Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Alas, Poor Betty, We Hardly Knew Ye

Explaining how we became friends with artist, educator, and (currently) fisherman John Mowder would require ten years of history, much of it revolving around the Outer Banks, where John spends most of his summers.  I'm going to skip that and just go straight to saying that spending time with John is ALWAYS a treat, and today was no exception.

John's house is his gallery; it's always changing, but the biggest change we noted today is the presence of his wheaten terrier, Toto.  What a great dog!  He looks a bit like a smaller Wowbagger, (which was bittersweet, because we found out from Chip today that the vet has diagnosed the Wowpuppy's problem as hip dysplasia; I digress.)  He's just a soft, furry bundle of friendliness, so we spent a while at John's kitchen table playing with the dog and catching up.

Then we were off with John to the Carnegie museum, and that's when we discovered that he no longer drives Betty White, his mom's old car.  "She got too demanding," he told us.  "Two weeks ago she needed even MORE money, so I told her she had to go."  The last time we were in Pittsburgh, I saw most of the city from Betty's backseat.  John's new car is a silver Subaru, Bernadette, but she doesn't have Betty's (admittedly neurotic) personality.

The Carnegie pleased us, of course, but it actually surprised and pleased John.  He hadn't been there in a while, and discovered today that the new curator has shuffled the collections, added some excellent pieces that had been in storage, and created some salon-style displays in several of the galleries.  We had a wonderful time drawing on John's expertise.  (Sarah, you really need to do this.  We'll get you up here and let you rant to John about Seurat.)

While John and I were talking about color, line, and whether a person can look at any Edvard Munch painting for too long without going nuts, Hank was lining up shots like this one, where a Rodin bowman is about to shoot us.  We also attracted the attention of a security guard who thought we might actually (the horror!) be touching a Mary Cassatt.  Actually, we were just talking about whether mouths or eyes were the most expressive facial features, and the guard turned out to be quite friendly.

That is one of the lovable things about Pittsburgh.  Most of the people are friendly.  They do not regard others with suspicion or hostility, as a general rule; I'm sure that exceptions exist, since the jerk is a ubiquitous species, but we haven't run into many.

Tonight we had dinner with John and John Mannear (aka Other John) at Hokkaido Seafood Buffet.  We could not find the place again if our lives depended on it, since we were once again whisked through surface streets in Bernadette.  Dinner conversation was a lively combination of art, teaching, folklore, medicine, and the joys of Internet research.  Other John gave me a book, Population: 485, written by the person who lead his visiting writer lecture series this year.  It looks to be both funny and close-to-home for anyone familiar with the vagaries and tragedies of small town life.

We left them this evening, promising to return to Pittsburgh ASAP, and this time to stay at the right Marriott, the one about a block from their house, instead of downtown, where we currently are.  Tomorrow we head up to Ann Arbor, taking the scenic route past Cleveland.  I can't wait, insofar as the Johns talked tonight about how Cleveland is now a ghost town.  We'll see, I suppose.

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