Route 9 might be like Amphisbaena, the snake with a head at both ends that I saw in an Eric Carle book today. It meanders up and down across the state, one end heading toward a plunge into the Atlantic, the other heading toward upstate New York, but not really long enough to end up in either place. It has some notoreity because it is not the fast way to get anywhere. (I’m talking about Route 9, not Amphisbaena, but I’m sure she has some notoreity, too . . . among people who have heard of her.) The only time it’s really worth driving on is if you are not in a hurry to get wherever you’re going, and even then, once you start driving on it, you may discover you’re in a hurry after all, it takes so long. But it is interesting.
If you start in Our Fair City and drive east on Route 9, the businesses on either side get more “businessy” and industrial, but are liberally interspersed with ethnic restaurants and lots of shopping. If you start in Our Fair City and go west, the businesses get more “farmy” and artsy. Or . . . the art has a different personality in the west than in the east. In the east, you might find a gallery in a modern building made of metal; in the west, it’s likely to be in a refurbished barn or something.
Today I was planning to meet my friend Long-Lost-Kimberly. (She’s not really lost and it hasn’t really been for that long, but for some reason we only ever manage to get together once a year, so it kind of feels like it.) We were going to go to the Eric Carle Museum of Picturebook Art. So she drove north from where she lives and I drove west from where I live. I drove on Route 9. Someday, when I feel both ecologically irresponsible and financially solvent enough to justify the petrol usage, and when I have an entire day with no agenda, I’m going to drive all the way west on Route 9 and just stop and get out at every single farm stand/ice cream stand/general store/museum/gallery that looks interesting to me. Or just picturesque. Maybe I’ll take pictures of it without even going in. I wonder who stops at these places. Then another day I’ll drive all the way east and eat Indian food the whole way, and get out and browse in furniture stores, and buy myself a cute dressy outfit even though I’m not sure what the occasion for it would be. And maybe stop in the arcade I know of on that stretch and play laser tag . . . as long as I wasn’t by myself, obviously.
Today, because Route 9 only meanders, and sometimes stops at stoplights, and for at least six miles had someone on it in front of me going 15 miles below the speed limit, I was a little late to the Eric Carle Museum of Picturebook Art. Fortunately or unfortunately, Long-Lost Kimberly is used to this by now, and she didn’t seem very phased by it. As I was buying my ticket, the young woman behind the desk who was giving me the lay of the land said, “And behind you is the art room, where you can go and make an art project if you like.”
I turned around and looked, and down a short hallway across the foyer was, in fact, an art room just visible through a doorway. What kind of wondrous place was this, that was designed for children but knew and acknowledged that the adults who went there were likely to want to play, too? “Yes!” I said, not overstating my enthusiasm but probably startling the young woman a little bit.
Long-Lost Kimberly and I walked through the three galleries first–one of Eric Carle’s art, one of illustrations by different artists for the ecclectic and prolific Jane Yolen, and one special exhibit of illustrations by a guy named Etienne Delessert. I had never heard of him, but I’m glad I have now. All the art was amazing. I guess it could have daunted Kimberly and me, but mostly I found suddenly I so badly wanted to glue bits of paper and fabric to other bits of paper and fabric that it didn’t really matter if I couldn’t compete with Eric Carle. Fortunately. Because I can’t. But I don’t remember the last time I was so completely engrossed in a project. Kimberly was, too, and I suspect part of our mutual enjoyment derived from the fact that neither of us felt pressured by the other to hurry up and move on to the next thing.
First I made a picture of a cardinal flying across a cloudy sky toward the sun.
Then I had a strange brainwave-traffic-jam in my head, the primary casualty of which was the memory I had of two days before when I had had a sudden urge to litter. It might have been the only time since I learned not to, that I have ever actively wanted to, social-activist child that I was. Some of the items you could collage in the art room included candy wrappers and other sorts of things, so I came up with this Potential New Children’s Book Character: the Scrap Dragon. Here he is:
The text, in case you can’t see it, says, “Beware the Scrap Dragon, Litterbugs! He’s made of trash; he’ll eat you up!” There are arrows pointing to the Scrap Dragon, a Litter Bug, and a tiny piece of litter. Then the dragon says, “RAWR!” and the Litter Bug says, “eep!”
So, you see what I mean? I guess this museum isn’t right on Route 9, but it’s not so far off of it. You just never know what you’re going to run across when you travel back and forth on the meandering Amphisbaena . . .