So the National Jazz Museum in Harlem is more of a room than a museum, in the sense there’s nothing to look at and no regular visiting hours. So Katherine and Allison went to an event: Rhythm and Dance with Michela Marino Lerman.
Between the two of us, Allison was the tap expert: she had lessons at the local community center when she was 7. What do jazz and tap have to do with each other? Apparently, tap dancing was always a part of jazz, and musicians and tappers (called “hoofers” if you’re in the know. Now you’re in the know) improvised together. Then the golden feeling of brotherhood soured, as it always does, with two competing styles developing in rancor: the Hoofers and the Copacetics.
Michela didn’t look like a dancer, but it turns out that jazz tap is percussion more than dance. And she tore the roof off the one-room storage unit/museum. She also spoke with the same blowsy unhurried inclusivity of the veteran jazz musician to an audience which seemed to consist mostly of those who know Michaela. Then everyone was invited to get their dance on. Allison didn’t bring her shoes. Katherine was happy about that.
National Jazz Museum of Harlem. Perhaps not a museum, but ….. 3 stars.
Allison noticed a flyer for the Historic House Trust of New York. It contained over twenty historic houses, none of which we had visited. We had only 5 more museums on our list, and now we were confronted with another year’s worth of historic homes. (Duncan refuses to visit these; as a European he does not consider a home built in 1800 “historic.” And he hates fake food).
What to do?
Katherine admitted she was aware of the existence of these homes, but wasn’t sure she should bring it up. The following amendment to the rules of the Museum Project was proposed and voted on, winning by majority (with one member in abstentia).
Amendments to Rule 1:
- Historic houses must only be visited if they have the word “museum” in their names.
- Historic houses do not need to be entered to be considered visited. A photo in front of said house will suffice to count as visited.
- Historic houses can be visited by only one person and will still count as visited.
Because, come on.
Also, the Queens County Farm Museum is back on the list—but will be visited in conjunction with a Costco trip to ease the pain.
It was cold. We were hungover. And Allison and Katherine could not convince Duncan to join for the Saturday outing. The first stop was for a coffee. Then uptown to the Hispanic Society of America, housed in a beautiful building in Inwood. The building itself was the most impressive, with an ornate double height ceiling and a ballroom with a 360 degree Sorolla mural depicting rural Spanish life. They even had a Goya or two. And an absolutely enormous, studio-sized bathroom (with just one toilet stall). Bigger than Allison’s apartment.
Allison is a terrible photographer.
You could live in here.
A donut was eaten. It was that kind of day. And up to the Van Cortlandt house where a volunteer docent who was WAY too into his job was giving the most minute detail tour. After going through the biographies of all the van Cortlandts, including which crops were planted by which ancestors, and how the Native Americans cleared the fields (they lit fire to them and then killed all the animals flushed out for meat. Clever.) Allison and Katherine had a REALLY IMPORTANT APPOINTMENT and skeddadled out of there before the docent could tell us again about the mechanism behind the cuckoo clock. Did you know that Van Cortlandt was not his real name? They called him that to tease him. Fascinating.
Ready to throw ourselves under the train, we instead road inside it to the Dyckman House Museum. There was fake food, but, oddly, thankfully, no taxidermy. People used to be shorter. Commodes were in bedrooms. Samplers were the old selfies.
Hispanic Society 3 stars
Van Cortlandt House Museum 3 stars
Dyckman Farmhouse Museum 3 stars
Dear Paley Center for Media,
http://www.youtube.com exists. There is no reason to pay $10 to sit at a computer in the Paley Center and look at videos.
Paley Center: 3 stars
Torah Animal World was everything we thought it might be and more. In the living room of a Hasidic Rabbi (well, three living rooms) it is a museum devoted entirely to taxidermy (to Allison’s horror) of all the animals mentioned in Leviticus. Sharks? Yup. Giraffe from chest up? Yup. Snake made into belt with snake head still on? Yes.
What a Facade!
Duncan gets friendly with a coelacanth.
Also in attendance that day was a family of Yiddish speakers (who could actually understand the welcome video, which was in Yiddish, natch) and National Geographic, doing a photo essay on… what else? Taxidermy. And Jewish World News 1, the television station you’ve never heard of who interviewed Allison as she wore the snake belt and waxed poetic about the impending closing of the museum and its contribution to the impoverishment of the outer borough cultural scene under the watchful gaze of the Rebbe.
A writer, a rabbi, and a boom mic operator walk into a bar…
Best museum ever.
After that amazing spectacle, we went to the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (“MoCADA”). It was closed. Again. The last time we went Duncan and Katherine were pulled over for running a red light on their bikes and fined $200 apiece only to find out it was closed for inventory.
This time, we arrived via subway, only to find out it was closed for inventory. At the cost of $410, fuck it, we’re calling it visited.
Torah Animal World 3 stars
MoCADA 3 stars