Oh how typical of me! I was besotted with this place, before I’d ever actually seen it, before I’d ever even been there. I hungered for it and yearned for it. As solid and sweet as a bar of chocolate, as warm and as inviting as hug from your beloved, an unending waterfall of information tumbling right into my arms. I knew I’d be safe there. I loved it, loved it loved it from the start. A helter-skelter sprawling tumble of a place.
The American Museum of Natural History on Central Park West, New York City. My heart’s home.
I am a ravenous bottom feeder, deep in the subterranean bowels of this marvelous place! Scurrying past the gigantic slice of Sequoia though the Halls of New York Forests, twirling around the massive mosquito, ogling the poor dead Dodo, I am the Goddess of the Information Desk. Even though I am so new to New York that there is a foldable map permanently crushed into the bottom of my purse, I spray fans of guide books and point my fingers with impunity, as I now know the exact route to the Whale, to the dinosaurs to the canoe!
Every Saturday I spend hours traveling up to the museum by subway from Brooklyn. I could be anywhere but I am here, just to be here. Where else?
The Spring Thaw
“I buy chickens bigger than that.” They were so tiny, the identically burbling, undersized indoor captives of the wildest white winter in memory. At four months we could count on one hand how many times they had been outside. But now it was March and the massive ice cliffs that reached the tops of the street signs on the corners were melting into rivers that ran down the avenues. Stuffing them into their oversized snowsuits, side by side in their stroller, we defiantly pushed through the revolving doors and out to the street. Two blocks over, seven blocks up. The Museum.
I had been waiting for this!
We rolled past the trumpeting elephants in the Akeley galleries, dragged through the Serengeti Plain, huddled with the Muskox. And last and best of all to Hall of Ocean Life to stand under the belly of the whale! I was agog. They were asleep.
Snug in their snowsuits, in the dim light of the museum they slept deeply and contentedly, on and on. Could they absorb the aura of my best loved place with their every sleeping breath? Just to be sure, I bought them their own tiny dinosaurs. Ah. And Ah.
And now there are three. Belted into the back, the curly-haired one car seated in the middle, we are ready for adventure! Charizard, Pikachu, and Blastois clutched in their fists, DK Eyewitness Oceans on the folded down screen, dreams of Dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets tantalizing their tongues, we know where we want to go.
Once there we bounce from Birds of the World, to Primates, to the long awaited Margaret Mead Hall of Pacific People. The Giant Turtle, the Corythesaurus, the Passenger Pigeons!
And always we end at Rocks and Minerals, rolling, rollicking and running up and down the ramps our paths sparkling with rubies, emeralds, sapphires, and the Star of India itself. All glinting, and glowing, and glimmering. For us.
Bang out a tight fisted drum roll of joy on the petrified wood! This place belongs to all.
Go you Game Boys!
So Close to Travel So Far
To the loll on the beaches of the Bahamas? Or ski the slopes of the Smug? Perhaps for some but not for us. Why fly? Instead we travel the world simply by hugging the edge of Manhattan as we fling ourselves into the flow of the Westside Highway. You know our destination. From the Hall of Planet Earth to The Hall of Biodiversity we are here and we are there. Through this place, we are everywhere.
Heretofore off-limits, the gateways of science open to them with a warm welcome to the mysterious 5th floor and beyond. Presentations and publications, research and REU. Walk longest hallway in the world with no end in sight. They are back again. And as with me, part of them will never leave.
Oh, I could make my way through this place blindfolded! But why on earth would I ever do that? As Roy Chapman Andrews once said, “these are not just any floors.”
As always, thank you, for having me. Thank you for having all of us. As ever and as always, I will be back.