the menil

Yesterday was one of those magical, perfect days for me, and I'm really grateful. Johnny, good food, coffee, art museums, walking, sunshine, and bookstores are some of my favorite things, and if they're all combined, even better. And, it was a typical h-o-t July day in Houston, but I even enjoyed the sweat knowing pesky little toxins were making an exit as I "glistened."

In addition to mere fun, yesterday was also research for an article I'm writing, so I won't elaborate too much here. I do, however, have several photos to share:

[headed out the door. Our soundtrack for the day was Paste's latest sampler, full of world music.]

[my delicious baked chicken salad at Empire Café. Other than a custom omelette, this might be the only dish I can eat at Empire right now, but it was yummy - the chicken was seasoned to perfection. Plus, it's just good to be at Empire; inspiring atmosphere.]

[Johnny had a chicken panini, then a piece of chocolate amaretto cake. It was his treat for being such a great husband (as usual). He loves good art, too, but art museums are not his natural habitat. We split a cup of the house blend, some of my favorite coffee in all of Houston. I only took a few sips (trying to give my adrenals a break), but the aroma was worth every single penny. Coffee was the perfect touch to Johnny's cake, he said, and he even obliged my request to dunk one of those little cookies in the steaming brew (he liked). I could not, so someone had to! Those cookies soaked in coffee might be better than cake, in my opinion. I should also mention that we sat at the very table Johnny occupied on a past blind date. About 20 min. into their meal, he knew it wasn't meant to be. Yesterday, we redeemed the table.]

[this beauty was growing right by my old studio apartment, just around the corner from Empire. Um, I feel jipped - that pink bouquet was not there for me several years ago.]

[ah, a sight for my sore eyes! The Menil. If only I could've snapped photos indoors.]

[a bungalow across the street]

[I made friends with this oak tree]

[we also swung by the Rothko Chapel, Byzantine Fresco Chapel, and the Cy Twombly Gallery. Johnny's favorites were the antiquities & Byzantine icons in the Menil, and the Byzantine Fresco Chapel. I must say, I could sit in the Fresco Chapel all day. As I jotted notes under the large Pantokrator fresco, a man knelt at the altar and crossed himself; very moving. The male performance artist in silver hot pants (only), in the Menil? Not so much. We had to leave that room for fear of sudden laughter. I did like Doris Salcedo's piece in the NeoHooDoo exhibit called Atrabiliarios (1992-93) which "commemorates, on a large scale, those who have disappeared amid political violence in her native Colombia. Actual shoes worn by the victims are inserted into niches in a wall like caskets, encased in stitched animal skin, becoming the funeral remmants of lives lost." ....Sorry Houstonians, but we are not fans of Cy Twombly's art. And yet, the building's light was amazing ~ natural sunlight filtered through a thin layer of cotton on the ceiling. Muted and soft. The walls are made of delicate, white Tuscan plaster that can only be touched by the back of your hand. As we left the Cy Twombly Gallery, we met the above-pictured red squirrel, just sitting there.]

[he charmed us both, so I shared my snack of walnuts. Then he got more friendly.]

[what is an outing without a bookstore? Dying of thirst, we purchased Italian water (supposedly) in a glass bottle (me), Coke in a glass bottle (Johnny), and a summery Rothko postcard (yellow + white). I do love what he did with colors and shapes.]

[OK, so I purchased a book, too, but in my defense, it's for article research - Sanctuary: the Spirit in/of Architecture edited by Kim Shkapich & Susan de Menil (The Byzantine Fresco Foundation, Houston).]

In closing, I'll share a statement by John de Menil, from the beginning of Sanctuary. I knew I would've liked him (and his wife, Dominique):

"I am a religious man deep at heart, in spite of appearances. I want to be buried as a Catholic, with gaiety and seriousness.

I want the Mass and the Last Rites to be by Father Moubarac, because he is a highly spiritual man. Within what is permissible by Catholic rules, and within the discretion of Moubarac, I want whoever feels so inclined to receive Communion.

I want to be buried in wood, like the Jews. The cheapest wood will be good enough. Any wood will do. I want a green pall, as we had for Jerry MacAgy. I would prefer a pickup or a flat bed truck to the conventional hearse.

I want the service to be held at my parish, St. Anne's, not at the Rothko Chapel, because it would set a bad precedent.

I want music. I would like Bob Dylan to perform, and if it isn't possible, any two or three electric guitars playing softly. I want them to play tunes by Bob Dylan, and to avoid misunderstanding; I have recorded suggestions on the enclosed tape. The first one, "Ballad of Hollis Brown," is evocative of the knell (nostalgic bell tolling). Then at some point "Blowin' in the Wind," "The Times They Are A-Changing," and "With God on Our Side," because all of my life I've been, mind and marrow, on the side of the underdog. Then "Girl From the North Country" to the rhythm of which the pallbearers would strut out of the Church. Father Duploye could also be asked to sing "Veni Creator" in Latin, to the soft accompaniment of a guitar.

I would like the funeral director to be black.

I want no eulogy.

These details are not inspired by pride, which would be rather vain, because I'll be a corpse for the meat wagon. I just want to show that faith can be alive
[December 13, 1972; courtesy of Menil archives, Houston]


Kimberly said...

It sounds like you two had an amazing day. You got some great photos. I especially like the ones of you and J. and of the squirrel.

Laura Leigh Dobson said...

i clicked on your link and this post just made me so happy. that salad looked so delicious. it looked like you had a most inspiring day!:)

nicole said...

this is so a "benicky" day. it's what we'd do, too. so happy to see you two smiling, enjoying one another, and your days. x

mlh said...

The Sanctuary book sounds fascinating. I'd definitely add some of Dylan's "Love & Theft" songs to my funeral list.

robyn a. jones said...

you look so beautiful and glowing! i'm so glad you had a wonderful day. i went ot see mama mia and it just made me giggle.. i saw it in new york on broadway, but meryl streep and pierce brosnan.. make me laugh!

jenni said...

Thanks, y'all!