Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A little travel and relaxation in Summer 08

I took the road this past weekend for some rest and relaxation. Most of the summer is gone, and this past weekend was likely the last opportunity I would have to get out of Tyler. With our little one visiting her grandparents out of state (my in-laws), and the better half actually able to take a couple of days off from her very busy schedule, we left on Friday evening to spend Saturday and Sunday in Fort Worth. Fort Worth is one of our favorite destinations, and it is not too far from Tyler, which was a requirement given we only had two days to spend. We came back on Monday the 11th of August (I took some of that comp time I keep accumulating. I still have time left).

On Saturday the 9th, we visited the Kimbell Art Museum. This museum is located in what is known as Fort Worth's Cultural District. If you like museums like I do, this area of the city is well worth it. Just plan on spending a good part of the day. Initially, we wanted to see more than one museum. However, by the time we were done with the Kimbell, it was time for a late lunch, and then we wandered off as itinerant people are prone to do. Anyhow, back to the museum. This time they were featuring an exhibit of "The Impressionists: Master Paintings from the Art Institute in Chicago." Usually, when a museum has a featured a exhibit, we try to see that as featured exhibits are rare opportunities. The exhibit itself was very good with a very nice selection of works by various artists such as Gauguin, Manet, Monet, and Renoir. Personally, what I found fascinating were the works where they depicted common people and events. Maybe I have a warm feeling for ordinary folks, who knows, but such paintings were the ones that spoke to me the most. For the admission price, an audio tour was included. This is the only part of the tour where I have to give a negative review.

My better half is hearing impaired; she has what is classified as a severe loss, which as I understand it, is barely a step above being totally deaf. She is very interested in places that will provide additional materials to read along or audio, if it works with the hearing aids. This is where the staff at the Kimbell simply dropped the ball. Either they are insensitive or incompetent, or a combination of both. Allow me to explain. Once we got our tickets, we went over to the exhibits entrance. You could also pick up your audio device at the entrance, which was included in the admission price. My better half simply asked the employee how the device worked. The particular device they use at the Kimbell is similar to a telephone. Think of an old fashioned cellphone (one of the first, the bulky ones), and you have a pretty close picture of the device's size. On being asked, first the worker simply was unresponsive. His interest was mostly in "do you have a ticket?" to which my better half replied, "yes, I do, but I would like to know how the device actually works." The guy would not budge until I finally pointed out the lady was hearing impaired, and that she simply wanted to know if the device was hearing aid compatible. A simple question which he could have answered had he paid a little attention to more than whether we paid our admission (we had our tickets in hand, very visible) or not and had he shown a little charity and compassion. I guess that asking a question outside of the little routine of "take ticket, hand out device, rinse and repeat" was a little too much for him to handle. When he finally realized what we wanted to know, he had no idea of what the answer was, but my wife guessed from looking closely at the device that it would likely not work. She explained to me later that headphones tend to work better since a hearing aid (especially if you have good ones, which she does) usually has a setting to accommodate them; that is not always the case with phones and phone-like devices. We declined the devices and moved on to the exhibit. And you know what? To be honest, not having to worry about pushing the right button to hear some guided tour material was nice. We could simply view the exhibit at our own pace. Plus we got a bit of an "evil satisfaction" since apparently even normal hearing people had trouble with the darned things if the various people needing help using them was any indication. The point of this momentary rant is that the museum was clearly not prepared for someone who would not be able to take advantage of the whole exhibit experience. We were charged the full admission, regardless of whether we used the audio device or not (i.e. no discount for declining, and by the way, no other supplementary text that we could at least borrow). Even movie theaters provide devices for the hearing impaired. But what was most striking was the basic lack of sensitivity their employee displayed. And in terms of any way to complain, asking for a manager was pretty much out of the question for them. All we were told was "there is a survey form you can fill out with a suggestion." Very helpful indeed. I am tempted to send them an e-mail with a piece of my mind, but their contact section on the website does not seem to have a link for complaints or comments, and my guess is I would probably get some generic e-mail answer back anyways.

At any rate, putting the unpleasantness aside, as I said, the exhibit itself was great. The selection they borrowed from Chicago's Art Institute was very good (by the way, I have been to Chicago's AI too). They featured a very diverse set of works that depicted various aspects of French society at the time. The exhibit was laid out so as to get a sense of how impressionism evolved over time, with a very nice highlighting of women in the movement too. We spent a good amount of time admiring the works, and for me, it felt great to be immersed in the works of great art geniuses. After the featured exhibit, we went on to look at the permanent collections. They have a good collection worth a look. If you choose just to see the basics, so to speak, admission is free, which if you are just passing by, may work fine. On a very hot Texas day, spending some time in a well air-conditioned building looking at fine art is certainly a good thing.

Anyhow, by the time we left the Kimbell, it was time for a late lunch. We had lunch at Hoffbrau (the one on University Blvd). Good steak and good service. We are definitely going back when we get back in the area. The afternoon then we wandered off to find a Half Price Books (which we do not have in Tyler; Tyler overall has a serious lack of a decent bookstore), our favorite bookstore. Next door to the bookstore was a World Market (which we also do not have in Tyler), so of course we had to go in there too. We bought a few things, especially some wines. World Market is known for their wine selection, and we happen to like wine. We see wine, and we say, "ooh, shiny." Got a couple of nice bottles of some Portuguese white wine, which I hope is good, along with a few others. Usually in regards to wine, when I take a chance on something new, I am not disappointed. As for the books, we found a few things. My highlight was finding some used copies of Mickey Spillane novels. After reading I, The Jury, I have been interested in reading other Mike Hammer mysteries. Finding three of Spillane's titles was nice. Two of them were older paperbacks. You know, the ones with the pulp art. They also had a cheap copy of Paulo Coehlo's La Bruja de Portobello in hardback which I snatched right away. By the way, I read Coehlo in Spanish. Here is the Wikipedia entry about the novel I mentioned for anyone interested. We discovered Half Price Books up in Indiana, so we were happy they have them here in Texas (well, here not being Tyler). The better half, who is an avid scifi reader (reads even more than I do) got herself a few books to feed her fix.

Sunday the 10th, after sleeping in a bit, we went to the Fort Worth Stockyards. For us, when going to Fort Worth, this is always a stop. We got there in time to see The Herd in the morning, followed by a historical recreation of a gunfight. Cool, huh? Another big reason we like going to the Stockyards is Lone Star Wines. These folks feature Texas wines. In case some of you did not know, this state does produce some very good wines (learn a bit more about it here and here). The nice thing about going to Lone Star Wines is you can sample wines from all over the state without having to go all over the state (hey, Texas is big, and gas is a bit pricey at the moment). Every time we go, we usually get at least half a case (6 bottles). This time I told the nice lady there to surprise me when it came to wines to taste. I like my wines dry; the better half however likes them on the sweet side. We have learned to compromise. I was given a nice selection of two white wines and two reds (one a merlot, the other an interesting blend of reds; you can taste up to four wines for a price). After some good wine tasting, we made our selections. By the way, I do not work for them. We still have managed to visit some of the wineries in this state (that could make another blog post sometime). After all, when you have a gypsy spirit, you have to wander now and again. I did take a couple of photos, which are over on my Flickr account (see link to the account on the right bar of this blog). Overall, a couple of nice days.

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