I ventured out of suburbia twice this week – once to the Museum District and again to West U. Ironically, these places fall within a few blocks of one another yet are drastically different. The Museum District is full of (duh) museums of all kinds. Literally. From the fine arts (my destination this time) to natural science, contemporary art, Jungian psychology and other Big Topics to the lesser-known (who knew H-town possessed a small gem of a Weather Museum?)
First off, my trip to the Museum District began with a bang. Well, not really a bang. More like an implosion. See, I was on a schedule. Apparently leaving the suburbs at 4:45 for a 6:00 meeting at the MFAH is not thoughtful planning. Perilously poor planning, in fact. See, after navigating two of three freeways successfully, the third turned into a parking lot. Not just slow-moving. An actual parking lot. Third time’s the charm, right? Must have been opposite day. Forget the fact that the Soccermobile was almost out of gas. My Type-A-ness was more concerned about being late. Late. The mere mention of the word and I hear my high school band director’s voice in my head: ‘To be on time is to be late.’ So there I was, in a panic, and completely unable to move. Nothing to do but wait – not my strong suit. But wait I did, arrived at my destination, parked the car and signed in at 5:58. Really.
So exciting – Volunteer Orientation. My career-driven life has been so jam-packed with work, preparation for work, school, kids and off-the-clock responsibilities (for work) that I’ve never actually pursued volunteer work outside of those avenues. So exciting! The MFAH has over 1,000 volunteers who work in so many capacities in and behind the scenes. An entire new world opened up in front of me! I’m embarrassed to admit that the mere suggestion of working in an art library or archives had me secretly salivating. Really. And film screenings! The idea of actually promoting the arts while getting to see really cool art films (with a guest) for FREE had me chomping at the bit. Oh, and I met some really artistically-inclined people in the process. Actually got to see the ‘secret passages’ used to transport art in and out of the building. I took a trip back to 5th grade into the pages of The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler with that one. Can’t wait to go back – and here’s a bonus: I learned that Thursdays at the MFAH are FREE!!!! ALL DAY!
Side note: I apologize for my choppy writing style today. I really do have lots to say, and this entry was perfectly formed in my brain yesterday. But as I’ve said before – my head can be a scary place and there are considerable cobwebs in there. I’m just not feeling the flow today, folks. Bear with me…
OK, second trip – the Murder! Since we moved to H-town nearly thirteen years ago I have been fascinated by the idea of this place. Murder By the Book. An entire bookstore devoted to mysteries! Again, the mere idea has me drooling. For some reason I always found excuses not to venture ‘all the way’ down to West U from my suburban cocoon. But not this week. New year, new journey – and out of my cocoon! So off I went during the (thankfully) traffic-free time of the day.
Even though West U is only a few short blocks from the Museums, this burg has a totally different vibe. Historic houses converted into apartments, stately brick homes-become-student housing, lots of trees, quirky locally-run shops. Oh, and Rice University. Academia. With a capital A. I could easily spend the day just walking around – hey! next time! – soaking in the architecture and exploring the shops in the Village. Maybe I’d come out of there smarter. Hmmm…
So, back to Murder By the Book. I’ve always been a mystery lover. From my first experiences with Nancy Drew in second grade to my longtime love affair with Agatha Christie, I love a good case. I’m in the midst of Steig Larsson at the moment – rereading bits of Dragon Tattoo while devouring Played With Fire on the side. So it’s not like I’m a newbie. I practically ran into this little shop in anticipation of discovering lots of old favorites. And was stopped dead in my tracks. The only comparison I can make is the feeling a Boone’s-guzzling college kid would get upon walking into a wine warehouse. Holy. Cow. Overwhelmed. An entire store of mysteries. Subdivided, mind you, by country. British, French, German and American mysteries each had their own section. Shelves upon shelves. Not to mention the used book wall and pulp fiction cases. After thirty minutes of browsing, perusing and reading bits here and there I did manage to find a book. Will let you know how it is after I actually read it. Oh, and did I mention that this place also sells signed copies of certain books, has a deliciously tempting case of rare first editions and hosts regular book clubs, signings and lectures? No? Well, consider yourself enlightened. The book-lover in me can’t wait to go back and spend an afternoon.
So there you have it folks – my week’s adventures into murder and museums. On deck this week – I have no idea – and I’m trying really hard to encourage my Type-A self to embrace the spontaneity!