By Peter Pereira
Sometimes one of the twins dies
in utero, without his mother
ever knowing she'd been twice blessed.
Hungry for life, the living twin
will absorb his double and growing
compress him until all that's left
is a tiny shape made flat, a silhouette
of the life it once contained.
While the one child is born pink
and howling into his parents' arms,
the other remains a faint imprint
barely visible in the translucent web
of amniotic membranes -- a fetal hieroglyph.
Some people believe twins have
only one soul between them.
If that's true, how many
of us are born half --
ignorant of our paper twin, the ghostly
shroud of an other self,
the blank page into which all
our imagined lives are written.
Spent all of Friday in Baltimore. First we went to The American Dime Museum, which is closing indefinitely as of tomorrow due to funding issues, which of course meant that it was utterly mobbed today. The museum is in a rowhouse in a less-than-wonderful neighborhood away from the gentrifying downtown; there used to be a streetcar museum very near it, but that is closed as well. The American Dime Museum is partly a recreation of a 19th century dime museum with oddities -- some real, some faked -- and partly a tribute to the circus sideshow that grew out of such exhibitions, with such charming items as "the world's largest rat" (which appears to be a capibara to which someone attached a rubber tail), an "ancient Egyptian mummy" named In-Ho-Tation, a two-headed cow, an art display on the Inquisition, an alligator with the head of a woman, the state's largest rubberband ball, a model dummy to which people had stuck chewing gum and a live snakehead fish from a Maryland river. It's a very fun museum and I would recommend it for kitsch-lovers were it not closing.
From there we went to the Baltimore Museum of Art, where we had intended to eat a late lunch, as they serve high tea, but the dining room was booked for hours, so we walked through the park to Ruby Tuesday's to eat. Then we went through the wonderful Monet's London exhibition, which is about artists' images of the Thames and environs from the mid-1850s until just before World War I. Some of the Monet paintings of the Houses of Parliament have never been displayed in the US before, and there were works by a number of artists, including Tissot, Hassam, Whistler and Pissarro, focusing particularly on the bridges and the ships that passed by the Chelsea and Battersea districts. There was also a documentary video on the underground rivers of London and the Thames cleanup that resulted in the Embankment projects. It amazed me how little the view seemed to have changed between 100 years ago and last spring when we took the boat down the Thames from Greenwich; of course the Gherkin and the London Eye aren't in the artwork, but the fish market and Tower are popular and some of the illustrations showed the current bridges being built.
The BMA has collections of Matisse and Picasso, numerous modernists, some American landscape painters, decorative arts and crafts, miniature American rooms, a reasonable sampling of European art from the Renaissance to the present and a collection of tile mosaics from Antioch, so we spent quite a lot of time going through the museum (the kids were more receptive to the historical European art than they were the other day to the Wyeths; younger son in particular was quite chatty about the religious art, Anthony van Dyck's "Rinaldo and Armida" and all the Madonnas). Originally we had planned to go to the aquarium, which is open late this weekend, to see if we could get into the new Australia exhibit, but when we drove by the lines were still very long which meant crowds even though we likely could have gotten in as members, and the kids begged off, so we drove out of the city past the sunset over the USS Constellation and the bridges.
That fearsome creature of the American midwest, the jackalope. These can be seen in the Mitchell Corn Palace in South Dakota, too.
The extremely rare Fur-Bearing Trout, found in very cold waters near Alaska. There was a feather-bearing fish as well, allegedly caught in Ocean City, Maryland.
And the aforementioned World's Largest Rat. Try not to quiver in terror.
Dinner ended up being nearly as late as lunch. For Chanukah it was calendar night, but we also got Pirates of the Barbary Coast cards, and younger son lucked out and got the ultra-rare Jade Rebellion set with the Chinese pirates and junks, so he was thrilled about that. Speaking of ships, The Washington Post this morning had an article on Patrick O'Brian, "Sailing Under False Colors", with reviews of Tolstoy's The Making of the Novelist, 1914-1949 and the newly reprinted The Catalans. I figured there might be interested parties here.
1. How will you be ringing in the New Year?
At home, probably watching the Times Square ball drop on television.
2. How do you wish you were ringing in the New Year?
Given how sick I have been this past month and how easily I get tired, and since I can't drink anyway, this is just fine with me. Would not turn down theater tickets, however.
3. Do you have any traditions that you observe on New Year's Day intended to bring you luck for the upcoming year?
Not really specific. I light candles; since Chanukah will still be going, this one is a cinch this year anyway.
4. Do you make resolutions? Do you keep them?
Little ones, and usually. I never make resolutions about things like dieting.
5. Would you ever have plastic surgery?
I hesitate to say "never" because I don't really know how I would feel if I were in a disfiguring accident or something, but I would never have plastic surgery just because I had normal age wrinkles etc.
1. What was the first album/CD/Cassette you ever bought? The first album I remember buying was the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack but I really don't think that was the very first; it was expensive, because it was a two-record set. Maybe it was Billy Joel's The Stranger but I really don't think that was first either.
2. What was your first fave song? It might have been the single of Paul Davis' "I Go Crazy," but I get confused about what came out when, so it might also have been Andy Gibb's "Thicker Than Water."
3. Which song gives you that "funny nostalgic feeling" everytime you hear it? Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline." I remember sitting on my canopy bed in my childhood bedroom listening to that.
4. Name the first concert you ever went to. Peter, Paul and Mary with my parents during my extreme youth. I cannot for the life of me recall the first one I went to without my parents though -- I keep thinking of U2 in 1987 but I went to concerts in college before that!
5. What do you consider the worst song of all time? "Dream On" by Aerosmith.
1. Name your fave song at the moment. Sarah Brightman's "Nella Fantasia," which is not a new song but I only recently discovered her recording of it.
2. What is the most recent album/CD/Cassette you purchased? Sylvia Tosun's Jump In.
3. Which song will you never get sick of hearing? The Grateful Dead's "Uncle John's Band."
4. What is your current fave music video? Hahaha, the same as it was five years ago: Madonna's "Frozen."
5. If you could be a famous music artist, what type of music would you produce? I'd reunite the original October Project lineup.