefits that I enjoy the most.

I was working out an average of three days a week throughout the winter. Then we went on vacation at the end of February and ate a ton of southern fried foods. It was a great trip, but I gained several pounds. Since we got back in the first week of March, I've been doing one hour workouts four days a week and for the first time in years, I'm really losing weight! And it isn't because I'm smoking a pack a day and not eating while working a job that keeps me on my feet all day. It's because I'm exercising and consuming way less fried food, sweets, pizza, beef and pork (and just like the one-hour workouts, I have Dan to thank for the positive influence). I still eat lots of cheese, but I'm letting my combined snobbery and thrift save it for the $30 - $40 a pound delicacies that I can buy with company store gift certificates. Mmm, I'm thinking about the salty Spanish goat's milk cheese I'm going to buy next...

I have a ways to go before I get down to my ideal weight, but that would just be gravy. I feel healthier than I ever have before. I do smoke occasionally, but the negative effects are more noticeable now and that makes me want to avoid it. That good feeling in the morning has become so dear. Anyway, I made it through a tough work week without lighting up, and didn't even indulge at karaoke the other night. I'm excited for the ban the begins next weekend. I'm excited for a lot of things.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Conscientious Consumption: The Wedding Outfit

Ever since I got clever about my finances, I find clothing at the bottom of my spending priorities. I devote most of my income to food, shelter, paying off debt, therapy, savings, and bits of social and cultural fun, all while living within the limited means that my not-so-bad (by Michigan standards) and yet not-so-great (considering my intelligence) hourly wage provides. Perhaps if I didn't spend $349 a month paying down student loans and other debt, I would be more interested in new clothes. But now that I am trying to commit myself to buying only sweatshop-free or second-hand apparel, I find that even when I do have the cash, I don't feel like taking the extra time needed to shop responsibly. The result is that my wardrobe rarely changes.

Believe it or not, I used to be a bit of a clotheshorse. Cute skirts and uncomfortable shoes were more common than jeans and sneakers. I didn't wear t-shirts. But now, between being married and working a job that doesn't require me to dress any particular way (while also providing me with the largest collection of free t-shirts I've ever amassed), I admit I don't try much anymore. Sometimes I miss the days when my wardrobe actually garnered good reviews, but mostly I'm just thinking about other things.

Maybe that's why finding clothes to wear to weddings stresses me out so much. The big burst in wedding invitations these past few years has coincided with my dwindling interest in clothes. I seem to always find myself scraping for an appropriate dress or skirt with less than 24 hours before the ceremony. And then I wind up wearing something that feels too dark or too tight or too informal, and then I feel weird when I know I should just be having fun and feeling happy for my friends. I wish I could just get over my discomfort but in anticipation of yesterday's wedding (my boss's), I decided it would actually be easier to allow myself a little more money and time to find some appropriate, sweat-free gear.

I began with pre-paycheck reconnaissance mission to Orchid Lane in Ann Arbor. For the past several years, Orchid Lane has been my primary source for brand-new clothing. I like their loose-fitting, hippie batik style and the girls who work there are delightfully outgoing saleswomen. When I decided to shop sweat-free a few months ago, I was glad to remember that much of Orchid Lane's apparel is sourced directly from third world producers. The clothiers make a better-than-sweatshop wage and I get to enjoy their gorgeous goods. During my visit, I spotted a rack of colorful patchwork rayon sundresses in the $20 - $30 price range. I checked the tags and found the Orchid Lane label, my assurance that the items were fairly traded. On my way out of the store, I also noticed some cute, poly-cotton stretchy tank tops with labels that said "Made in Cambodia". Hmm. I asked the young woman at the counter, "Hey, are the items with the 'Orchid Lane' label fair trade?" She replied, "All of our items are fair trade." Really? Even the ones that say "Made in Cambodia"? "Oh, yes. The owner travels around the world buying clothes directly from the producers."

I thanked her for the information, but was nevertheless dubious. A few days later, I ran into a former Orchid Lane employee who I'll call Lydia - she happened to sell me my prized stripy lime green tote bag (made in India). I asked her to give me the honest truth. Are all of Orchid Lane's items fair trade? She smiled ruefully and shook her head "no". While that claim once was true, they have more recently moved in the sort of tighter, stretchy apparel that appeals to UM coeds, and most or all of these clothes are sweatshop produced. As I told Lydia, I don't blame Orchid Lane for making that business decision - I'm sure they make a bigger profit on the Made in Cambodia shirts, and I appreciate that they still offer sweat-free clothes for conscientious consumers. But I would have a lot more respect for them if they didn't encourage their employees to lie. Lydia concurred and admitted that that is one of the reasons she no longer works there. That's their loss. She was a damned good saleswoman.

