Dona and Joe’s European Vacation, Episode 3: The Spectrum of New Yorkerness, from High Brow to Low. And Dona Starts Writing!

Joe: Today was Metropolitan Museum of Art day for us, which is a bit of a misnomer since no one can take in the breadth of the museum in a single day. You really need two or three or more. But we did the best we could, concentrating on our individual areas of interest, which for Dona is European sculpture, painting, and decorative arts, and for me is the Renaissance-era painting of Italy and the Netherlands.

The highlight of the day, though, was seeing how many people—young people mostly—were at the museum with pencils and pads, recreating the great works of art for their personal development. This, I think, is the art world’s version of what some writing teachers recommend, which is to type out great stories so that the writer’s process is somehow infused into the student. I’ve never really understood how transcription can improve one’s writing, but seeing it in practice with the students at the Met, I’ve begun to realize that perhaps there’s an aha moment that comes into play when one breaks down the process of genius.

Dona: My highlights for the day were two: 1) listening to the audio descriptions of the various artworks, and through them being transposed to another place and time, and 2) being with others who take a moment to appreciate the beauty of the magnificent works of art. It can be hypnotic.

I’m a city girl and have always loved being in big cities. There is an energy I feel when I am in a place like NYC. Everyone walks fast, talks fast; they are on a mission. I love it! But something I have also seen here is—wait for it—kindness. While it may be hard to believe, I have seen things that continue to give me faith in humanity. From the person on the subway who gave up their seat, to the staff at the 9/11 memorial, to the individuals whom I saw helping people down the steps. Yes, I saw kindness.

 

Joe, again: So how far will a Lyft driver go to earn an extra tip? It’s a question we will wonder about no more after today. A chill wind and a drop in temperature made us decide to forego the walk to the subway on the way back from the Met, and call a ride instead. At first our driver regaled us with a tale of nerdish individualism: he told us he was a freelance software engineer who drove two hours a couple of days a week to unwind from his intellectual labors. I’m not married, I have no kids, so I’m free to make a few extra dollars, he told us. But a couple of minutes later, when he learned that Dona was CEO of the Pierce County United Way, he told us his wife was the HR person at the New York Goodwill (although he had trouble remembering the name of the organization), and that she did many of the same things Dona did. And all that had been erased by the time we made it to our hotel (and at least he got us there), because he had replaced that story with how he had driven a yellow cab for ten years before deciding to go with the lesser-paying competition. Sorry, no points for bullshit, man. No extra from us.

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