OK, so here I am at the Metropolitan…

Museum of Art in New York City.  I’m with a friend, Judith, and we’ve both got cameras and our expressed purpose is to take snaps in the museum (in accordance with their rules) to be entered in the museum’s photo contest.

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The museum’s goal is to get a whole bunch of free photos to use to promote the museum.  Mine is to…well…I guess it’s to satisfy my ego that I can make photos good enough to–if not actually win the contest–to at least let me believe that the judges who didn’t pick me are all either corrupt or tasteless, and any fool can see that my snaps are better than the one(s) they chose.  Judith’s goal, as I am to ascertain from her comportment and subsequent conversation, is to spend a pleasant few hours in the museum in my company taking photos along the way.

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Those among you out there who  have accumulated some expertise in the area of friendships and perhaps even unspoken crossed purposes may already be smiling in anticipation of what to you seems inevitable.  Those of you who  have seen me possessed by an ego-driven mission may be chuckling aloud while congratulating yourselves on knowing what will take place in a paragraph or two.    And, finally, those of you who have failed to notice all the stuff squeezed in between the lines, those of you thinking, “O how lovely!  Two friends spending an afternoon in one of the world’s leading museums together and taking some pictures–ah, if only it could have been like that.

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But no matter.  See, this isn’t about you.  This is my blog and my ego and it’s about me.  Remember that!

[Here we leave the digression and return to the narrative.]

It’s all about me, and I’m very proud of my ability with a camera.  I don’t wander around great museums without getting in touch with my own greatness.  I’m not here to chat about work and classes and that restaurant in Soho where everything is green or even oooww! the pain in my foot (and you can bet I have got a  lot to say about that particular issue–just not now) or anything else.  I’m here to demonstrate my greatness–maybe greatness is too strong a word…but then again…

img_36981It doesn’t take long for me to start walking at my own pace and going off in my own direction.  After all we are off  to the area of the museum she’d requested.  It’s not like I’m being bossy or demanding.  I’m just following along in my own way.  I mean, hell, I am entitled to that, aren’t I?

It’s remarkable, isn’t it, ego’s ability to find things to feed on.  The simple truth is that I expect great photo ops to be available everywhere in the museum.  Hence, it matters not at all to me which way we go.  Her suggestion is a fine one and it would have been most appropriate to simply acknowledge that and smile.  Ego, however, seeks not the opportunity to express gratitude.  It demands nourishment. Heading for her preferred destination allows me to feel simultaneously self-sacrificing and considerate and noble. Any of you all ever do that?  It might play out like:

“Let’s go up to Connecticut this weekend and see the grandbabies and the kids and Lil and Bob and Lew and April and Ron and Connie and Barbara and Bill.”

“Yeah, sure…whatever.” when you’re actually dying to see the grandbabies and the kids and Lil and Bob and Lew and April and Ron and Connie and Barbara and Bill.

–or–

“Would you mind terribly if we watched the Simpsons tonight?”

“(sigh) OK, anything you say.”

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Maybe twenty minutes into this adventure (I don’t remember exactly where we were) my fixation on being left alone in this  moment of creation clashed sufficiently with her need for socialization to become the topic of–in my mind– her ceaseless conversation.  Judith, Judith tells me, feels neglected and hurt and, truth be told,  I have hurt her.  No matter that it is unintentional.  No matter that I can (and at first do) justify my behavior brilliantly.  Not only do I justify it, I undoubtedly exalt it while simultaneously attacking hers.    Judith, however, is a strong sort, not about to be blown away by my noise.  Realizing this I go into my soft, precise mode, explaining in a calm and condescending way my purpose for coming to the museum.   She, with equal calm, explains to me that I had failed to inform her of the rules beforehand.  Ego provokes ego, offense provokes defense.  We are off and running!copy-of-img_3660

As I am just about to (with all good intentions and believing myself to be so utterly right that even she could see it for God’s sake) destroy a friendship of 17 years,  something tantamount to miraculous happens.  Another part of me–not the ego or even the ego cleverly disguised as another part–takes over.  I’ve written about this before, that unnamed part deep inside that bypasses the brain altogether as it produces the words which I hear for the first time as they come out of my mouth.
“Hey, howzabout this:  It’s one o’clock now.  Let’s each go shoot snaps for a while,  meet at the coat check at 2:30, then get coffee and talk about stuff?”  We both exhale.  She smiles and agrees and we do.
*     *     *
The first five photos are the ones I ended up submitting to the contest.  The last is a self portrait.

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Published in: on March 7, 2009 at 11:04 am  Comments (6)  
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6 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Truthful humor…….humorous truth……..what’s important here is the recognition of the fact that communication is ever so important, especially between long-time friends. Well done.

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  2. A beautiful, insightful, well articulated bit of prose, with great photos,especially the self-portrait!
    It is remarkable that you are so in touch with your inner workings.
    Also want to make it clear that you are talking about Judith X. and NOT Judith G.- although Judith G. would probably have had a reaction similar to that of Judith X.

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  3. Loved the one looking thru the columns and the returned pins bin one.
    Enjoyed the writing also…..
    L

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  4. If your photos don’t take the prize, bribes must have changed hands.

    Museums are a constant reminder that everyone MUST (not MAY) move at their own pace and on their own path. Our family has an ongoing understanding that we will all reach the end at some point in time, and we can then discuss the things we found interesting. At that point, we find out that we wish we WOULD HAVE followed the others path, but if we had, we wouldn’t have been able to provide unique information to the other.

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  5. Years back it was said to me that one takes care of themselves first. Is is not so?

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  6. more photos (especially loved the one taken between the rail posts)
    less words.
    best,
    a

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