I nevertheless returned this past Monday to purchase one of the patchwork rayon dresses (after getting some tips from Lydia, I felt assured that it was fairly traded). All that I needed were some brown ballet flats or sandals and a strapless bra to go with it. But then the week got away from me. Dan was out of town with the car. Wednesday was my birthday, which I devoted entirely to hanging out with my friends. And then between work, recovering from my birthday, catching up at the gym, and more work, I realized that I had only a small window on Friday morning to complete my wedding outfit. Again, with just a day to go, I found myself stressing.

I'll be honest, I gave up on sweatshop-free underwear a couple months ago. I can't afford to spend $14 on a single pair of bikini briefs. I made my peace with Hanes Her Way (made in South America - hey, at least the carbon footprint is a bit trimmer) and decided that I would not buy everything fair trade. I suspected that I would make the same choice with my next bra purchase, but I really hoped I could hold out for some second-hand sandals to go with my dress. But with limited time and the knowledge that Saturday's temperature would be somewhere in the forties, and that I would want to be wearing pantyhose for slight extra warmth, which meant that I needed closed-toe shoes (being a woman can be so freakin' annoying), I found myself at Target.

I used to love shopping at Target and I still appreciate that I can go in with twenty five bucks and come out with a pair of shoes and a bra, but what have I to show for it? A hideous foam brassier (made in Bangladesh) that actually made Dan laugh, a pair of paper thin flats (made in China) that will not last beyond a few workdays, and the knowledge that both items were likely made by young women who would have to work at least thirty hours to buy either one. In short, I felt like an asshole.

Well, what's done is done and all I can say is that feeling of awfulness is enough to make me even more dedicated to this sweat-free mission. Honestly, it felt way worse than that "I'm not dressed well enough for this wedding" feeling. So when I woke up yesterday morning with unresolved questions like, "What will I wear to cover my bare arms?" I decided I was done with stressing over the wedding outfit. I determined that my ultimate goal would be to have fun. I didn't think about it any more while I was at work yesterday. And when it was time to get ready, I found a few things in my closet to complete the ensemble - an orange linen scarf that my friend B brought home from her recent trip to Ethiopia, a brown blazer I had purchased from Orchid Lane six years ago (made in the USA!) and a lovely blue bracelet from an African bead store in Detroit. In the end, I wound up with an outfit I loved, one that hearkened back to the era when I was actually known as a snappy dresser.

And completely unrelated to that, I had a wonderful time at the wedding.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Don't Feed the Plants!

I get really lucky sometimes. A couple months ago, I received an unexpected loan from my coworker L, who may well be my culture soul mate - she and I are both crazy for museums, musicals, libraries, classic Hollywood films and Cole Porter. Anyway, one day she randomly offered me the soundtrack from the original production of Little Shop of Horrors. My only prior exposure to this show was through my older brother's audiotape soundtrack for the 1986 film version with Rick Moranis and Steve Martin, and that one episode of Head of the Class. I quickly fell in love with several of the songs and became very curious about the story that was told in the lyrics. I promised myself that I would keep my eyes open for the next local production.

I got a work email on Monday offering free tickets to the opening night of Little Shop of Horrors at the Performance Network, so of course I immediately nabbed a pair for Dan and myself. What a blessing! This show is so much fun. It reminds me a lot of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, with it's sci-fi horror story and catchy numbers, but the music is more girl group/R&B oriented. Since Dan and I love to nerd out on that sort of music, it was the perfect show for us to see together.

I have to believe the best part of any production of LSOH is the R&B chorus. I thought that the three super hot black women who performed on Friday night definitely stole the show. With their girl group inspired names, Chiffon (Sharon L. Brooks), Crystal (Sharriese Hamilton) and Ronnette (Diviin Huff) sang the story with big, soulful voices, wearing cool Supremes style costumes and wigs as they danced circles around the dramatic leads. The critic for (I can't believe I'm linking to this mostly useless "news" site, but this review is actually decent) felt that the trio was a bit stilted in the beginning, and I have to agree with that. But their doo wop singing style and their personalities were so infectious that I couldn't help looking forward to their appearances the most.

