Alice Austen House, Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art, New York Tattoo Museum, Historic Richmond Town

Alice Austen House, Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art, New York Tattoo Museum, Historic Richmond Town


Duncan, Katherine and Allison

The day dawned overcast and humid. We met at the Staten Island Ferry at 10:15, where we each had our bikes sniffed by a canine. The only illegal substance our bikes are carrying is sarcasm.

Most people try to take a picture of the Statue of Liberty without the ferry’s windows in the way. .

Interviews with the participants revealed that the most anticipated museums of the day included the Jacques Marchais Tibetan House collection and the Tattoo Museum.

Our first stop was the Alice Austen House, a lovely seaside mansion not far from the ferry terminal. The house itself served as a beard, as it became increasingly clear from the coy, euphemistic placards that Alice loved the love that dare not speak its name. Her “companion,” Gertrude, and she lived happily in the house, eschewing male suitors and dressing up in drag so that Alice could indulge her penchant for photography. Sometimes the  men dressed up as well, or pressed the trigger button to capture Alice and “Trude” lounging in bed. Alice called her carefree living “the Larky Life.” Katherine paid close attention to the video presentation, a seventies-stravaganza narrated by Helen Hayes, and became an authority on this little known Staten Island LGBT phenom.

View of Manhattan from Alice Austen House

We then biked to the tattoo museum. We would not like to recommend Staten Island as a biking destination as it is 1) hilly and 2) not particularly bike friendly. We went down Hylan boulevard, a street which could be anywhere in suburban America, a repeating pattern of CVS, Claire’s, Jiffy Lube and KFC. Finally, thirsty, hungry, we reached the Tattoo Museum, which, if it looks very much like a tattoo shop, is because it is.

There Dozer, the museum’s creator and shop owner, recommended that we go to lunch while he got the museum together. In great detail he described the offerings of the nearby Italian deli, while we needed no convincing. We had a terrific set of hero sandwiches, sopressata, eggplant and chicken parm, which stayed with us all afternoon, and occasionally repeated itself.

Katherine, Allison and Dozer

The museum itself was up a flight of stairs. Though there was no air conditioning, and the heat index was hovering near 100, Dozer dutifully took us through the one room of exhibits. Three cheesey dioramas (manikins with wigs) showed the history of tattooing, from Polynesian tribes, to Japanese XX technique to the birth of the stereotype of the drunken sailor, accompanied by spotlights and short documentaries. There were first-edition drawings by famous (if you are in the tattoo world) drawings of tattoos, acetate stencils and a collection of a couple dozen machines used by famous artists.

No one can accuse Dozer of lacking enthusiasm. We were gifted with the most in-depth knowledge of tattoo history and technique that money could buy (the museum is free). The final wall shows just a few of the many-hundred tattoos that Dozer performed in the wake of 9/11. After being moved to tears when visiting the local firehouse, where many of the guys who used to hang out at the tattoo parlor were being mourned, he helped design a tattoo that could only be worn by members of the FDNY. He forewent his usual shop-owners cut, and convinced the artists to work for half their usual pay, earning over $17,000 for the orphans and widows fund. Community ink service at its best. The display was surprisingly moving.

Continuing to taste the chicken parmesean, we continued for our longest segment of the day up Lighthouse Hill to the Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art. Like the other museums we had visited, this museum was less of a museum and more of a house with some art. Jacques (a woman) collected Tibetan art and built a library to house the sculptures and artifacts she amassed. She apparently built the house by herself (surely she must have had construction help), and claimed, according to a placard, that it was built of heavy stone on bedrock. It would last for “a thousand years” which, as Duncan, our resident European pointed out, was quite the ballsy statement for 1944, when all other forever structures were lying in ruins. Allison couldn’t have given a fuck what the placards said as long as there was air conditioning.

Duncan contemplating the notion of religion and ephemerality

Down the hill was much more fun, and Historic Richmondtown was mere blocks away. An historic preserve of 18th and19th century houses, some in situ and some moved from other areas of New York. Abandoned, it looked like a movie set, and we were unsurprised to hear that it was being used as a location for Boardwalk Empire. Factoids learned: bars got their names from the bars that the tavern owners could lower when fights broke out to protect their earnings; 18th Century houses didn’t have air conditioning.

The sole interpreter,  that is, the sole person dressing up, worked at the general store, where the goods looked new as they were stocked for Boardwalk Empire. New old stuff looks really different from old old stuff.

By this point, the gang was tired and thirsty, and just happened to pass directly in front of the German beer garden, where we felt obligated to stop and help stimulate the economy. Katherine and Duncan had already downed a beer and the world’s second-largest pickle by the time Allison huffed and puffed there. It was the best beer ever in the history of beer drinking, and some of us have been at it for a while.

