We got up early this morning and headed back to Petroglyphs National Monument. This time we tried a different part of the park. We were rewarded with many more glyphs than yesterday. This section featured three pretty short trails, but one of them was pretty steep, a scramble to the top of the mesa and then back down the 70% incline. We did all three trails and got back to the hotel in plenty of time for checkout. Heading west out of Albuquerque, we passed a horrendous traffic jam headed east. An accident at a construction site caused the ten mile backup. There are a lot of trucks on I-40. We stopped in Grant for lunch and the pictured photo-op. We’re overnighting in Gallup, New Mexico, near the Arizona state line. Got here early, checked in and then walked around town, ate in the hotel and now I’m doing laundry. We’re staying in El Rancho Hotel. Founded in 1936, it has been New Mexico’s HQ for the stars. Built by the brother of Hollywood mogul DW Griffin, it has hosted dozens of movie stars over the years. Each room is labeled with the name of an actor that slept there. Our room was Irene Manning’s while she was shooting Desert Song, a WWII era musical that had been remade before and after.
NY Times columnist, Maureen Dowd, devoted her Sunday opinion piece to some hating on the Oscars, which will occur Sunday night. She trotted out Norma Desmond’s famous line, “It’s the pictures that got small!” to make her point that for movies in general and the Oscars in particular 2020 was not a very good year. The pandemic shuttered theaters, forcing new releases to either delay their openings or stream on the small screen for much less money. Generally, it was the big box office shows that chose to delay, making way this year for smaller more independent films to shine. One side benefit of these trends is that this year’s Oscars will be more diverse than previous ones. No need for hashtags this year. Dowd’s complaint was that these indie films were too dour, too heavy on message and too light on entertainment. She felt that since we were all suffering, why not present something happy and gay to distract us from our plight, like they did during the Great Depression. The problem with this thought is it doesn’t take into account that Hollywood cannot move that fast. The Depression lasted for years, which gave movies time to adapt. Covid came on us out of the blue, we never saw it coming, until it was too late. It takes years to create a movie. It has been a little over a year since the first lockdown. Maybe in a couple of years we could see movies that reflect our 2020 experience or distract us from reality.
Earlier this week, I had republished a photo of one of the stainless-steel eagles that adorn the Chrysler Building. Coincidently, Dan texted us the above photo that shows the view from his and Britt’s new East Williamsburg apartment. It sits atop a five-floor walkup, the penthouse sort-of-speak, in a building without any taller neighbors nearby. In the picture you can see the Chrysler Building sticking up in the distance. In 1930, at over a thousand feet, it was the tallest building in the world, but by 1931 that title transferred to the Empire State Building. The much taller building in the photograph is One Vanderbilt (1400’), which only opened last fall. I bet its owners are scrambling to fill the place. Dan and Britt are going to take the month of April to move into their new place and hire movers to haul the heavy stuff up those five flights of stairs.
In their new accommodations I am reminded of a movie that I once watched called 5 Flights Up, now on Netflix. Starring Diane Keaton and Morgan Freeman as an elderly Brooklyn couple, who are some 40 years into a loving and happy marriage. The movie’s premise it that they have decided that they are getting too old to climb those stairs. This decision plunges this couple into the dog-eat-dog world of NYC real estate, with its cast of annoying characters. In the end they decide they’re not too old yet and do not sell their apartment after all, which pisses everyone else off, but at least they’re happy.
A few years ago, when we visited London, we spent a day at the British Museum. After our visit I came away with the opinion that if any indigenous peoples, anywhere in the world, were ever missing any of their valuable cultural artifacts, the British Museum would good be a good place to begin looking for them. However, one of the museum’s most valued artifacts was not looted from some faraway land, but was discovered less than a hundred miles distant, in neighboring Suffolk, England. During the summer of 1939, on the eve of World War II, an amazing archeological find was made. An Angle-Saxon hoard was discovered, beneath a mound, on the country estate of Edith Pretty, nestled in the remains of a ninety-foot long boat. The most famous item from that hoard is the pictured Sutton Hoo helmet. A replica of this helmet was later fashioned by the Royal Armory that gives one a better idea of how it originally looked.
Netflix has just dropped a new movie that portrays the events of 1939 at Sutton Hoo. Called The Dig, it stars Ralph Fiennes, who plays the middleclass Basil Brown, an amateur archeologist who unearthed this treasure. Ms. Pretty held a life-long fascination for archelogy, in particular for the mounds that dotted her estate. She hired Brown to excavate them. Pictured below is a contemporary photograph of the dig. After more than a thousand years, the pictured outline of the long ship is little more than an impression in the sand, but Brown was able to uncover it and bring it once more to light.
The initial part of the movie covers the initial discovery of the long ship and is primarily fueled by the mystery of the unknown and the excitement involved in piercing it. After the boat is unearthed the British Museum catches wind of this find, arrives onsite and proceeds to take over things. In the movie Brown is initially pushed aside by these professionals, but an account of the events of that summer on the official Sutton Hoo website offers a more nuanced description of their relationship. It is in this portion of the movie that the hoard is found. The rivalry between the local Ipswich museum and the British museum is accurate. This conflict came to head at an inquest that held that the hoard was the property of Ms. Pretty. This rivalry became moot when Pretty decided to donate all to the British Museum. Rising above all of these petty professional jealousy’s are the twin themes of the panorama of history and an individual’s place in that picture. Set on the eve of war, these people are trying to find their place in the world.