You see, Little Shop of Horrors isn't a perfect musical like, say, Guys and Dolls, which has no bad songs. I'm not a fan of the ballads in Little Shop, and beyond its story-driving purpose, I flat out dislike "Suddenly Seymour". That's too bad, because it represents this exciting turning point in the story when awkward, nerdy Seymour (Jason Richards) has finally worked up the courage to woo his beautiful, beloved Audrey (Courtney Myers). Sadly, it's the sort of song that manages to be overwrought and dull simultaneously, like one of those terrible Disney film themes that won an Oscar in the '90's. Sitting in the theater at that moment, I felt like Spike in the musical episode of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" when the characters are singing the tragic finale, "Where Do We Go From Here?". At the point in the song when they all join in unison, with the cheesy hand gestures and melodramatic, faraway glances, Spike mutters, "Bugger this" and takes off. That's exactly what I wanted to do.

Fortunately, Richards and Myers got better opportunities to demonstrate their vocal chops with some bubblier songs like "Closed for Renovation" and my favorite, the sad but rollicking "Skid Row". But certainly the showstopper was Aaron Moore's "Dentist!". In addition to playing every other supporting role in the show (including a woman) Moore portrayed Audrey's sadistic boyfriend Orin and belted out this number with spot-on rockabilly flourishes and a truly frightening snarl. I especially loved the way he played off the backup trio, who complimented his voice perfectly despite being completely repulsed by him; much of their accompaniment consisted of screaming.

In fact, I couldn't help noticing the best numbers are also the most upsetting. I guess you need the more victorious songs like "Suddenly Seymour" to balance the scenes that put you on edge, like when the mutant plant Audrey II (Naz Edwards) sings a very funky "Feed Me" in an attempt to get Seymour to feed her human blood. Nevertheless, the latter song is, in my opinion, much better.

All of this tension leads to a more disturbing ending than I had expected, but it is a horror story, after all, and a pretty great one at that. Again, it isn't the perfect blend of song and story that I find in Guys and Dolls or Singin' in the Rain (though I caught a pretty terrible stage version of that a couple months ago... I just don't think anyone should bother staging SITR). Yet, I'm sure there are other perfect musicals out there for me to discover and in the meantime, I will gladly settle for highly enjoyable ones like this.

And as long as I'm lucky, I just want to add that I will also gladly settle for a conveniently located revival of "Ain't Misbehavin'". Did you hear that, Universe?

Friday, April 9, 2010

D'Light: At the Old Ballgame!

I figured I could knock out tributes to Detroit and the Tiger's home opener without doing much work by just reposting something I wrote in 2007, when I was a semi-employed myspace blogger living in the city. Remember when Granderson and Polanco were first up to bat and Magglio Ordonez was our deliciously swarthy, superslugger all-star? Sadly, baseball families don't last forever and neither do hair styles, but I'm hopeful for the season ahead. Still, I shall reminisce (and hey, note the shout-out to our latest acquisition, Johnny Damon - this information will be important in five days...)

My Special Moment With Magglio

See that sign I'm holding in my profile picture? It came to me in a vision sometime in May. Dan must have been at that evening's Tigers' game because I distinctly remember watching it alone in our apartment, marveling at some great play that Magglio Ordonez had just made. How did this guy, who had seemed so ridiculous in the second half of last season, turn into such an amazing player? And what was with that endless A.C. Slater-style mane? I thought about something Manager Jim Leyland had said at the beginning of the season, when a reporter asked him if he approved of Magglio's coif. Leyland, being a very no-nonsense sort of dude, said something along the lines of, "He's a grown man. I'm not going to tell him what to do with his hair" (Alas! if only the Yankees had shown that wisdom with Johnny Damon, there would be a lot more women watching baseball). Leyland then added, "Hell, if he bats .300 this season, I'll wash it for him".

Well, as we near mid-season, Magglio is well beyond a .300 batting average. He's somewhere around .380 right now. Back on that day in May, I thought about the .400 average he had in April and I looked at that hair hanging out the back of his cap, and then I saw the words, "Magglio, Your Hair Is Magical" beside a floating batting helmet full of curly, dark locks. I determined that I would put my vision to paperboard and take it to the next game that I would attend.

I forgot about this until the Memorial Day weekend, when we heard that the Sunday game would be floppy hat day. It was also the ESPN game that night and I realized that this would be the perfect time to bring my sign. I guess that just like any other retarded American I get really excited at the prospect of being on national tv.

Anyway, it turns out that ESPN isn't that interested in broadcasting the crowd's signs, especially when you're in the nethermost region of the upper deck. We could actually see one of their cameramen very near us and tried to get his attention. On our way to the concessions stand, I stopped and waved my sign at him. He laughed and then gave me a look as if to say, "Dude, come on!", because Magglio had just hit into a double play. Fair enough.