The sniffing dog on the way home did not want to check out the bikes and merely nodded in our direction.  Each of us took turns impersonating the dog, giving voice to his dissatisfaction, which provided much amusement during the wait for the ferry.

Here’s a video:

We got home just before it began to rain and Allison soaked in Epsom salts while Katherine and Duncan hit the town.


Alice Austen House                                              3 stars

Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art          3 stars

New York Tattoo Museum                                  3 stars

Historic Richmond Town                                     3 stars


Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, Museum of Sex

Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, Museum of Sex

11/21/2012  Duncan and Allison

The project has hit a nadir, and its name is Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum. Replicas of large mammals, shrunken heads, and an animatronic New Guinean tribesman who farts when you sit down next to him make up the bulk of the collection. There is, however, a black hole, in which a walkway is suspended inside a rotating tube, painted with dots and stripes. When you step onto the bridge it feels as though it (and therefore, you) is rotating which produces nausea (or is that the museum itself) and a headache lasting 24 hours?

Here’s Allison in a pig-faced pillory

(because there was a whole section on medieval torture devices.)

The Museum of Sex is every bit as awkward as it sounds, especially when attended by heterosexual, opposite sex friends. Several facts were learned:

1. People search for the words “grandpa sex” more often than they search for “female masturbation.”

2. Mallard ducks frequently engage in “rape-flights” which can lead to necrophilia.

3. Though it has never been tested, giraffes ejaculate “what can safely be assumed to be semen.”

4. Many animals masturbate.

5. Making a sex machine will not save your marriage.

Here’s a movie of Duncan on the dildo bike:

Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum        3 stars

Museum of Sex                                            3 stars

Fashion Institute of Technology, Forbes Gallery

The Fashion Institute of Technology, Forbes Gallery

11/17/2012  Duncan, Katherine, Allison

FIT was having an exhibit on preppy style, which was a little bit like going to brunch on the Upper East Side. However, we did learn that Princeton men wear beer suits, which are lightweight overalls designed to be worn over clothing and never washed. Never washed. Until 25 years after graduation. Never washed.

The Forbes Gallery is Papa Forbes’ personal collection, which consists only of hyperbolic and purple placards and homo-erotic oil paintings by Walter Stuempfig. The only possible explanation is that Herr Stuempfig was blackmailing the Forbes family for someone’s proclivities  for the love-that-dare-not-speak-its-name and forced them to buy his paintings, consisting of young men about to, in the midst of, or just after taking off their clothing.

There were 5 models of the The Highlander, a boat which… well, we’ll just let the placard speak for itself:

The fifth Highlander took more than three years to translate from dream and concept to reality. Reality, though, isn’t really an adequate word to describe what the soaring imagination and genius of her designer Jon Bannenberg have wrought. Though she was all business, the government in 1979 forbade any yachts as a business expense. But she proved so valuable to us, we kept her going out of aftertax profits.

Perhaps it is not an exaggeration to say that from Highlander conversations were generated more articles than from any ship since Noah’s ark and Christopher Columbus’ wee fleet.

A mesmerizing Rube Goldberg, silver ball installation saved the gallery its stars. Pictures were verboten, but similar contraptions can be seen here:

Fashion Institute of Technology        3 stars

Forbes Gallery                                         3 stars

Japan Society, Scandinavia House, China Institute in America, American Folk Art Museum

Japan Society,  Scandinavia House, China Institute in America, American Folk Art Museum

10/13/2012   Duncan, Katherine and Allison

Today was country day, except that the Korea Society is only open Monday through Friday, (Insert marginally funny gangnam style joke here).

The Japan Society had some lovely screens, but absolutely amazing toilets that are everything the rumors promise them to be. We have never felt so clean and fresh, pampered with tepid water aimed at precise degrees of pressure to individual points of genitalia, followed by a gentle air drying which made us realize that we have been going through life at a substandard level of genital freshness, and it turns out the douche commercials are right.

The Scandinavia House has a restaurant on its first floor and large-scale pictures of Iceland upstairs, where we would all like to go but probably never will.

The China Institute in America had inexplicably creepy busts, disintegrating vases, and commentary on the state of capitalism, unsurprisingly.

Who knows what this is.

The American Folk Art Museum was having an exhibition of shiny objects, which would have been fantastic, if we were ravens.

Japan Society                                          3 stars

Scandinavia House                               3 stars

China Institute in America                  3 stars

American Folk Art Museum                3 stars

Colonial Dames of America Headquarters and Mount Vernon Hotel Museum

Colonial Dames of America Headquarters and Mount Vernon Hotel Museum…

Duncan (with friend Sophia) 10/16/2012

Worth $8 ($7 if you pretend to be a student)? Objectively, no. Better value than the Jaques Marchais Museum? Yes. You have to take a tour that takes about an hour: there is no other option – don’t even think about trying to wander around independently.

