Thursday, May 18, 2006

My Back Pages

I’m experiencing more network “issues” this morning; my connection speed is about half of what one expects from a dial-up connection. So, I’m going to put up a text-only post this morning and add photos later on today when my network gets back up to speed. Literally.
The following post is from this blog’s predecessor, The Trailer Trash Report, an e-mail newsletter I wrote and sent to friends from 1999 – 2000. This particular entry is about Houston’s Museum of Fine Art and a war story about government bureaucracy. Photos will be added later.
April 8, 2000
The local media is all agog at Enron Field, the Houston Astros' brand-new, state-of-the-art, sliding-roof ballpark. Although the Astros played three exhibition games in the new park last week, tonight's the regular season home opener and is supposedly the hottest ticket in town this week. A night out at the ball park costs a family of four well over $70.00 (I had the exact number, but threw the flipping paper out this morning...). For less than $20.00 a family of four can spend ALL DAY wandering through the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (Click here: Museum of Fine Arts, Houston). OK, it ain't baseball. There are people that would rather watch paint dry than go to a museum, and there's not a few folks that would rather do the paint thing than go to a baseball game, too. I'm gonna weasel out and claim I like both. I'm definitely partial to museums over baseball, though...I've seen a helluva lot more museums than major league baseball games.
I spent six hours in Houston's world-class fine arts museum Friday. I'm impressed. The MFAH is the nation's sixth largest art museum and has a very large and diverse collection...well over 40,000 works of art representing a multitude of cultures, geographies, and periods. The collections are divided into Ancient and European art; American painting, sculpture and decorative arts; African art; Asian art; Pre-Columbian art; Native American art; Oceanic art, 20th century art; and photography, film, and video. The museum also has a large sculpture garden and collections of furniture, textiles, and costumes. Something for everyone, in other words!! The MFAH celebrates its centennial this year and it opened a new building last month. The Impressionist and Post-Impressionist collections are great. All the major impressionist artists are represented, and there are multiple works from Monet, Renoir, Cezanne, and Manet. (Unfortunately, photography was prohibited in the major impressionist exhibit. I didn't quite understand the photography restrictions in some of the galleries...most were open to picture taking, provided you could disable your flash.)
Renaissance Gallery
Impressionist Gallery

