By Laure-Anne Bosselaar
I love to lick English the way I licked the hard
round licorice sticks the Belgian nuns gave me for six
good conduct points on Sundays after mass.
Love it when 'plethora', 'indolence', 'damask',
or my new word: 'lasciviousness,' stain my tongue,
thicken my saliva, sweet as those sticks — black
and slick with every lick it took to make daggers
out of them: sticky spikes I brandished straight up
to the ebony crucifix in the dorm, with the pride
of a child more often punished than praised.
'Amuck,' 'awkward,' or 'knuckles,' have jaw-
breaker flavors; there's honey in 'hunter's moon,'
hot pepper in 'hunk,' and 'mellifluous' has aromas
of almonds and milk . Those tastes of recompense
still bitter-sweet today as I roll, bend and shape
English in my mouth, repeating its syllables
like acts of contrition, then sticking out my new tongue —
flavored and sharp — to the ambiguities of meaning.
Spent a lovely day at museums in and near Philadelphia, though I am a little groggy because our nearest neighbors in the hotel were talking VERY LOUDLY in the hall at 3:30 a.m. till we called the front desk to rat on them -- I was afraid to go out there myself as they were obviously drunk out of their minds and somewhat belligerent. It was astonishingly quiet otherwise, considering we were in the city and not far from the horns of the Ben Franklin Bridge and the Delaware River, where boats could be seen passing at all hours when we had the blinds open, including after midnight.
This morning we went to the Independence Seaport Museum at Penn's Landing (which, incidentally, is free on Sunday mornings before noon, and which gets you admission to the submarine Becuna and the cruiser Olympia -- you can also get a deluxe ticket for a ferry to tour the battleship New Jersey across the river on the Camden side). I was almost sorry that we did not have our children with us, as this is a very hands-on and child-friendly museum, with interactive exhibits building ships and practicing with weights and scraps of sail to understand balance, buoyancy and aerodynamics. There's also quite a bit of information on scuba and deep-sea exploration, Jewish immigration (a topic near to my heart), the local dockyards during and after the world wars, and the Navy today. plus a goodly number of paintings and models and some full-size vessels in the upstairs gallery. Philadelphia has been a working port since before the city was officially founded and the information here has a strong emphasis on history, industry and trade rather than on the vessels themselves, but there's still plenty to keep tall ship fans interested. It was a bittersweet day for me, as I finished reading O'Brian's unfinished 21 in the car on the way to our next destination, so I am glad I got to visit a seaport with one of Birch's paintings of the Constitution taking the Guerriere.
From Philadelphia we drove to the Brandywine River Museum, built in an old grist mill right on the river and exhibiting mostly American artists of the region, including three generations of Wyeths. I must admit that while I admire his technique, Andrew is my least favorite to look at; all the muted tones leave me cold, his people seem quite needlessly bleak at times, and the nudes almost annoy me. apaulled and I were having a conversation about how an artist's painting of a naked woman is really so much more about the artist than the woman as we walked upstairs to see James Wyeth's more recent work, and I started to giggle, standing amidst the images of Nureyev, Warhol and assorted other barely-dressed male models...it doesn't say so anywhere in the museum and I don't really know anything about him but Jamie Wyeth has got to be gay. My favorite of the Wyeths, though, is N.C., who is probably the least famous except among aficionados of children's book art, and they have many of the original paintings from his King Arthur and Treasure Island editions, plus some from a book on the Wars of the Roses that I had not seen the last time we were in this museum...spectacular.
Every floor of the museum has a gorgeous view out over the river and railroad bridge, and there were many Christmas decorations, including an enormous model train display (another thing I was sorry not to be able to show my kids) and one of the Wyeth daughters' doll collection, including some windows painted by Andrew as a 12-year-old to decorate her enormous dollhouse. There's also an outdoor local market which at this time of year has wool, quilts, cider and honey. We had lunch in the cafe -- excellent tomato bisque -- and went through all the exhibitions, which currently include one on American cartoons (political, New Yorker, Hirschfeld, Peanuts, lots of others) and another on local landscape painting. This is a really beautiful museum right near Winterthur that I recommend to anyone within commuting distance...the not-far-away Delaware Museum of Art is wonderful too but I've heard they had their Pre-Raphaelites out on loan while they renovate the galleries.
Friends: -450 was all I could manage. Thanks so much for all the greetings, which made me feel so good and happy even though I was already having a happy birthday -- I hope I replied to everyone, and I apologize profusely if I did not! Wow, you people did a lot of talking over the weekend. Don't you have Chanukah and Christmas gifts to wrap? *g* And beeej, hope the party was fantastic and I await a report on revelry I missed! GIP courtesy the wonderful cara_chapel via the meme by which you put Santa hats on other people's icons. I would be tempted to put a Santa hat on Jack Aubrey, particularly anglepoiselamp's with the flying saucer, but I am afraid I would wet myself laughing while doing so! Tomorrow my older son has a late afternoon chorus rehearsal at school and there's no late activity bus, so I will have to brave the Beltway in nightmare rush hour traffic, so there goes at least two hours of my day. But at least with luck the last batch of holiday cards will have been mailed!
...and by day, with the municipal dock in the foreground.
Gazela being refitted for the winter, with a Christmas tree atop one of her masts.
The Columbus Memorial from riverside, looking toward the high-rises on 2nd and past them, Independence Mall.
Sunset view of Moshulu -- once a sailing ship, now a restaurant.
Tomorrow, B'nai Abraham, a great tavern plaque, the Korean War memorial, the seaport museum and the swarm of sperm on the ceiling of Condom Kingdom on South Street. Brandywine River Valley to follow. For tonight, more Harry Potter birthday art, this time from the wonderful betareject: