Being a Tourist, Traveling

Gravity is Weirder and Scarier in Kansas City

Kansas City is one of my favorite US cities. Because it’s a fun-filled land, my boyfriend, Ben, and I decided to visit it over the holidays. We stayed there for a week and had a lot of adventures that centered around:

-developing my coffee addiction at coffee shops like Parisi, Quay, and the Roasterie
-sailing the high seas of fine cuisine at restaurants like Cooper’s Hawk, Joe’s Kansas City Barbecue, Thai Place, and Gram & Dun
-getting our smarts on by touring the Boulevard brewery, the National World War I museum, the Nelson-Atkins art museum, and the Science City museum.

As you can see, there are lots of great things to do and see in Kansas City. One important thing you may not realize about this town, though, is that there are some spots where gravity exerts its will on you in strange and terrifying ways. This sounds frightening, but lucky for you, Ben and I have located most of these locations, and I am here now to tell you where they are so you can beware.

IKEA is the first of these places where you should watch out for weird gravity. In IKEA, you will find a world of wonder and magic and inexpensive home goods, but you may also find danger! At first whiff, you might think that the danger lies in the scent of hot cinnamon rolls that fills IKEA and the four-mile circumference around it. They call out to you and say, “Buy me in bulk and put me in your belly and then groan in stuffed misery forevermore!” But, as it turns out, it is possible to resist these siren rolls.

Ben will be the first to say that you will have a much harder time avoiding the real hazards: IKEA’s curbs. These monsters are in cahoots with gravity, and they have combined their evil forces in an attempt to destroy you. If you don’t stay on your guard and keep your hands away from packs of gum, these curbs will trip you up so fast that your body will be horizontal in the air and your face will be one foot away from the concrete sidewalk before you even have time to ponder the physics of free-falling objects accelerating through the air at 9.8 meters per second squared. If you are watching this horizontalization from the sidelines, like I was, you will actually see the person’s life flash before your eyes. Ben, let me tell you that your life is shaped like an apple and filled with billions of bike rides and coffee beans and home brewed beer. It is also narrated by Carl Sagan.

The other place to be mindful of gravity’s tricks is the Science City museum. At first glance, this place seems like your average children’s museum. There are games about DNA, light-up floor tiles, and even LIVE CHAMELEONS. But once you reach the heart of the building, you will realize that you have found a place where gravity will have its mind-bending way with you if you let it.

The center of the museum has an exhibit called Skybike, which is a bike with a 200-pound counterweight underneath it. This counterweighted bike is attached to a one-inch cable twenty feet above the ground. It sounds simple enough, but when you actually strap yourself onto the Skybike and pedal out onto the one-inch cable twenty feet above the ground, you will be reminded of how much you love the good solid terra firma that you just left behind. The whole point of the exhibit is to learn about counterweights, so you are supposed to wibble wobble your way along the cable, letting the counterweight of 200 pounds worth of bricks interact with your own pounds worth of body mass and rock you back and forth.

My problem with the Skybike was that my brain bubbled over with fear, overheated, and shut down the entire time I was out on the cable. This did not put me in a good position to science. Therefore, instead of wibble wobbling, I rode that bike as if I were on a tight wire, keeping my spine, the bike, and its pile-of-bricks counterweight as upright as an airplane seat during takeoff and landing.

After my straight-laced dance with the Skybike’s center of gravity, Ben tried it out too, and told gravity that it wasn’t gonna play cruel tricks on him again, oh no not this time. He rocked and swayed and had a jolly old time, showing me that gravity has a kinder side too if you trust it just the right amount. But all the while that I watched his merry counterweight dance, I knew the truth: gravity felt bad for nearly splatting him into non-existence the day before and wanted to be friends again. What a capricious friend we have in gravity!


Behold the stately wibble wobble of the counterweight. Trust it as much as you dare.