Stone Circles

Giant Soft Fan
I went for the Impressionist galleries, but I was seriously blown away by the contemporary stuff! The contemporary galleries are physically very large open, and airy. The contemporary galleries need these qualities, given the scale of the works on display. I spent quite a bit of time in these galleries, and once again, I was impressed. I hope the attached photos illustrate my point adequately. My absolute favorite contemporary work was a "light sculpture" commissioned for an underground passageway between the two main museum buildings. This is art that makes you grin, makes you say "Wow!" right out loud when you walk into it. From the MFAH guidebook: "The work turns the walls of the tunnel into vessels for conducting light. The walk between the Beck and Law buildings becomes an exploration of color and space." The colors change every three minutes or so...from red, to purple, to blue, and so was a very popular place! The artist is James Turrell.
Purple Tube
The Artist Formerly Known as Buck
OK, enough culture. Time for "Bureaucracy In Action!!" This is a horror story. A week ago this past Tuesday I initiated the process of getting my Texas motorcycle license. I went to the local motor vehicles department (local in the sense it's the closest one to me, nine miles away), which is known in Texas as the Department of Public Safety, Drivers License. A DMV by any other name is still a there I the DPS, in line for about 15 minutes. I get to the head of the line, explain why I'm there, and am told I have to take both a written and driving test to get my license. OK, I can do that. I'm given a choice of taking the written test on computer or on paper. I opt for the computer, take the test at a terminal, am done in six minutes and get back in line to get my results. Six or seven minutes later, I'm told I aced it (it wasn't that tough). The clerk asks me if I'd like to take the road test or take a motorcycle safety course first. This is a real no-brainer for someone who's ridden off and on for over 35 years, I opt for the road test. "The next available appointment is Tuesday, April 4th at 1:36 p.m." the clerk sez. I said "Hunh?" (Today is 3/28, remember.) She sez "April 4th, 1:36." "That's the earliest you have?" "Yep." "OK, I'll take it." Then she tells me I have to bring a car and a driver for the examiner. My jaw drops, panic sets in. I don't KNOW anybody here, let alone anyone I can ask to waste an hour or so in the middle of the day to follow me around with a public servant in their car while I take a road test! I try to explain. The clerk is less than interested in my personal problems. "That's our process, sir." This is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. When I took riding tests in CA, OK, and MI, they were held in parking lots, on a cone-course. That works, and it's easy for all concerned. Furnish a car and driver? Ohmigod... I withdraw, thinking I have a week to work this out.
To make a long story somewhat shorter, my neighbors in the RV park agree to follow me down to the DPS and follow me around during the test, after much laughter and incredulity on their part (they're a retired couple from North Dakota, and nice folks). At 1:36 p.m. on April 4th, Artis (my neighbor) and her son Mike are there at the DPS in their Ford, and I'm on my bike. The examiner does a safety check on my bike, drills me on the bike's controls, verifies my insurance, then goes back to Artis and asks for her license and proof of insurance. Artis can't find her insurance card. Oops...the test is over! No proof of insurance for the "follow-car," no test. I have to reschedule. I go back inside and get in line. Artis leaves, profoundly embarrassed. The next available appointment is a week from today. That's unacceptable, I neighbors are leaving town Thursday. The clerk says "Well, you can come in at 6:30 tomorrow morning and take the first available cancellation, there's always cancellations." I ask why she can't assign me a time for tomorrow RIGHT NOW if there's always cancellations. "That's not our process, sir." {sigh} I withdraw, again.
Wednesday morning I arrive at the DPS at 0630 and am shocked to see I'm 43rd in line (I counted). The doors open at 0700. Me and the 42 people in front of me (and the horde behind me, too) are herded into a line at Window 9 (Reschedules). By 0750 I get to the head of the line and I'm offered an 0900 test. I nearly fall over from shock, but I take it. I phone Artis, who says "no problem, I'll be there at nine...see ya then." Just after 0900 the bike and I are in line for the test, talking to my examiner when another examiner walks up and asks "How big is that bike?" "225 cc," sez I. "Hmmm..." she sez. "I don't think you need a Class M license for anything under 250cc." My examiner asks her "Are you sure?" "No," she sez, "I was just pulling your chain." I heave a sigh of relief. We go through the same drill as yesterday, and motor on off for the test. One beep from Artis, I turn right. Two beeps, left. Three beeps, stop. We go through a residential neighborhood for about a six minute ride, beeping all the way, then we get on a four lane boulevard and return to the DPS. I ace the test. The examiner and I shake hands, I go inside to complete the paper work and pay the fee. When I get to the head of the line, my examiner and a supervisor come over. They tell the clerk to cancel the transaction. I say "WHAT???" "We can't give you a Class M license because your bike is only 225cc," the supervisor sez. "You don't need a Class M license for bikes under 250cc. We checked the book." "WAIT!" I say..."This may not be the only bike I'll ever ride, I aced all your tests, I went through Hell to get here, and I WANT MY LICENSE!!" "Sorry, you'd have to take the test on a bike that's 250cc or larger...your bike is too small to qualify for a valid test." I see the handwriting on the wall. I withdraw, again, beaten, seriously demoralized, and thoroughly disgusted. It's only 10:30 a.m., far too early to hit the bar. Sometimes it's easy to understand why some people snap...and why DPS supervisors wear pistols (They're uniformed officers, actually.). Oh, well...
Random Notes: Free concert in downtown Jones Plaza Thursday night, Warren Zevon...acoustic and solo (remember "Werewolves of London?" That's Warren.). The opening act is "Drop-Kicked Chihuahuas" (no kidding...they have a web site, too...just add "dot com" ed note 2006: may or may not still be there, didn’t check). Warren plays all the hits, the opening band does a kick-ass show, and it's all free, sponsored by Budweiser. Cheap (inexpensive) beer. I love this place. "Thank You, My Dear, You Made My Day" Dept: "You're an artist, aren't you?" says the woman who took my picture in the light tunnel today, as she hands my camera back. Must have been the low light, or else I really DO look like a derelict lately. We go for coffee and chat...confirming the fact I'm NOT an artist... "Imagine That!" Dept: The MFAH has an EXCELLENT cafe, with good food, an espresso bar, a beer/wine bar, and reasonable prices. (Get the idea I like this place, yet?) "For What It's Worth, and It Ain't Worth Much" Dept: Rain makes a helluva racket in an RV. Hail is much worse. Thunderstorms are scary in a tornado magnet, there's nowhere to go if a funnel cloud bears down on ya...


  1. Ewwww, DMV stories.... None can top the one I heard on the radio, from talk show host Glenn Beck. It was incredible, complete with incompetent and rude employees, etc.

  2. Ya, Laurie, DMVs suck, no ifs, ands, or buts. But...there's more.

    At that point in life (2000 A.D.) I was highly mobile and gas was cheap, well, cheaper than it is NOW. About three weeks after I checked out of Houston I received a package from my mailing service and therein was this letter from the Houston DMV stating something to the effect of "we screwed up, please come back in and pick up your MC license."

    I think I was in Omaha or points north when I got that note. Yeah, OK...I'll be right over...NOT. I've been riding without an MC license for over six years now.

  3. Wouldn't it be cool if you could drink beer and yell for your favorite artist at the museum. Actually, I may have yelled, "Look girls, Monet!" and done a "ta da" pose. I could be out right obnoxious at a baseball game.

  4. LOL! Great pics, but even better with that mental image...

  5. Lou sez: I could be out right obnoxious at a baseball game.

    That's part of the fun! Everyone is expected to be the visiting team!

    As for drinking beer and yelling for your favorite artist...There's some stage patter on Joni Mitchell's "Miles of Aisles" live album; she's tuning her guitar and you can clearly hear someone in the audience shout a request. She then says something to the effect of "That's what the difference is when you're in the performing one ever said 'Paint a Starry Night again, Man!' to Van Gogh..." Joni is also a painter of some repute, BTW.

  6. wow buck, you've been a busy beaver!


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