SAM, I Am

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Yesterday Kish and I visited the Seattle Art Museum — also known as SAM.  It’s located smack dab in the middle of Seattle’s bustling downtown, and it’s worth a visit.

I like going to art museums I’m not familiar with, because you’re almost always surprised.  Sometimes it’s a good surprise, sometimes it’s not.  SAM falls on the positive side of the ledger.  It’s a big, sprawling facility, with all kinds of nooks and crannies to explore.  Every time you turn a corner, you see something interesting.

During our visit, the displays included an extensive and compelling Joan Miro exhibit — boy, he sure liked to paint birds and women! — and a fabulous and beautiful collection of blown glass objects that included numerous pieces by Dale Chihuly.  The museum’s standard collection is impressive and includes an interesting early American section, which blends portraits, landscapes, furniture, and other objects, Italian and French rooms, modern pieces by Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko, and some whimsical and thought-provoking sculptures, including an untitled piece by American artist Marlo Pascual that featured a ’40s-style glamour shot of an unknown, sad-eyed woman on which a rock had been positioned to look like a hat.

My favorite part of the collection was a large array of indigenous art, including some fantastic masks and costumes and sculptures.  The masks in particular were riveting.  As I looked at the colorful depictions of serpents and wolves, I thought of the strong connection the indigenous peoples felt to the natural world and how we have largely lost that connection in modern America.  Maybe the piece featuring the well-dressed woman with the rock on her head speaks to that, too.

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Eurotrip 2011: Madrid

The Gran Via avenue in Madrid.

I’ll always remember Madrid as the city where I lost my passport.

The internet cafe where I wrote my previous post was really hot inside, so I took off my money belt and placed it next to the computer monitor. While on my way back to the hostel a few hours later, the realization that my money belt wasn’t wrapped around my stomach struck me like a jolt of electricity. I sprinted back to the internet cafe, but it was already gone.

Inside the money belt was my passport, my Eurail pass (insured, thankfully), and a wad of cash I had withdrawn from an ATM that morning.

So, I saw Madrid from the unique perspective of a panicked, then bitter, tourist. I was only beginning to come to peace with the loss when I left the city three days later.

I spent my first night in Madrid at a police station making a report. I had no hopes that they would find anything, but the report was necessary for getting a new passport and Eurail pass. The next morning I headed to the American embassy to complete the surprisingly quick and inexpensive process of getting a temporary passport. I wasted that afternoon waiting in line at both of Madrid’s train stations in an effort to find someone who could explain the Eurail insurance claim to me.

I finally got back into my traveling groove that evening when I joined Roland at the Prado, where I tried to replace my thoughts of regret, guilt, self-pity, and anger with ones of appreciation for the beauty of art.

Madrid’s art museums, like those of Paris, complement each other by covering different eras of art. The Prado’s collection stops at the beginning of the Impressionist era. It’s most famous as the location of the “black paintings” of Francisco Goya, including The 3rd of May in Madrid and Saturn Devouring His Son. The paintings show Goya’s pessimistic view of human nature, which I was inclined to share after the event of the previous day.

The beautiful courtyard of the Reina Sofia, with a Lichtenstein work.

The next day, Roland and I went to the Reina Sofia, which has paintings from the post-Impressionist era. They have an excellent collection of Picasso’s paintings (probably better than that of the Picasso museum in Barcelona), including the magnificent Guernica, which Roland spent a lot of time sketching. I also saw more of Joan Miro’s works there, and some creepy paintings by Salvador Dali.

In my effort to forget the loss of my passport, I was helped by the classic remedy, beer. After leaving the Reina Sofia, Roland and I went to a restaurant recommended by people we met at the hostel, where they bring you a plate of free greasy Spanish food – chicken, cheese, bread, fried potatoes, etc. – with every 3.50-euro beer. We liked it so much that we went again the next night.

The precious free food that came with our beers.

There was a protest in the Puerta del Sol square near our hostel the entire three days Roland and I were in Madrid. Judging by the conversations we had with participants, and signs we half-understood, it was an expression of the Spanish youth’s dissatisfaction with the government of Spain and its execution of democracy. On our last night in town, we wedged our way into the center of the square, packed with thousands of people. They got everyone there to participate in a moment of silence that lasted a few beautiful minutes. I was impressed that, out of thousands of people, no jerk emerged to ruin it.

The Puerta del Sol protest.

Before leaving the next morning, I made a final effort to recover my money belt from the internet cafe where I lost it. The employee told me it hadn’t turned up. I’d already accepted that I wouldn’t see it again, so I wasn’t disappointed. I was more sad about parting ways with Roland, who took a flight to Amsterdam while I went to Lisbon.

Eurotrip 2011: Barcelona

Eurotrip 2011: Rouen, Le Havre and Paris

Eurotrip 2011: Paris

Eurotrip 2011: Nice and Marseille

Eurotrip 2011: Venice and Milan

Eurotrip 2011: Interlaken

Eurotrip 2011: Florence and Pisa

Eurotrip 2011: Rome pt. 2

Eurotrip 2011: Rome pt. 1

Eurotrip 2011: Palermo

Eurotrip 2011: The Journey To Palermo

Eurotrip 2011: Santorini and Athens

Eurotrip 2011: Athens

Eurotrip 2011: Istanbul