The one place in the world where taxidermy is actually kinda cool.




I’m always a little ashamed that I don’t know what to do on MLK Day. Almost as ashamed of myself for being 14 before realizing Martin Luther, leader of the Protestant Reformation, and Martin Luther King Jr., 20th-century Civil Rights icon, were two completely different human beings. Who lived on different continents. In different centuries, actually.

Details, people. MERE DETAILS.

After that mind-blowing moment in Mr. Schulz’s AP European History class, I dreamed that one day, someone would pit them against each other in an episode of Celebrity Death Match to decide who was more worthy of their shared name. Except instead of ending in stop-motion blood and gore, it would just culminate in laughter and tears and lots of cheering for the end of racism and indulgences. Or something.

But it’s wrong to dwell in the past. I did my default “I-have-the-day-off-and-I-don’t-know-what-to-do” activity — went to Shake Shack and The American Museum of Natural History.

When I moved here almost six months ago and had neither a job nor a real place to live, I made a resolution to visit every permanent exhibit in the museum’s collection. And when I say “visit,” I don’t just mean “walk through quickly and check off rooms on the museum map that everybody gets at admission” (although, as you might imagine, the ritual “checking off” of each exhibit is intensely gratifying for someone like me).

This time around, the major highlights included the North American Mammals room, where I got to see bison, moose and a couple of Alaskan brown bears bigger than my mom’s grey 1989 Dodge Minivan with the broken sliding door (R.I.P.). It made me really want to read My Side of the Mountain, where that kid lives in the tree with his peregrin falcon and eats acorns and turtle soup.

The not-so-highlights were few. But I think I should have remembered that MLK Day would rouse many New Yorkers and a sizable portion of the three-day-weekend tourist camp into an uncharacteristic desire for culture. I also neglected to consider that a large number of said attendees would be, regrettably, children. I thought going to the Gems and Minerals wing (what kid, other than me at 9, would choose rocks over a life-size blue whale?!?!) would mean less screaming children and stroller congestion, but I just encountered flustered parents and their rambunctious offspring trying to do the same thing.

If you’ve ever been in the Harry Frank Guggenheim Hall of Minerals, then you know it is the epitome of early ’80s architectural folly, the most outstanding characteristics of which include giant stairs throughout the exhibit (the perfect size for 5- and 6-year-olds to jump off of / climb on / kick repeatedly) and… carpet. Literally, carpet as far as the eye can see, and all of it strangely capable of amplifying, rather than muffling (as carpet is supposed to do) the acoustic repercussions created by the crew of preadolescent ninjas karate-chopping the sulfide display case. It was like having geology class in a McDonald’s Play Place. On Staten Island.

Still fun, but I think I’m going to stick to going to the museum at 10 a.m. on Tuesdays, when everybody’s working… or napping or at school, depending on your age :)

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