When the Real is Surreal

It all seemed pretty normal until I really thought about it.  I’m just on vacation wandering the streets in a strange city, but it doesn’t feel strange because I am actually experiencing it first person.  I stop for a festival in the square, have a glass of wine, just as I would grab a lemon shake-up at a festival back home.  Until I look up and realize how surreal this is.

Graz:  A tram runs through it

Graz: A tram runs through it


I am in Graz, Austria, which I had not heard of until two weeks ago, where the baroque city hall (from 1823:  it says so right on the front) presides over a stage where two fiddlers play Hungarian music.  Continue reading

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Colorful Waves of Foam

The people give you an idea of how big this is.  Looks like it washed up on a shore from Dr. Seuss.

The people give you an idea of how big this is. Looks like it washed up on a shore from Dr. Seuss.

Waves of Color

Waves of Color

Isn’t this cool?  Big pieces of foam coiling and uncoiling, spray painted with wild abandon.  I saw this at the Kunsthaus modern art museum in Graz (See the portholes?  Check out the museum).

I loved the exhibit.  And then I read the pamphlet.  Talk about a whole lot of words to say nothing.  This WTF pamphlet inspired an open letter, which you can read here (including text from this craptastic description of the art).

Exhibit Artist:  Katharina Grosse
Exhibit Name:  “Who, I?  Whom, you?”

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Dear Curator: Why Does It Take So Long to Say So Little

Dear Curator,

Please stop making something out of nothing.

Sometimes art is just cool.  Sometimes it is colorful.  Sometimes it is whimsical.  Sometimes it is to shock us, tick us off, or Sometimes it doesn’t need explanation.  Sometimes, we can just look at it and say “wow.” Continue reading

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Night Train

I’m not sure what I expected on the overnight train  When I boarded at 12:56am (or 00:56 which sounds like a time that doesn’t exist), the conductor showed me to my bunk and asked if I would like coffee or tea in the morning.  Do you mean that you will wake me up?  Yes, she replied.  How exciting to have a wake-up beverage before my 7am arrival.  Plus, my anxiety over not waking up was relieved.

However I did not anticipate the knock on the door at 5:50 to hand me my ticket.  Did I miss a time zone between Innsbruck and Graz.  I looked at my watch, then my cellphone, then my watch again.  No, I hadn’t.  Back to sleep.  Fifteen minutes later came the tea.  Somehow I expected to be awakened at 6:45 with tea an a fond farewell.  Guess they thought I was beautiful enough without my beauty rest.

What you see in the dawn's early light when you don't want to make eye contact with your cabin mates

What you see in the dawn’s early light when you don’t want to make eye contact with your cabin mates

The four of us spent the last 40 minutes staring into space, or out the window, trying to ignore the obvious–that we were face to face like in Level 42′s “Something About You” video biding our time silently till Graz.

Link to Level 42 Video

Written 6/28/2014

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Hiking in the Clouds

Don't worry.  It wasn't as scary as it looks.

Don’t worry. It wasn’t as scary as it looks.

Words don’t work here.  You don’t just see the clouds roll in, encroach.  You feel them also.  The moist.  The chill.  But not too chilly, since it’s June.  Pictures don’t work either because they are only two dimensions.  You want to bring back the stereoscope or wish you hadn’t broken your 3D camera.

You want to invent words for the sound—the dull roar of the city below, like a faraway waterfall.  Or a faraway jet engine.  Yu think you hear the clouds, but it is only the light breeze captured within your ear.  The birds chirp very faintly.  You see only a butterfly, rocks, wild flowers, and a trail.  The future is not clear—only glimpses when clouds decide to give you a chance.  But you don’t need the future.  All you need is the next ten steps ahead of you.  Then more will reveal itself.  (Was that a metaphor?  It wasn’t intended to be, but I like it that way.)

Written 6/26/2014

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To the Summit in Innsbruck

I had planned to go to the top of the mountain via the cable car either yesterday or today, but the weather was gray yesterday and I put my bets on today.  It’s 10am, and the sun has been shining for 2 hours.  Weather says rain starting at 10:00am.  Now I’m at the first funicular station … let’s see if the weather holds up, for the clouds are still lingering up in the mountains, ready to strike.  I left my sunglasses in the hotel–not ready to tempts fate (or more accurately, superstition).

The journey up the Nordkette in pictures:

Continue reading

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A Funhouse of Art Surprises

Just enter under the big head

Just enter under the big head

I was I love when I saw the waterfall, projectile drooling from a giant bald moss head.  The entrance was below his right shoulder, and what was inside was amazing.

After a 20-minute bus ride past the fringes of Innsbruck, I was here–what for, I was not sure.  Kristallwelten Swarovski might have just been a gift shop for Swarovski crystal or a factory tour, but it turned out to be what a contemporary art museum should be–an interactive experience, dazzling (what a clichéd word) the senses with sight and sound.  Some were action, some were videos, some were exhibitions, and the coolest were theater.

