Friday, October 8, 2010

Day 26: Omaha to Des Moines

Day 26: Omaha to Des Moines

In the building I live in on Park Avenue there are ten people who could buy the Yankees, but none of them could hit the ball out of Yankee Stadium.
Reggie Jackson

Pics: Baked good at La Mie, DB and THB collect another Turrell installation, Viola Frey piece with the group, and a metered utility box (NOBODY brings you pictures of metered utility boxes, nobody!)

Book Review: A Mountain of Crumbs, a Memoir, by Elena Gorokhova, Kindle edition. Another description of what growing up in the post WW2 Soviet Union was really like by an author that moved to the US from Leningrad when she was 25 (a US citizen offers to marry her). Thirty years later, she describes the stupefying corruption (vranyo: we all know this is nowhere) and poor living conditions as seen through her mother’s experiences as a doctor and teacher and her own as she progresses through primary school to college to become an English teacher.

Nothing earthshaking, a very strong last 50-75 pages, though with a Kindle you’re never sure how many “pages” are in a book. THB suggests you also consider two of Masha Gessen’s books: Two Babushkas: How My Grandmothers Survived Hitler's War and Stalin's Peace, and Perfect Rigor: A Genius and the Mathematical Breakthrough of the Century. The latter is a great view of how Russia trained their youth to become superstar scientists and the strong anti-Semitism imbedded in their system that counteracted the primary goal. Also by Gessen and very good: Blood Matters: From Inherited Illness to Designer Babies, How the World and I Found Ourselves in the Future of the Gene.

Breakfast the same as it ever was, included. After one more visit to the front desk, internet usage is truly comp’d and THB must have only visited the fitness center once (per the bill), though it sure felt like twice.

We take a two hour bus ride to Des Moines, and lunch at a bakery (inspired choice!!!), La Mie. We share roast beef and veggie sandwiches, salad sides, and iced tea, and a plate of cookies: macaroons, madeleines, and mini-chocolate brownies. And, THB is now in his element (see pic): one loaf of cinnamon swirl bread (that, upon closer inspection, turns out to be a bread version of a sweet sally without the caramelized sugar). BONUS ROUND!!!!

We visit a local gallery, then another private collection. These collectors are big in 60s and 70s large works by very famous artists: Johns, Diebenkorn, Still, Miro, and others. Unlike the Duncans, they have a very stylized (“sophisticated”) apartment, where the pictures on the wall are visible and well lit and highlight the collection. They moved recently from Minneapolis and so THB asked the big question: did you have to give up any of your work by moving to a new space and DB finds out later that the answer was yes and that their kids were the recipient of some nice pieces including an Oldenburg.

Then we transition to the Principal Life Group, formerly Bankers One (not the one in NY?). They have a very good corporate collection and no curator so employees volunteer to lead tours. We get a guy that is the head of M&A, and a great tour guide. We see work by Maya Lin (an inside fountain running down a glass wall), two huge pieces by John Buck, a great Butterfield horse, Jenny Holzer plaque, and more. And, since this is Friday, every employee we see is wearing jeans (shorts, too), very casual! No pictures of the collection are allowed. Note the THB and DB collect another Turrell installation, supposedly one of only two corporate pieces in the US.

They also have a “hall” where new art is held for the employees to provide comments. This collection is quite exceptional, yet without a curator many of the pieces are not even given attribution. Finally, outside the protected area is a huge Viola Frey installation and we take a group photo and a picture of John, our tour guide.

We check into the Renaissance Savery Hotel and find out that the internet is free as is the fitness center. THB goes to test the elliptical out while watching the Reds take it to the Phillies (only to learn later the Phils put it to the Reds big-time in the later innings).

Final event of the day is dinner at the home of the twin brother of one of our tour members. They are identical twins, and it is easy to see how earlier they could’ve swapped places and fooled everyone. We have another identical twin on the trip, and her sister knew the wife of the private collectors we visited earlier in the day. A day for twins!

They have a house built in 1925, reminiscent of our house on Trestle Glen. They also have collected some small pieces by important artists, and there is a large teacup collection and many family portraits as well. Very nice of them to host us, dinner is chicken piccata, asparagus, pilaf, salad, and the ever-present apple crumble and ice cream.

The Giants are up 4-0 as of the posting, a positive outcome for THB to dream about tonight.

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