This adventure starts with the documentary, Cave of Forgotten Dreams, includes a visit to the Tacoma Art Museum for an exhibit featuring the paintings of Normal Rockwell plus one of glass art from Dale Chihuly, and ends D.O.A. (Dead on Arrival . . . kinda) at Dirty Oscar's Annex for breakfast.
Peg and I went to the Grand Cinema to see Cave of Forgotten Dreams by film maker Werner Herzog. The cave in question is Chauvet Cave in France, which was discovered in 1994. The cave contains artwork from over 32,000 years ago. A rock slide closed the entrance nearly 27,000 years ago.
"Herzog's interest in the Chauvet cave was prompted by Judith Thurman's New Yorker article "First Impressions". Thurman is listed as one of the co-producers of the film.
The cave is carefully preserved and the general public is not allowed to enter. Herzog received special permission from the French minister of culture to film inside the cave. Having received permission, Herzog nonetheless had to film under heavy restrictions. All people authorized to enter must wear special suits and shoes that have had no contact with the exterior. And because of near-toxic levels of radon and carbon dioxide, nobody can stay in the cave for more than a few hours per day.
Herzog was allowed to have only three people with him in the cave: the cinematographer Peter Zeitlinger, a sound recorder, and an assistant. Herzog himself worked the lights. The crew was allowed to use only battery-powered equipment they could carry into the cave themselves, and only lights that gave off no excess heat. The 3-D cameras were custom-built for the production, and were often assembled inside the cave itself. Herzog was allowed six shooting days of four hours each. The crew could not touch any part of the cave's wall or floor, and were confined to a 2-foot-wide (0.61 m) walkway."
The images were striking and thought provoking. The documentary left a bit to be desired plus it was not shown in 3-D. It could have been cut and the conclusion was lost in prattle about crocodiles and atomic energy. But the images . . . oh, my god the images. I couldn't leave well enough alone and looked up the cave on the internet and found the great website of the Brandshaw Foundation. Please, take a look at the wonderful, emotional art from thirty thousand years ago.
Our ancestors gathered inside the cave for what purposes? One huge gallery contained what looked like an altar with a cave bear skull carefully set on top. Did they hold weekly meetings? Did they sell tickets? Did they have ice age comedians telling jokes?
Question: Who is the most famous of all stone age artists?
Answer: Norman Rockwall. (rim shot followed and growls and laughter)
The images were drawn not in the big open spaces, but in confined places almost like religious icons. There are so many questions we could ask, if only the walls could talk. They try. I can feel them trying, but I just can't make it all out.
On Sunday, Peg went to see the Norman Rockwell exhibit at the Tacoma Art Museum before it was taken down on Monday evening. For forty-seven years Rockwell contributed paintings to the Saturday Evening Post, but my favorite painting is the heart-breaking one he did for Look Magazine entitled The Problem We All Live With. The "problem" was the issue of school racial integration. The painting depicts a young African American girl, Ruby Bridges, flanked by white federal marshals, walking to school.
The painting was inspired not by the actual events, but rather the telling of the events by John Steinbeck in his book Travels with Charley in Search of American. Travels with Charley is a non-fiction journal of Steinbeck's trip across America, which starts in the northeast, then goes through the northern states on the way to Washington and then down the coast. The journey continues through the south and then goes north. He circumnavigated the U.S. His story doesn't end in the south and the hatred he witnessed, but all the life of the book ended there. This fall is the 50th anniversary of the publication of his journal. I didn't want to see the exhibit.
I dropped off Peg at TAM and drove back home. Peg's Story:
I arrived at 10 minutes to 10, the museum opening time. There were already 17 people in line in front of me and many, many more came behind me, in addition to the line of people down the stairs from the parking lot.
After I bought my entrée ticket, I started up the ramp to the exhibit. On the right was a gallery with the museum's permanent collection of Chihuly pieces, most of which I had seen before. Straight ahead, I picked up my audio tour headphones and recording device and turned right, into the Rockwell exhibit.
Several of his original paintings were there, looking as fresh as the day he painted them. I saw the one of the little black girl who was the first to desegregate elementary schools in the south. The word N----- was written on the wall behind her and a tomato lay on the ground, having slid down the wall behind her. She walked in between two deputy US marshals in front and two marshals behind her - she's almost just a blip between these four large white men. It was very moving.
