Tours, Trails & Group Rides

Last of the Holidays (Almost)

My new-found mania for scheduling blog posts has meant that I’ve gotten things a bit out of order here, and now find myself with a number of unpublished looks at holiday decor in New York City.  It’s January 1st today, though, and technically still “the holidays”, so I am unabashedly offering a few more glimpses from my December portfolio.

While Basil was in the shop, I stopped in at the Met to see the famous tree,  and the Neapolitan crèche beneath it. This was the first time in many years that I’d seen this particular exhibit; I tend to avoid the Met like the plague during holidays and school breaks.

Note the contented peasants, still earth-bound, engaging in their usual occupations in rather desultory fashion. Probably the 47% of their time, not carrying their weight at all, don’t you think?

This extravagance is a reminder that the human passion for creating small-scale inanimate worlds didn’t begin or end with Victorian doll houses.  In the eighteenth century, grown people in Italy created this fantastic, and unrealistically euphoric, vision of worlds (terrestrial and celestial) in harmony . . . and adult lovers of model trains continue to do the same today, if not always on this scale.  (Also, model train scenes tend to lack the euphoric element; that’s just for the model-makers to experience, perhaps, as they work.)

As it happened, I picked my day (and hour) well.  The low temperature and overcast sky apparently discouraged the hordes I’d expected to see.  Having gone on a weekday morning probably didn’t hurt, either.

Amusingly, the Met was strung with a banner advertising an exhibit called “Faking It” (“manipulated photography before photoshop”).  The crèche, doll houses, and even model trains represent another kind of fakery: the representation of reality in a static, perfected, form, more tangible than mere photographs.

It almost seems ridiculous to take these photos oneself, when the Met bookshops are full of excellent views of this traditional exhibit.  But modern cameras, even little point-and-shoots like mine, do such a good job, and it just feels right to capture the viewing experience at the moment of individual engagement. Apparently I’m no less susceptible to the pleasure of miniaturization than were the Neapolitan artisans who first built this tableau. (Just less ambitious!)