Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Who wants a clown cone?

I discovered something about birthdays: they can't live up to the expectation put upon them. Let me clarify this. When I was 8, I had a birthday party that included clowns, ice cream, cake, and about 10 frantic little girls from school. It was one of the highlights of my childhood. I think everyone, for the most part, has a birthday similar to this in their childhood past. It is the measurement by which birthday expectations are measured.

When you are eight, a clown-themed birthday really is the single greatest thing to have ever occurred in your short little life. Now, add several more years and several more great experiences to that, and it's easy to see that the expectation put upon birthdays is a bit much to live up to.

I say all of this not because I didn't have a great birthday (I did - more on that later), but because I realized that I tend to get into a funk around my birthday for reasons unknown until I started to put all of this together. See, I tend to do and get what I want throughout the year - I don't want to wait until a special occasion to get that gadget, or eat at that restaurant, or see that show. So when it comes time for a birthday, it's like any other day where I can get or do what I want, and since every day of my life has the potential to be special, a birthday is just another day with that same potential. I'm going to make a conscious effort to recognize this tendency around future birthdays - not just my own, but those of my friends and family. What will come of it? I have no idea.

Anyway, I turned another year older this week, and celebrated by visiting the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art. Let me just say that all of my private criticism of the exterior of the new Bloch addition has been overwhelmed with appreciation for the interior design. What a beautiful and graceful place it is! While the exterior still resembles construction trailers, the interior is sloping, sweeping, grand and attractive. The light is ample and soothing, the colors are calming and complementary, and even the floors are a surprising design feature. Nothing was overlooked, and I can't recommend a visit highly enough.

One surprising aspect for me was the way in which I ended up traversing the exhibits. We entered through the parking garage into the new expansion, and started our explorations with contemporary art and photography. We then progressed into the old building where we passed through Impressionism, Baroque, Renaissance, Medieval, Roman and finally ended with Ancient Egyptian. We essentially experienced the collections in reverse chronological order, which I found very appealing for two reasons. First, in all of my previous visits to the museum, I've visited the exhibits in chronological order, letting each style build upon the former. So experiencing the exhibits in reverse was a welcome and unexpected change. Second, while previous visits saw each era taking from the previous and building or changing it, going in reverse allowed me to see the deconstruction of eras, and also see what was and wasn't adapted in later eras.

After the museum, we ate lunch at Eden Alley, which is always a favorite of mine. I went to Unity on the Plaza when I was a child, and remember eating donuts in the fellowship hall after Sunday School. The fellowship hall is now the restaurant, so it's cool to picture it as it was when I was young, and as it is today. I like it better now. I love the way the restaurant smells and the types of people it attracts. The food ain't bad, either. We had a half-order of smoky tomato bruschetta - crusty bread topped with smoky tomato bisque, fresh tomatoes and Parmesan cheese, sitting on a bed of greens, and half of a sweet potato burrito - brown rice, sweet potato and fresh veggies in... you guessed it: a burrito. Both were fantastic, as always.

My mom made me a German chocolate cake, and I've been eating off of it for a couple of days. She's an incredible cook - desserts and the like are her specialty.

So all in all, I had a good birthday. A great birthday, really. The lack of clowns was actually quite pleasant.

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