Another favorite is the one entitled Coming Going. It's a double panel study of a family consisting of a cigar smoking dad, mother holding a baby, and in the backseat, two boys hanging out the window with the dog and a little girl and grandmother. On the way back, they are all exhausted, the mom and baby asleep, the boys almost subdued, but the grandmother is still the same, in her dark dress and her hat.
There were paintings of many of the favorite covers for the Saturday Evening Post and montage's of covers from the 'w0s to the '50s, with each decade on a separate contiguous wall.
He started the series with professional models but changed to anyone in his neighborhood who could hold still long enough for a photograph. He had often used the same models again and again. His Christmas covers for two decades featured a model who's portrayed as a sleigh driver from the Currier and Ives era. Also a favorite model of his is a Santa Claus, used in various poses over the decades - in his workshop and as a large head shot image. I don't know for sure if his Santa is the COKE Christmas logo, but he sure looks like it.
One of my favorites is a painting of a 11- or 12-year old girl in a white, cotton slip, looking into a large mirror while she compares herself to a photo of Ava Gardner in a movie magazine. She's wondering what she'll be and look like when she's a woman. The audio said that the model, when the painting was finished, was a complete tomboy and not interested - at all - in frills, or ruffles or glamor. She didn't see the finished painting until she was about 22. When she saw it then, she was moved to tears by the hope and anticipation of the girl in the painting.
After Rockwell left the Saturday Evening Post, he worked for Life magazine and ill lustrated more public events, rather than the sweet, nostalgic illustrations he had formerly painted. The large painting of Murder in Mississippi, sketches for the painting, and notes to the publisher were also included in the exhibit.
The exhibit was so extensive, I was very tired before I left it.
After I left the Rockwell gallery, I looked up the ramp and saw part of a wall covered with woven Native American blankets. This was an exhibit, with baskets and tools, the blankets and another wall of photogravures by Edward Curtis of early century Indians. Chihuly's works inspired by the pieces were also on display. They are some of my favorite of his pieces because he inscribed them with marks influenced by the artifacts. This exhibit is up until the end of June.
The Rockwell exhibit comes down on Tuesday. I'm waiting to see what the next big exhibit will be.
Don continues the story: I had been singing the praises of Dirty Oscar's Annex for a couple of weeks. I attended a little afternoon social with fellow members of the Tacoma Executives Association and really enjoyed their appetizers. Plus, in response to an story I wrote about my favorite breakfast places in Tacoma, two readers had suggested D.O.A. as a great place for breakfast. Since they are only open from breakfast on the weekend (served all day from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm), I had to wait for the right time. Memorial Day weekend after Peg's trip to the art museum seemed perfect.
It takes an effort to dine out, so that effort should be rewarded. For me Dirty Oscar's breakfast was a big let down and no fun at all.
I should have gone with my first choice, which was the Elk roast hash. Instead, I had just watched a Bobby Flay Throw down on the Food Channel the night before. Bobby challenged a southern queen of fried chicken. Both started with buttermilk. The queen pan fired her chicken. Bobby deep fried his chicken and came in second. The deep fried chicken at Dirty Oscar's would not have even have come in third. Any decent chef knows you season before you put the chicken in the oil and then you season again when you take it out. Didn't happen.
I ordered the fried chicken and waffle, which is a southern delicacy. I didn't understand the "Jaegermeister" syrup, which seemed a little runny on top of my coolish waffle. I think it may have been sitting, which is what we did for quite some time waiting for our food in a mostly empty room. The best thing on my plate was the raspberry sauce. For thirteen dollars everything should have been perfect . . . and certainly not just the jam. I could have gone a little further west on 6th Avenue and had a much better breakfast at The Old Milwaukee for less money. And we would have been served quicker, too.
Peg ordered the chicken fried steak with Yukon potatoes. What she got was two pieces of un-buttered toast, sweet potatoes, and a burger (possibly beef and sausage mixture) patty with gravy. She really enjoyed the patty, which was cooked medium rare (perfectly), but a hamburger patty is a long way from chicken fried steak. She also enjoyed the sweet potatoes, but then she also loves sweet potato fries. We had to ask for butter for the plain toast. Once she had a little butter and the raspberry sauce for jam, she really liked the toast.
We figured they are still working things out in the kitchen and we may try them again for breakfast, but there are a lot of other places that serve better breakfasts and are less costly. For my mind, Dirty Oscar's is a great place for a beer and an appetizer, but breakfast right now seems beyond them. Breakfast for the two of us was thirty-dollars plus tip. If you charge thirty dollars for breakfast, you better serve something worth thirty dollars.