In search of a better view, and maybe a better camera angle, we wound our way to the ground level. I didn't notice that we were in right field until we got to the end of an inning. Suddenly, Dan and I knew what we had to do. He grabbed my arm and we made our way down the bleachers. A stern usher held guard at the very front of the aisle. Fearless, we made a beeline toward him, showed him the sign and asked if we could stand there for just a moment, please? He nodded stoically and stepped aside.

It was the top of the inning and Magglio and Curtis Granderson were jogging across the field. I started waving my sign while Dan shouted, "Magglio!" He stopped for a moment to look, wore a baffled expression and then began tossing the ball to Curtis. As he got closer, I was laughing so hard that I felt a little bad because it suddenly occurred to me that this might seem insulting or maybe just completely mystifying to a guy who just recently learned how to speak English. But then Dan made it all better by shouting, "Te amo, Magglio!" Though certainly confused, he bore his customary serene expression as he lifted his glove and gave us a gentle wave. And that was our special moment with Magglio.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

My April Fool's Day

On Thursday morning, I ran into a guy I'll call Nick. I first knew Nick twelve years ago when we were work study employees at a museum. He was sarcastic and kind of funny, so we hit off pretty well. He paid a lot of attention to me, which I found too flattering - I admit I was very lonely at the time, a little desperate, and overly willing to ignore the frequent nervous twitching in his face. Anyway, I could tell he was interested in me, which probably made me like him more than I would have otherwise. I was a surprised and disappointed when he mentioned that he had a girlfriend he'd been seeing for a couple years. Then he started hinting that he and she were on the rocks. Eventually, I got the feeling that Nick wanted me to get him to break up with his girlfriend to be with me, but I just couldn't do that. I may have been lonely, but I still had my moral limits.

Around the time Nick would have figured out that I wasn't going to be his home wrecker, he started paying attention to another girl at work, who I'll call Tanya. One night he and Tanya dropped in at Amer's (my other job) and he bought her an ice cream cone that I had to scoop. That was weird and subtly upsetting. When he and I were working together at the museum, he would drop hints about spending time alone with her. Again, I felt as if he were baiting me, hoping to have three women fight for his affections. I definitely didn't want any part of that.

A few weeks after the ice cream incident, Nick called me to tell me that he had dumped the "bad" girlfriend and that he and Tanya were dating. I didn't say a single negative word. I even congratulated him. But honestly, I was stung. It wasn't that I was missing out on some great guy as I could clearly see that Nick was being a total dick, but his manipulation hurt my feelings. I didn't like being made to feel jealous and I especially hated that there was this new and unprecedented weirdness between Tanya and me. Why would someone want to fuck with me like that?

Eventually, I figured out that Nick was just bonkers, maybe even a psychopath. A year after he and Tanya got together, I ran into him in my new neighborhood. He had just moved in around the corner from the student co-op where I was living. He invited me over to see his place. I was curious, because I could tell he was up to something, so I accepted his invitation. Within thirty minutes of walking through his front door, he was hinting that he and Tanya weren't getting along. It was all so predictable. He was trying to set me up again, which is why I found enormous satisfaction in telling him that I was dating one of my fellow co-opers. That revelation made Nick's face twitch a lot. He didn't call me again after that.

I remember the exact day when I last ran into Nick. It was on St. Patrick's Day 2005, and I was leaving the Michigan Theater after a long Film Festival work day. My friend M was coming to pick me up so we could go bar-hopping. I was standing under the marquee near a line of festival-goers when he stepped up to me. I hadn't seen him in a few years. I don't remember what we talked about, but he was making those same twitchy, unblinking faces that he once made when he was confiding his girlfriend troubles to me. I did my bit of polite small talk until M saved me with a tap of her car horn and then I said goodbye to Nick.

After I climbed into her car, M immediately turned to me and said, "My god, who were you talking to?"

"Oh, he's just this creepy guy I used to know."

"Tara! He looked like he wanted to kill you."

Those words rang through my head on Thursday morning, as I was getting my coffee at work. I saw Nick standing at the register, making a twitch face. I don't think he saw me. As quickly as I could fill my cup, I was sailing out the back door to the Employees Only area. I decided that was a cigarette moment, so I bummed one from my co-worker B.

As I was handing B's lighter back to him, I said, "I just saw a guy that I knew twelve years ago who's crazy. And you know what? He didn't look a day older than he did twelve years ago. Crazy people don't age, do they?"

B's a smart guy, older. He grinned. "No, they don't."

"Because they're suspended in their nuttiness, right?"

"Yup. Exactly."

