Day: June 2, 2009

First Day

Started at the Whitney today.  But before I get into that, I need to pause a moment.

Linda Janoff, better known as Mrs. Janoff, died.  Today, or late this weekend, I’m not entirely certain.  She was battling cancer, a fact of which I was not aware.  Linda Janoff would appreciate me not ending a sentence with a preposition.  Linda Janoff taught me how to write.

Mrs. Janoff taught Advanced Placement Language Arts at Pine View, a class most Pine Viewers took in the eleventh grade.  While we did some reading in the course, such as Beloved and the books for our Authors Dinner Party (a survey of authors similar in style to Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party in that each author is represented by, among other things, a plate and a banner; I was Margaret Atwood), the most notable aspect of the class were the writing assignments.  Through these assignments, and the rules of writing attached to each, Mrs. Janoff taught us how to write.  She was forward, and brutally honest, and very funny, and not afraid to hurt a student’s feelings–though she never did so maliciously, and would only do so if she felt it would urge the student to better him or herself.  Mrs. Janoff fundamentally shaped how I write and how I think and how I view this world.  A lot of the style I developed in her class was, I am sad to say, destroyed in graduate school through the necessity of learning how to write academically.  I am hoping that my time away from academia will enable me to regain that style–I am sure that would please Mrs. Janoff.  Whenever I tell stories of how my writing style developed I always mention Mrs. Janoff.  She was an invaluable presence in my life, and in the lives of many others at Pine View.  She will be incredibly missed.

I got to the Whitney this morning at 9:30, after a night of minimal sleep.  I never sleep well at the start of things.  They’d crowded us into a conference room in the brownstone annex on 74th St. that serves as the museum’s offices.  There are 37 interns; approximately ten to twelve of us have our masters already.  The rest are undergrads, mostly from Ivy Leagues or local schools like NYU.  The interns are mostly girls with long shiny bouncy hair, though there are three men: an undergrad from Duke (yes, Duke), a guy from Poland, and a very Teutonic man with blonde curly hair from Germany who speaks impecable english and just got his masters from Columbia.  The intern coordinators and H.R. people spoke to us, and they were followed by Adam Weinberg, the director of the museum.  He was fabulous–very friendly, witty, open to questions, wry, laid back.  Clearly he loves what he does.  He did offer some hard facts: yes, I have to get my Ph.D; yes, if I want to be a director, I should probably take business classes.  Adam (as some of the interns who had been there for awhile called him) has neither a Ph.D. nor business experience, but he began his career when it was not necessary to hold advanced degrees.  He has worked all over the museum world: the Walker in Minneapolis, Andover, as a director of a cultural school in Paris, etc.  He had been at the Whitney in three incarnations throughout the late 80s and early 90s, ultimately returning to be the director in 2003.  One thing both the director and the intern coordinators emphasized was seizing opportunity and keeping one’s eyes open to all possibilities, an attitude I am trying to keep in the forefront of my consciousness this summer.  While they did not shy away from the fact that the economy is not in a good place and museums and other arts institutions are being hit particularly hard, they still left me with an oddly warm and fuzzy feeling about my rather uncertain (or should I say, liberating?) future.

We were also addressed by the Assistant Conservator, who spent some time at the NCMA (yay!).

After we received our fancy Whitney badges (which will gain me free access to many museums in the city and across the nation) we had lunch (a hummus and veggie sandwich with some carrots from Cosi for me) and received goody bags of mugs and stationary.  We then broke to meet our supervisors.  I had, strangely enough, sat next to the other intern with whom I will be working.  Her name is Teresa (or maybe Theresa, I should probably double check), and she recently received her M.A. from Case Western in Cleveland.  We are both enthused to be working with a graduate student.  We went to the registration office to say hello to Diana Ladd, our supervisor, who seems extremely awesome and who wants to read my thesis (I need to find a Kinko’s and make her a copy).  She promptly told us that we can’t really do any work until we learn how to use The Museum System (TMS), the data software that most museums use to manage their collections.  TMS orientation isn’t happening until tomorrow at 10:30, so Diana told us to enjoy the city and to report back to the Whitney at 10:30 on Tuesday.  At this point it was only 2:00, so I decided to go to the gym for the first time in weeks and it was awesome.  I am looking forward to getting into a work-gym routine and to getting back in shape.

I have to admit, talking with some of the interns–especially those who, like me, have their masters–was a little depressing.  The job market is dismal.  Several of the interns have been at the Whitney since January, working for free for lack of any other arts employment.  I am trying to put their experiences aside and to focus on the opportunity/possibility/liberation aspects of the morning.

After the gym I headed back to Santosh’s, took a shower, and vegged.  Phil was in the area to prepare for the reading of his musical The Wasp Woman, so I met up with him for a bit.  Afterward I wandered the East Village, picking up some hummus and falafel (some days you just crave chickpeas) for dinner and Momofuku Milk Bar for dessert.  Yes, I have been intrigued by the city’s David Chang obsession and yes I do wish to go to one of the Momofukus at some point (preferably Noodle Bar) but for now the trendy desserts of Christina Tosi will suffice.  I wasn’t hungry enough to try one of the cakes so I got some soft serve–mint chocolate with some swirly fudge on top, guess I missed the earlier Dregs-of-the-Cereal-Bowl and Donut flavors.  I wanted to take a picture of it because it was pretty but I did not have my camera, alas, so I’ll borrow a picture of a similar concoction from a food site.  The soft serve was okay, not great–a little too sweet, the mint was sort of cloying–but I do want to go back and try one of the ridiculous baked goods like the crack pie or the compost cookie.

Imagine this, but with beautiful intricate swirls of delicious chocolate, hypnotizing you with their sinuous curves.
Imagine this, but with beautiful intricate swirls of delicious chocolate, hypnotizing you with their sinuous curves.
The hipster foodies are drawn to the light, like moths to a trendy flame.
The hipster foodies are drawn to the light, like moths to a trendy flame.

The remainder of the evening was spent attempting to finish book two of the fantasy series that in no way shape or form labels me a nerd (forty pages to go, I can do it), helping Santosh cook a quesadilla (an emergency trip for a can opener was necessary) and watching Anthony Bourdain be awesome in India.  I love him.