Being a Tourist, I Had a Dream, Traveling

Where to Go to Find Picasso

I am obsessed with Picasso. You probably already know this because I wrote about him a few months ago when I talked about the Museum Berggruen in Berlin, and also because I am also obsessed with two things related to Picasso: modernism (the cultural period in history from roughly 1914 to 1945) and World War I. Since going to the Museum Berggruen back in August, I have seen Picasso all over everywhere. These are the places where I have found him:

  • The Pinakothek der Moderne: here in Munich there are like a thousand art museums, but for the sake of simplicity I’m going to say there are four major ones. The Old and New Pinakotheks have really old artwork and not-so-old artwork, respectively. The Museum Brandhorst has some modern art. The biggest collection of modern art, though, is in the Pinakothek der Moderne. They have like three Picasso paintings, some Kandinskys, and lots from German modern artists. Oh, and their first acquisition was a gorgeous Matisse still life with geraniums. It’s called Still Life with Geraniums. It was one of only a few paintings from the museum to survive the Second World War, and it is lovely.
  • The National Gallery: I visited London about a month ago and went to this museum for the first time. There are all sorts of paintings here from the olden days up to the newen days. Of course I focused my viewing efforts on the modernist section, and of course I found several more Picassos here. There were also other things, like van Gogh’s yellow and wonderful Chair and Seurat’s giant painting of some dotted people hanging out at a dotted river.
  • The British Museum: while wandering around this museum, which is not an art museum, I found two small rooms in the back that had art exhibits. One had some post-WWII German artists’ works on display, and I swear my Picasso radar is getting just perfectly honed because THE OTHER EXHIBIT WAS PICASSO. The works were two linocuts the museum had recently acquired: one a portrait of one of his 47 million lovers, and the other a still life of a lamp and some fruit.

Now that you understand my infatuation with Picasso and modern art, you will not be surprised to hear that last week, when I visited America for a few days, I had a dream that I went to Fayetteville and visited its modern art museum that was on a train and was shaking and quaking like trains are wont to do. While I was in the museum-train, I was like, oh museum-train, that makes sense and is an excellent idea. It can travel around and visit different towns and everyone can see the beautiful Picassos and Matisses and van Goghs and such. But then I woke up and realized I was not on a museum-train, but that instead the bed was merely doing its best impersonation of a museum-train because of my sister’s quite violent tossing and turning.

After this dream, I was devastated by the reality that Northwest Arkansas doesn’t actually have a modern art museum. BUT THEN I learned today that Crystal Bridges has a temporary exhibit on modern art! And some of the works are from Picasso! It will be there until July 7th, so all you NWAliens, get yerself over there real quick-like, yeh hear?

The moral of this whole story is that I am slowly turning into a prophet, so if you want me to sense the seemingly unknowable connections in the universe for you, just let me know and I will make an appointment to take a nap on my sister’s museum-train-bed.

Picasso's linocut of a lamp and some fruit. Don't tell anyone I took this picture because it was probably illegal and they should just be thankful I did this instead of touching it with my grubby paws like I really wanted to do.

Picasso’s linocut of a lamp and some fruit. Don’t tell anyone I took this picture because it was probably illegal but they should just be thankful I did this instead of touching it with my grubby paws like I really wanted to do.

Being a Tourist

Molly’s Grand Tour of Berlin

I’ve spent a significant amount of my past month in Berlin being a tourist and seeing all there is to see here. There’s a lot to see, so I’ve kept myself well-entertained. I’ve seen so much of Berlin that, after only one month, I’ve become an Expert on All Things Tourism in Berlin.

Since I’m an expert now, I thought that probably I should create a tour that I would take my clone-self on if I found out I had a clone-self who was coming to visit me for a day in Berlin. This tour doesn’t include some of the big-name places that tour guides and non-Experts on All Things Tourism in Berlin will tell you to go see, because everyone already knows about those places, and some of the places on my tour are not as well-known and therefore not riddled with 400,000 international tourists shouting words in languages and bumping into you and blinding you with oh there’s no flash photography allowed sorry. Also, many of these places appeal to my kinesthetic learning style and my love of nature, architecture, and the just-plain-weird.

