Last week was certainly a weird one in Blogville.
Tillerman blogged about his underwear. Bonnie blogged about looking into other people's windows. JP blogged about hats.
Never one to miss a trend, I've been looking for something weird to blog about, too.
And then I saw a post on Rowing For Pleasure about a guy who rowed a small boat 2000 miles to the New York World's Fair. Mr. Partridge put up an ancient Pathé newsreel clip of the guy and his boat. The newsreel was done in that hokey 'Holy cow!' style that evolved in the '30s and '40s to keep movie theater patrons awake while they waited for the main feature to start. So the whole thing seemed like it happened even longer ago than it did.
Which was weird, because I remember going to the New York Worlds Fair. The one in 1964, not 1939.
Don't worry, I'm not going to bore you with details of the Belgian Village or how cool the Carousel of Progress was, because, franky, I don't remember anything about them at all. Altogether, it was one of the most unmemorable events I've ever been to. I'm sure glad I didn't row 2000 miles to get there.
But I do remember just one thing about it - something I will never, ever, forget seeing. And that was this:
It turns out the Vatican had a pavillion at the fair. There they were alongside General Motors, Kodak, Greyhound Bus Lines, and the Parker Pen Company. But theirs was the only one without a long line in front. Apparently, their marketing and promotion department had dropped the ball. They just didn't understand what drew in the crowds. None of their exhibits moved. And how could you compete with the Carousel of Progress, anyway?
But somehow, this particular exhibit got to me in a very fundamental way. Not for its religious message, but for its sheer artistry. In 1964, I was a 15-year-old man of the world, but this was the first artwork of that stature that I had ever seen. And, since the pavillion was relatively quiet, I could take my time. There was no Magic Moving Carpet Of The Ages whisking you by it. I must have spent an hour there. You could get as close as you liked and walk all around it.
It is one of those works of art that reveals more of itself the longer you study it. It has a spooky power and presence that's hard to explain. In a small way, it has spoiled all sculpture and statuary that I have seen since. It's that remarkable.
The 1960s were a time of unbridled self confidence in America and of a smug assurance that new things must be better than old ones. A huge amount of historic heritage was plowed under in the sweeping 'urban redevelopment' of that time. In fact, the fair's chief promoter, Robert Moses, famed perhaps more for his ego and persuasive powers than for his artistic vision, had been responsible for a lot of that plowing under.
The fair seemed focused on hurtling us into the future as fast as possible. The past was painted as a dark, technological wasteland with nothing to teach us.
It was quite an awakening for me to feel such power in a work of mute marble that had been crafted by one man almost 500 years before. It was humbling to realize that such genius could have existed so far in the past.
I walked out of that pavillion a changed kid.
Any normal, well-adjusted 15-year-old would have gone bonkers over the NASA rocket exhibit or the cool cars of the future at the GM pavillion or all of the other exhibits pretending to know what life would be like in the future. But, after having seen Michelangelo's Pietà, the rest of that stuff seemed kind of shallow and tacky.
By the age of fifteen, I was already pretty weird.
I had a similar feeling many years later at a boat show in Oakland, where the latest megabuck fiberglass sailboats were lined up at the docks next to a very simple 30-foot wooden boat from an earlier time - a work of art that also had been handcrafted by a single man, Larry Pardey.
Sometimes, simple things are best and the traditions of the past have a lesson or two for us.
So, there now, weird as it may seem, I've managed to find some sailing content in Michelangelo and the New York World's Fair.
But this is still a pretty weird post.