Jim Whiting's Theater of Body PartsLike a haunted house, each new room is hidden by a black curtain, revealing its surprises slowly.  Each room was a big top, its own spectacle.  Here, the parading legs and dancing suit pants made famous in Herbie Hancock’s “Rockit” video.

Walking into a crystal dome, a magic mirrored planetarium, like being inside a crystal with some really cool ice music.  (To try to experience this, try this link , have your computer sound on, and check out the other artists too.)

Kristllwelten SwarovskiBut unlike much contemporary art, which alternately insults you, confuses you, and grosses you out, this captured imagination, immensity, sensory stimulation, and amazement.  I watched all sorts of visitors (old, young, from many countries) walk into the rooms and say ‘wow.’

A diorama made by a theater designer (and this was only one of here exhibits)

A diorama made by a theater designer (and this was only one of here exhibits)

The surprises reminded me of the Dali Museum in Figueres Spain, but more carefully curated, with a greater variety and more consistency.  Even though Dali made art for the Swarovski museum, it was eclipsed by many others.

Photographs and explanations scarcely capture the bizarre.  But more than bizarre, there was a rapturous (did I make that word up?) quality.  I wanted to stop and stare.  Not to rush through to see what’s next.

Try the whole virtual tour here, but have your computer’s sound turned on.

Written 6/24/2014

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Innsbruck: Protected by the Clouds

You can't even tell how high up the mountains go

The view as I ate my ham & pretzels.

My first night in Innsbruck, in the post-downpour hush, I picked up some princess pretzels (like a thinner “Bavarian” pretzel or a more Bavarian thin pretzel) and some local sliced ham and stood by the River Inn (as it was still too wet for a seat).  I watched the river under the bridge, the wet cars and wet people and wet cyclists on the bridge, and the clouds–here and there eclipsing the mountains far above the bridge.

Even with the clouds I could see the nearby foothills (if that is the right word) and felt protected, cradled.


Looking out from the Stadsturm Tower and wondering how high the mountains really are.

Innsbruck is of the mountains.  It is not “in the mountains” or “near the mountains.”  It is a mountain city as Denver can only wish it was.  In Denver, the mountains are in the distance, never close enough to touch and certainly not on all sides (because east of Denver is western Kansas).

In Innsbruck, each time I turned the corner, it was as if the road ended directly into a mountain.  And each time I turned a corner with a view like this I stopped, each time surprised because this is not the terrain with which I am familiar.  When the clouds rolled in, the tops of the peaks were eclipsed, leaving us in a cloud dome–a petri dish with green mountains growing around up and a gray cotton lid.

I don’t know what it would be like to live here, but on this day I felt cradled, sheltered, not enclosed or trapped.  And I wanted to curl up nestled between the peaks.

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Beer Garden in the Rain

Postcards in the Beer Garden

Postcards in the Beer Garden

First night in Innsbruck.  It’s started raining again.  But I’m sheltered safely in the beer garden under an umbrella, not planning to leave soon.  My feet, pants, and umbrella are already wet so it’s not in an effort to stay dry.  Simply, inertia is a powerful force (especially after a half liter of Augustiner beer in a beer garden in Innsbruck).

I have my kindle, my postcards, and a beer. Plus there’s nowhere to hurry to anyway.  It will be light until 10:00pm.  Netherlands and Chile are playing in the World Cup, which would be more meaningful if any of the following were true:

1) I was from Netherlands
2) I was from Chile
3) I watched soccer
4) The inside bar was non-smoking

The server came over to take my order, so I will have another (a smaller one this time).  I’m sure he has my best interest at heart.  Don’t all servers have our best interest at heart?


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Welcome to Innsbruck: So Wet You Can’t Get Any Wetter

Summer Evening Rain in Innsbruck

Summer Evening Rain in Innsbruck

I walked through the rain in Innsbruck.  Jeans soaked to my upper calves.  Not wanting to turn back to my hotel.  Not wanting to miss a moment.  After my reading-while-riding-backward-on-the-train headache wore off, I headed out.  The skies threatened.  I was not deterred by the sprinkles.

It started out lightly, turned into a torrent, with winds from the mountains.  I snuck into an H&M to wait out the storm, not knowing that I had already experienced the worst of it.  When I stepped back out, the city and the mountains were more beautiful than should have been possible in a storm like this.  But they were.  I wanted to walk some more.  To walk forever.

Innsbruck's Hofburg Palace:  Rain

Innsbruck’s Hofburg Palace: Rain


Now I’m sitting outdoors, watching more rain, waiting for my feet to magically dry in the chilly summer evening and remembering a line from Four Weddings and a Funeral which I transcribed years before the internet was filled with movie quotes:  “There comes a point at which you’re so wet you can’t get any wetter.”

Thankfully, I brought an umbrella, so I can’t really tell you if that quote is true.  But my feet would agree.

Self Portrait in the Rain

Self Portrait in the Rain

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