The Old, the Fresh, and the Fun

As I traveled up and down the East Coast this summer, I found myself gravitating toward things that you rarely find in Singapore.  Once you’re back in the US, as soon as you’ve appreciated dry air and wide open spaces, you begin to notice how many things are old. Singapore is a very new country, shiny and modern — few buildings in Singapore predate the mid-1800s, and most have sprung up since 1965.  So while no one in Europe or China would call US architecture “old,” I saw plenty of buildings that were felt old in comparison to the buildings that have surrounded me for the past year.

I came across plenty of churches, including the First Church in Boston, which was founded by John Winthrop in the early 1600s and is also the world’s oldest Unitarian church:

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Steeples can be found all over New England, such as this one in Portsmouth, New Hampshire…

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… and this one in Northampton, Massachusetts:

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New York City offers a whole range of old buildings, including icons such as Grand Central Station…

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… and the slightly younger Flatiron Building:

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I also visited Fairleigh-Dickinson’s campus in Madison, New Jersey, which boasts a Vanderbilt mansion…

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… with grounds designed by Frederick Law Olmstead:

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Then there’s old art, which far more abundant in the US than it is in Singapore.  I spent a wonderful afternoon in the Cleveland Museum of Art:

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This museum has a vast collection (I focused my time on Europe and the US):

We also went to the Yale Art Gallery, where my father noticed the amazing relationship between the viewer and the woman in the Hopper painting:

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Another thing that’s hard to find in Singapore is fresh produce.  Singapore has very few farms; almost everything is imported from Malaysia or countries further out in Asia.  So I happily gorged on in-season strawberries for three weeks straight, ate many giant salads, and was delighted to go farmer’s markets in Northampton and Boston.

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But the things that most often drew my attention were items of whimsy.  There’s not a lot of whimsy in Singapore (though I’ve done my best to seek it out), while the US has it in spades.  Examples range from sand castles (made by a pro, not by me)…

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… to the set for and performance of Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 (those are audience members on stage)…

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… to signs …

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… to strange metal bugs (here, accompanied by Prescott and his sister, Alyssa)…

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… to real bands out on the street:

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Whimsy is especially in evidence at Mass MoCA, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary art (note the trees growing upside-down in the foreground).

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Here’s my mom about to wallop an instrument that you hit with a flip flop:

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And while I’m not sure that this multi-piece exhibit by Nick Cave was meant to be whimsical, it certainly felt that way:

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