Posted by: bkivey | 2 October 2013

Indoor Activities in Florida

25 September 2013

rain 1309.25Wednesday morning I was awakened by what sounded like a waterfall, and looked out the door to see large quantities of the Gulf of Mexico falling out of the sky.

weather screenshot 1309.25This was the radar image. To be clear, that’s not a sunshine map. That’s a picture of a vacation washing away. So it looked like a day for indoor activities. I didn’t want to spend all day at the bar; I can do that at home. I recalled that the Dali Museum was downtown, and decided to go there for the morning. The museum has been in St. Pete since 1982, but I’d never been. Now looked like a good time.

My ever-helpful phone found a diner downtown, and I headed there for breakfast. But, there was a glitch.

old parking meterRemember the old-school parking meters? You put coins in, turn the handle, and you get parking time. Even the newer ones where you swipe a card are pretty straightforward. St.Petersburg has managed to make a simple thing hard.

st pete parking meterBehold the phone-activated parking meter. To pay for parking, you have to call a number and set up an account, after which you can presumably pay for parking.
I’m far from a technophobe, but this is one step over the line. Technology is supposed to improve quality of life, or make difficult things easier. But this is making an easy thing difficult. All I wanted to do was Park. The damn. Car. I understand the reasoning behind this set-up: it eliminates the need for a meter coin collector. But so do meters that accept plastic, and they don’t require you to use phone minutes and bandwidth to pay for a parking space. I found this very frustrating, primarily because rather than passively making the customer do someone else’s work (like swiping a card). this meter was actively inconveniencing you by requiring an expenditure of resources beyond what was required to accomplish the task.

On this morning, given the weather, I figured I was safe from the infamous St. Petersburg meter maids, and parked without paying. On other occasions, I avoided downtown (way to increase foot traffic, St. Pete), or parked in unmetered spaces and walked a few blocks.

Breakfast was good, and cheap. The streets were deserted, which is to be expected in a monsoon. Then it was on to the Dali Museum.

dali sign

dali museum ext 1

golden rectangleThe Golden Rectangle in the garden.

dali dolphin

A psychadelic dolphin.

int dali 1
The atrium on the 3rd floor gallery level.

Admission to the museum is a bit pricey at $21, but, as I was to discover, a great value. For the price of admission you get an electronic docent, headphones, and access to the largest collection of Salvador Dali’s works outside Spain, including 7 of 18 Masterworks, the largest such collection anywhere.

The museum is the outgrowth of the Dali collection of A. Reynolds Morse and Elizabeth R. Morse. They opened the first Dali museum in Ohio in 1971. The museum moved to St. Petersburg in 1982, and into it’s current home in 2011.

There are mini-movies in theaters and guided tours available included in the admission price, but I chose to take the self-guided tour provided by the electronic docent. There are three galleries, and like most museums, photography is prohibited. There are a number of security guards to make sure the prohibition is observed. The main gallery is arranged chronologically, and across the hall there is the special collections space and a student gallery. Along the way, there are numbers next to some works, and keying the number into the provided device gives details on the work. There are 3 or 4 other numbered stops that give information on the building and the history of the collection.

The works shown start when Dali was in his early teens when he painted in the Impressionistic style, and continue through to the end of his career. For the record, his most famous work, ‘The Persistence of Memory’, isn’t included in the collection. That’s in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. There is a related work on display.

Viewing an artist’s oeuvre, particularly one as talented as Dali, is a bit overwhelming. It was fascinating to see the changes in style, particularly when he attended art school. It’s also interesting to see the common themes in his work. The death of his mother must have been deeply affecting, as the themes of decay, women controlling men, hypersexualization of women, and insecurity in his virility are common in his art. His father renounced him, and his ambivalence toward his father is evident in several works.

One of the more interesting revelations was the degree that his later work was influenced by the discovery of the DNA helix and quantum physics. While many artists ignored or were confused by these discoveries, Dali embraced them.

The eight Masterworks are well named. Some are upwards of fifteen feet tall, and all took more than a year to complete. My reaction on seeing them was ‘only a year?’. There’s a lot going on in those works.

The Special Exhibitions gallery contains some of the more unusual Dali efforts. There’s some sculpture, a hologram, and several examples of book illustrations. Mostly there are prints and sketches. All of its worth seeing. The Student Gallery showcased the work of local students who were tasked with producing surrealistic works. A few of them were quite good. I was even more impressed when I saw that they were created by 7th and 8th graders.

My feeling on leaving the museum was one of inspiration. I wanted to create art. I don’t know that visiting the museum when I lived in St. Pete would have had the same effect on me at that time in my life. I do know that I really appreciated the experience that day.

The Rest of the Day

Off to lunch at a St. Petersburg institution, the Fourth Street Shrimp Store. I had a fish sandwich (not fried) and a couple of beers. I asked the bartender what there was to do in town when it rained, and the answer was . . . not much. The Pier had been closed, as well as several museums downtown. There was the Museum of Fine Art, but I figured one museum a day was enough. The Rays were finishing out the season on the road, so I couldn’t go to a ball game. The Holocaust Museum wasn’t the sort of thing I was looking to do on vacation.

I went to the library to take care of business administration and surf the web. The weather seemed to be clearing slightly so I headed out to Treasure Island to catch the sunset.

treasure island sunset 1309.25

Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. We’d see.


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