Here are the places I would take my clone-self:

  1. Platform 17 at Grunewald Stationplatform 17
    On the western edge of the city in a lovely wooded area, you can find a train platform that was used during the early 1940s to deport over ten thousand Jews to ghettos and concentration camps. In the late 1990s, the German national train company Deutsche Bahn created a memorial here to these Jews. The platform is eerily quiet and serene, helping you contemplate all the loss that happened because of those deportations.
  2. Berlin Wall Memorial: wall memorial
    This memorial to the Berlin Wall stands along a stretch of land where the Wall used to stand. It has a long piece of the original Wall still standing, a metal Wall-inspired art installation, and a memorial to the people who died because of the Wall. There’s also a free little museum across the street where you can watch short informational videos about the Wall, the politics that led to its creation, and the people who risked their lives to escape East Berlin.
  3. Wohnzimmer Cafe: wohnzimmer
    The other day my friend J recommended that I take an inventory of Berlin’s coffee shops and figure out which one is best. I did, and Wohnzimmer won the prize. It’s got lots of eclectic and comfy seating, delicious mint tea, and plenty of room and accessibility for working on your computer (free Wifi and lots o’ electrical outlets).
  4. Gendarmenmarkt: gendarmenmarkt
    Here’s the place to go if you want to take a gander at some good architecture and get a panoramic view of the whole city in one go. The German Dome, the French Dome, and the Berlin Concert House are all here right next to each other, and you can climb to the top of the French Dome for €3, look at all of the city from high up, and increase your fear of heights tenfold.
  5. Jewish Museum: fallen leaves
    This museum’s building is the architectural masterpiece of Daniel Libeskind. The walkway into the main part of the museum is so interactive and expressive that I recommend taking your time there. The Holocaust Tower, the Garden of Exile, and the “Fallen Leaves” art installation all let you experience, through architecture and art, the isolation, disorientation, and dehumanization that millions of Jews suffered during the Holocaust.
  6. Spreepark at Plänterwald: spreepark
    The culmination of my tour is Spreepark, an abandoned theme park on the southeastern side of the city. I’m obsessed with abandoned theme parks like Land of Kong and Dogpatch USA, so of course I love this one too. They give tours of the park on the weekend, but you can walk around the perimeter of the fence whenever you want and see most of the creepy ruins of a park that used to be really popular before it got shut down because of the owner’s massive debt and fear of concrete dinosaurs.
Here is the map I will give Mollz 2.0 to help her find her way around town.

Here is a map of all the Molly-approved sites in Berlin.

Being a Tourist

For My Friend, Berggruen

You guys should be proud of me. I went to an art gallery today and didn’t touch a single piece of art. And I only felt a little bit tempted to touch like less than half of them.

I won’t name any specific paintings that I’ve touched in the past, but I must confess that I have touched some famous ones. Because they’re just sitting there, out in the open and looking at me like, “Molly, I am famous and oh! look at my textures. I am three-dimensional and big and so beautiful.” This makes me a horrible person, I know. Every single time I open up to people and tell them this terrible secret about myself, they judge me and tell me that I have got to get it together and behave myself. Because that junk is expensive.

I feel like I should also clarify that the above confession is not some sort of a double entendre.

Anyway, my not touching any paintings today is an especially big deal because the art gallery I went to was one almost entirely dedicated to my favorite artist evah, PABLO PICASSO. It’s called the Museum Berggruen, and it’s the modernist art collection of a German art dealer named Heinz Berggruen. Apparently Berggruen was like bestest friends with Picasso and got lots o’ paintings and stuff from him. He left Germany in the 1930s because of Hitler but came back later and then sold his collection of magic and splendor to Berlin for a really great price as a way of saying, “Sorry I hated you for a while; let’s be friends again.”

So now this museum is filled to the brim with Picasso paintings (and also a few from Paul Klee, Henri Matisse, and like two other people), and the whole world can go in there and behold all the glory that is Picasso and modern art. And if you get the audio guide, you can also hear all about his womanizing ways. He had four million lovers, and made portraits of most of ’em.

And probably the previous statement is some sort of a double entendre.

I’ll most likely be spending all of my spare time at this museum, because Picasso is the bomb diggity. While I’m there, I’ll also work on not touching priceless works of art anymore. So you can go ahead and stop judging me now.

This translates as, "Hi Beggruen, my bestest friend evah, I love you the most and want you to have this fabulous drawing I made and also one million other fabulous drawings and paintings. Because I love you. Love, Picasso."

This translates as, “Hi Berggruen, my bestest friend evah, I love you the most and want you to have this fabulous drawing I made, and also one million other fabulous drawings and paintings. Because I love you the most. Love, Picasso.”