This place has all the classic small museum fittings: 15 minute video with narrator in period costume? Check; Quasi-period furniture with no connection to the house? Check. Reconstruction of a tavern with bars around the bar (à la Historic Richmond town)? Check. Highlights included a playlist containing a song called “America of Commerce and Freedom”, a cross-stitched poem sewn – and likely written – by a ten-year-old, and a plaque under a portrait describing the occupant as a ‘Pamphleteer and Duellist’.

Most excitingly, there’s a display of fake food on the dining table just inside the door: this includes a plastic turtle soup served in a turtle shell with an elaborate pie crust around its rim. Inside the adjacent fake kitchen is a recipe for turtle soup, running to about a page and concluding with the simple statement, “Then make the soup”, having described in great detail how to kill, butcher and clean the animal in question. Unfortunately the Dames enforce a strict no photography policy so we were unable to immortalise any of this.

Finally, a word about the Dames themselves: unlike the raggle-taggle bunch of riff raff organised under the ‘Daughters of the American Revolution’ banner, they have concocted membership criteria that ensure undiluted WASPiness in perpetuity. While the DAR allow any Tommette, Dickette or Harriet whose family can be traced to America in the late 18th Century to join their ranks, the Dames require your family to have been ‘in public service’ during colonial times. In other words, get your Jewish tusch out of their house!

Colonial Dames of America Headquarters and Mount Vernon Hotel Museum               3 stars

Madame Tussaud’s, Discovery Times Square, a little nauseated

November 4, 2012

Katherine and Allison

A planned trip to the Studio Museum in Harlem was derailed, like so much else, by Hurricane Sandy. So we went to the circle of hell that is Times Square to discover the Discovery Museum.

Allison is writing a novel about the history of the CIA, and still, the exhibit on spies was deadly boring (and spendy). There was a bug that was embedded in the heel of a shoe, though, and an animation of when the US almost successfully brough up a sunken Russian submarine. Also, there was a room where you had to jump over the lasers a la Vincent Cassel in Ocean’s 12.

In retrospect we wondered if shouldn’t have gone to see the Harry Potter exhibit.

And yet… Madame Tussaud’s.

Allison will admit, with embarassment, that she went to Madame Tussaud’s in London once upon a time. It was Katherine’s first time, and, you never forget your first time.

Question: Why was Gandhi seated next to Ernest Hemingway?

Here’s Katherine having a souful conversation with George Clooney:

Katherine and George

Here is my butt compared to Kim Kardashian’s:








For some reason, ice cream was on sale:


Discovery Times Square:          3 Stars

Madame Tussaud’s                    3 Stars


Chinese in America, Artists’ Space, Dahesh

November 11, 2012

Allison and Katherine

The Museum of Chinese in America is in a very cool, open-industrial SoHo space. It is also interactive; it has drawers that are the height of children which open and snap close. It also has a replica of a 19th Century tea shop with lots of signs saying “do not touch” in English. We were lucky enough to catch the exhibit of Asians in Comic Books, where we discovered that Ras Al’Ghul is actually sort of Asian and that the buck-toothed, cross-eyed, Confuscious-bearded, conical straw  hat-wearing sterotype is alive and well represented in comics. Here’s a picture of Katherin inhabiting the soul of a Dragon Lady:

We also ate buns from the Chinese bakery, which sent us on a huge sugar rush and then dropped us into the deepest despair that corresponded with our visit to Artists’ Space, a completely inexplicable loft space that was showing poster board timelines of the evolution, devolution, dissolution and semi-lution of the Bernadette Corporation. The Bernadette Corporation, as best we could figure out, was started in the 1990s by friends of Chloe Sevigny. They dabbled in clothing, bookmaking, cinema, screenplays and other ephemera, all featuring Chloe Sevigny, because the Bernadette Corporation was friends with Chloe Sevigny. It was pretty noisy in there, what with the televisions blaring, but the two hipsters employed to stare at Apple computers seemed nonplused.

The nadir of the day was realized at the Dahesh Museum of Art, an oddly overheated… giftshop. Yes, modern art has dispensed with the pesky museum and just delivered what the public really wants: more retail space. The art was all loaned out, “To Buffalo?” the guard/cashier told us. But we were free to shop for…. “colonizer stuff” as Katherine put it.

Museum of Chinese in America:       3 stars

Artists’ Space:                                       3 stars

Dahesh Museum/Gift Shop               3 stars