Tuesday, March 8, 2011

We live in the city for the culture. Or is it for the cabs?

Because the winter wears on relentlessly and the Grape has made clear his disdain for sledding and other snow games, R. and I have embarked on a series of recent excursions to sample some of the family friendly entertainment and enrichment opportunities Boston has to offer.

Two weeks ago we decided to take the Grape to the Museum of Fine Arts. As a small baby, he'd enjoyed looking at the pretty colors from his stroller.

Things have changed. R. and I understand the Grape now has the attention span of a senile hamster.

So we knew we couldn't get too ambitious. We decided to take in the first floor of the new Art of the Americas wing. R. and I had enjoyed our visit to the two other floors on a recent kid-free outing.

A forty minute tour through eight rooms with the Grape in tow sounded manageable. In retrospect, I cannot imagine how we ever reached that conclusion.

I mean, I find portraiture of dead white men less than fascinating. Why on earth would I expect an eighteen-month-old to be captivated by the wigs and blank stares?

The Grape sat gamely in his stroller for seven minutes as we entered the museum, showed our tickets and pushed down the interminable corridor to the new wing. We entered the first gallery. He started to fuss. Tourists dazzled by the array of Paul Revere silver shot us the death stare.

I scooped him out of his conveyance and tried to carry him on my hip.

But the Grape likes to self-locomote these days. I took his little hand and marched him deeper into the exhibit, where the curators had assembled:


Furniture that looks rather like the stuff he climbs all over at other people's houses.

R. and I rushed to redirect his attention elsewhere before we became the proud owners of a silk sofa for the very short.

"Look, a horse!" I exclaimed and pointed at an oil painting perched high on the far wall.

The Grape agreed. "Horse!" he sang happily, as he squirmed from my grasp and made a beeline through my legs towards a floor to ceiling portrait of George Washington standing up against the rear flank of his faithful mount.

The Grape darted between other museum goers, with single minded focus on touching the horsey.

R. and I plowed down a tour group from Japan and I believe (though I cannot swear) that I tackled my son to the ground before his paws made contact with the work of Gilbert Stuart.

We hurried out of the museum, faces red with shame, thanking our lucky stars that we weren't going to have to work the rest of our lives to pay for repairs to a life size painting of a horse's ass.

The next weekend we scaled down. We embarked on an adventure to the aquarium. The Grape loved watching the penguins. Everything would have been perfect had we not attempted to see any other exhibits. The giant ocean tank overloaded his little circuits. In a burst of genius, R. and I ran him to the top of the tower, where visitors can peer down at the water's surface. A giant sea turtle swam right under our noses.

"Water," the Grape observed with disdain. Obviously his parents were dummies if they hauled him away from the penguins to look at a phenomenon seen every night in his bath tub.

R. and I decided to hang in there a few minutes longer. We reasoned our visit to the aquarium should last longer than the cab ride to get there.

The turtle swam by again. This time the Grape was fascinated.

By some other kid's discarded half eaten graham cracker on the filthy concrete floor.

By the time we wrangled the snack of disease from his grasp, he was too upset to re-focus on his beloved penguins. "Let's go outside and see the sea lions," R. suggested. "All kids love sea lions."

I agreed. Great idea.

Except when we got the howling Grape bundled and strapped back in his stroller, we learned that the sea lions had gone on sabbatical.

Seriously? They do that? What are they, tenured?

All was not lost, however. The Grape thoroughly enjoyed our taxi ride home. The cab featured one of those annoying touch screens that advertise local attractions at the approximate volume of the public address system at Madison Square Garden. It was like having his own iPad complete with the germs of hundreds of thousands of strangers. He was in heaven.

The cabbie suggested we take the Grape to the zoo next weekend to see the gorillas. "I bet he'd like that."

Maybe we'll venture there next weekend.

Or maybe next time we feel the urge to expose our child to the great offerings of our city, we'll just hop in a taxi, hand the driver twenty dollars and drive around for a while.

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