Culture Shock

We all know that, as hard as it may seem to believe, living in Durango has its drawbacks. Take the whole culture thing. Sure, when it comes to cowboys, Indians and the Wild West, we’ve got it covered. But let’s face it, being located precisely in the middle of nowhere, blessing that it may be, can also be a bit of a curse. Take for example that, up until about five years ago, sushi restaurants were unheard of and a visit from Oprah was something to write home about. And as far as being worldly, Japanese cars and Italian bikes don’t exactly qualify.

Not that I’m complaining. Personally, I love the fact that most locals can navigate class 5 rivers, steep singletrack or snowy mountain passes with ease but still become panic stricken at the thought of big city rush hour traffic.

Nevertheless, as the mother of two small children, I figure it is my duty to make sure that they learn to appreciate not only the fine art of outdoor recreation, but the fine art of, well, fine art. I mean, who knows what would have happened if DaVinci never met the Mona Lisa or Van Gogh never stumbled upon Paris? So, on a recent trip to the big city, I decided a trip to a modern art museum and a Picasso exhibit would be the perfect introduction to high art for my 4-year-old. Nothing too complicated or technical – just the type of trippy colors and squiggly lines that a 4-year-old can relate to. OK, so he doesn’t know Picasso from Pinocchio – and frankly, neither do I – but I seized it as a learning experience for both of us.

But no sooner had I released him on the lush expanse of the sculpture garden than I realized it was going to be a bit more of a painful learning experience than I had imagined. See, a few days earlier in the airport, he had spied a billboard featuring the museum and its well known trademark: a giant spoon sporting a giant cherry fountain (known in art circles as “Spoon Bridge and Cherry.”) Anyway, to the initiated art connoisseur, it was a marvel of fine modern art, meant to be beholden and contemplated. But to a 4-year-old accustomed to large, outdoor playgrounds, it meant one thing: the world’s coolest water slide. Unfortunately, before I could get a grasp on the situation, he was off and running, in a dead heat to be the first of his six cousins to swing from the giant cherry stem. Only problem was, he was so focused on the prize that he neglected to notice the swampy moat surrounding it, likely intended to curtail incidents like the one that was just about to occur. That’s right. Like Veruca in the chocolate factory, he was stopped from reaching the selfish object of his desires by the primordial muck of reality. Before I could stop him, he plunged into the swampy mirage feet first, swallowed up to his eyeballs in a thick paste of blue-green goo. I will say this much, what he lacked in common sense, he made up for in quick reflexes as he scrambled up to dry land. Before I knew what had happened, he had re-emerged like the creature from the black lagoon, only smaller and a lot more pathetic. He did remain stoic enough to allow me to pick off the large clumps of plankton, which were stuck in his face and hair like day-old oatmeal.

As one can imagine, the incident presented a host of new problems, aside from the profound disappointment that came from the realization that the giant slide was off limits to anything but looking. Provided that we somehow managed to escape the security guards, who were no doubt on their way to escort us off the premises, we still had to figure out how to smuggle a dripping wet, algae-covered preschooler into an exhibit of priceless works of art. Unprepared for disaster as usual, I was forced to do what any distressed parent would do: buy my way out of it. “Pleeease, buddy,” I pleaded as I tried to remove the wet clothes and slip the oversized and over-priced gift store T-shirt over his head. “It’s not a dress. It’s a shirt. I promise.”

Finally, with enough encouragement, we were able to coerce him into the shirt, which hung down to his knees, and scrape most of the algae off his visible parts. Somehow we escaped the detection of the museum staff as we entered the gallery, nevertheless, I wasn’t going to take any chances. I mean, there were at least a half dozen Picassos and a Warhol is plain sight, for god’s sake. I tightly grasped Baxter’s hand (after removing a baggie of contraband crackers) and whispered a gentle reminder in his ear, “If you touch anything, they’ll throw mommy in jail ... oh, and don’t lift up your dress, er, shirt.”

OK, so it was a little harsh, but judging from the heavy scrutiny we were getting from the museum Gestapo, probably not far off the mark. Stopping just short of a full-on straight jacket, I escorted him through the exhibit, doing my best to try to foster some inspiration despite the fact that I had him in a full nelson. Needless to say, we made it through the exhibit in record time, and, I am proud to report, without much incident (OK, there was a dangerously close brush with a bronze sculpture but I’m sure it was a replica.) Apparently the tour was over not a moment too soon, for us and the anxious museum staff.

“Can we go now?” Baxter asked as we neared the end. “I’m feeling sea sick.” Whether it was the result of his unplanned swim or the incongruous, erratic perspectives of cubism or merely that he was sick of “seeing,” I didn’t quite know. Nor did I stop to find out – mostly because when you’re standing in a room full of million dollar paintings with a small child alleging stomach distress, it’s better to leave first and ask questions later. We headed for the nearest exit and walked down the polished linoleum stairs, down the gleaming white hallway of glass and metal, and back outside. And off in the distance, we saw another young boy make a mad dash for the cherry, his triumphant bid for glory also ending in a big splash.

– Missy Votel



In this week's issue...

January 25, 2024
Bagging it

State plastic bag ban is in full effect, but enforcement varies

January 26, 2024
Paper chase

The Sneer is back – and no we’re not talking about Billy Idol’s comeback tour.

January 11, 2024
High and dry

New state climate report projects continued warming, declining streamflows