That very night, when I was riding the #4 bus to Ypsilanti, I glanced down the aisle and noticed a guy I'll call George. George was one of my housemates from that student co-op. Seeing him sitting there, I felt like I had traveled ten years back in time. He had the same knee-length jean shorts, navy polo shirt, Ralph Wiggam hair and creaseless baby face. Crazy ass George, who used to tell bald faced lies about the strangest things, looking the same as ever. I stared at the window the rest of the ride, until I made my swift exit out the backdoor. That was my April Fool's Day.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Art Therapy

Not knowing where I will be living in four and half months is making me edgy. Dan has applied for dozens of teaching jobs and though I'm excited for each new prospect and interview, I find it freaky that the foggy horizon is surprisingly near.

I'm eager to know what opportunities await me wherever our future home is. I'm a pretty smart person and if I were normal, I would have a college degree or two and an established career in something or other and would seek a job that matches my "skill set" (that's the correct term, right?), but that's not the kind of person I am. Instead, I have this weird combination of both non-profit arts and food-related service experience that doesn't lead me in any specific direction, and that's fine. I've figured out that my MO is finding an organization or business I like, getting in at the highest level I can, and establishing myself in that place - unless I discover that I hate it and then I go crazy and then I quit. Hopefully I can avoid that alternative.

I'd love to get back into the arts world, because I miss the daily inspiration that comes with that sort of job. I mean, I really miss it, in an aching way. And since I don't know where I'm going to be living, or what sort sort of cultural institutions will exist in that place (if any), I'm keeping myself sane in the meantime by taking advantage of what I have around me right now. So when I found myself with an unexpected Tuesday off from work last week, I paid an overdue visit to the University of Michigan Museum of Art.

My last UMMA visit was a year ago, during the last half hour of the post-renovation grand opening weekend. Dan and I took a quick whirl around the old and new facilities, which made a big impression on me. Finally getting back there last week, I was glad for a chance to savor the new space, and to appreciate the curatorial excellence that makes this museum so special. Maybe it was a function of my being alone and taking my time to observe and absorb, but I just feel like the placards next to their exhibits are way more interesting than those at most other art museums, including the DIA. Instead of just telling you who made the art and where that person was living at the time and what stage of their career the piece represents, the UMMA placards seem to speak more to the content of the piece. So when I read the story behind Randolph Rogers's Nydia, the Blind Flower Girl of Pompeii, I could better appreciate the sculptural depiction of the sightless young woman boldly leading her cherished man and his lover through the dark streets of their town. Poor Nydia!

I also came away with a deeper appreciation of what I consider to be the crown jewel of the UMMA collection - the Tiffany glass works that are now prominently displayed in the second level of the original building. I especially love the windows, doors and other fixtures from the Henry O. Havemeyer house in New York. Havemeyer was a late nineteenth century sugar baron who decided to have Louis Comfort Tiffany decorate his home. That decision perfectly represents my fantasies of wealth. What glorious excess! As if it weren't enough to have a brilliant stained glass window in every room, even the balustrades and air return vents were exquisite. Yes, the air return vent, with it's hand woven metal strips and milky glass rods, is something I could spend hours beholding. That house must have been a wonderful place to be bored.

But really, I think the Tiffany wisteria window is the most precious gem of the UMMA collection, so cleverly displayed beside a Frank Lloyd Wright wisteria window. Whereas Wright's window is a perfectly uniform, abstract geometric rendering, the Tiffany version is more organic. Each piece of glass is a different thickness and is laid at just a slightly different angle, creating rich varieties of color and texture. It feels like you're looking at an actual flower, a gleaming, human-sized, glass flower.

It took a while for me to pull myself from that spot, and the longer I stood there, the more I felt compelled to touch the window (you totally could, it's right there in front of you!). Eventually, I moved down to a showcase display of vases, which would have been more impressive if I hadn't just been with the wisteria. That's when I noticed a placard at the base of the showcase that said, "Open drawers below for more art."

Sure enough, there were eight drawers beneath the showcase and each one held a different etching. Gorgeous etchings - we're talking Whistlers and Gaugins. I couldn't help laughing at the juxtaposition of peacock colored glass and tranquil pencil drawings. I felt like a kindergartner coming in from a raucous recess and heading straight to story/nap time. There was something particularly soothing about opening and closing the drawers at my own pace, deciding which ones I would spend the most time viewing.

Once I got through the drawers, I was pretty well exhausted but in a pleasant way, like the way I feel after a solid workout. That visit was very good for my soul. And as long as I'm living in suspense, I think more of these visits are in order.